March 27, 2020
Playing golf should be a great way to spend time outdoors while maintaining the social distancing recommended to retard the growth of the coronavirus outbreak.
You can remain safely separated from your fellow golfers by a few yards if not hundreds. You gain some Vitamin D from the sunshine, and it’s a pleasant, morale-boosting few hours.
Nonetheless, you may find playing or practice opportunities more limited than before the virus hit, or in the case of the state’s high school golf teams, stymied from competing in the spring matches that were supposed to start March 23.
If you’re stuck at home more than you’d like, consider trying some of the conditioning routines used by the Viking golfers at Cape Henlopen High in early March, before we were all so rudely interrupted.
Dennis Noonan, PTC, a certified athletic trainer for Cape, reviewed these exercises with the team’s coaches. Head coach Rob Harrod and his assistants really appreciated Noonan’s presence and direct advice to the kids at one of their early practice sessions.
Noonan urged us to maintain a schedule of stretching, then golf, then strengthening exercises. Using that sequence keeps weightlifting fatigue from affecting your swing.
For stretches, assistant coach Bill Geppert found a good set from the Mayo Clinic, which you can access at https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-denifestyle/fitness/multimedia/golf-stretches/sls-20076248?s=1. These eleven moves take 30 seconds each and are done daily. They address the quadriceps, back, hamstrings, hips, wrists, forearms, shoulders, and core muscle groups.
After you return from the course or practice range, see if these strengthening exercises will help.
Planks. The Cape golfers did three normal planks, staying in position for 20 seconds with 5 second rest intervals. Then they did side planks with their feet elevated on a small stool, raising their hips to reach the required position. These also called for 20-second holds with 5-second rests, on both sides. We planned to increase the golfers’ hold times by 5 seconds each week.
Some Cape kids struggled a bit with their planks at first, so don’t be surprised if you do also.
The young golfers then did 20 crunches or sit-ups. We also expected them to increase this count by 5 each week.
Twists. Holding a 10-pound medicine ball in front of your belly, make 20 full turns from left to right and back again on a 180-degree axis.
Body weight squats. Start with your feet shoulder-width apart. Lean out a bit and lower yourself, keeping your back at a straight angle and looking out at a point about 10 feet away. Do not extend your knees past your toes.
As Noonan noted, be careful to keep your thighs, knees, and toes in alignment while doing these squats. If your knees angle in or out, that could risk injury.
The Cape golfers were doing 15-20 squats per day, with their arms stuck out front or crossed against their chests to help with balance.
Don’t drop your hips down below your knees, and don’t worry if you can’t lower yourself to knee level when you first attempt them. That improves with practice.
Barbell shoulder. Lying flat on a bench or other surface, take a 10-pound barbell in each hand, with the arms at your side, similar to a bench press. Lift the weight to a full arm extension and bring it back slowly, one arm at a time, switching arms with each lift. Try doing this 20 times for each side.
Forearm lifts. Holding a 5-pound barbell in each hand, sit in a chair with your arms resting on your thighs to isolate your forearm muscles. Lower and raise the weights 15 times with your hands only, while your palms are facing up. Then do the lifts with your palms facing down. That second movement will be harder because the forearm muscle group involved is smaller than the other side.
Hand rolls. I built two of these for the golf team using 3-foot dowels and eyehooks I bought at Lowes. Drill and bolt into place the eyehook in the center of the dowel, and tie a 4-4/12 foot length of rope to the hook and a weight, in this case 4KG discs.
While gripping the dowel at arms’ length from shoulder height, slowly roll up the rope/weight until it reaches the dowel, and then slowly lower the weight back down. Do this twice and you may be surprised at what a challenge this becomes.
Of course, before trying these exercises make sure you are up to the challenge. Discuss them with your health care professionals if you have any concerns.
A putting drill. You might also benefit from trying one of the Vikings’ putting warm-ups, the quarter drill. I discovered it while watching LPGA golfer Cyndy LaCrosse on the Seaview practice green during last year’s ShopRite LPGA Classic.
Place a quarter on a flattish bit of putting green and try to roll your ball over the quarter from 3 feet, stopping the ball no more than 6 inches past the coin. Make this putt in four directions, east, south, north, and west. After making these from 3 feet, do the same drill from 4 and then 5 feet away.
You will gain confidence in your short-range putting.
Update on Cape Region golf and the coronavirus
The Governor’s March 22 update of his State of Emergency Order added several additional limitations to public movement, but also continued some exceptions to the general rules about staying home.
Outdoor recreation, with safety-first limitations, is still permitted, including both marina operations and playing golf.
Cape Region courses are using social media and email blasts to make golfers aware of the new arrangements. A Facebook posting by Baywood Greens provides a link to its new rules, such as closing access to restrooms and the removal of bunker rakes and ball washers from the course, to reduce hand-to-hand contact.
Walking is strongly encouraged, and cart use is limited to one player only at all courses. There may be reduced hours, such as at Mulligan’s Pointe, and there are other changes to tee time protocols, as at the Rookery courses. Food and beverage services are severely restricted, as is access to the pro shop or other gathering spaces.
All courses recommend that golfers stay away from the flagsticks. In fact, once you reach the green, it’s a good idea to assume two putts and not bother to hole out. That’s one more way to stay safe.
Some courses are trying new ways to handle payment, so contact the pro shops ahead of time to reduce potential problems.
As a Facebook post for The Rookery courses said, “We appreciate that we can stay open and need the help of everyone to keep golf courses open.”