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.
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.
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.”
(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.