Posted on May 4, 2020

Now that golf courses are starting to open, golfers may want to head out to the links to make up for time lost in quarantine.  Not so fast, writes ONS Physical Therapist, Matt Dunning, DPT, who advises golfers to make sure they are physically primed for the demands the sport takes on different parts of the body. 

He’s shared some insightful information detailing the physical exertion that occurs while playing golf and how to avoid common golf injuries.

Golf is a full body exercise for three hours or more.  During that time, the golf swing transfers energy from the feet through the legs, up the spine, through the arms and to the club.  Physical issues and pain can arise due to problems at any point along that kinetic chain.  Pre-existing physical issues can put limitations on the ability to swing soundly and play consistently and at the desired level.

A good golf training program must include leg and core strengthening and stretching as well as upper body work to ensure the entire body moves in correct alignment. 


A good golf training program must include leg and core strengthening and stretching as well as upper body work to ensure the entire body moves in correct alignment. 

Golf injuries occur if the body is not conditioned to go through the motions effortlessly.  A comprehensive training program should promote:

  • Ankle /calf flexibility
  • Knee bend and rapid straightening during swing
  • Hip and lower back rotation
  • Shoulder rotation, elbow bending and straightening
  • Neck flexibility, strength and stability


Any one of the following issues can and will impact your ability to swing a golf club properly and consistently.

  • Joint pain and stiffness  
  • Muscle tightness
  • Limited hip rotation
  • Decreased balance
  • Weakness and decreased stability


Neck and Back: Muscle strain, overuse, limited range of motion, weakness, disc dysfunction

Shoulder: Bursitis, rotator cuff tendonitis, biceps tendonitis

Elbow: Medial or  lateral epicondylitis (Golfer’s or Tennis elbow), forearm tightness

Wrist: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Knee:  Pain due to OA, meniscus injury

Ankle: Sprain, weakness


Back pain / injury

Most common area of injuries, affecting 15-34% of amateur golfers

Upper extremity pain

Affects 13-20% of amateur golfers

Knee pain

Affects about 3-18% of all golfers


Daily stretching and exercise will reduce the risk of repetitive motion injuries common to golfers. Stretching and staying mobile during the round of golf helps to maintain flexibility for safe play throughout the game. 

Download this Golf Stretching Program

These muscles, in particular, should not be tight.

  • Hamstring – back of the thigh
  • Piriformis – deep muscle of the buttocks
  • Quadriceps – front of the thigh
  • Quadratus Lumborum and Latissimus – along your side from the hip to the armpit
  • Wrist flexors/extensors – forearm
  • Pectoralis muscles – chest
  • Upper Trapezius /Levator scapula – neck muscles


  • Stretch or exercise at home before leaving for the course to save time and ensure proper ability to perform.  Fight the urge to bounce or stretch quickly, hold each stretch for 15-20 seconds at a comfortable position
  • At the course, a quick stretch with the club, prior to lining up the first tee
  • Stretch from time to time while other players playing through their shots
  • Give yourself opportunities to walk more if using a cart, to keep muscles loose and increase circulation
  • If sore after the round of golf, use ice to reduce inflammation at the elbow, shoulder, knee