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Who has the strength to succeed at this year’s Ryder Cup?

Who has the strength to succeed at this year’s Ryder Cup?

Dr Ross Cloak, Associate professor for Knowledge Exchange and Mark Niemz Course leader for the MSc in Strength and Conditioning discuss the science and training that will be going into next week’s Ryder Cup.

As the sporting calendar begins to open fully again, many golf fans will be tuning into next week’s 43rd Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits, Haven, Wisconsin. With the European team winning 9 of the last 12 Ryder cups, the atmosphere will be heightened by a partisan home crowd looking for the USA’s best 12 golfers to secure victory. Golf at the highest level encompasses everything from execution of highly technical skills, performing under pressure, tactics, and mental strength. In more recent years the physical preparation of golfers has gained a large amount of focus from within the sport and from observers.

 A prime example of this is focus on physical development is team USA’s Bryson DeChambeu. The 27-year-old major winner has spent the last two years focusing on gaining size and strength with the aim of driving the ball further. In the simplest of terms, the more powerful an athlete is, the faster they can swing the club, generating a higher club head speed and resultant ball speed. These factors, alongside others relating to the technical efficiency of the swing, contribute towards greater distances. DeChambeu is now nearing an average drive distance of 323 yards (up nearly 21 yards from previous seasons). What advantages does this extra distance offer? Well in a competitive environment such as the Ryder Cup, outdriving your opponent by a long way in front of a gallery of fans has a significant advantage to a player’s psychology! But what is really means is that the golfer has less distance left to reach the green, can take more lofted clubs in their approach shots (which in turn increases the control of the ball and shot precision), and on tricky greens, such as those at Whistling straits, this can play a big factor.

Developing the physical qualities to be able to hit the ball a long way requires commitment to consistent and structured training, recovery, and patience.  The golfer also needs to be confident that their training in the gym is positively translated into their performance on the course (often termed ‘dynamic correspondence’). Many a ‘long drive’ champion never made it as an elite golfer, owing to the myriad of other aspects to the game that need to be developed and maintained. Yet whilst we recognise the complex nature of the game and the diverse skillset that a golfer must possess, working diligently to develop the long game can provide a player with a significant advantage.  

At the elite level, players will enlist the support of Strength and Conditioning Specialists who will work with them to improve the physical characteristics to support their performance on the course. This will involve a focus on the player’s ability to generate high forces at high velocities during the swing. The Strength and Conditioning coach will work with a wider team of technical coaches, nutritionists and physiotherapists all sharing their expertise and communicating with the player to achieve the best results. This type of multidisciplinary approach is a crucial part of many elite sport setups and is a reason why players will tend to have a long-established group of practitioners they work with and trust.

Although the hours spent in the gym may have a focus on improving driving distance, another big factor is creating a robust enough body that can repeatedly swing a golf club at speeds up to 132 mile per hour.  As many coaches will tell you, an athlete’s best athletic ability is their “availability”, and if constantly injured and unable to play the sport consistently they will struggle to achieve their true potential. In golf, acute impact-related injuries on the course as a result of things like hitting a tree stump are difficult to anticipate and prevent, but the more common repetitive injuries that gradually build up over time can be mitigated with correct training prescription and monitoring. Common sites such as the wrist, shoulders and back are good examples of where exercises to focus on making these areas stronger and more stable, whilst also monitoring the amount of practice and playing the golfer may do, can have a big impact on reducing injury occurrence. Training aimed at increasing muscle size is often associated with increased strength and power, which as discussed may benefit the golfer’s long game. However, the benefits of increasing muscle bulk in specific areas of the body, such as around the trunk and back, can also play a factor in protecting the golfer from injuries that may occur as a result of any newfound capabilities in expressing higher forces and velocities during the swing.

Another area that has gained more attention over the years in golf is how players warm up before competing. Historically (and still the case amongst most amateurs) players would focus exclusively on technical and ‘feel’ aspects of preparation, hitting balls on the range and practising their short game before stepping onto the first tee. Elite players will now also go through a structured physical warm up sequence, aimed at increasing range of motion and activating those muscle groups and movement patterns they are going to use in the swing. In some cases, they will even incorporate explosive exercises to get the muscles and the central nervous system primed and ready to rapidly contract and produce as much force as possible, all with the aim of getting their bodies in the best condition to execute at the highest level under the greatest pressure. The physical preparation of golfers is an increasing area of focus for many players, both amateur and professional, and those working in the area are an integral part of a player’s backroom staff.

We are pleased to be launching our new MSc in Strength and Condition this year. The course is led by UK Strength and Conditioning Association accredited coach Mark Niemz, whose professional experience includes work as the East Midlands Regional Strength and Conditioning Coach for the England Golf Junior Development programme.

If you are interested in studying the MSc in Strength and Conditioning visit:

For more information please contact the Corporate Communications Team.

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