When it comes to training schedules in professional golf, athletes on the PGA Tour could certainly benefit by looking longer into the future.
I often think about the Olympics. It’s the pinnacle of competition for many sports and some of the greatest athletes in the world aim to peak at the end of a four-year training cycle. They work backwards from that goal. They look at when they have important meets and when they have to peak to ensure they perform through qualifications. Professional golfers don’t have the luxury of planning as far in advance as Olympic athletes because there is far more competitions in between Olympic games. But that doesn't mean that we can’t take the principles of Periodisation into consideration when we look at how and when pro golfers perform.
There’s a new tournament each week on the PGA Tour and a lot on the line with a
multimillion-dollar carrot dangling week to week. Naturally, PGA Tour athletes focus on
short-term goals because they want to see results this week and next week. Focusing only
on this week and the next breeds poorly-planned training sessions and phases and pushes athletes to try to gain too much too quick. They grossly overestimate how much they can achieve in any one session and underestimate what they can achieve over a longer period of time.
Periodisation is a concept known well in most sports but is relatively unfamiliar in golf for
unknown reasons, which baffles me to this day. As a concept, simply put, periodisation is
the planning and management of training stress, fatigue and recovery, throughout a period of time (in a golfe’rs case, a tour season).
It would be highly beneficial to think about the entire PGA Tour season when planning a
training schedule and working backwards from where a golfer would like their body to be at at select points through the season. Ideally, a PGA Tour athlete would start by assessing what he and his team are trying to improve or achieve physically. As a strength and conditioning coach, there are multiple steps we need to take to improve an athlete’s physical attributes (strength, power, speed, endurance).
Let’s use strength as an example. If we're trying to improve strength and we have a specific
goal in mind, we have to look at progressive overloading and how the athlete’s body is going
to adapt to the stress and increased intensity of that exercises over a period of time. As we
progressively overload an exercise, squats for example, that needs to be done in a way that
the body can tolerate the training stress while playing tournaments. The athlete will need to
take into account periods of fatigue, rest, and then begin overreaching again. We want to
push those physiological barriers as far as we can (within reason) to get the gains.
The most effective approach to that would be to look at a PGA Tour player’s entire
schedule. If you’re one of the top players on Tour, you have a very good idea of what your
schedule is going to look like at the beginning of the year. You’re going to be at the
invitationals, the Genesis at Riviera, the Arnold Palmer and Memorial to name a few. You’re
going to be at the majors and you’re going to be at a few other elite tournaments to make up the season. There’s no reason not to plan out good quality training cycles throughout the
year to maximize physical performance.
A PGA Tour athlete could break up the year in four different quarters, or thirds or even a
biannual program and work towards goals within those periods. You’re looking at what
stimulus you can introduce at the beginning of each period and how well you can push a
physical characteristic within that window while accounting for tournaments and rest weeks.
If you do that, it wouldn’t be difficult to set goals two years in advance but work within the
cycles you’ve set out for yourself. There is always a way to get more out of your body by working smarter, not harder. And planning is an essential part of that.
Cheers, Nic Catterall
About Nic Catterall/Peak Power Golf
Nic Catterall is an Australian high-performance coach, specializing in strength and conditioning, musculoskeletal therapy and sports science, for professional golfers on the PGA Tour in the U.S.A. Nic works with Cam Smith, Luke List, Matt Jones, Dylan Frittelli and Hank Lebioda. Nic created the Peak Power Golf company to educate about the athleticism of golfers and what they are capable of. Peak Power Golf provides online training, athlete mentoring and athlete assessments.