U.S. Masters Swimming Offers Tips on Using Swimming to Improve Golf Strength, Flexibility, Conditioning
Yes, says Michael Collins, member of the United States Masters Swimming (USMS) coaches’ committee and head Masters swim coach for the Novaquatics team in Orange County, Calif. His evidence:
1. Strength: Swimming develops the upper-body and core muscle strength golfers need for a smooth, powerful swing, and does so with minimal risk of injury. Swimming also requires strong core muscles to keep the body in a straight line. Freestyle and backstroke, in particular, force swimmers to rotate from the hips around a vertical axis, keeping their bodies in a long “tube,” just as golfers must keep their swing in a “barrel.”
2. Flexibility: Swimming helps develop both upper- and lower-body flexibility. Proper kicking, especially with fins, forces ankles to become more flexible, strengthens the ligaments and tendons that support ankle movement, and increases flexibility in the hip flexors. Proper technique in all four swim strokes (freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly) develops and maintains needed flexibility in the shoulders and back.
3. Conditioning: Swimming with proper technique is well known as one of the top aerobic workouts. For golfers, better conditioning keeps fatigue at bay and allows concentration of energy on the swing. Avoiding getting out of breath walking up a steep hill to a tee or a green translates to being ready to hit your next shot.
4. Coordination: Swimming, done correctly, teaches coordination. Swimmers must coordinate in ways that parallel golf skills: legs with arms, core muscle movement with arm/leg movement. And swimmers have no choice but to be “breath control-oriented,” which translates directly to greater efficiency and smoothness on the course.
Gregg Amber, a 48-year-old Costa Mesa, Calif., attorney, was an irregular golfer who, after he started swimming regularly, had to adjust his club selection 1 to 1-1/2 sizes because he was hitting the ball 10 to 20 yards over the greens.
“I never hit a 300-yard drive until I started swimming regularly,” Amber said. “I used to drive 280 when I was younger and did lots of weight training. Now, I haven’t been weight training, but I swim three or four times a week in a coached Masters practice. It has made all the difference.”
Because swimming relies so heavily on technique, says USMS’s Collins, “an individual with good technique will out-swim a well-trained athlete with marginal form any day.”
In Castle Rock, Colo., Dean Bennett, 38, today is president of Dean Bennett Design and Construction, Inc. Bennett is a former golf professional who at one time played 100 to 150 times a year. Now an architectural designer and contractor, he is only able to play five to 10 times a year.
“Since starting to swim regularly, with good technique, I’m still able to keep near par with little practice,” said Bennett. “I’ve noticed that I have significantly less back and shoulder pain than I used to. Swimming has helped develop the strength and flexibility I need, and I’m now more confident in relying on my strong core muscles to produce a fluid swing.”
To make swimming an effective workout, Collins recommends learning proper form through clinics, workshops, group or individual lessons. Resources include:
- Local rec centers, YMCAs, Jewish Community Centers, colleges or high schools with swimming programs.
- Transpersonal Swimming Institute (www.conquerfear.com, 510-526-6000) – Teaches swimming to adults who are afraid of the water.
- Total Immersion (www.totalimmersion.net) – Offers instructional videos and clinics.
- GoSwim (www.goswim.tv) – Offers instructional videos and clinics.
- United States Masters Swimming (www.usms.org) – While USMS is not a learn-to-swim organization, the Web site offers a listing of clubs and a worldwide “Places to Swim” directory.
United States Masters Swimming (USMS) is a national organization that provides organized swim workouts, competitions, clinics and workshops for adults age 18 and over. Programs are open to all swimmers (fitness, triathlete, competitive, non-competitive) who are dedicated to improving their fitness through swimming. USMS (www.usms.org) comprises more than 1,100 workout groups and teams nationwide. Its 43,000 members include all levels of swimmers.
Editors Note: Gregg Amber, Dean Bennett and Michael Collins are available for interviews via the contacts below. Swimming photos also are available in electronic format.