As the daughter of a professional golfer growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, the idea of physical stretching before teeing off was unheard of, with the exception of Patty Berg. She visited our Miami Country Club in the 1950s as a Wilson Club representative. She concentrated on helping women play golf with the sole purpose of seeing women ‘invade the fairways.’
Long before Miguel Angel Jimenez’s hip movement stretches made the sports news, Patty danced and stretched, all the while talking to the crowd about golf, about sports, about travels, anything to make us laugh and love her even more. Her dance type moves allowed her body to maintain the fluidity needed to swing for the crowd. So rather than do precise stretches to stay loose, she moved her body and limbs repeatedly, allowing her to play amazing golf.
The last few Friday evenings during our Covid 19 stay-home, stay-safe season of life, I have been fortunate to join the Virtual Play Day golf clinics given by SupHer Power Golf for Women.
My golfer’s mind and body have benefited from each program, and perhaps mentally benefited the most from the much-needed warm-up routine that Nancy McDaniel offers each week at the beginning of an episode. Without being physically and mentally prepared to play golf we often set ourselves up for failure until our bodies begin to sync with the rhythm of the golf swing.
The first clinic when I heard Coach Nancy (Hall of Fame women’s coach for Cal Berkeley) describe the urgent need to stretch before jogging to the first tee barely in time to tee off, I laughed and thought to myself, “That might just be what I need.” The mental connection she gave me was to give myself the grace to play the first few holes at 85 percent, to lighten up on myself. By incorporating these suggested quick stretches the back can loosen up, allowing each of us to swing with less stress on our muscles.
We have all been guilty of arriving for our tee times with minutes to throw the clubs on the cart and head off to the first tee. Here is what Nancy suggests:
• Before leaving the space of the car, inside or out, close off all communication with the outside work/family world. Take a deep inhale pushing the belly muscles out like an inner tube, being sure to keep the shoulders heavy and low beneath the ears. Once helps, but two or three times is better.
• Jog slightly or take giant steps to the cart, gathering area, or first tee. Get the blood to flow, and give yourself the gift of the warm up stretches.
• If putting is a weakness or concern because of tension in the upper body, then begin with neck circles, wrists and arm flexes being sure to use the core muscles to hold the balance. This helps to release tension of the day and to alleviate golfers/tennis elbow.
• On the tee box or as the group gathers to hand out scorecards, explain that you can talk and listen while stretching. Then pick a routine for stretching that fits your body’s needs, such as starting at the top down. As for me, I often begin (in the middle) with the piriformis stretch (think letter 4). My hips and hamstrings are tight. This stretch I can do near the golf cart holding on for balance, if I am running that late. Then I continue down the legs with the hamstring stretch and end with some kind of arm or core body twist.
• Overall movement might begin with top rotation and work downwards.
For instance, stand on one leg using something for balance and swing the free leg back and forth. This loosens the hips. Then begin to engage the torso with various twists.
• Make sure to perform one to three squats to activate the glutes. It doesn’t require a rotation of 10x10x10. Simply start in a golfer’s stance then release arms into a squat, hold for a couple of seconds and repeat. This is not the gym, it is stretching on the go.
• To help with balance and swing movement place your hands across the chest, with a golfers stance and posture swing the body back and through. It is important to finish with ‘spikes up’ and body in balance.
• If you cannot finish a top to bottom round of stretches before teeing off, then step off the golf cart when others are hitting their next shot, and stretch at every opportunity, until you feel free to swing through to the target, ‘spikes up’ as Nancy calls it.
Remember to modify as needed for your body’s needs, abilities, or aches/pains, and to provide your body with plenty of water. The brain is more responsive when it is nursed by water rather than drained, feeling dehydrated, and unable to think.
The first time you hit a great shot, sink a putt, or chip like a pro, do the Patty Berg dance of celebration to anchor the greatness of the moment and to continue to keep the body vibrant and loose.
SupHer Power Golf Virtual Play Day on May 8 is open to register if you are interested. Please contact one of the following team members:
April Kenyon – april@supHerpowergolf.com
Nancy McDaniel – nancy@supHerpowergolf.com
Beth Brown – beth@supHerpowergolf.com