How to Recover from Golf

What is Recovery?

Recovery is defined as the body’s ability to return to a normal state of health after stress (good or bad) has been placed on it.  For golfers, good stress could come from walking 18 or 36 holes in one day.  Bad stress is mostly outside of our control such as stress from work, family or school.  Whether you can control the stress or not, your body’s ability to respond to these different types of stress is called recovery.

Why is Recovery important?

Recovery is important because it allows us to get back on the course and doing the things we love faster and pain-free.  This could mean another round of 18 or being less sore on Monday at work after 2 straight days of tournament play.

How Can I Prepare for a Big Golf Trip?

There are several different ways to improve and prepare your body for consecutive days of golf.  The first and most important recovery application is sleep.  Sleep is vitally important and yet is often the most overlooked.   Ensure at least 8 hours of rest per night leading up to playing.  When your body is properly rested, you’ll have more strength to swing over multiple days and your mental focus will be at its best.

The second part of recovery is to condition your body for the workload.  You wouldn’t go run a marathon if you’ve never run before.  Imagine the recovery time!  So, why would you go play 72 holes in 3 days without training your body for it?   Preparation plays an important role in improving recovery.  Start by walking a mile or two after dinner each night.  If that seems like too much, keep in mind that walking one round can add up to more than 4 miles!

How Can I Prepare for a Packed Golf Weekend?

Alright, so you’re reading this on the plane to wherever you’re going to play 72 holes in 2 days and need some tips on how to avoid quitting after 36.   First, you have to stretch.  This seems elementary but warming up the muscles and generating a full range of motion of each joint is not only going to prevent excess soreness after each round, but the flexibility may actually improve your swing.  And don’t forget to stretch again after your rounds as well.  This is a great way to decrease some of the inflammation from the day.  (For more info on ways to stretch, check out our podcast with Dr. Rand McClain who offers some deeper insight on this.) 

Second, get adequate sleep.  I’ve mentioned it already but it’s just that important.  No, it doesn’t mean you have to be the square of the group and go to bed at 7 pm, but aim to get 7-8 hours of sleep, especially when you’re averaging more than one round each day.  During deep sleep, blood supply to muscles is increased, energy is restored, and tissues grow and repair.  These are all key things to play well. 

The third key is hydration.  Drink a ton of water.  When your body is dehydrated, your muscles are dehydrated, which can alter their effectiveness and decrease performance.  Want to beat your buddies for a $10 Nassau on the final hole?  Make sure you’re hydrated and it just might give you the edge to make that 6 footer.

Lastly, ice and anti-inflammatories (Advil, Ibuprofen, etc) are your friend.  These are mechanisms for reducing inflammation and assisting the body to recover faster.  Don’t be afraid to use them.  Whether its general soreness or pain from an old knee injury, your body will thank you for giving it some TLC.  

Conclusion

Recovery in golf isn’t just for the guys who play on TV.  The aggressive turning of a golf swing and long walks up each fairway can take a toll on anyone’s body.   These are just a few ways to help improve your recovery on your next buddy’s trip or multi-round weekend at the club.

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Zack Buechner

Zack has been a contributor at Plugged In Golf since 2018. He is a certified athletic trainer and has been licensed for almost 10 years, with experience working in the NFL, NCAA, and PGA Tour Champions. Zack currently works for a physical therapy and wellness company in southern Connecticut where he lives with his wife Ashley and their 2 year old son and dog. Although he only started playing golf after college in 2010, he is passionate for the game and enjoys meeting new people who are as obsessed with golf as he is.

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4 Comments

  1. Other than sleep and pain relievers, what do you recommend for achy hands?

    • Zack Buechner

      Hey Alex,

      Achy hands can come about for different reasons. It could be a lack of hydration in the body, so combining a sports drink with water 12-24 hours in advance of your hand could help. I would also suggest to try to limit the amount of inflammatory foods you injest 24-48 hours prior to your round such as red meat, high sugars, and processed foods. Even alcohol can increase inflammation in the hands and body so avoiding alcohol before and during your round may help with the achy hands. Good luck!

      Zack

  2. Mark Stutler

    Thanks for a fine article, Zack. A lot of us who golf deal with lower back issues. What is your go-to stretch, routine, etc.?

    • Zack Buechner

      Mark,

      Lower back issues typically stem from a weakened core. Before heading to the course or on your off-days, spend some time strengthening this area. Try some regular planks, side planks, glute bridges performing 3 sets of 30 second holds.

      When you get to the course, stretch out the hip flexors by getting into a lunge position and sliding those hips forward. Dont forget to ice the back and take some anti-inflammatories on those days that you really feel it the most. This should get you started and should help. Let us know how it goes!

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