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Fitness Steps to Better Golf: SHAPING UP

When golfers get out of the cart and hoof it, they're likely to improve their fitness and their game.
By Greg Henry Denver Post Staff Writer (Post / Glenn Asakawa)

Mark Twain called golf "a good walk spoiled." Sometimes, after frustrating rounds perhaps, golfers would agree. In reality, walking the golf course is not only a healthier alternative, but also can help your game.

Lana Ortega, who has started her own golf instruction company after years with the Mike McGetrick Academy, believes golfers can benefit in their play by walking the course. "It helps you stay in a better rhythm," Ortega says. "It gives you time to walk off a poor shot and recover and focus on the next shot."

The health benefits are even more obvious. In a 2004 study by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, "The golfer who currently plays four days a week while riding a cart could expend nearly 3,000 more calories a week if he or she walks the course," said Dr. Scott Lephart, director of the UPMC golf fitness laboratory. "(That) could result in a loss of 9 pounds of body weight over three months."

A 20-week study by the American Journal of Medicine in 2000 of 55 golfers age 48 to 64 found that those who walked 18 holes two or three times a week for five months increased their aerobic endurance, lost an average of 3 pounds more than a control group, had lower body fat and higher levels of the good cholesterol, HDL, according to a "Golf After 50" report on the PGA Tour's website. Dr. Wade Aubry wrote in Golf Digest that "playing golf with a power cart burns between 2.5 and 3.7 calories per minute while playing golf walking burns between 5 and 8.5 calories per minute."

In a typical round, a golfer can expect to walk 5 or 6 miles, more than the recommended 10,000 steps a day, based on an average of 2,000 steps per mile. For the golfer who has been a regular cart rider, health experts advise taking it slow and building up to walking the entire course. "I advise golfers do their homework ahead of time," said Stacy Montgomery, fitness director at the McGetrick Academy and owner of New Directions Personal Training.

Some suggestions to get started: Walk for 20 minutes to start and work up to 45 minutes, Montgomery says. The key, she says, is to "not get fatigued and frustrated." When you do start walking the course, walk the front nine holes and switch with your cart partner and ride the back nine. Or, if possible, leave your cart on the path and walk to your ball instead of driving straight to your ball.

Montgomery recommends golfers do plenty of stretching before, during and after a round. Stretching the hamstrings ("tight hamstrings can cause back pain and limit range of motion in the swing"), quadriceps and calves are essential for the golfer, she advises. Montgomery also advises using a push cart because "carrying a bag will definitely add to fatigue." Now is a good time to start walking the course. The milder late-summer temperatures will make walking less of a chore.

Walk these fairways Metro-area public golf courses that are easy to walk: Denver courses: City Park; Overland; John F. Kennedy; Wellshire; Willis Case; Harvard Gulch (par-3, nine holes) Aurora: Aurora Hills, Meadow Hills; Fitzsimons; Springhill (executive, 18 holes); Centre Hills (par 3, nine holes) In Denver, but not city-owned: Park Hill (one of the flattest courses in the metro area); Mira Vista; Windsor Gardens (par 3, nine holes). Arvada: Indian Tree; Lake Arbor. Walkable, but more challenging: Green Valley Ranch (near DIA); West Woods (27-hole course in Arvada); Indian Peaks (Lafayette); Englewood; Flatirons (Boulder); Hyland Hills and the Heritage at Westmoor (Westminster); Riverdale courses (Knolls and Dunes in Brighton); Raccoon Creek (Littleton); The Homestead (Lakewood, executive, 18 holes); The Links at Highlands Ranch (executive, 18 holes)

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