Get back in the swing for better, healthier golf

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I'm a golfer not a very good one in terms of the scorecard, but very, very good in terms of enjoying the game and attempting impossible new skills. Thoroughly humbled, I have given myself 15 years to learn to play golf. I'm just starting year three.

Golf is one of the most challenging and unforgiving of all sports, as you know if you've ever played. And if you have played and intend to play again, and again, and again, you definitely should listen to the very smart thinking of Betsy Voyles.

Betsy, a crackerjack physical therapist, is also a golf performance enhancement specialist, based in Chicago. Her passion is helping men and women, young and old, pros and rookies, play better, healthier golf.

What is better golf? Greater accuracy, more consistency, lower scores. What is healthier golf? The kind that doesn't screw up your back, twist your knee or wrench your shoulder.

Golf can do that to you. Betsy knows firsthand because before she was a physical therapist, she was an injured high school golfer with a back so painful and ruptured, her doctor told her she'd never play golf again. Wrong. Betsy was determined to get back to the game, so she spent the next 10 years combining everything she knew about body mechanics with everything she knew about The Perfect, Repeatable Golf Swing.

Here are a few more important points from Betsy's excellent injury prevention manual, "Back in the Swing.":

Every move counts. Injury-free golf isn't just about a proper swing. Every move from getting your clubs out of the car to drinking from a fountain counts. Lift by straightening your knees. No bending or twisting allowed.

The same principles no bending from the waist, no twisting, keeping your low back in a neutral position apply to many other moves in golf, from putting on your shoes to raking the trap.

Ten stretches for the first tee. Flexibility of the torso, hips, legs and shoulder girdle are necessary for playing golf well and safely. Betsy details a minimum of 10 stretches in her book, to be done slowly, with awareness, before teeing off, after a little warm up activity (a brisk walk).

Strength and muscle endurance is crucial. Hitting a golf ball accurately and consistently over 18 holes requires muscle and strength endurance, front and back, side to side. But golf is not a sport that will get you fit. You need to get in condition before you play.

If you want more information about Betsy's "Back in the Swing" manual and about the Body Balance for Performance Golf Health and Fitness Training Program, contact her at her Web site: bodybalancegolf.com or e-mail her at bvoyles@sprynet.com.

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