By Roy M. Wallack, Special to the Los Angeles Times
August 9, 2010
Riding a golf cart is so old-school. Golfers are interested in fitness like never before — with Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and other top players working out to play better and physical conditioning increasingly recognized as a performance enhancer. The modern fit golfer enthusiastically walks the course and works on strength, aerobics and core with golf-specific fitness products. Those featured here were reviewed with the help of several serious sandbaggers.
Walk, don't ride
Sun Mountain Zero-G bag: Freestanding club bag with backpack-style shoulder straps and hip belt designed for fatigue-free walking all day.
Likes: Works perfectly, keeping you out of the cart and on foot with little fatigue. The hip belt, the first on a golf bag, places almost all the bag's weight on the hips — keeping one tester fresh through 18 holes. Includes numerous top-end features, such as automatic self-standing legs, waterproof rain hood, umbrella holder and pen pocket, numerous zippered pouches for balls, gloves, tees and sunscreen, a waterproof compartment, built-in handle and a utility loop for towels and brushes.
Price: $220. 800-CARRYBAG; http://www.sunmountain.com.
Golf Around the World Power Swing Fan: Unique strength-training golf club device outfitted with four plastic 15-by-6.5-inch wind-resistance fins. The resistance forces you to correctly to use your entire body — not just arms — to swing the club.
Likes: Low-tech yet remarkably effective. After one 10-minute practice-swing session with "the propeller," one tester improved so much that he stunned himself and his partners the next day by hitting his tee shots 280 yards — 30 to 40 yards farther than usual. "It was amazing," he said. "It slowed down my swing and taught me how to use my whole body to hit the ball." Overcoming huge air resistance, you drill in classic form, recruiting your powerful midsection and legs to swing directly through the ball. It's a big improvement over weighted clubs and weighted rings, which create their own momentum through the bottom of the swing.
Price: $55. (800) 824-4279; http://www.golfaroundtheworld.com.
Trying to measure up
Callaway uPro golf GPS device: Gives you the approximate distance to the hole, allowing proper club selection and strategy.
Likes: Once you've downloaded the free Basic Mode version (which has a database of 20,000 courses), the device tells you the distance of your ball to the front, middle and back of the green. Has a 2.2-inch color LCD screen. USB cable, AC adapter and instruction video included. 3 ounces, 2 by 4 inches.
Dislikes: Several testers thought that the Basic Mode was not as sophisticated as a $10 iPhone golf app, which provides a picture of the hole, your position in relation to the green, and tools for helping keep score and sending the score to the USGA handicapping service. They didn't like the idea of having to pay for similar enhanced features on uPro's ProMode, which requires a per-course download fee ranging from $10 for one course to $180 for 150 courses. One ProMode download is included free.
Price: $399. http://www.callawaygolf.com/uprogps.
Kind of a stretch
GolfGym PowerSwing Trainer: Latex stretch-resistance tubing attached to a 10-inch golf handle and doorjamb stop is designed for resistance golf swings and standard exercises.
Likes: Allows a wide variety of common stretch-cord exercises, including golf-specific movements such as a resisted swing (anchor it to a doorjamb in high, medium and low positions) and a resisted backswing (hold in place under your foot).
Dislikes: Despite basic stretch-cord functionality, the trainer isn't nearly as natural feeling during swing simulations as the Power Swing Fan. The lack of consistent resistance (it gets easier and harder depending on how far you are from the anchor point) was seen as counterproductive by some testers. "It screws up your rhythm," one concluded.
Price: $34.95 ($59.95 for Masters edition, which includes light, medium and heavy resistance cords). 877-4-GOLFGYM; http://www.golfgym.com.
Wallack is the co-author of "Bike for Life: How to Ride to 100."