One of the nice aspects of my professional practice is witnessing athletes from different sports interact in my gym. They exchange and ask each other questions about their respective sports with curiosity and genuine interest. Golfers often tickle the curiosity of other athletes who wonder why they need to work as hard as what they witness them doing. At first glance, it does not look like a game that requires much in the way of physical abilities. The sight of pot bellied golf champions, although a much rarer sight nowadays, has, in the past, reinforced that prejudice. It is true that prerequisites for power and endurance are relatively low compared to other sports, thus one may doubt the usefulness of a GPP regimen for golf. Power, however, is necessary, and must be expressed within an extremely narrow window of space and time. This is part of what makes the sport difficult. The proverbial 'sweet spot' where the club contacts the ball in optimal condition, is a very small surface area. The smallest deviation from it compromises distance and direction. On the big tours one shot a day can make the difference between monetary gains and losses, between success and failure. The club must contact the ball, which is very small, at speeds in excess of 100-110mph. There is not much time for adjustments, and decreasing the swing speed means losing distance, leading to using less precise clubs on the following shot. This makes it harder to shoot under par, explaining the obsession for driving distance seen in young golfers.
How can GPP help? First of all, we are not talking about running or riding a bike for 'cardio'. These activities have absolutely no transfer to golf performance. If walking an 18 hole course is a limiting factor in performance then you have other problems regarding general health and more pressing issues than lowering your handicap. The following discussion concerns golfers who have no trouble walking the course.
Just like in any other sport, technique is all important. Even more so in golf. And, as I write in almost all of my articles:
Good technique is a series of muscle contractions / lengthenings in the right order, at the right rythm and optimal speed given a preordained goal.
In the case of a golfer possessing a good solid swing motion, built over the years by tens of thousands of repetitions, GPP's role is to feed the pattern with power. Gaining distance is important as mentioned before. Even if the size of the golfer and her levers arefixed, and of importance, it is absolutely possible to lengthen someone's shots with a proper GPP program.
Proper tension within and between the different muscle chains is paramount to reducing dispersion of technique. In my opinion, a good golf player in a bit of a slump has not forgotten his technique. I can attest through my work in the professional ranks that prescribing general physical exercise to alter these tensions is a better option to fix a swing rather than tinkering with technical intentions. That way, the player does not lose confidence in his technical ability.
Expressing such opinions has generated the ire of many a golf pro /teacher. The last thing I want is to replace them! A good golf pro is needed in many other facets of the game. One should also remember that we are talking about players with a swing; one they leared from a pro. Approaching swing correction from a physical exercise point of view has the major benefit of preserving the player's confidence in his technical intentions. It is difficult to perform with newly formed intentions when it comes to pressure shots. Golf, as everyone knows, is won there! The slighest mistake comes at a high cost.
GPP is not beneficial only to good players. Often, just as in other sports, it happens that the player does not possess the required physical abilities to perform a proper swing. For example, it is very common in players who took up golf as adults to see swinging forms that are the results of their physical limitations. Thus, a player with a thoraco-lumbar junction that cannot allow much rotation will not be able to cross the axis of hips and shoulder girdles on top of the backswing. This state of affairs will prevent the person from using the elasticity of spiral muscle chains to accelerate the clubhead down to the low point. Typically, their solution is to shift their weight from one side to another like a pendulum to accelerate their clubhead. One problem with this strategy is that the axis moves and requires great precision in setting it back to the starting position for a precise hit on the ball. Another problem is that this motor pattern has poor potential for power because of the muscle structures involved. In that case recovering the ability to rotate around the talked about joint will allow the person to learn the proper swing form. However, these players are not unskilled, as they found a solution to execute a given goal within the confines of their physical abilities.
The aforementioned example is a common one, but far from the only one. Good players are not devoid of compensation patterns. The required adjustments just happen to be finer in their case and need an astute eye to be found. Yet, the margin of error at the profesional level is so little that the slightest positive adjustment transfers to better scores.
Speaking in very general terms, golf players need a good postural alignment coupled with a powerful hip extension whose energy can be transmitted to loose arms, in order to generate the proper joint sequence required for a good hit. The repetitive nature of golf training tends to degrade that alignement somewhat. Proper GPP regimen must correct or maintain it. GPP is a golfer's friend if it preserves and betters his ability to display good technique. I have seen it many times. Players come out with their best scores in the spring after a winter of training only to see them degrade in the summer when GPP has become more of a concept rather than a daily practice, in favor of more playing. As to how to do all that, it is a very long discussion, too long for this article, but riding bikes, jogging or swinging clubs on a Bosu Ball definitely aren't how!