PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FL—August 9, 2019—When Digby Watt started working as a physical therapist on the PGA Tour in 2009, most golfers had minimal fitness routines. Before hitting the first tee, they’d see a physio to get stretched out on a trainer’s table. Afterward, they might grab an ice pack on their way back to the hotel.
Tour pros in 2019, however, engage in active warmups and elaborate cool-downs, adhering to advanced training regimens and proper recovery.
“Guys are hitting it with such velocity these days,” says Watt. “I think bodies would be wearing out a lot quicker if not for the fact that they keep working on flexibility and stability. Working through soft tissue and joint issues will allow them to be at that level longer.”
To accommodate the fitness needs of the 120-golfer field each week, the PGA Tour invested in new mobile wellness centers this year that are filled with TechnoGym equipment. Two semi-trailers drive to tournament sites each week. The one dedicated to fitness and performance debuted at the Honda Classic in March. The other is reserved for therapy and recovery; it first appeared at last week’s Wyndham Championship and still retains a new car smell. There are two sets of each trailer type to help with the logistics of cross-country travel, but each will still drive 24,000 miles annually.
The goal is to provide continuity for the golfers. Pro athletes in other sports can rely on more permanent installations at venues, but golfers previously were stuck contending with the vagaries of hotel fitness centers. “Every single week is the same warmup and the same workout with access to the same stuff,” says Tour athletic trainer Tim Dunlavey. “These guys thrive on consistency.”
The fitness center has free weights, kettlebells, medicine balls, resistance machines, Peloton bikes, foam rollers and compression bands, among other devices. TechnoGym’s SkillRun treadmill has the ability to create tension in the belt, enabling lower-body power training and turning it into a multi-functional machine. In addition to the basic feedback of speed and distance, the treadmill also provides advanced metrics, including stride length and step cadence.
None of the equipment is golf-specific, but given the sport’s unique demands on the body, there is a great emphasis on rotational exercises, core strength, and the maintenance of power throughout the whole range of motion, says athletic trainer Logan Cobb.
Cobb says the PGA Tour polled the players for input on the workout apparatuses. That, combined with an additional 200 square feet of space in each trailer, have led to a “dramatic increase in its use,” he says.
Cobb has been part of the Tour for seven years and has seen an uptick in weight training. In the early days, he recalls golfers never wanting to lift more than 15-pound weights during tournament weeks and explaining, “I don’t want to lift heavy.” Now, there’s broader fitness education, especially for those who came through the college ranks where they were exposed to programs at a younger age. Tuesdays and Wednesdays remain the busiest days for the trailers before the first round tees off on Thursdays.
“Now we’ve got those guys using the trap bar and getting stronger and doing squats,” Cobb says. “They’re feeling the difference. A lot more guys are open to that.”
The Tour employs the trainers, PTs, and chiropractors as an on-site supplement to whomever the golfers may consult independently. Everyone describes a collegial atmosphere in the wellness centers where the pros sometimes trade training tips. As Dunlavey notes, the golfers’ mentality is that they compete against the course more than each other.