Gordon on Golf

Winter golf fitness for everyone

Winter golf fitness

Like most of us, Ann Holmes is at home in Prince George, B.C., looking at a snow-covered landscape and wistfully thinking of the coming golf season.

Unlike most of us, she’s preparing daily for that first swing of the year. And, thanks to YouTube, she can make a virtual house call to help the rest of us do the same thing.

Early in the pandemic, in partnership with BC Golf, Holmes created a series of 11 Facebook Live videos intended to improve flexibility, mobility, strength and range of motion, all with a golf focus.

There’s no question she’s qualified. A PGA of Canada professional, she’s the golf coach at Prince George Golf and Curling Club and the former coach at the University of British Columbia. She’s got a Masters in Human Kinetics and is a certified personal trainer, among numerous other credentials. She, along with Tracie Albisser, also a certified exercise physiologist, operates the Active Health Solutions facility (www.activehealthsolutions.ca ) in Prince George.

“There are lots of online fitness resources but they are mostly for the elite golfer,” says Holmes. “These videos are aimed at the average golfer.”

A large proportion of those “average golfers” this winter are snowbirds and other seniors who, because of travel restrictions necessitated by the pandemic, are stuck north of the border. Holmes suggests they see this not as a disappointment but as an opportunity.

“Off-season training will help maintain the flexibility, endurance and strength you gained in your golf swing over the summer,” she explains. “Instead of taking the winter off, work on all of these fitness essentials for the sport you enjoy.

“The golf swing is a single-action, single-sided, ballistic movement and the goal is to create rotational power for distance. This can be hard on the body, especially the back and shoulders.  And when the golf swing is repeated over and over, injuries and issues can crop up.  Compounding the concern is that, as we age, we lose muscle mass, flexibility and endurance, which are all fundamental to the golf swing.”
Holmes says one of the most common issues for older golfers is that their posture becomes hunched, with a rounded lower back and an inability to rotate the pelvis into a proper spine angle at address. Her translation: “You need to stick out your behind instead of tucking it under.”

What all of that means, she says, “is that the rotation for the backswing is compromised and people swing with their arms instead of turning their shoulders. Ultimately,this causes a reduction in clubhead speed and weak shots that fade. This position also means that people tend to generate more shearing forces on their lumbar vertebrae (equaling pain in their lower back).

“And, finally, the rounded shoulders will reduce the space for the upper arm bone (the humerus) to move within the joint and people will start to complain of rotator cuff problems and injuries.”

One of her favourite catchphrases is “pre-hab.” Pre-hab is mobility and strength work done on an ongoing basis to address common weaknesses or muscle tension. “The body parts that are meant to be mobile, like your neck, hips, shoulders or thoracic vertebrae, should move with ease,” she says. “When these are tight, other parts will move to compensate during the swing.

“If you can prevent injuries or minor deficits before they become a problem, you will enjoy playing good golf and not lose any distance.”

Holmes’s folksy, friendly, cheerful and chatty “golf coach next door” approach requires no special equipment. A towel, key lanyard, wooden spoon, a thick book and a chair will do for starters. A golf club or similar is handy but not for swinging—just to help with extension. Each video is 30 to 40 minutes but, as she points out, “you can do these at your own pace and your own comfort level.”