Carroll gets into the swing of things with California dream

Carroll gets into the swing of things with California dream
Michael Carroll offer golfers in the US a tailored exercise regime that can help take shots off their handicap and keep them in shape.

Michael Carroll is a long, long way from home, working with golfers in California.

The Cork native has come up with fitforgolf.blog, with exercises specific to the sport, but his background is in strength and conditioning: “I was always interested in golf but I played all the other sports growing up as well.

“I went to college in UL and did a degree in sport and exercise science; while I was there I worked part-time in FitnessWorks, a gym in Cork.

“The UL degree is very broad, so I needed to focus and I was interested in training people to help them to get better at their sport.

“TPI, the Titleist Performance Institute, is the industry leader in physical training for golfers, so I’ve gone through all their levels to Level One, in 2015, and then I set up Fitforgolf. I worked with professional golfers in Cork — and with other sports.

“In the same year I also got accredited with the UK Strength and Conditioning Association — if you apply for a job with a professional sports team in soccer or rugby they’ll always look for this. There are maybe five other people in Ireland with those qualifications.

“I did a year with the Cork senior camogie team and another year with the Cork senior ladies football team, but I got more and more interested in golf, the job in California came up, and I felt it was a good time to move.”

Carroll is keen to broaden his horizons in terms of golf work: “The only problem for golf professionals with California is that even though the weather’s very good, the tax rates are too high for many of them. The climate’s great but a lot of them live in Miami, Texas, or Arizona.

At present my scope for working with pros is limited by that, so I’m hoping to get the opportunity to travel — not necessarily leaving California but being able to travel to meet these players and work with them.

“In Ireland golf is popular but it’s still a niche, whereas there are huge numbers playing it in America.”

There are three main things that strength and conditioning coaches can help golfers with, he says.

“One is injury prevention and rehabilitation, as golf puts unique stresses on the body.

“There are lots of golfers out there playing through pains which could be cleared up pretty easily if they got a diagnosis of what’s going on and how to work on that. The education routes you go down prepare you to help people with that.

“Second, it might be confusing to non-golfers but you can help them to improve their club-head speed, enabling them to hit the ball further: you hit the ball further it means you’re playing on shorter courses.

“That makes it more enjoyable and easier to score well — one reason people can drop out of golf as they get older is that they can’t hit the ball far enough so it’s not as enjoyable.

“The last part is for golfers who are taking it a little bit more seriously, who are working with technique instructors — it’s helpful to player and instructor to know what the player’s body is capable of, whether their shoulder or hip is capable of a certain move.

“The S and C coach can give them a specific exercise to help them with that, and the instructor can then help come up with a more tailored plan.” Carroll’s fitforgolf.blog offers those plans: “People can choose between the intermediate beginner and intermediate-advanced.

“There might be slight differences but one big thing is you’re going to have to work with people who are weekend golfers, who may not have the time or motivation that a college player in the States has.

“Giving the former group basic stuff helps them to get into a routine, even basic stuff like getting them to do ten minutes a day rather than three one-hour sessions.

A really good way to help the weekend guy is to give them a good warm-up programme before they play. Literally five or ten minutes of stretching before playing can make a huge difference, even if they just play golf two or three times a week; at least it’s getting them thinking about exercise.

“And if they’re playing golf eight months a year, two or three times a week, that’s racking up exercise for them, and they’re getting more flexible. They’ll also find a nagging shoulder or hip improves as well.

“Because a lot of us spend our time sitting at work or in cars, we tend to get stiff in the same places, and we know what we need to work on with the golf swing, so it’s not that hard to come up a basic plan to suit everyone.

“People generally have similarities in what they’re trying to address, but the differences, which may only be 10 or 20 per cent, can be significant.”

The programmes are available through fitforgolf.blog: “It’s been going quite well, there’s been a lot of interest through Twitter — many people have said they’ve felt fitter and stronger, that their golf has improved, but they’ve also asked what exercises they should do before playing golf or going to the driving range. So I wrote a video-based ebook, a warm-up manual, which is available on the site as well.

"There are nine different warm-ups based on your time availability, your fitness, your equipment. A person who isn’t going to a gym three times a week may be able to do these exercises before he or she plays golf twice or three times a week."

Carroll points out that video- and app-based training is likely to become more and more common in sports, not least because of costs.

“A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing but if you can get people who are doing nothing to do a little bit — to proceed with caution, to get something checked if they have an issue — that helps.

“Plus a lot of the people taking up the programme are doing something already, they’re just doing something specific for the improvement they’re looking for; I’m not saying to someone who had a hip replacement two weeks ago, ‘just buy a programme and work away on your own’.

“I think that’s how things are going, it’s expensive to get personal tuition in sport, a personal trainer is costly compared to an app with good video demonstrations on your phone for 12 weeks ... it’s not the same as having someone in person, but it helps of time, convenience and cost, certainly.”

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