Tee Up Training

Putting the work in now can improve your golf game for years to come

golf tips
Golf Performance Specialist in Fitness at Southern Oregon Golf Academy Matt Preston leads students Braedon Grunwald of Medford, Brock Drury of Grants Pass and Davis Hartwell of Klamath Falls in Saber stick swing exercises at Centennial Golf Club in Medford. During the pandemic, golf has been one of the few athletic options that has checked off the safety guidelines for being performed outdoors and easy to maintain social distance. SOGA has both children and adult students who wish to learn and improve their golf game. Photography by Denise Baratta.

Golfers who’ve spent most of 2020 at home have likely put plans to improve their game this year on hold. Golf is time-consuming, and elevating your play requires attention to detail, mental and physical conditioning, and usually being on the course.

But all is not lost. You can do much of the work to improve your game in between rounds and even at home, according to Matt Preston, Golf Performance Specialist in Fitness at Southern Oregon Golf Academy (SOGA), which operates out of three locations: Centennial Golf Club and Rogue Valley Country Club in Medford, and Oak Knoll Golf Club in Ashland.

Year-round fitness for golfers

“Several exercises that are important for golfers can be done away from the course,” says Preston, mentioning it is key to build core stability and flexibility and target strength training to improve one’s swing. “Golf requires club speed and ball speed, and that correlates with the body’s ability to generate power and rotation. In class, we focus on rotation and transferring power from the ground up through the hips and to the arms and shoulders.”

A certified athletic trainer who lives in Medford, Preston played baseball and golf in college at George Fox University in Newberg before earning a master’s degree in kinesiology from Lamar University in Texas. His conditioning program, whether done in group classes at SOGA or at home, can “help golfers not only improve their game in the short run, but also help them play pain-free and avoid injuries throughout their lives.”

Preston’s group sessions, which include up to eight clients, begin with warmups and stretching before clients take swings with tools like the Saber weighted training shaft. “The Saber is a workout all by itself,” he says. “It weighs only a few ounces more than a regular club but swinging it hard builds club speed and maximizes power.”

A typical session will include several reps of hard swinging combined with what Preston calls step-through swinging and swinging the opposite direction (swinging the shaft left-handed if you’re a right-handed player). Working out like this once or twice a week for 20-30 minutes is all it takes to increase club speed, he says.

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Matt Preston leads Braedon Grunwald, 15, of Medford, (left), Brock Drury, 15, of Grants
Pass, and Davis Hartwell, 12, of Klamath Falls in exercises using a Saber Stick.

Technical instruction complements physical conditioning

While Preston focuses on physical training, Noah Horstman’s instruction hones proper technique. Horstman, PGA director of instruction and co-owner of SOGA, says the right technical instruction can help anybody’s game. “I’ve helped people as young as 3 and as old as 92,” he says. “We have player development programs and technology to help golfers make swing adjustments and help them reach their goals.”

The academy’s tech includes analyzing golfers’ form with launch monitors and simulators that enable Horstman to prescribe needed adjustments. And Horstman employs a K-Vest biomechanical analyzer to detect each golfer’s physical restrictions, allowing for changes that may prevent future injuries.

A former collegiate top 50 player, an injury sidelined Horstman’s professional golf ambition for himself. He enjoys teaching and coaching, and he still competes at a high level, including playing in an upcoming PGA regional qualifying event. For golfers who want to reach their full potential, it can take a team of specialists, Horstman believes.

“That can mean engaging a mental performance coach and a physical therapist, along with year-round conditioning,” he says.

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Ryan Kukula, (right), demonstrates a K-Vest biomechanical analyzer which helps golf coach Noah
Horstman detect form and any physical restrictions.

No offseason in golf

You don’t have to be on the course to make big gains. “The winter months are crucial for focusing on your body and preparing for the coming season,” Preston says.

So even if you’re not playing much now, you can still work on improving your golf fitness for the future. And if you’re like most golfers, that future can be lengthy, as so many continue playing well into their senior years.

“Golf is a game for a lifetime,” says Horstman. “It’s got walking for exercise, and it’s a great social outlet. It’s all about challenging yourself on every shot. The weather can change, the greens can change, and every day brings a new challenge.”

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(Left) Braedon Grunwald, 15, of Medford, runs an agility exercise under the watchful eye of Matt Preston. (Right) Matt Preston leads Graham Buchanan, 14, of North Carolina during a workout
with a weighted ball during a  training clinic at Centennial Golf Course in Medford.

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Conditioning for golf

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Matt Preston, golf fitness instructor at Southern Oregon Golf Academy (SOGA) in Medford, recommends these exercise routines for golfers to improve their conditioning:

  • Treadmill walking on an incline to build cardiovascular stamina. (A round of golf can require walking up to 6-7 miles of walking.)
  • Throwing and slamming medicine balls to improve stability and balance throughout the golf swing.
  • Weightlifting that shifts power and force to the ground, such as kettlebell swings and a variety of forward, reverse and lateral lunges.
  • Planks and pushups to strengthen, stabilize and prevent injuries to the core and back.

With both medicine balls and weights, Preston emphasizes moderation. “You can do a lot with a little weight,” he says. The key is to strengthen – not enlarge – muscles that aid rotation and stability.

Photo: Davis Hartwell, 12, of Klamath Falls completes jumps through an agility exercise during a training clinic at Centennial Golf Course in Medford.

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