Summer is here! And we can look forward to some long days spent outdoors. For many, summer is the time for outdoor sports– softball, pick-up basketball, running, swimming. It’s easy to stay fit when you can just play outside, right? But what about golf? For a sport that requires outdoor play, it doesn’t exactly have a reputation for being physically demanding. Professional golfers have been known to drink and smoke on the green, and even to be unhealthily overweight. Not exactly common in the larger world of sports.
But it seems that the sun may be setting (or maybe already has set) on the era of unhealthy golfers. These days, anyone planning to play seriously should expect to be as fit as any other athlete– at least that’s the word from Valerie Saucier– the golf fitness trainer and expert at MAC Wellness.
Baltimore Fishbowl: Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get interested in golf, and then how and when did fitness training come into the picture? Or was it the other way around?
Valerie Saucier: Growing up, I had always been into sports, soccer, softball, golf, basketball, etc.. If you had to pick me out on the field of court, I would be the one hustling for the ball. It was not until high school that I really started to realize that my athletic abilities could take me further than what I was doing—like, NCAA, but it would take a bigger commitment on my part. I first had to figure out what sport I wanted to commit all my efforts to in order to become an NCAA athlete, and so I chose golf. Why golf? Well, it was the sports I excelled the most in during my youth, having won four county championships, and going to States all four years while playing on the men’s varsity golf team. I then realized that I would have to practice harder and smarter than anyone else around me in the sport. The idea of “golf specific training” was never on my mind at that time. But it wasn’t until I got to the NCAA (played at Radford University and then McDaniel College) that I realized that though this sport is characterized by the outsider as a leisure activity, really, the difference between a good golfer and a great one is not just the hours spent on the putting green, but also the hours spent in the gym.
BFB: So, is there such a thing as “fitness training for golf”? Or is it more like overall fitness training, and the idea is that being generally fit will just help one be a better golfer?
VS: Yes, there is such a thing as “fitness training for golf.” Even though golfers are not sprinting down the court, or jumping for rebounds, that doesn’t mean that golf is not a sport. Just like any other sport, golf demands the athlete to spend just as many hours in the gym as a football player. However, the type of exercises are different. The demand for flexibility, leg stability, balance, controlled torque, upper back strength, do not just come from drinking beers and eating hot dogs in a golf cart, but from running 3-4 times a week, lifting at least 3 times a week and stretching at least 5 times a week. Tiger Woods has not win as many tournaments as he has because he just drank, but because he has spent countless hours training in the gym.
BFB: Okay, so you admit that historically, golfers haven’t been particularly known for their physiques. In fact some of the greats were notably unhealthy—drinking and smoking on the course. What do you think has changed to make golfers suddenly more fitness conscious?
VS: Tiger Woods! The prize purse, and the endorsements for golfers has never been higher.
BFB: Wow. So one person can have that big of an impact. But how can golfers maintain their fine-tuned swings as their bodies change with their weights and fitness levels?
VS: It varies from athlete to athlete. Flexibility is such a big part of the swing that no matter what fitness level a golfer may be, they must stretch to ensure full angular velocity into the golf ball.
BFB: How much physical training should a golfer really do? Do they need to be working out 5 or 6 days a week like other pro athletes? Or is a basic level of fitness enough?
VS: [Golfers] should train just as much as any other athlete in any other sport. But the real question should be “should an amateur athlete train as much as a pro athlete?” Probably not. I am not a pro athlete, but I am an athlete. Do I train as much a Tiger Woods, probably not. But for him and all other PRO athletes, their job is to live and breathe their sport. If I was getting paid for X sport, of course I would train more than the average athlete. But for me training less than a pro is okay with me, because my job does not allow for it. However, if I wanted to go pro, and decided to quit my regular job, I would be working out just as much as the pros.
BFB: Any hot tips or recommendations on golfing locally? Favorite places or events? What about golf vacations? Anywhere you’re dying to go or think is the new hot spot?
VS: For public golfing locally: Greystone and Woodlawn. If you’re going private, Hillandale, BCC, and Caves (which is an old style course). For vacations, Pebble Beach (the hardest course I have ever played), Harbor town (the smallest greens I have ever played) and Congressional (the most well-maintained course I have ever played). The place I am dying to play: Augusta National.
BFB: And any other words of wisdom for those looking forward to a summer out on the green?
VS: Just go out and have fun. And for those who are thinking of college golf, go out of this state, and play in other state’s tournaments, like Arizona. Practice your short game (3, 5, 8 footers) and practice 100 yard shots. Relax and have fun. That is something I wish I did more of when playing in college.
To schedule a training with Valerie, or for more information about her golf training, visit www.macwellness.com.
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