Bad Golf’s John Robins: “My journey to longer drives has started… with squats”

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Bad Golf’s John Robins’ 2022 quest for more driver distance began with some shocks… mostly in the form of squats.

In his exclusive Today’s Golfer column, the comedian, broadcaster and Bad Golf co-creator talks us through his unlikely journey into the realm of golf fitness.  

As I write this I am looking at a rather depressing reminder of my failure to achieve one half of my New Year’s Resolutions. A calendar hangs from my wall, intended to track my progress in completing Dry January. The red crosses ticking off each day begin to lose their confidence towards the end of week one, and by January 10th they’re looking distinctly ragged. After the 12th, they stop entirely.

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Lucky then that I have, so far at least, stuck to the second half of the all new me – a golf fitness regime. With more of a hangover than I intended, I have been for an initial assessment.

Now, you should know that exercise plays absolutely no part in my life whatsoever. I play golf and I walk (both to and from the pub) and that’s about it. I do my best to stretch out my back before leaving for a round, but when it comes to weights, rowing machines and being out of breath I am a total newcomer.

DJ is one of the many high-profile proponents of focussed gym work

This led to quite high levels of anxiety before heading out to get my PGA fitness handicap – an assessment used to work out what your physical strengths and weaknesses are, and how they might impact your swing and performance on the golf course. At the end of the session your handicap is calculated and a fitness programme is then built around addressing areas in which you are struggling.

First off my instructor eased me in by asking me to do some squats in order to gauge my balance, lower body strength and stability. To any gym freaks out there this might sound pretty run of the mill. But I have never done a squat before, let alone multiple squats.

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It’s the terrible irony that must stop so many people (myself included) from getting fit, that at the moment when you have the most work to do, you have the least ability to do it. It all seems completely impossible.

There is a parallel with golf here, when we first pick up a club our lack of skill means we are often forced to attempt some of the trickiest shots in golf, playing from the slopes, rough, bunkers and trees that our inexperience lead us to in the first place. Then the better, longer and more accurate you get, the easier the shots you play most frequently become.

Bryson in full swing

I often think the first lesson any golfer should have is how to play from bad lies, tree roots and cart paths, because that’s right where you’re headed the moment you step out on the course.

I didn’t quite have the confidence to tell my instructor that I’d never done a squat before so, with a can-do-attitude and half remembered footage from World’s Strongest Man, I proceeded to attempt my first ever squat. To the untrained eye it could have looked like a scared man sitting down on the floor. First rule of squats learned: what goes down must come up.

After getting through four (three-and-a-half) of these bizarrely difficult exercises (and hiding my very real concern that I was about to tear a muscle in my thigh), we moved on to numerous other tests, the results of which were entered into an app. I turned, bent, jumped, lifted weights, and raised various parts of my body from a lying position (I’m a complete natural at the lying down bit by the way).

Fitness plays a huge role in golfers' lives now. Here, Justin Rose works out in the gym.

Over the course of the hour long consultation I probably did ten minutes of anything that could remotely be called strenuous, and as embarrassing as it is to admit, harboured a very real fear that I may not be able to walk to my car, such was the shock to muscles I haven’t had any communication with since John Major was in power.

And then the number crunching began. After discovering that I had about twenty five degrees of lateral rotation less than is ideal, and that the arm I use to play golf (left) is about half as strong as the arm I use to do everything else (right) I was concerned that the PGA assessment app might give me up as a lost cause.

However, the result wasn’t as crushing as I’d expected. Apparently my fitness handicap is 22. That’s OK! I can work with that! After all, my actual handicap was 22 last year, and now I’m off 14. How hard can it be to completely overhaul your physical condition in less than six months? (Actually maybe don’t answer that).

I also took some comfort in the fact that if my body is playing off 22, and I am playing off 14, then in order to compensate my mind must be off single figures. And as long as I don’t examine the logic of that calculation too closely then I think I can head to my first actual work out with a spring in my step, whether I am able to walk out with any kind of step whatsoever we shall have to wait and see.

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About the Author

Comedian and Bad Golfer John Robins.

John Robins is an award-winning stand-up comedian, BBC Radio 5Live presenter, host of the Moon Under Water podcast and, alongside Alex Horne, one half of Bad Golf. 
Download John’s 5Live show with Elis James here, and the Moon Under Water podcast, here. You can also follow John on Twitter and Instagram.
For more from Bad Golf, subscribe to their YouTube channel or follow on Twitter and Instagram.

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