Are golfers really athletes?

By guest blogger Chris Kopp PT, OCS, CMPT, Titleist Performance Certified

There was a time when golf was viewed more like a game than a true sport.  Professional golfers back in the day did not necessarily portray themselves as the fittest individuals compared to other sports stars. In fact, smoking cigarettes was commonplace even when on TV.  Not any more.   Just look at the some of the physiques on tour now, particularly current #1 golfer in the world Brooks Koepka. His arms are like tree trunks.  If any of you happened to watch and listen to the 2019 US Open golf coverage, over and over again you heard about the strength it required to hit that shot or this golfer has been known for his power (winner Gary Woodland). However, they also referred to their incredible touch and mental toughness. Most people think Tiger Woods was the inspiration for this change of working out and playing golf, but that is not exactly true. How about a little trip down memory lane and how golf became an “athletic activity”.

Physical Fitness In Golf

Gary Player was really the first professional golfer to take physical fitness seriously. In fact, he was often ridiculed for his work-out routine. However, if you see Gary Player now compared to some of his peers from his era of professional golf, you can see that maybe Gary was right in his approach. Greg Norman was another that also took exercise seriously. Certainly when Tiger came along and all the success he had and his muscular build, it really did push the needle toward golf and athleticism and ultimately became a huge influence for the common day professional golfer.

But when is too much of a good thing a bad thing? That is really the key to any activity and training. Tiger has obviously had severe physical break downs, knee surgery, several back surgeries that eventually led to a fusion. However, it is Tiger’s dedication to his fitness that has also allowed him to come back and play at a high level even with his back fused, winning the Masters this year and the Tour Championship last year. Pretty amazing really.

Golf can be an activity that puts tremendous stress on the body, particularly the spine due to the rotational nature of the game and the frequent bending and stooping-teeing the golf ball as well as picking up the ball out of the hole. Anyone who plays golf regularly or even infrequently has most likely experienced back pain. Sometimes, it is just bending down to get something out of the golf bag or putting on their shoes. Other areas that can be injured are of course the knees, hips, and shoulders.

When participating in any sport that requires repetitive motions and stresses, injuries are inevitable, however, they can be prevented with a little effort. Most of us do not have the time that professional golfers do or the resources available to have personal physios, chiropractors, massage therapists, and trainers. That being said, here are a few tips:


Yes, try and get to the course before your tee time and perform a structured warm-up program. I like the Orange Whip or a weighted club to loosen up, around 20-30 gentle swings gradually increasing your range of motion of your body as you go.

Deep squats with club overhead (as far as your knees will allow). Big leg swings, arm circles and gradually working up from pitching wedge to driver.

The best advice is to consult with a golf specific fitness or health professional and be properly evaluated in order to learn what would be a good routine specific to your physical capabilities and limitations. The stronger and more flexible you are, the reality is you are less likely to hurt yourself playing and you may even become a better, more consistent golfer as well.

About Chris Kopp PT, OCS, CMPT, Clinic Director, Titleist Performance Certified

Chris Kopp graduated Magna cum Laude from the University of North Florida and is a board certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist and certified Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapist with 20 years of experience in outpatient orthopedics and is the senior therapist on staff. Chris can evaluate and treat all musculoskeletal conditions including the spine and extremities.

He has an excellent reputation for rehabilitation of shoulder conditions including post-surgical as well as the lower extremity and has specialized training in the foot and ankle and working with runners of all abilities. As an avid golfer and life-long athlete himself, Chris also oversees Premier’s golf rehab and sport specific training programs. Additionally, Chris is on faculty as an instructor for Florida Institute of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapy and functions as Premier Physical Therapy’s Center Coordinator of Clinical Education and provides physical therapy education to area students as well as licensed professionals.

Chris is passionate about representing physical therapy in a way that the profession was created and continues to evolve, which is to return individuals to their goals in the highest functional capacity possible while incorporating compassion and a caring spirit. He lives in Atlantic Beach with his wife and two children and enjoys an active Florida lifestyle.

Chris is owner of Premier Physical Therapy Jacksonville and Ponte Vedra specializing in golf fitness and rehabilitation.  He can be contacted at or visit for more information.

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