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Test your fitness handicap
By: John Hellström, PhD (profile)
If you want a physique that is good enough for golf, you should really have a scratch fitness hancicap. Here are a few tests showing where you need to be mobile, stable and coordinated for golf.

Fitness to golf score

By John Hellström, PhD

The idea of tournament golf is to hit as few strokes as possible. Your scorecard can provide clues about how fitness training can help you to improve your game: If you have more strokes in relation to par on the first few holes than in the middle or on the last holes, then you may need to warm-up better. On the other hand, if the final holes have higher scores, you may need to improve your endurance.

Compare the difference between approach shots from the fairway and rough, and the scores for various lengths of holes. How do you compare against your competition? Do you have enough clubhead speed or do you need to increase your maximum strength and power to handle rough and long holes in a better way?

Study the way you spread the shots too. Do you have higher percent error index (PEI[1]) when swinging with longer clubs than shorter? Longer clubs requires more stability in order to control the higher forces. If you have a big difference in PEI, then ask a fitness coach to then compare your stability and explosiveness. You may be able to throw medicine balls a long way and create a high clubhead speed, but loose too much control due to poor core stability.

The biggest problem may be if you miss in both starting direction and side spin to the left and right, so that the lateral miss is large and unpredictable.  Tempo, rhythm, balance and timing are important factors that affect consistency. What type of coordination training will help you get a repeatable swing?

One way of lowering the golf scores is to improve the swing technique. However, some players have a difficult time doing the technique their swing coach wants them to. Those players may need to their physique to be able to change their swings. Also,  some players are strong enough in the gym doing isolated movements, but cannot activate those muscles during the golf swing when they stand up and need to control all movements.

You can do a few tests where you need to be mobile, stable and coordinated to get par on each test. If you want a physique that is good enough for golf, you should really have a scratch fitness hcp.

Test your fitness hcp

Spine control

Tests your ability to move your spine in one plane without "leaking" into another.

Set scores for each part: 0=Pass; 1=Fail. Enter the sum.

A. Forward flexion (0/1): You can flex forward 45 degrees from the hip. When you hold that position, you have straight line between your bottom-back-head.

B. Side bending (0/1): Start from a flexed set-up position. Lean left-right (11 to 1 o'clock) with the spine. The weight should be maintained equally between left and right foot.

C. Rotation (0/1): Start from a flexed set-up position.  Hold your arms abducted to the sides. Rotate with arms in plane 10 times in 10 seconds with the spine centred.



Balance with shoulder rotation

Test your balance on one foot for 10 seconds still in a forward flexed set-up position, with the shaft against the shoulders. The foot may wobble but is not allowed to move. If you can do it, let a friend hold a shaft straight down in front of you. Rotate your upper body so your shaft hits his shaft 10 times.


  • Your shaft should be in contact with your shoulders all the time
  • The hits shall take place at a 1 second interval
  • The hits shall be within 10 cm (4 in) in height on the handle (you may tape the shaft to show the area).

Try both sides and input the score:

0: Pass 10 hits with eyes closed
1: Pass 10 hits with eyes open
2: Pass 10 seconds still with eyes open
3: Fail

Score left:                   Score right:



Stability diagonal pull

Lie under a bar. Grab the bar with the left hand and hold the right foot on the ground. Extend your left leg and hold the right hand palm close to the bar. Push up your body so you get a straight line from knee, hip and shoulder. Have a friend hold a shaft to control the line from the side. The upper body should be parallel to the ground and shoulders down against the body. Rotate down 45 degrees with the free hip side. It should take 3s down and 3s up with 3 repetitions. Keep perfect lines without additional rotation or sliding sideways. Check especially the stability during the change of directions.

Try both sides and insert points:

0: Can perform the complete test (18 s) perfect
1: Can perform the complete test (18 s) with little shake
2: Can perform one repetition (6 s)
3: Fail all

Score left:                   Score right:


Medicine ball rotation throw standing

Sit with one side towards the target, on the bottom with your legs straight ahead. Throw a medicine ball by rotating the upper body. Hands must release the ball simultaneously. Measure the flight distance from the leading foot to the landing point. Input distance with one decimal. Use a 2 kg medicine ball.



Measure your throwing distance from both sides

0: >= 12,0 m
1: 7,0-11,9 m
2: 3,0-6,9 m
3: 0,0-2,9 m

Score left:                   Score right:




Sum up your scores and divide them with seven (no of scores) to calculate your mean fitness hcp. Compare with the table. How good are you? If you got a higher fitness hcp than scratch, then seek out a fitness expert and train more often. Good luck!

Total mean score:

Fitness hcp list
Scratch fitness score = 0
Single fitness hcp = 1-9
Bogey fitness score = 10-18
Double bogey fitness score = 19-36
Triple bogey fitness score = 19-36



John Hellström, PhD

John Hellström is a top ranked PGA coach with a PhD in Sport Sciences. You can read more at and Tests are excerpt from, all rights reserved.




[1] PEI = Percent Error Index, which is calculated as distance to target after the shot divided by distance to target before the shot * 100.

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