The idea that pumping iron would adversely affect golfers began to fade around the time Lee Trevino was a promising young hustler. And it seems obvious that improving flexibility through yoga, Pilates and other regimens could help golfers of all ages. Few doubt that Brooks Koepka’s guns are a formidable part of his game. But Nicholas Rizzo is determined to prove it.
A young power lifter, Rizzo is also Fitness Research Director for a company called RunRepeat.com, which analyses and reviews athletic shoes. Bugged by “vocal minority (that) tends to be hyper critical of strength training,” Rizzo went to work, compiling a detailed paper complete with academic citations. Rather than paraphrase his findings, Peter agreed that I could publish them verbatim, but perhaps with some condensation.
Many of the numbers in the descriptions refer to citations. They can be round in Nick’s original paper, which can be found at https://runrepeat.com/strength-training-for-golfhttps://runrepeat.com/strength-training-for-golf He has also compiled another paper for seniors, which can be read at https://runrepeat.com/weightlifting-benefits-seniors. Meanwhile, here follows an exceptionally strong case for strength in golf:
50 + Ways Strength Training for Golf Improves Performance
We researched and analyzed over 130 scientific studies in order to investigate the effect of strength training for golf on performance. As a result, we identified more than 50 ways strength training improves golf performance. Key Findings:
- Strength training has been shown to increase driving distance in golf by as much as 10.9% in as little as 8 weeks.
- The overall carry distance also increases with strength training, with studies reporting increases ranging from 2.1% to 7.7% in 8 – 10 weeks.
- Lifting weights will also increase your distance on your irons, as studies demonstrated increases between 7.5% to 10.7%.
- Golfers saw significant improvements in swing speed with increases in club head speed by as much as 6.3% as a result of 6-12 weeks of strength training.
- Strength training produces faster ball speeds, with research showing speed increases ranging from 1.9% to 10.2% in 6-12 weeks.
- 9 weeks of isokinetic or isotonic strength training for pre-elite golfers increased their rotational power by 25.8% – 35.0%, rotational force by 20.6% – 25.1%, rotational velocity by 9.1% – 13.3%, lead arm speed by 2.9% – 5.6%, and lead arm acceleration by up to 10.1%.
- Building strength and power for 11 weeks helped improve putting distance control by 29.6% on average.
- Core training alone can significantly improve drive distance by 5% in elite golfers, as well as other physical characteristics, such as balance, flexibility, aerobic conditioning, and endurance.
- Although flexibility training is important for golfers, strength training has been shown to maintain and improve flexibility on its own. Reports show an 18.8% improvement in x-factor stretch, 25.0% in x-factor stretch rate, 25.0% in shoulder stretch, and 19.6% in shoulder stretch rate for golfers with handicaps < -3.0 on average in 9 weeks.
- Despite being low-impact, 40.0% of amateur golfers and 60.0% of professional golfers sustain an injury each season, primarily due to overuse and high levels of stress from torque overloading the body from making the same movement patterns again and again.
- Strength training can reduce the likelihood of sport-specific injuries by 33.0% and injuries from overuse by almost 50.0%.
The Rizzo Details
The following is a lot to gobble, but for those who like data points, read away:
Training and Distance
- Strength training outperformed regular exercise and golf training at improving driving distance with an increase of 4.3% after 8 weeks of training. 
- Amateur female golfers saw significant improvements in overall driving distance (5.9%) and 7 iron distance (7.5%) as a result of 8 weeks of either golf-specific strength training or traditional strength training. 
- Division 1 collegiate golfers’ driving distance increased by 1.4%, carry yardage by 2.1%, and ball speed by 1.9% after just 10 weeks of non-golf specific, intensive strength training. 
- Doing strength training for the whole body significantly improves the strength, power, and endurance of your core, forearms, and grip strength, all of which have been shown to individually lead to notable improvements in distance too. [1,5,13]
- One group of elite Korean golfers trained just their core for 8 weeks and saw a significant increase in driving distance (4.8%). When another group of elite Korean golfers added strength training of their non-dominant arm, alongside core training for 8 weeks, their driving distance improved by 10.9% on average—almost double the growth of the core exercise-only group. 
- Studies have found that there are direct correlations between distance and grip strength, maximal and explosive strength, non-dominant arm strength, core strength, and abdominal muscle endurance [1,4,5,11]
- Relying on bodyweight exercises and rotational movement exercises led to the significant decrease of NCAA Division II golfers’ swing speed over 8 weeks. The other group that focused purely on strength and power training saw significant increases in their swing speed. 
- Strength training also outperformed traditional golf training and exercise at improving swing speed. 
- Strength training and golf-specific strength training both led to significant improvements in driver speed over the course of 10 weeks. Both forms of training produced similar improvements, which points to strength training itself as the core reason for the increases. 
- When low-handicap golfers spent 18 weeks of their preseason focused on maximal and explosive strength training, they were able to not only dramatically improve driver performance and swing speed, they also outperformed the golf-specific strength training group. 
- Professional and competitivemale golfers were able to increase their club head speed by as much as 3.9% in just 6 weeks of 3 days per week strength training. 
- Correlative analysis across multiple studies shows that there are direct relationships between golfers’ swing speed and general, maximal, and explosive strength, peak force, rate of force development, body mass, upper, lower, and full body concentric dominant power, chest strength, and total body rotational power. Faster swing speeds also correlated with improved performance on seated and standing medicine ball throws, countermo vement jump power, squat jump, drop jump, hang power snatch, bench throw, bench pull, push press, seated barbell row, and medicine ball ballistic rotations. [24,18,15, 14, 6, 4]
- Across the board—for golfers of all ages, gender, experience, and level of competition— strength training as a whole can markedly increase swing speed from 1.3% to 6.3% with a variety of different programs lasting 6-12 weeks. [4,6,7,13,14,15,16,18,19,21,22,24,26]
- When it comes to increasing ball speed, strength training significantly outperforms typical pre-season conditioning programs for golf. 
- 10 weeks of strength training for 10 members of East Tennessee State University’s golf team saw ball speed increase by 3.7 MPH, or 1.9%, on average. 
- Greater ball speeds of golfers were correlated with increases in maximal strength, explosive strength, and left-hand grip strength. [1,5,6]
Rotational Power and Force
- Total body rotational power is significantly correlated with golf performance measures such as club head speed. 
- 20 competitive and pre-elite golfers, each with a handicap better than -3.0, saw significant increases in the rotational power, force, and speed of their dominant as well as non-dominant sides. They also improved in their overall lead arm speed and lead arm acceleration as well.
- These increases in rotational power, force, and speed correlated with direct improvements in overall driver performance, ball speed, and carry distance. 
- Isokinetic training significantly outperformed normal isotonic pre-season training in regards to improving the overall rotational power and force. 
- 5 weeks of either resistance training or static stretching produced significant, yet similar improvements in overall flexibility. 
- When comparing strength training, flexibility training, or the two combined for 16 weeks, it was found that strength training aids in improving and maintaining flexibility—with or without flexibility training. The combination of the two together, though, produces the most optimal results. 
- Strength training alone is capable of improving and preserving flexibility, dispelling myths that working out may make you inflexible and hurt your golfing performance. [28,29,30]
- 60% of professional golfers and 40% of amateur golfers endure an injury each season. 
- The majority of injuries sustained revolve around where the greatest amount of torque stress is placed, specifically, the shoulders, elbows, wrists, and lower back. 
- Strength and power training helps to reduce the likelihood of sustaining a golf-related injury, alongside improving overall swing mechanics. 
- A sport-specific injury prevention program that utilizes exercises similar to that of a golf swing allows for greater transfer of strength and power improvements to the golf swing, while also reducing injury risks. [31,32]
Putting Accuracy and Distance Control
- When analyzing elite golfers, it was noted that the level of strength and conditioning of abdominal muscles directly correlates with the average putt distance after a chip or sand shot. The data showed that improving muscle strength and endurance can actually reduce the distance of your first putt on the green. 
- 11 weeks of strength and power training of Division 1, collegiate golfers led to a 29.6% improvement in putting distance control. [
The Most Important Muscles
- The muscles in the forearm, wrist, and hands are incredibly crucial for grip strength, which is known to directly correlate with ball speed, carry distance, and drive distance. 
- The core of a golfer has been shown to play a critical role in driving performance, driving distance, flexibility, muscle strength, cardiovascular fitness, balance, club head speed, and endurance [5,11,13]
- The chest, or pectoral muscles, are also important, with the chest strength of a golfer correlating with overall club head speed. 
- The strength, endurance, and capacity of the muscles in the hips, glutes, and legs were also shown to be significantly correlated with the overall handicap, swing speed, and driving performance. 
- Shoulder strength and their ability to internally and externally rotate are associated with better overall golf performance and swing speed. 
- The muscles involved in hip abduction, hip adduction, trunk flexion, and trunk extension also play a role in overall driving performance. 
Core and Grip Strength
- Core strength is critically important in golf as it plays a major role in your overall swing mechanics and performance.
- Just 36 sessions of strength training focused on only the core was enough to lead to drastic improvements in carry distance (30.3%), as well as significant increases in club head speed, balance, lower back flexibility, muscle endurance, muscle strength, and aerobic fitness. 
- When 60 elite golfers with a handicap less than 3 each performed strength training for just their core, they were able to see their drive distance increase by almost 5% with 8 weeks of training. 
- Those with greater abdominal strength and endurance were statistically more likely to have shorter putts after chipping onto the green, whether that is from the fairway or the sandtrap. 
- Strengthening of the non-dominant arm of elite golfers, in addition to core training, led to an almost 11% increase drive distance, in comparison to the 5% increase of the core only exercise group. 
- Although strength training alone is enough to improve grip strength, using a tool to increase the diameter of the bar you lift with, such as Fat Gripz, was shown to significantly improve ball speed, carry distance, and drive distance greater than just strength training alone.
No matter your age, level of competition, or experience, studies show that strength training for golf carries significant benefits. What is clear from the scientific literature is that weight training can be hugely beneficial for improving your swing, distance on drivers and irons, putting, flexibility, and even your longevity in the sport.
With that said, as with all training protocols for athletes, strength training is only a singular tool that can be strategically utilized in enhancing the performance of golfers.
Utilizing traditional training modalities such as swing training, flexibility training, plyometrics, and golf-specific training can optimize your performance by aiding the transfer of strength gains to your game.