Thankfully following the shambolic circus of watching Serbia’s favourite globetrotting sporting son Novak Djokovic battle with Australia’s federal government, that country’s tough immigration controls, visa regulations and judicial system we finally got to enjoy the world’s finest players (fully vaccinated & tested) doing their thing at The Australian Open. Regrettably we had to endure early exits for the pride of British tennis; the legend that is Sir Andy Murray and the sensational winner at last year’s US Open Emma Raducanu.
Saving us from these disappointments was the Mighty Mallorcan senor Rafa Nadal. Interviewed on court following another early round victory, he was questioned on his approach and method for maintaining his superb physical prowess. His answer, possibly tongue in cheek, seemed astonishing to those sitting court side.
”I play some golf “ was the tennis superstar’s classic response.
Amid the chorus of bemused laughter, many in the world’s golf community would have been nodding approvingly. Generations of us amateur enthusiasts have looked on as fitness trend after fitness trend has come and gone. The jogging and aerobics sessions have given way to spin classes, pilates and cross training. Admittedly there are many golfers out there equally at home in their Lycra kit and many for whom golf is simply just another part of their annual sporting calendar. Growing up it was rugby & football in winter; golf, some 2nd X1 cricket and more golf during the rest of the year. Gym was a school class without books and anyone who went to a gym was most likely a boxer or a budding bodybuilder.
Different times. Being a member of the right gym is now seen as vital to any aspiring social climber. In the U.K. many of these gyms and fitness classes are incorporated within the major tennis based venues. In USA these mega clubs or country clubs are commonplace, often designed as part of a luxury housing development with prices to match. A select number feature genuine world class golf courses. Anyone accustomed to such lavish facilities and venturing to Scotland on a golf trip for the first time must be struck by the relatively spartan approach taken by our traditional clubs.
However, with many golf clubs eagerly seeking new income streams we may well see clubs in the future targeting the fitness scene in support of their core golf offering. Where the Pros lead, the keen amateur is bound to follow. Social media is packed with images and video of many top players going through very specific conditioning programmes in pursuit of improved strength, flexibility or recovery from injury.
Absolutely essential preparation for those earning their living from this great game. Certainly not for everyone.
The last couple of years of pandemic enforced lockdowns has had an incredible impact on virtually every golf club throughout the U.K. and at all levels. Whilst a limited number of bucket list courses which rely heavily on the international golf visitor market have faced real financial difficulties, countless membership funded local clubs have seen positive interest and increased memberships for the first time in many seasons.
Whereas gyms and leisure centres were forced to remain closed for many months through 2020/2021, golf clubs in Scotland were allowed to open their courses for daily exercise; providing a fantastic advert to the local community, followed fairly quickly by the relaxation of the restrictions, allowing golfers back on to the fairways in a responsible and hygienic manner.
The simple pleasure of meeting up with like-minded golf friends for 3-4 hours of low impact exercise, fresh air and some good natured competition was suddenly the envy of all those denied their own fitness and sporting interests.
Nadal gets it and so do countless golfers of the world. Play your own sport, follow your own passion but if you possibly can play some golf.