Are you somebody who finds yourself scoring low on the front nine, and then struggling down the stretch?
Are you somebody who struggles putting together a complete round of golf?
Are you somebody who continually feels fatigued throughout the course of a round?
I am guessing many people out there are in one of these boats, and the first and most important takeaway we should have is that golf is a demanding sport.
Playing 18 holes. Walking between 3 and 6 miles. Taking 36+ high velocity, high impact swings.
It is a demanding sport, so don’t be discouraged when you find yourself getting fatigued… it’s normal.
It is your body’s way of creating adaptations!
However, we all want to play better golf. We all want to score lower.
In order to do so, we can’t be getting fatigued on the 15th, and limp our way into the clubhouse finishing triple bogey, double bogey, triple bogey.
So let’s dive into the concept of fatigue, understand what actually is going on, and then discuss some ways that you can work to eliminate fatigue long-term, as well as short term solutions you can use to eliminate it as soon as today!
What is fatigue?
I have seen many definitions and ways of describing fatigue. At the end of the day, it is different for everybody, however, there are two ways I will be defining it for the purposes of this article.
General fatigue is a state of physical and mental exhaustion, tiredness, laxity and lack of energy.
Sport specific fatigue represents the loss of voluntary force production. More fatigue, less strength and movement capacity.
From here, there are two types of fatigue that contribute to your lacking golf game down the stretch of a round.
CNS or Mental Fatigue
Peripheral or Muscular Fatigue
CNS/Mental fatigue is the inability to exert high levels of effort for long periods either due to lack of focus or due to an exhausted nervous system. This type of fatigue will usually set in due to the volume of an exercise or activity.
And because golf is a 4+ hour endeavor, we’d be foolish to think that all of our fatigue is muscular.
When CNS/Mental fatigue is present, we will struggle producing the same forceful movements that we could on the front 9, and further, our movement capacity, meaning our ability to create a wide breadth of movement, decreases due to the inability to exhibit the same level of effort we could earlier in the round.
You can think of this fatigue as the burning sensation that exists after a set of 15 bicep curls. This type of fatigue is created through high intensity muscular efforts, like a max squat, a set of bicep curls to failure, or even, a golf swing!
The golf swing is fast, powerful, and taps into our high threshold motor units, the strongest ones that we have within our bodies!
Put a different way, the golf swing creates muscular fatigue via the intensity that each swing produces.
So far we have learned that the golf swing promotes both physical fatigue and nervous system fatigue due to the roller coaster ride of high intensity efforts mixed with the high volume of activity. Further levels of fatigue are created through our decision making, attitude, perceiving the environment, communicating with our fellow golfers, etc.
So, next time you get fatigued, don’t get upset, angry, or discouraged… simply be aware that the game of golf is demanding, and act accordingly to work towards fatigue resilience in your next round by following the ideas presented next!
Steps to Building Fatigue Resistance
After giving it some thought, I came up with 4 ways that we can work to decrease golf fatigue… 2 long-term solutions and 2 short-term solutions.
And don’t even think about skipping to the short term solutions… all 4 need to be prioritized in order to create fatigue resistance, however, I wanted to give you things you could do before your round tomorrow that will help!
Build your force reserve and speed reserve
Training the Conditioning Side in a Golf Manner
Prioritize nutrition, hydration, and recovery
1.) Build Your Force Reserve and Speed Reserve
The best way to improve your fatigue resistance for purposes of golf success and longevity is to increase your strength and speed levels. I understand, this doesn’t make much sense. Strength and speed is not the same as aerobic conditioning. Let me explain…
First, check out this video if you want to hear me explain what a force reserve is, and how it can help your golf game, but be sure to come back this way and read how it contributes to fatigue resistance!
Video link: Build Your Force Reserve
By increasing the amount of force or speed you can create, your current golf swing becomes much more manageable from a repeatability and recovery standpoint.
For example, let’s say you are a beginner athlete, just starting to train in the weight room. You do bicep curls with 25 lbs dumbbells for 10 reps, you can’t do another one. It was exhausting.
After training for 3 months, you now have the capacity to do 35 lbs dumbbells for 10 reps. What do you think is going to happen when you grab the 25 lbs dumbbells and do 10 reps with them?
It’s going to feel easy.
And more than that, it is going to be less impactful and much easier to recover from. You aren’t going to be sore because you have created that adaptation and newfound levels of strength.
The golf swing is no different when we look at speed.
If you train and build the capacity to produce speeds of 125 mph, but your golf swing only makes use of 105 mph, you will now have an easier time repeating that 105 mph swing as well as recovering from it.
Therefore, from a fatigue resistance standpoint, the best way to eliminate fatigue is to create general strength and speed adaptations that will train your body to be more accustomed to the stressful impacts your golf swing creates. This will help you recover between shots quicker, produce a more consistently “effortless” swing, as well as potentially contribute these newfound levels of strength and speed into your golf game, boosting performance!
2.) Training Your Conditioning Side in a Golf Manner
The golf swing is very fast, powerful and forceful. It is an instant burst of effort, and then 5 minutes of recovery in between shots.
Most forms of aerobic (conditioning) activity are the exact opposite. Slow, monotonous and low impact.
It is extremely difficult to create simultaneous bodily adaptations for long-distance, aerobic activity and forceful, high impact, anaerobic activity.
Training for a marathon and a powerlifting meet at the same time is nearly impossible to do successfully.
Now, with all that being said, there are absolutely benefits of including both ends of the spectrum in your training.
And further, if you are somebody who enjoys biking, running, or swimming, please do not stop doing those things! Continue to be active, and enjoy your movement abilities! The benefits that you obtain from them are still greatly beneficial and will help contribute to your levels of general health and fitness, making you more prepared for your golf swing. However, be sure to include strength and power training with your higher volume conditioning.
If you are somebody who doesn’t enjoy these conditioning-based training methods, there are absolutely ways that we can train our conditioning side without undertaking these high volumes of aerobic training.
There are two primary options I give my athletes when it comes to training the conditioning side of golf:
Walking is an awesome way to increase your heart rate to an acceptable threshold that will help boost conditioning adaptations while at the same time not overtaking the strength and power adaptations we are creating elsewhere in training.
Secondly, I have found movement circuits at an intensity of 60-75% of your maximum heart rate for 15-30 minutes are the perfect spot to give my body that aerobic stress, without it overtaking the strength and power adaptations.
Heart Rate Range (60-75% of MHR) for the ideal golf conditioning:
20 years old ~ 120-150
30 years old ~ 114 – 143
40 years old ~ 108 – 135
50 years old ~ 102 – 127.5
60 years old ~ 96 – 120
Here’s an example of one I did last week, be sure to minimize the rest in-between exercises and, if possible, monitor your heart rate to try and keep it in that 60-75% range:
Walking lunges 3×20 yards
Dynamic Pogos 3×20 yards
Leopard Crawls 3×20 yards
High Knee March 3×20 yards
Side Lunges 3×20 yards
Duck Walks 3×20 yards
3.) Prioritize Nutrition, Hydration, and Recovery
Transitioning to short term changes you can make right now that will help eliminate golf fatigue tomorrow; nutrition, hydration and recovery are great places to start.
Nutrition is your fuel source.
Your body creates energy by breaking down the nutrients found in food.
Make sure you are giving it enough, high quality nutrients so that it can help you maintain energy levels on the course. Three tips I have when it comes to nutrition for golf:
Eat before you play [1-2 hours before]
Light snack while you play [something healthy and nutrient-dense (ex: nuts, fruit, PB&J sandwich, beef jerky]
Eat after you play (lots of quality protein)
Eating before and snacking during your round will help you maintain energy levels, while eating after will help you replenish energy levels and promote bodily recovery from the round of golf, better preparing you for the next one!
From a hydration standpoint, maintaining appropriate fluid intake will help muscular and cognitive function, joint fluidity as well as regulate blood pressure and circulation. Poor hydration will contribute directly to fatigue in the form of poor muscle function and resilience, meaning it will take longer for muscles to recover from high impact movements (like your golf swing).
As a general rule of thumb, 1/2 of your bodyweight in ounces is a good mark to shoot for!
Lastly, better recovery after a round, means higher energy levels and less fatigue during the next round.
Sleep is the king of recovery, make sure you are getting 7+ hours of high quality sleep every night.
Basically, maintaining holistic, healthy habits will promote bodily recovery after a round as well as in between shots. Health underlies everything we do as humans, and therefore, by maintaining higher overall health levels, our golf game and fatigue resistance will see dramatic improvements.
4.) Be Present
Maybe it’s over-stated, but it’s true… The only shot that matters in golf is the next one.
If your mind is consistently in the past or future, you will tap into higher levels of stress, which will contribute to your fatigue levels.
Enjoy the beautiful game.
Have fun with your playing partners.
And, as always, let’s go low!