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The Evolution of Golf: with Casey Martin

Posted in: Articles by ProSource, Superfeature Articles, Training Articles
By Daniel Collier | Feb 10, 2009

How Tiger changed golf into a fitness-minded sport

Men's Fitness magazine recently released their 2008 poll of the top 25 fittest men in America. The list consists of all types of men of various backgrounds and from vastly different industries. Several of the athletes gracing the list are not so surprising such as basketball big man Dwight Howard, Philadelphia Phillies agile second baseman Chase Utley, and ripped up Browns quarterback Brady Quinn. Some of the other guys featured may not seem as familiar and quite frankly not as deserving (a.k.a. reality TV chief Curtis Stone'¦Who?). But perhaps the biggest surprise to some may be the man featured in the #1 spot and selected as the fittest of the fit, Tiger Woods. What, a professional golfer? He doesn't deserve the honor of the fittest man in America, does he? YES he most certainly does!

Tiger has not only changed the way up and coming and professional golfers train today, he's single-handedly altered the perception of the sport of golf, particularly in relation to fitness. Wood's absolute domination since his arrival onto the scene has evolved golf from a once elitist hobby into an exciting mainstream sport. This isn't just your grandpa's pastime anymore!

" The Tiger Effect" has radically rejuvenated the PGA Tour, dramatically expanding the size of the crowds at tour events, increasing prize money, and broadening television viewership. And thanks to Woods, fitness and conditioning have now become cornerstones of the sport. At each PGA event, the tour now provides two state-of-the-art training facilities. One for physical therapy (rehab and prevention) and the other for physical conditioning (cardio, weight training etc.).

So how did a skinny kid from Stanford revolutionize the sport of golf and come to be the fittest man in America? What's Tiger's workout routine / nutritional plan and what's the consensus fitness plan for young golfers today? Perhaps no one can answer these questions better than former PGA tour player and Tiger's former Stanford teammate, Casey Martin. Casey, who's currently the men's golf coach at the University of Oregon, helped Tiger and the rest of the Cardinal golf team win the 1994 NCAA Championship.

A three time All-Pac 10 player while in college, Martin turned pro in 1995, and saw his PGA tour dream fulfilled four years later. Due to a birth defect in his left leg, Martin subsequently sued the PGA Tour for the right to use a golf cart during competition under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Considering the added stress of the courtroom battle and the increased media attention, Martin faired well on the golf course in 1999, recording five top-50 finishes in PGA tour events. His best showing was a tie for 17th at the Tucson Open and a tie for 23rd at the U.S. Open, where he briefly contended for the lead before falling back.

Though eventually winning the Supreme Court case in 2001, Martin finished 179th on the money list in 2000 and perhaps, due to his condition, was unable to keep his tour card through his earnings that season. Casey's efforts in that landmark case did however earn him the 1998 Ben Hogan Award, given annually to a competitor who continues to be active in golf despite a physical handicap. And In 2001, Nike began bestowing an annual Casey Martin Award to recognize disabled athletes all over the world.

In May of 2006, Martin was named head coach of the University of Oregon's men's golf team in his hometown of Eugene, after working as a volunteer assistant during the 2006 season. Although still active in selected professional golf tournaments around the country, Martin is now more focused on coaching and instructing his team in the skills and fitness methods he learned from playing alongside Tiger and some of the best golfers in the world.

Most of us have grown accustomed to Tiger and his absolute domination of the sport of golf over the years. Since his first appearance on the Mike Douglas show as a child, he's been on an inevitable journey to shatter the record for most major championships in tour history.

Casey Martin remembers his days with Tiger at Stanford fondly. "Being around Tiger in college, I witnessed some things on a golf course that just took my breath away. The way he was able to execute certain shots almost routinely was unbelievable. Even when he was eighteen, the guy was something to behold. It's funny though, you hear all these stories about Tiger practicing hour after hour until his hands were blistered, but they aren't true. Tiger would come out, hit balls for 20 minutes, chip and putt for 20 minutes, then head to the weight room for a couple of hours. He was a maniac in the gym."

Before Tiger, weight training was an absolute anomaly in the sport of golf. "Twenty years ago" says Casey, "you never would have even asked a question about fitness in golf, it just wasn't talked about and quite frankly didn't happen. But now it's front and center and you can thank Tiger for that." According to Tiger's Men's Fitness profile, almost everything about Tiger's training defies convention. His complex routine integrates various systems using free weights, machines, rollers, and balls, 5 days a week:
  • Manual Therapy: extensive stretching before working out and muscle and joint manipulation/mobilization '" For increased flexibility throughout his body to further enhance power in his golf swing.

  • High-Rep Weight Training: To enhance balance, control, endurance, and speed.

Woods also enhances his workout routine with extensive core training (sit-ups) and cardio (daily 3 mile run). According to Martin, Tiger's frame has evolved greatly since his college days. "In college he was a lot thinner, but still really cut and sinewy. He probably had a body fat index of maybe 3 or 4%." Men's Fitness lists Tiger at 6'2" 185 pounds with a 31 inch waist.

According to Casey and many avid golfers, if you could create the prototypical golfer, you would create Tiger. "He's 6'2 and cut up but not overly bulked up to where it disrupts his rotation." He's a true athlete who seemingly would be just as comfortable on a basketball court or baseball diamond as he is on a golf course. His charisma and credibility must be accounted for as well as he's the highest paid athlete of all time through endorsement deals with Nike, American Express, Accenture, and various others. Being the most popular athlete in the world has in turn attracted athletes and sports minded individuals to play golf, and to do it "the Tiger way" integrating his training and fitness techniques that in part have made Tiger so successful. In fact, in recent years Tiger has become a fervent fitness and nutrition advocate for young people, and healthy habits are key components at his new Tiger Woods Learning Center. He believes that these aspects of life need to be instilled in children from a young age, and from there, it's up to the child to make the right choices that impact their ability to achieve their dreams.

The various fitness and nutritional methods taught at Tiger's academy are not too dissimilar from the ones Coach Martin implements with his men on the Oregon golf team. "Fitness is a huge deal for the top kids coming up now. One thing I've found being a college recruiter and out there looking for the top kids, is that the Europeans and Australians especially seem to make fitness a top priority earlier on than even the kids here in the states." Due to Tiger's influence being on a global scale, he's had a major impact on several of the golf federations worldwide, particularly in Sweden and Australia. "The kids in these countries are instructed from a young age in meticulous fitness and nutritional methods so by the time I'm looking to recruit them, these areas are already set in place."

Fitness training at the University of Oregon is pretty generalized with every sport. "We don't really sport specific train ," says Martin. "We focus more on core strength training with the primary objective being injury prevention. The strategy of the Oregon athletics fitness program is one focused on building and strengthening the whole body as a cohesive unit and giving the student athlete the best chance to excel at their chosen sport. If you're strong around all parts of your body and you're a balanced physical specimen, you're not going to get injured and you're going to have the best chance to achieve success at your sport." Coach Martin says he uses Tiger as the prime example to his players. "He does it all; stretching, core training, cardio, and weight training."

"What we're seeing in golf now are players not only with great golf swings, but they're also in the gym building muscle and strength, and so these guys are just killing the ball." It's true, in the last 10 years or so (uncannily about the time Tiger went pro), the distance off the tee of the Tour's biggest hitters has increased by a whopping 19.4 yards, (from 302 yards to a high of 321.4). Tiger recently said in the Men's Fitness Magazine profile on him that he's seen a huge change in recent years. "Guys' bodies have changed dramatically. Now there are trainers that travel along with the tour, trainers that travel with certain guys on tour. The guys have gotten bigger, stronger, more fit. They have more speed and are hitting the ball farther not just because the equipment has improved but also because our physical nature has changed." Although sheer strength is a component that factors into how far a player drives a ball off the tee, it certainly is not the only component. "The sequence of the motion of your swing is the main factor in being a power hitter," says Casey. "There are certain muscle groups that have to fire first and then its like a chain reaction so if you get the chain reaction down, you can hit it a long way, while not being that strong at all.

Unlike some other sports where height and/or size are crucial to being successful, golf is uniquely different. "When I'm out recruiting I see all kinds of body types out there," says Casey. "There are short guys that are kind of thick, there are tall guys that are thinner. That's one of the cool things about golf, you don't have to be a carbon copy of anyone to be successful." There are, however, several keys to being successful at golf and although body type may not play a major role, fitness, conditioning, nutrition and certainly mental strength all play huge roles.

Mental strength in particular, Coach Martin says, is one of the biggest aspects that separate the college kids from the tour players. "To play great golf consistently you have to not just be positive, you really have to get into a zone. There's some really fit guys with great mechanics that are not winning all the time and it's simply because their mental or emotional state is just not where it needs to be. When a player lacks mental or emotional strength, all other facets of his approach can suffer.

Nutrition is another component Casey feels is vital for an athlete to perform at his or her optimal level. "The Oregon athletics department recently hired a nutritionist last that I feel is playing and will continue to play a big role in helping the athletes perform to the best of their capabilities. As Casey explains, when he was hired as the golf coach at Oregon, there were several other pressing needs that needed to be addressed along with the nutritional aspects of the athletes. "The main things I've tried to improve upon since taking over the program two years ago is to recruit better golfers, improve their overall skills, and get them in better shape through fitness and nutritional methods. This year I actually have a really young team and as they start to develop, nutrition will certainly continue to play a vital role.

"One product I use and encourage all of my players to use as well is the Supreme Protein® bars. The bars are not only packed with a vitamin complex and 30 grams of high quality whey protein isolate, they taste phenomenal! They're great to use before or after an intense workout and they're also good for an energy boost while out on the golf course."

Along with the rigorous schedule that goes along with coaching and recruiting for the Oregon Ducks year round, Casey recently launched an innovative new online golf community called the Combining features found in some of the most popular interactive websites such as MySpace, YouTube, and eBay, this golf instruction site is a single source for online golf instruction, forums, blogs, and personal profiles. The site also provides golfers of all levels the opportunity to communicate with professional golfers like Casey and others all over the world. We at ProSource wish Casey the best of luck with this new endeavor.


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Disclaimer: The articles featured herein are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Specific medical advice should only be obtained from a licensed health care professional. No liability is assumed by ProSource for any information herein.

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