For the past two decades, Golf Digest has made health and fitness a point of emphasis in its quest to help golfers play better: The thought being that golf is perhaps the only sport you play more as you get older, and that means addressing its demands in a practical and sensible way to help average people stay healthy and enjoy the game over the course of a lifetime.
Until now, the sole focus has been on making golfers healthier. Now Golf Digest has launched a program to help make the trainers who work with golfers more successful in that pursuit.
Introducing the Golf Digest Fitness Trainer Certification—an immersive, online-only curriculum that covers virtually every aspect of training as it relates to golf performance. There are 12 modules taught by some of the top minds in health-and-human performance, and they cover a variety of topics including muscle activity, breathing, posture, motor learning, the physiology of aging and how to build quality training programs for golfers.
This Certification is unique in the fitness world in that it looks at golf performance through the lens of the characteristics and capabilities of average golfers—not tour professionals or other elite-level players. “And the reason is, those elite-level golfers are outliers, not the norm,” says Ben Shear, Golf Digest’s chief fitness advisor and architect of the curriculum. Shear (below) has trained several of the game’s best players including major champions Jason Day and Webb Simpson and former World No.1-ranked golfer Luke Donald. He also helps average golfers at his gym, Athletic Edge in Scotch Plains, N.J.
“Trying to get the average golfer, a 50-something man or woman who spends the majority of the week behind a desk, to move like Rory McIlroy? You could work with them for years and never come close to getting them to do what Rory can do,” Shear says. “It would be like a basketball coach trying to get a banker to leap from the foul line and dunk like Michael Jordan.”
Instead, this certification teaches trainers to take what average golfers can do and enhance those capabilities. Using McIlory as an example, his ability to rotate the pelvis is almost otherworldly, and it’s a key reason he can hit the ball so far despite being only 5-foot-9, 160 pounds. Trying to get a middle-aged or senior golfer to move like that is aspirational, but not realistic.
“That golfer who doesn’t rotate well, doesn’t move well in the transverse plane, he or she might move well laterally,” Shear says. “That golfer might be able to generate a good amount of power and improve ball-striking if the training focus is on the frontal (lateral) plane. I’m not saying to ignore training in the other planes of motion, but if you focus on what a person can do well, what he or she brings to the table, that player is going to walk out of your gym much more satisfied with the progress. And you know what that means, they’ll come back. That’s really the key to being a successful trainer. You can know everything there is to know about biomechanics, physiology, and so forth, but if you can’t make the training experience enjoyable and rewarding for your clients, you’re probably not going to have those clients for very long.”
The fitness professionals who have completed the certification cite several things about it that make it a worthwhile addition to any trainer’s continuing education, notably the diversity of the modules and the user-friendly applications of the lectures.
“It is the most comprehensive certification out there,” says Paul Gozbekian, a Boston-area trainer who has completed a dozen different certifications including nationally recognized ones for weightlifting (USAW), cycling (USA Cycling), track and field (USATF) and golf (TPI). “What I appreciate most is that it takes a more realistic approach to the types of golfers we are more likely to work with.”
Adds Pam Owens, a Dallas-based trainer with more than a half-dozen other certifications who works with tour pros and regular golfers: “There’s so much usable information. While the golf-specific modules are enlightening, I also got so much out of the lectures on breathing, posture, motor learning and how we age. All those things are so intertwined and really have a direct impact on golf performance.”
Among the lecturers who cover topics ancillary to golf performance are Jill Miller (above), one of the foremost authorities on fascia and myofascial-release techniques, Mikael Mattson, a doctor of medical science and exercise physiology at Stanford University, Will Woo, a doctor of motor learning at Long Beach State University, Michael Mullin, a nationally recognized breathing expert and Brian Bradley, a posture and pain-management specialist who lectures around the world.
“You would expect to have modules in the certification that cover topics like what muscles are most important in golf, but this program also looks at the bigger pictures.” says Bradley, who teaches the Egoscue Method, a program for improving posture and pain management. “You have to take into considertion how activities of daily life, genetics, aging, all the things that impact how a person plays golf.”
Also included in the certification is a step-by-step program to screen clients on their movement capabilities, and an in-depth module on how to build individual training programs for golfers based on the results of their screen. Upon completion of the certification, trainers also will have access to a video exercise library and training programs for improving myofascial rolling, posture and breathing.
“Trainers who complete the certification not only get a huge marketing boost, being able to align themselves with the Golf Digest name, they also will be listed in a directory on GolfDigest.com. People looking for a trainer can come to Golf Digest and find you,” Shear says. “Also, certified trainers will have access to a private online discussion group where they will get all kinds of helpful information for their careers including webinars from experts in and out of the golf world. Things like how to build a business, how to interact with golf coaches, wellness, etc.”