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Sheila Cluff

Fitness expert, television celebrity and owner
of The Oaks at Ojai and The Palms at Palm Springs,
in California, is the author of Take 5:

How You Can Benefit from Just
Five Minutes of Daily Exercise,
The Ultimate Recipe for Fitness and Sheila Cluff's Aerobic Body

Find Sheila on the World Wide Web at

by Sheila Cluff

Golfers make all sorts of jokes about the sport _ I've heard many of them when I've been on the fairway or the club. The bottom line, however, is that golf is as fun as it is challenging.

One challenge golfers don't need is a sport injury, especially to the back. Whether one plays everyday or just once in a while, stretching should always be part of the routine. The movements of hitting the ball down the fairway or putting it perfectly into the hold involve the arms, upper body, torso, head, neck and most definitely the back.

To build endurance and strength and improve your game significantly, participate in an aerobic activity such as cycling, walking, and/or jogging. To avoid injuring muscles you need for a great game of golf, incorporate these stretches into your life.

1. With good posture and knees slightly bent, link your fingers and stretch arms overhead. Hold for a count of 15. Breathe naturally and try to stretch just a bit further. You'll feel this one in your arms, shoulders and upper back. Relax and repeat four more times.

2. Again with knees slightly bent, lean to the left side grasping your right elbow with the left hand. Slightly pull your body to the left side as hips are kept forward. Hold for a count of 15 and repeat on the other side.

3. Using your golf towel, or other small towel, grip the ends and extend your arms overhead. Elbows should be away from the body. Breathing regularly, pull out on the towel as you allow arms to move slightly backward. Hold for a count of 15, relax and repeat.

4. Flexing knees, slowly bend over from the hips and touch your toes. When you start to feel comfortable in this position, attempt to place the palms of your hands flat on the floor. Really feel the stretch throughout your back; you might also feel it in the shoulders and upper arms. Hold for a count of 30, raise up slowly, one vertebrae at a time, knees still bent. Now stretch up toward the sky, and hold that stretch for another count of 30. This is by far one of the best exercise for a golfers back while it also stretches the hips, groin area and hamstrings.

Never do toe touches with straight legs. Regardless of what high school PE teachers once recommended, straight-leg toe touches are downright dangerous for the back.
5. Standing about an arm's distance from a wall, stretch out your right leg in back of you and bring your left foot close to the wall. Flex only the left knee. Now lean against the wall with hands cushioning your head. Hips should be straight toward the wall. Be sure to keep both heels on the ground. This exercise strengthens the calf muscles, the thigh muscles and the back. Hold the stretch for a count of 30, relax and repeat on the other side.

Want some wellness tips just for golfers?

* At the first incident of a pain that is unusual or intense, consult with a doctor. Golf, as with all exercise, shouldn't hurt.
* Talk to the golf pro about your grip. The way you hold the club may be hurting your body and increasing your golf score, too!
* Get equipment that's right for you. If you've had your clubs for years or inherited them from another, they may be doing your body harm and hurting your ego as you scribble your score because you may be using clubs that are too short (or too long).
* Have the pro watch your swing. For instance, if you routinely swing the club in a way that throws your body out of alignment, your muscles may be compensating for this imbalance and hurting your back in the bargain.
* Treat yourself to a sports massage, good equipment and comfortable golf shoes. Wear sunscreen and don't forget a hat. And invest in these simple stretches to help your back, improve your swing and decrease your score.

Why do yo play golf? The challenge? The thrill of a possible hole-in-one? Or, perhaps, like me, you enjoy walking the course, relaxing with friends, and having fun at the same time. Regardless of your motives to take full advantage of golf, it makes sense to be in good physical condition and have stamina and flexibility. By regularly using the exercises and stretches that follow, you may possibly improve your enjoyment of the game so much, that a week without golf will seem dismal indeed.


The routines are simple. However, you must participate with as much enthusiasm as possible to get the full benefit from the program. I recommend doing these routines every day. They'll take about five minutes or less.

Do notice that each routines has a beginners level and another extended level for those with additional flexibility.

To make the lower back more flexible and thus avoid the annoyance of a sprain or sports injury, lie on the floor on your stomach with palms stretched beneath shoulders. Now slowly raise the upper portion of the body. Don't pull up so far that there's pain _ you want to feel a stretch, not discomfort. If you're a beginner at stretching or if it's been a long time since you've participated in a flexibility program, hold the stretch for a count of five, relax and repeat four more times. If you are more flexible, lift your chin toward the ceiling; contract stomach muscles, too. Hold for a count of 15, relax slowly to the floor, then repeat ten more times.

This next exercise promotes flexibility in the lower back as it strengthens the abdominal muscles, essential for all sports and daily living. Strong abdominal muscles keep the body in alignment on the fairway and off.

Lying on your back, pull your knees to your chest. Hug them for a count of five. Relax and return feet to the floor. Repeat four more times. Increase the "hug" as you feel more flexible by pulling knees closer to your chin, and then incorporate the next part of the routine. For those with more flexibility, with knees pulled to the chest and abdominal muscles contracted, slowly lower knees to the left side, keeping the upper back squarely on the floor. Hold for a count of three, then roll up and to the right side. Count to three once more. Repeat the rolling motion ten to 20 times depending on your flexibility and endurance. Increase that number as you become more limber with the strengthening massage for the lower back.
R According to the golf pros and sports physicians I've talked with and some I've taken lessons from, women golfers are often plagued with injuries of the wrists, elbows, knees, and ankles. Here are three do-anywhere-anytime exercises to help strengthen fingers, hands, wrists and forearms for golf and other activities. You only need a soft foam ball that can fit comfortably in your hand.

1. Holding the ball in the right hand, use the fingers and thumb to grasp and squeeze it. Hold the squeeze for a count of five, relax and repeat with the left hand. Start with ten using each hand and continue to increase as you become stronger.
2. Holding the ball with the index finger and thumb of your right hand, squeeze and release it. Trade hands and repeat. Start with ten and work up.
3. Standing, place the ball on a flat, sturdy surface, such as a table or your desk. Stretch the fingers of your right hand apart and using the shoulders and arm muscles, press down on the foam ball. Repeat five times and switch arms. Increase when five become too easy.
R To complete a program for increased strength and flexibility for golf and other sports, you'll want to participate in an aerobic program three or four times a week. For those just starting out in fitness or returning after an accident or injury, talk with your doctor and begin slowly. For instance a half mile walk might be enough.

Brisk walking, swimming or tennis might not appreciably lower your score on the fairway. However after just a few weeks of involvement and using the routines above, you'll have more endurance, probably lose some weight, and acquire a youthful bounce to your step. Sure you could play golf when not in shape, but it's a lot more fun when you 18 holes just isn't enough.