Pinehurst's UPMC Golf Fitness Lab: Drs. Fradkin (L) and Windley (R) test a golfer's strength (C).
Pinehurst's UPMC Golf Fitness Lab: Improving Your Golf Game at the St. Andrews of American Golf
by Christine Lynn Harvey

As a golfer, you're probably most concerned with lowering your handicap. But did you know that monster drive you have may be putting irreversible wear and tear on your body in ways that may throw you out of golf permanently? One way to improve your game and prevent injury is to follow a golf fitness program that includes flexibility and strength exercises.

Pinehurst Resort and The University of Pittsburg Medical Center teamed up to form a state-of-the-art golf swing analysis and golf specific fitness program that helps you play better golf, stay in the game longer and enjoy it more fully. North Carolina's Pinehurst, the site of the 2005 US Open and many other famed golf tournaments, has long been a mecca for golf since 1898. Dubbed the "St. Andrews of American Golf," Pinehurst offers an unforgettable golf vacation. There's no better place to get your game in shape than at Pinehurst.

Famed Pinehurst No. 2, designed by Donald Ross in 1907, the site of this year's US Open, and Pinehurst No. 4, a Tom Fazio design, surround the golf fitness lab, located in the Don Padgett Learning Center. Lab participants can hone their golf skills on the surrounding practice bunkers, putting greens and Maniac Hill (one of the oldest driving ranges in America). Pinehurst's greens, especially Pinehurst No. 2., vex even seasoned veterans - "This course around the greens is very complicated. It's extremely tough chipping and putting," says Tiger Woods.

A team of physical therapists and sports medicine doctors scientifically analyze every aspect of your golf swing to determine your attributes and deficits as they relate to your golf game. The "Par Without Pain Assessment System" program includes a golf swing analysis, tests for muscle strength, flexibility and balance among other things.

This data, which is related to performance or injury risk, is compared to an evolving master database of over 2,000 golf swings. The lab has been conducting scientific research under the direction of Scott Lephart, Ph.D. A.T.C., based at UPMC's Neuromuscular Research Laboratory. Some of lab's research found that more than 30% of golfers experience low back pain (LBP) which knock them out of playing golf for 10 weeks out of the season. Differences in swing patterns and deficits in strength and flexibility are the primary culprit.

Research also found that improvements in balance, strength and flexibility of the hips, shoulders and torso promote a "Ground-up Stability" and "Upper Torso Mobility" foundation for an unrestricted back swing. This causes greater rotational velocities during acceleration of the golf swing, in effect, torque power. The exercise program helps you build what is known as "X-factor" (the difference in the amount of hip and shoulder turn at the top of the backswing) and X-factor velocity (speed difference of the shoulders over the hips during the downswing), translating into further carry distances.

"The major golf injuries are first to the lower back, second to the shoulder and in women particularly, the inner elbow, and the wrist," says Andrea Fradkin, Ph.D. a visiting academic scholar from Australia and co coordinator of the UPMC Golf Fitness Lab. The lab's fitness program works in tandem with Pinehurst's Golf Advantage School, one of Golf Magazine's top 25 golf schools to help you develop a
more efficient golf swing which translates into lower golf scores. "No matter what level golfer you are, the golf fitness lab and school will enhance your Pinehurst experience," says Eric Alpenfels, a top-ranked golf instructor and director of the Golf Advantage School.

Eight infrared high-speed video cameras have a ball and club tracking system that measures club head velocity, launch angle, azimuth (angle of direction your ball leaves the clubface at impact), ball backspin and other factors that can affect performance and lead to injury. Based on the results, the lab team prescribes a fitness protocol that is unique to your needs. The lab can also let you know what type of club and ball you should be using based on your physical assessment.

Each golfer is given a detailed report of their assessment, a DVD that includes a video of their golf swing, examples on how to do the golf specific exercises and an 8-week exercise log that includes 20 minutes of daily aerobics, and exercises that focus on improving the golfer's specific strength, flexibility and balance issues. This report is then followed by instruction from Pinehurst's team.

While the lab is not set up to diagnose pre-existing golf injuries, "If you do this program, the stresses to your body during the golf swing will be reduced and you'll get more out of your game. You can never improve enough," says Tom Windley, Ph.D., M.P.T. and co-coordinator of the UPMC Golf Fitness Lab. It's especially important over the winter months, when you are not out playing golf to strengthen and stretch your golf muscles - most injuries occur early in the season due to poor physical conditioning says Dr. Fradkin. "Our program is designed to be more specific to the individual needs of males and females. Females tend to have more flexibility and less strength, whereas men generally have more strength and less flexibility. We tailor our programs to meet the individual's specific needs," she says. Drs. Windley and Fradkin develop fitness programs that help injured golfers get back in the game faster and prevent further injury as well as tailor programs for healthy golfers of all ages and abilities.

So, if you are looking for a golf vacation that includes opportunities to improve your golf game, Pinehurst is it. You can walk in the footsteps of other golf greats who have come before and read about their exploits in captions beneath old photos that line the walls of the clubhouse and the Carolina. When the Carolina was built in 1901, she was dubbed the "Queen of the South." Today, the hotel welcomes business meetings, conferences and weddings and will be undergoing an $9 million renovation that will include marble tiled bathrooms, ergonomic chairs, plasma TVs and a mini bar in every room. Accommodations at the Carolina include a sumptuous breakfast buffet and gourmet dinner. There are tennis courts, putting greens, an outdoor pool and hot tub, lawn bowling, a fitness center and bicycles for guests to use free of charge. In the summer, Pinehurst Beach Club, a 200-acre lakefront community, offers sailboats, kayaking, canoeing and fishing for an additional fee. There are also condos and luxury villas that guests can also rent.

"Pinehurst caters to families with children and groups mainly because we're built on the amateur tradition. We cater to women golfers too - Women's locker rooms were included early on at Pinehurst," says Janeen Driscoll, Pinehurst's Communication Manager. Travel and Leisure Golf Magazine's reader survey rated Pinehurst #1, the "Best US Golf Resort." Pinehurst's staff and service are also exceptional.

Nature abounds at Pinehurst, located in North Carolina's famed Sandhills, created when the last glaciers in North America receded. Pinehurst was originally built as a health spa by James Walker Tufts, the American Soda Fountain Co. magnet during the Gilded Age. Tufts ordered almost a quarter million trees planted - many of the majestic longleaf pines, magnolias and hollies are still standing today.

The Spa at Pinehurst, a 31,000 square foot tranquility spa, features treatments made from local botanicals and minerals - a Pine Salt Scrub, Seagrove Clay Wrap, Carolina Peach Nourisher, Holly Berry Back and Foot Treatment and Magnolia Mud Wrap. There are special hydrotherapy tubs that you can soak in after playing 18 or 36 holes. Spa suites can be reserved at no extra cost and can accommodate groups of 2-6 people making your spa experience extra special. The spa also features a TeenSpa.

The Holly, a charming inn built in 1895 in the "Arts & Crafts" style, offers accommodations and dining and is located in the Village of Pinehurst, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the architect of Central Park. The Village is easily covered on foot and features 11 retail shops and 9 dining facilities.

For activities outside of Pinehurst, an interesting place to visit is Seagrove, a community of potters, many of whose ancestors date back to the original settlers of the area, rich in a special kind of clay for which the area gets its name. Drive down Route 705, "Potters Highway" or Route 220 and visit over 100 pottery shops containing traditional stoneware and wood fired salt glazed pottery as you stop and go along the way. For more info, contact 336-879-6990 or visit www.discoverseagrove.com

For more information on Pinehurst, call 1-800-487-4653 or visit www.pinehurst.com. For more information on the UPMC Golf Fitness Lab, call 1-910-235-8280 or visit http://golffitnesslab.upmc.com

The Don Padgett Learning Center at Pinehurst's UPMC Golf Fitness Lab
The Carolina at Pinehurst
The Holly Inn at Pinehurst: The Sitting Room
Putter Boy: Long-time icon of Pinehurst (fg) and Learning Center (bg)
No. 2 Hole 8 waste bunker
Author on No. 2 hitting up to 13th green
No. 8 18th Fairway looking at clubhouse