Appliance of science
Add 30 yards to your drive and feel fitter, fresher and better than you have for years - and all in six weeks? Surely we're living in fantasy land here, but that was the experience of Newbridge GC member Eamonn O'Carroll.
O'Carroll (59) took part in a unique programme that was the brainchild of US-born Morgan Pierce, managing director of BodySmart gyms.
Pierce has been beating the drum about the value of Power Plate technology -- you know, the vibration fitness machines that are being used by top stars including Lee Westwood, Rafa Nadal and Bernard Jackman.
Golfers were coming to her centres and asking about programmes for improvement. Pierce felt this would be an ideal area for expanding the curriculum offered by her organisation.
However, she needed specialist expertise for golf and approached World Clubmaker of the Year Derek Murray, of Fore Golf, and top PGA teaching professional John Kelly, of St Margaret's GC. Kelly also happens to be Europe's best qualified pro from the Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) in California and is a TPI tutor.
The TPI centre is the hub of the most modern research into golf-related physiology, and leading pros such as Padraig Harrington and Tom Watson have availed of their expertise.
In short, the combination of physical conditioning expertise, golf swing and physiology know-how, and club-fitting knowledge provided excellent parameters for the experiment.
What happened next
Pierce advertised a six-week golf fitness programme, utilising Kelly's TPI input as the cornerstone and offering a prize of a new set of clubs, custom-built by Fore Golf, for the most improved performer at the end of six weeks.
A total of 41 golfers ranging in age from 35 to 68 signed up, paying €169 for 18 personal training sessions. The average age was 48.
Their handicaps ranged from five to 24, and average handicap was 13.
Kelly conducted a physical evaluation of each golfer based on nine different tests, including pelvic and torso rotation, overhead squat, toe touch, balance and a jump test.
They could avail of BodySmart locations at Grand Canal Square and Mount Merrion in Dublin, in Naas, Galway, or Cork, but had to complete the 18 sessions by March 31.
As an indication of the general fitness levels, most of the golfers couldn't touch their toes, and less than a third had previous gym experience.
Pierce's Power Plate showed excellent results for general fitness and rehabilitation, but golf offered a new challenge.
"We're not golfers. We're fitness professionals. We understand physiology and how the body works but we didn't know how a golfer's body should work, so John Kelly brought his knowledge of how a golfer's body should function," she said.
"He assessed each golfer and gave us a prescription of what each individual's particular problem was."
Six weeks later
All partic-ipants were invited to Fore Golf's base at the Red Lane Golf and Football Centre for retesting after completing their programme.
A total of 31 golfers attended, and the findings were fascinating.
Physically: On average, the golfers lost 1.63kg or 3lbs 9oz. The person to lose the most weight lost 6.7kg or 14lbs 12oz.
On average, they lost 4.34lbs of fat mass and gained 0.86lbs of muscle mass, which translates into an improvement in metabolic rates.
On average, the decrease in metabolic age was 2.11 years, with one golfer achieving a decrease of 23 years in his metabolic age calculation.
Mobility and Flexibility: Before the program, only 22pc of golfers could touch their toes -- at the end of the program, 74pc could.
At the start, only 10pc of golfers had normal pelvic tilt movement. By the finish 58pc had normal movement.
At the start, 24pc had full lat movement and after the test, a full 68pc of golfers had normal lat movement.
There was an average increase in jump height of 15.78pc, and an average improvement in upper body strength of 16.04pc.
The golf outcomes
The winning golfer -- Eamonn O'Carroll -- had a massive 18.3mph gain in swing speed, which translates into a 30 yard-plus gain in distance.
On average, the swing speed improvement was 7.68mph, or an average gain of 19.2 yards -- so they were all hitting the ball longer. Just to highlight the level of improvement, here are some facts about swing speed-to-distance ratios.
The driver swing speed of an average lady golfer is 62mph; for an average LPGA professional it's 96mph.
The average male golfer achieves a swing speed of 84mph, compared to 108mph for an average PGA Tour player.
Tiger Woods' swing speed is 130mph, and a national long drive champion achieves a speed of 148-152mph.
What does that mean in terms of hitting golf balls?
Well, 1mph of increased swing speed equals 1.5mph of ball velocity increase, which translates to 2.5 yards of carry distance increase.
No wonder the top pros have invested so much effort in mobility, fitness, flexibility and strength.
Winner O'Carroll, who will be 60 in May, said: "It was just an amazing experience.
"These people are experts. It was very enjoyable and gradually the improvements came.
"It was half an hour, three times a week. A lot of it was down to stretching and flexibility and the power exercises to build up your strength and core muscles. It was a great balance.
"People that are interested talk about equipment and golf balls and so on, but to be honest, the most important equipment is your body. Whether you're young or old, we can all improve that."
Eamonn McShea of Sillogue GC, a Donegal man, was also delighted.
"It's easier get around the golf course and the toughest hole on the course is easier because you know you can hit the ball a lot further. My game has improved, and the scores are improving," he said.
Jack Graham of Grange Castle GC added: "This is a programme that I would revisit; apart from golf, it tunes you into your own body and it makes golf more enjoyable."