John Ondrush and the Golf Fitness Academy are taking golfers to new and exciting places. Golfing Magazine recently met up with the man behind Long Islandís most comprehensive golf fitness center to discuss some of the things he and his trained staff can do to improve golfersí games and health. GM:
Why is fitness so important to golf? JO:
Weíve seen fitness undergo a huge evolution in the golf industry in the last few years. A lot of golf professionals on tour are realizing that the way to get their game to the next level is to get their body performing better. When Tiger Woods first came on the scene he proved this to be true, and then everyone jumped on the bandwagon. Titleist opened TPI, the Titleist Performance Institute, a golf fitness training center for their tour pros. The PGA and top tour professionals are realizing that besides equipment and practicing, the way to start performing better is golf-specific exercise. It gives them the physical capability to swing the way they want and keep that swing consistent for 18 holes. Game improvement used to be very focused on equipment, but now the top players in the world are traveling with trainers.
What would you say the most important aspect of getting fit is? Is it to maintain the level youíre at now, or to ultimately get better and stronger? JO:
Itís to make you better and stronger. The first time you come in to the Academy, we do a full physical evaluation. This is the same evaluation that the PGA Tour players are getting. This evaluation was developed to assess what the golferís physical capabilities are; if theyíre able to get into the proper positions to hit the ball right. Then we also use 3-D analysis. We have the Bentley kinetics system, a 3-D wireless system which gives us a computerized image of the positions the golfer is getting into and how they sequence their lower body, hips, shoulders, and arms. Itís like an MRI of the golf swing. Weíre able to analyze the golfersí positions and see if they are maintaining these positions through the swing and what sequence the golfer uses their body to swing the club. With that computerized data, and a physical evaluation on top of that, weíre able to diagnose and tell you, for instance, ďThe reason youíre coming over the top all the time is because of your limited hip and pelvic rotation. This doesnít let you rotate properly into your backswing, physically forcing you into that over the top pattern.Ē A lot of swing faults are directly related to a physical restriction, whether itís muscle tightness or muscle weakness. Through the evaluation process, Iím then able to figure out physically why this keeps occurring, then we design your program around what your evaluation results. By working on those specific areas, we eliminate physical restrictions so you can get into the right positions, making it easier for your teaching professional to teach you and correct your swing faults . GM:
How do these things apply to the
average golfer? JO:
When the average golfer comes in here, weíre going to find more obvious things that we need to work on than a tour player or club pro. Itís actually easier and faster to show results with the average golfer. Most of our clientele is composed of local golfers on Long Island and Manhattan. As a team we are finding out what their physical restrictions are. If we had someone like Ernie Els come in, we would try to increase his conditioning strength and flexibility to get him to perform better. For the average golfer, weíre trying to accomplish the same thing. If they havenít been playing golf their whole life, or they havenít been taught the foundation of a proper golf swing, we find more physical things that we have to work on. A lot of times we do this in direct correlation with the PGA professional whom they are working with. Theyíll tell me that this person has a specific swing fault that theyíre trying to correct. After doing the physical exam and the 3-D analysis on them, weíre able to determine if thereís a muscular weakness or restriction, or any other component of their body thatís not working thatís feeding into that swing fault. Thatís how we get the local golfer better. If they donít have a PGA professional that theyíre working with, they can go to our website, GolfFitAcadamy.com, and choose from anyone on our PGA golf staff to give them lessons either here or at a club.
John demonstrates a strength-building technique with a Golf Fitness Academy instructor GM:
What are you able to do for someone with a chronic problem, such as a bad back or arthritis? JO:
My goal in coming up with this premise of the Golf Fitness Academy was to have everything that the golfer would need under one roof. We have a full team of medical doctors that are here to evaluate and assess golfers. There are a lot of times when golfers come in with extreme pain, and theyíre just not ready for a golf fitness program yet, so Iíll send them in for a medical evaluation and screening, and the doctors will direct them through a course of treatment. We also have an acupuncturist, physical therapist, and a chiropractor on staff. When someone comes in with a chronic problem, we get them back to a point where they have no pain, then we start training them, getting them strong and physically fit. Then we evaluate everything else. CMD Golf shares our facility for custom club fitting and to evaluate that youíre using the right equipment. Youíre able to get fit with any brand of club. If you have an injury or pain from playing golf, we are able to give you medical attention and any courses of treatment needed to get you better. Once thatís complete, we want to give you everything you need to improve your game in one place. Fitness, PGA instruction, equipment fitting, a practice facility, and a full medical staff all under one roof. GM:
Statistically we see that most golfers donít take lessons, and most donít take part in a regular training program. What do you see as the biggest hurdle to changing that? JO:
One thing is convenience and motivation. Itís usually not convenient for a golfer to be on a fitness program or to get golf instruction and equipment fitting. The idea of having everything here and showing golfers the results makes it much more convenient and motivates the golfer, because they know they have all the tools to become better. Golfers spend a lot of time and money in the pursuit of lower scores. Here, they can come in and have a team working on their golf games. Titleist has done research showing that 99% of people that had PGA instruction, the proper equipment, and a golf fitness professional working with them all lowered their handicap. Most golfers donít get better, and they get frustrated with the game. When people come in we apply all these different aspects to their golf games, and they find a drastic change. They feel stronger and donít experience pain while playing anymore, so they play better and they play more often and enjoy the game. Thatís what keeps our clientele coming back. GM:
How long does it usually take to see some results, like better scores? JO:
Typically, a four-to-six- week program is enough to get weak areas stronger and more flexible, and get you out there performing better. GM:
Do your clients remain here to maintain that high level of fitness you help them achieve? JO:
We have clients that have been here for years. Some have been training with us for six or seven years, always working to improve their games. Getting stronger and staying flexible is always going to help you on the golf course and with your lessons. Thatís what we see whether itís a tour player or a 20-handicap player. Theyíre more solid over the ball, theyíre more flexible, they maintain their positions better. This isnít something that you just do for the golf season; itís a year- round program. Part of what we do after your full evaluation is e-mail you a home exercise program that you can do on your off days from the Academy or when youíre traveling. A lot of our clients might travel or go to Florida for the winter, so the home exercise program is important to maintain your condition. Most clients typically train at the Academy between one and three times a week, and we definitely recommend that they maintain their fitness program even in the off-season. GM:
Whatís your best asset as a golf fitness instructor? JO:
Iím very passionate about golf and golf fitness. I take a lot of pride in the Academy and how far it has come. Iím the only golf fitness professional from Manhattan to Montauk who is recommended by the Titleist Performance Institute. Iíve learned from some of the best PGA and fitness instructors in the world from both the European and PGA Tours. I started out in physical therapy and went from rehabilitating golfers and the health club business to going 100% golf-specific 10 years ago when it wasnít in fashion and it wasnít the thing to do. I studied every program that was out there. When you come in here, you get the best results that you can through our staff and our program. People see that weíre very passionate about what we do here. You can never know everything, so I love to keep learning, finding out whatís going on and whatís next. Thatís why I stay in touch with some of the best trainers from the professional tours and from the Titleist Performance Institute. It allows me to find out more about things that arenít my area of expertise, such as PGA instruction and clubfitting, both of which Iíve made available here with some of the best people in the business. Weíre always trying to get better so we can help golfers improve their game and their health. That is what weíre all about!
To find out more about the Golf Fitness Academy, call 516-496-4964 or visit GolfFitAcademy.com