The Importance of Rest for Golfers

Editors note – all the science talks ends after the first paragraph for those closing the window after the first sentence. 

General adaptation syndrome is a model that describes an individuals biological response to stress. Over simplified it has three steps; 1 – alarm (fight or flight), 2 – resistance and 3 – recovery or exhaustion. Back in the 1950s some smart eastern block folk (Russians and East Germans) began to apply this model to athlete training in what today is know as periodization. “Simply put, periodization is time management. As a planning technique, it provides the framework for arranging the complex array of training processes into a logical and scientifically-based schedule to bring about optimal improvements in performance.” ( In my day job we say that our job entails providing the right information to the right people at the right time. Equating that to periodization, it is the right training at the right time to get the right performance.

Ok, enough with the science I don’t really understand. The key here is that a good training plan provides time for recovery, which is good, while a bad training plan leads to exhaustion which is bad.

A couple of seasons ago I started the golf season poorly, for whatever reason the game just didn’t come together. My answer was to keep playing, no breaks and by early July everything seemed to come together and I had a great month and a half, but by mid August I was completely done. Following my club championship I don’t think I broke 80 the rest of the season, boy was it frustrating. The problem with golf is the real exhaustion is mental, which I don’t think is as easy to detect as the physical exhaustion one might have when training for a marathon for example. If you are a runner and over training you are going to see injuries, slowing times, less stamina, etc. If you are a golfer and over training, it is going to be the mental mistakes that bring you down, not the physical ailments.

When the season came to an end and I looked back I knew right away what the problem was. I played 80 rounds of golf, practiced very little and took virtually no time off. At this point I knew what I should do, but as a semi competitive amateur golfer, it wasn’t an easy decision. I love playing golf, I was thrilled I played so many rounds, why couldn’t I just play everyday and do it well! And really, my livelihood is not based on my success or failure on the course and it is not like I will be winning any prestigious tournaments anytime soon, so who cares if I play “too much”, as if that is possible right?

The problem is I am too competitive of a person to be content with less than my best performance and I knew how to improve my performance (or at least create the conditions to improve my performance). So, during that long Ottawa winter I made the decision that my following golf season would be planned out in advance, with times for practice, times for rest and times for peak performance. My plan was relatively simple. I would not play a single hole of golf in March or April, but would practice as much as I could. In early May I would start slow with 9 hole rounds, while continuing to focus on putting and short game practice. By mid May I would ramp up my play hitting my peak for the first round of competitive events of the season. This would take me into early June, at which time I would take a week off, no golf. I would then start slowly again, focus on putting and short game practice and playing, but not overdoing it. Early July I would ramp up again for second round of competitive events and would then take a break. I would repeat process in late July/early August for third and final round of competitive events. By mid August my competitive season was over, but I was still fresh. The last couple of years I made a few good fall runs at lowering my handicap.

Last year was a bit of an anomaly because I had a forced break from golf for the entire month of August. So I missed that entire cycle. Added to that was the addition of a September event that I never properly prepared for. While I played good golf most of the year, and had lots of rest and recovery time, I was a little disappointed I didn’t put in the time to get ready for the September events. I am looking forward to rectifying that this year.

This year I started the season like I did the year I wore myself out. Partly due to the late start to the season in Ottawa and partly due a spring golf trip to upstate NY. I played a lot of rounds right out of the gate without much practice and it showed in my results. I have managed to get  my game on track during the last month, but being aware of my previous late season exhaustion a few years back I have made sure to schedule some rest into my schedule. I took last week off, and this week I am gearing up for OVGA Intersectionals, which take place Sunday. Following Intersectionals my focus will shift to practice for a couple weeks before gearing up for the Flagstick Open and City and District at the end of July, before taking another break. With one major event in August and one or two in September I should have plenty of time to cycle through 2 more cycles of rest, train, compete.

See you at the turn,



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