The Wentworth Falls Country Club blog


2 Comments

How do you steer clear of golf injuries?

common-golf-injuries

Golf injury prevention

If you are reading this blog, you most probably have a strong passion for golf. Your love for the game means you probably play once a week or even more often. Have you ever experienced any aches or pains during or after a round of golf?

Whether you are an experienced golfer or whether you had your first golf lessons last week, you may be experiencing lower back pains, wrist aches and soar elbows. How do you treat these pains and most importantly, how do you prevent these aches and pains from occurring in the first place?

As a low impact sport, golf is not usually associated with a high rate of injury such as rugby, water polo or judo. However, many people who play golf around the world, from beginners to professionals, experience pains in various parts of their body from excessive strain and over exertion. In addition, many golfers fail to consult a doctor or seek medical advice, which may aggravate their condition and ultimately lead to a more significant injury.

You would be surprised how few golfers actually spend time undertaking simple and quick exercises to reduce their chances of injury.

By simply understanding the main causes of injury and pain and following some basic practices to avoid these from happening, golfers can enjoy the game to a greater extent and for a longer period of time.

1. Common golf injuries and treatment

Many studies have been conducted to identify the main areas of injury linked to the game of golf. One of the most reliable studies conducted on this subject matter was completed in 2004 by the Harvard Medical School.  Let’s have a look at the main areas, the symptoms and what to do to cure and prevent them from creeping back.

Lower back – 36% of golfers experience lower back pains as a result of playing golf. The motion of the golf swing alone can be the cause of a series of injuries to the lower back. Executing the motion of the golf swing over 60 times in a round of 18 holes but also bending over to pick up golf balls or fix divots may place a great deal of strain on the lumbar spine. The main symptoms of this condition are fairly obvious with shooting back pains, stiffness, muscle spasms and pain or weakness in the legs.

The first piece of advice from both the Australian Journal of Sports Medicine and the above study is to make sure your swing technique is correct. By taking a few golf lessons to correct the simple bad habits we all have could go a long way to improve your lower back problems. Other suggestions are to bend your knees slightly and keep your back straight when you follow through on your swing. Lastly, use a cart or a buggy to carry golf clubs so as to reduce the strain on your back when transitioning from hole to hole.

Elbow – Around 32% of golfers may be afflicted by elbow injuries or pain during and after having played golf. This is mainly due to gripping the club incorrectly coupled with repetitive and sudden force applied to the elbow when taking long shots such as drivers. Pain in the elbow may be a sign of muscle damage or an inflammation of tendons. The most common symptoms are pain when making a fist, weakness in the wrist and/or hand and tenderness and pain in the inner side of the forearm.

The immediate treatment for elbow pain suggested by the Australian Journal of Sports Medicine is to apply ice to the area 4 times a day for 15 minutes at a time and give your golf game a rest. Should the pain be quite intense, over the counter pain relievers are recommended and a visit to the doctor could be in order. In the long run, your swing would have to be reviewed so as to determine whether your technique could be the main cause of such discomfort.

Hand and wrist – Injuries and pain in the hands and wrists are fairly common and they are more often than not connected with the repetitive impact of the head of the club with the ball, or in some cases the ground. When golfers hit the ball, the impact travels through the club and is absorbed by the hands and wrists. As the strokes mount up, they can lead to strained tendons. Over time, repetitive strain and improper wrist motion can cause fractures, sprains, and ruptured tendons that eventually cause chronic pain and decreased mobility.

Although the symptoms are fairly obvious, the immediate and long-term solutions can be varied and quite interesting. There are vibration-absorbing golf clubs that reduce the impact on the hand, which might be a life-saver for some. Secondly, by squeezing a tennis ball regularly, the hand, wrist, forearm and shoulder muscles are strengthened. Lastly, the technique. By using light grip pressure, slowing the backswing, cutting excess wrist motion and avoiding a steep downswing (potentially striking the ground) the chances of reducing hand and wrist injuries are increased.

Shoulder – The rotator cuff in the shoulder is also a quite common area that is prone to injury.  The main cause once again relates back to the golf swing and the wear and tear to the muscles and tendons. When the tears heal they create scar tissue that may hinder the desired movement and also increase the sensitivity of the whole shoulder. The main symptoms are pain in the shoulder or upper arm pain when the arm is lifted up and away from the body and pain in the front of the shoulder extending down to the elbow and forearm.

The immediate remedy to a sore shoulder is rest, icing and pain medication. Many exercises can be done however to improve the shoulder ailments over time. Physical therapy including stretching and strengthening exercises are the most common treatments for shoulder pain.

Knees and hips – Both knees and hips may come under unpleasant pressure and strain while golfing. Furthermore they may have the tendency to deteriorate should the golfer have injured these previously. Striking the ground hard during a swing can result in excruciating hip and knee pains. The main symptoms are generalized pain in the knees and hips, clicking in the knee, and swelling of the knees.

For immediate relief, the most recommended treatments are rest, icing, elevation and pain medication. However, wearing knee bandages and braces and golf shoes with short cleats can remarkably reduce the chance of injuring the knees and hips once again. Long cleats anchor your feet while you swing and could strain your knees.

As you will appreciate, while playing golf there are many areas of the body that may be strained or over exerted with repetitive and forceful swings. Having said that, there are also a number of simple exercises and techniques that can be followed to greatly reduce the chance of injury and prevent pain from getting in the way of a healthy round of golf.

Golf swing

2. Tips to reduce the chance of injury

Four things will grossly improve any golfer’s physical health and strength in the long run and in turn improve their game, namely stretching, warming up before playing, regular fitness training programs and correcting one’s swing.

Warming up and stretching before golfing has been shown to decrease the incidence of golf injuries. Apparently over 80 percent of golfers spend less than 10 minutes warming up before a round. Those who do warm up have less than half the chance of injury with respect to those who don’t warm up. Lower handicap and professional golfers were more than twice as likely to warm up for more than 10 minutes as compared to other golfers.

Flexibility, strength, and aerobic training have become increasingly popular among golfers over the past several decades. Early advocates of strength training included Gary Player, the international champion who claimed to have significantly increased the length of his drives despite his small physical stature. More recently, players like Tiger Woods have embraced strength and flexibility training and have undertaken regular fitness training programs, whereas more senior players have been exercising to improve their level of play or merely to remain competitive with younger players.

A regular exercise program that includes core strengthening, stretching and strengthening all the major muscle groups can also help decrease your injury rate and increase your playing time.

Swing mechanics also plays a very important role in decreasing the chances of injury and the improvement of one’s game. It is advisable to consult a golf pro to review one’s technique and correct any idiosyncrasies or bad habits.

Golf is a great game that is enjoyed by many around the world. Why not have a few lessons with a golf pro (possibly Lang Doolan at Wentworth Falls County Club), do a little stretching and warm up before playing if you know how important it is to keep you well clear of common golf injuries?

Also, should you desire further information about fitness training programs, Pete at the WFCC gym will be able to assist you.

Do you dedicate time and effort to injury prevention? Let us know your views by commenting below.


Leave a comment

Golf History – 1910s and 1920s

View from the Club house circa 1917

Have you ever wondered what golf was like 100 years ago? What sort of equipment and clothing were customary on the fairways in Australia in the 1910s and 20s?

Try taking a wooden stick and whacking a wound rubber-centred dimpled ball covered with a case of gutta percha. Not so easy to put the ball on the green with that equipment is it?  Golf as a sport has come a long way since the turn of the twentieth century, mainly thanks to technological innovation and mass production. To think that the first golf balls used were made out of leather stuffed with feathers!

Wentworth Falls Country Club was founded in 1913 after the land, 45 acres initially, was purchased for around 2000 pounds or the equivalent of approximately AUD 250,000 today. These were the original 9 holes and what currently includes holes 2 to 9. Back in the 1910s there were only a few dozen golf clubs in NSW and Wentworth Falls soon became one of the finest club houses in the State. Sydneysiders would enjoy a weekend in the Blue Mountains to take advantage of the pristine air quality and indulge in a weekend of golfing and social activities. Should you be interested in further information, Dorothea Moore is currently writing a book on the evolution of the WFCC Club throughout the years and it will be available for purchase in April 2013.

The fascinating evolution of the game of golf holds many surprises and turning points. However, it would be interesting to briefly review the 1910s and 1920s and focus on three general areas: the equipment, the attire and the ‘customs and regulations’ of the game.

1) Equipment

The common golf club of the 1910s was the hickory golf club. These clubs were originally made out of hickory wood which is extremely hard, heavy, strong, and elastic. It was a preferred wood for golf clubs as it would offer strength and resilience. Recently manufacturers have started using materials such as carbon fiber, titanium or scandium. Even though most ‘woods’ are made from different metals, they are still called ‘woods’ to denote the general shape and their intended use on the golf course. Most woods made today have a graphite shaft and a titanium, composite, or steel head.

Between 1900 and 1930 many innovations were implemented in the design of golf clubs. Some of the most remarkable attempts to change the design of the clubs were Walter Hagen’s concave face sand iron or the adjustable club allowing you to change the loft on it. However, one of the most bizarre ones was the 15cm face ‘giant niblick’ that was  developed in the 1920s.

Probably one of the most important changes in club design that followed the introduction of the modern day golf ball around the turn of the twentieth century was the introduction of grooves on club faces. The designers came to the realization that the grooves (as opposed to a smooth surface) on clubs would allow not only a greater backspin effect on the ball but also greater distance.

Another fun fact was the replacement of the names of clubs with numbers. This came about in the United States in the 1920s changing names such as cleek, mid-iron, mashie, jigger and niblick into the number coding we use today. Together with the introduction of numbers, the loft and shaft length was standardised in an attempt to offer a more level playing field for competitions.

2) Attire

By the time the 1920s came around, the game of golf had been played for centuries. Golf fashion however came into vogue in that period as players not only wanted to perform well but also wanted to appear dashing and stylish.

The fashionable golfer of the 1920s wore plus fours with argyle knee socks and a pullover sweater. (Argyle is a traditional knitted pattern with large interlocking diamonds in various colors that gave a flashy look to the sportsman.)

But what were plus fours? Plus fours were a variation on the traditional knee pants called knickers, which had been worn by men, boys, and, occasionally, women, since the late 1800s. The reason they were called plus fours was because they were made four inches longer than ordinary knickers. While they still fastened with a tight band at the knee, the extra fabric of the plus four bloused over the band, giving a relaxed, baggy look. Plus fours were an extravagant, careless style that fit right in with the looser fashions and lifestyles of the 1920s. They also offered more freedom of movement than previous knickers, which made them extremely popular with sportsmen, especially golfers.

But what about the women?  The early ’20s saw women playing golf in two-piece dresses. These were usually plain or pleated skirts topped with a sweater or vest, over patterned stockings and rubber-soled shoes. Halfway through the decade, New York’s Best & Company introduced the “shirtmaker,” a one-piece dress more appropriate for sports. Women golfers continued to wear the shirtmaker while playing golf for another 30 years.

3) Customs, rules and regulations

The history of the rules and regulations of golf and golfing equipment is quite intricate and complex. The interesting aspect of it however is how the golfing authorities analysed innovations and modifications. The US Golf Association and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club at St Andrews would gauge whether the improvements would provide an unfair advantage and if so they would either control them or veto them. An example of this is the width and depth of the club face grooves. Many modifications mentioned above, including the adjustable loft club, were ruled out in an attempt to create a level playing field for all.

In terms of customs, it is fascinating to highlight a few facts about Sydney golfing back in the 1910s and 1920s. Firstly, golf in Sydney did not have the egalitarian association that was typical in Scotland. The British perception of the game was adopted in Australia whereby golf was considered an elitist sport often synonymous with good birth, respectability and honour.

Also, the number of golf courses in NSW was limited and clubs therefore had caps on memberships making them more exclusive than they are today. Golf clubs also defined certain social hierarchies in accepting or refusing entrance to their premises, especially in smaller suburbs surrounding the city. Sporting excellence and talent did not however mean that you were accepted socially. Racial, ethnic and class exclusions were overt and condoned.  This naturally drove away many people who might have developed a strong interest in golfing at the time.

Lastly, Wentworth Falls was considered quite a long way away from the city of Sydney and long weekends were often in order when needing to get away from the hustle and bustle of the urban environment. Many people visited the Blue Mountains for health reasons as the air was cleaner (and still is!) and the setting lent itself to a relaxing experience. Also, the Club allowed for overnight stay that translated into social soirees and events attracting many gentry of Sydney as well as of the local and surrounding areas.

All in all, the game of golf has come a long way since 1913. Whether the game is more or less enjoyable with the new technological advances and regulations is up for debate although the Wentworth Falls Country Club still remains one of the most beautiful golf clubs in New South Wales.

We encourage everyone to join us on the WFCC Centenary festivities that will take place in April for a week starting on the 5th. Please contact management on info@wfcc.com.au or check our website on www.wfcc.com.au/whats-on/100-years for further details.


2 Comments

5 benefits of playing golf

Are you considering taking up the game of golf? Are you an intermediate golfer? Are you a professional golf player? Read on.

Golf can be a great investment in your health, potentially increasing your life expectancy by 5 years according to a 2008 Swedish medical university research. Not only, but if you are a really good golfer, you increase your chances of living longer even more! Just another reason to make sure you keep on practicing as Dale Burnett, the club professional at WFCC, would say!

Most professional golfers these days are fine athletes because of the physical and mental demands that are required at the highest levels in the sport. For the amateur or intermediate player, these benefits are not dissimilar.  An 18 round game of golf is equivalent to walking for approximately 8 kilometers and if you carry your clubs you will burn almost 1500 calories. Not bad considering you are outdoors enjoying the weather and chatting with friends!

Just to give you an example – the golf swing itself requires a turning of the torso that is great for the back and the abs and will keep you slender and in shape. But golf isn’t just good for your physical fitness – it’s also a great game for the mind. It keeps you sharp, provides you with much-needed human contact and much more.

The 5 main reasons golf is good for you are:

1 Golf is good exercise

It might seem like golfers casually stroll around the golf course, stop, hit a ball and keep on going. In actual fact, while playing golf you would usually exceed 10,000 steps which is the guideline for exercise recommended by medical experts to maintain good health.

Your core muscles, your abdomen and your back are all exercised together with your arms and legs during a typical golf drive.  During the golf swing the body fully turns back and forth with each full movement. After 18 holes, you might have repeated this exercise at least 60 times (unless you’re Tiger Woods) and if you add practicing at the driving range, this number may be much higher.

Also, you will be burning quite a lot of calories, especially if you carry your own clubs and the course is hilly! A round of golf is equivalent to a one-hour workout in the gym but without the monotony and repetitiveness of the treadmill or the rowing machine.

2 Golf stimulates your brain

Have you ever missed that 1 meter putt at the end of your round and blamed it on concentration? Golf is a strategic game that requires a great deal of mental sharpness and coordination in order to end up on top.

By calculating that odd shot, considering all the variables that may affect the ball in the air or on the ground or even adding up your score, you are keeping your brain sharp. No matter how old (or young) you are, golf will always challenge your mind teaching you to stay calm and collected so as to make that birdie look smooth and simple.

In addition, an abundant supply of fresh air will help you to keep cool under pressure when deciding the best strategy for your next shot.

3 Golf helps you reduce your stress levels

You’ve had a tough week at work and that project you’ve been working on for months needs to be presented on Monday morning.  You call your golf partner, tee off early on Saturday morning and let those endorphins start kicking in! That’s what golf is all about.

Just taking that stroll out into the open green field, breathing in the fresh air and enjoying a bit of sun can really stimulate your body to produce endorphins, the feel good hormones that will boost your mood naturally in a way no anti-depressant ever could.

Being away from the usual stresses of modern life such as mobile phones can really help you relax and reduce your stress levels.

4 Golf is a social and family sport

Golfing is a great way to spend time with friends, family or colleagues in a relaxed environment away from the office or home. This however does not mean that business deals are not conducted while playing a round of golf, quite the contrary. In numerous countries around the world golf is commonly practiced with the intent of improving business relations or even sealing an important business deal. Few other sports allow you to spend various hours outdoors strolling in a beautiful and peaceful environment and engaging in conversation.

When golfing with friends and family alike, you have the chance to bond over a low impact, high interaction sport. Unlike tennis where you are too far to have a chat while playing and too exhausted to have a chat between games, golf is ideal when it comes to improving interpersonal relations.

5 Golf improves your bone health

Spending a few hours outdoors on a beautiful sunny day is a great way for your body to produce vitamin D.  As an essential vitamin for bone health, for regulating the growth in skin cells and regulating the amount of calcium and phosphorus in the blood, Vitamin D should not be underestimated. Many Australians choose to take tablets or supplements to top up their vitamin D levels although there is nothing better than a wonderful game of golf with your friends on a sunny day.

Just don’t forget to take the necessary precautions with regards to sunlight! Always apply 30+ sunscreen at least 25 minutes before exposing yourself to the sun, wear a hat and bring an umbrella if needed in case there is no shade on the fairway.

So don’t procrastinate, get on the golf course and by this time next month you will be fitter, healthier and happier!