Should Golfers Swim?

One of the most common questions i get as a Golf Fitness Professional is the following.

Is swimming bad for golfers? In a nutshell yes. I am not the biggest fan of it and i will explain to you the reasons behind this and why there are many better ways to train if you are a serious golfer.

First of all Swimming is generally an endurance sport. If any of you have ever tried to swim a lap of a pool you will know what i am talking about. Endurance training is not the best training method for a golfer. This will recruit slow twitch muscle fibres which is the opposite for what you need in a power sport. We are looking to recruit fast twitch muscle fibres to maximise club head speed. Its pretty simple. To be fast ,train fast. To be slow, train slow.

The negative effects on the stretch shortening cycle can be detrimental to a golfers ability to produce maximum club head speed and hit the golf ball far. What is the stretch shortening cycle? Well in simple terms, its like shooting a sling shot or rubber band at something. You stretch it and then release it. Your muscles and tendons work the same way. Stretching it (eccentric action) stores tremendous amount of elastic energy prior to you releasing it (concentric action) and helps the muscle produce force. The more elastic energy you produce, the more force you can transfer to the golf ball. Some of the biggest hitters in the world have amazing amounts of elastic energy in their golf swing due to their stretch shortening cycle. The good news is, we can train our ability to produce this elastic energy. I train my golfers to produce this with olympic lifts, plyos, sprinting and med ball training. Certainly not with endurance training.

Golfers and swimmers do have something in common. Shoulder issues and injuries. Most golfers and regular swimmers may pick up a shoulder niggle at least once in their career. Some more serious than others. Poor scapula stability and limited external rotation would be the most common reasons behind these issues. Swimming is not a good exercise to improve scapula stabilisation or improve external shoulder rotation. There are much better exercises to improve on these problems.

Golf is played on the ground, not in the water. I like to see golfers train on the ground to improve on their stability which is so important in the golf swing for both distance and direction. Its very hard shoot to a cannon from a canoe.

According to Gleeson (2006) “post exercise immune function depression is most pronounced when exercise is continuous and prolonged.” He also noted that many of these symptoms are “attributable to inflammation of the upper respiratory tract rather than to infectious episodes” So basically endurance sports can leave your immune system open to all kinds of sickness. Not to mention how many infectious diseases you can pick up in some swimming pools. Its very hard to play your best golf when you are sick and feeling poorly.

Last but not least. Its incredibly boring. There are many more exciting ways to train. Movement work, strength training, sprinting to name my personal favourites. The modern day game of golf is a power game. If you are not maximising your ability to increase power you are at a disadvantage to your competitors. Keep this in mind when choosing your training off the golf course.


1. M. Gleeson : Immune systems adaptation in elite athletes. Nov 2006

Cannon Performance