Fitness Coach Is Down on Yoga & Pilates for Golf

By: Jeff Shelley

Bill Hartman, a physical therapist, “sports performance coach,” and owner of, claims that practicing yoga and Pilates may be one of the biggest mistakes athletes – especially golfers – could make.

In a recent press release, Hartman writes, “Golf demands a high degree of dynamic flexibility performed explosively at very high speeds. Activities like yoga or Pilates don’t address these demands and can even be destructive to the function of the muscles and tendons.

“In high-speed activities like golf, the tendons function like springs or rubber bands to produce club-head speed,” Hartman continues. “The slower, more passive flexibility training in yoga and Pilates robs golfers of the elasticity that they need to drive the golf ball to the best of their ability and to conserve energy.”

Hartman says he utilizes a series of dynamic stretches and strength training exercises specifically designed to help golfers achieve optimal flexibility and improve their on-course performance.

Hartman’s criticism of yoga and Pilates sounds like sour grapes to me. I’ve been practicing yoga for three years and have never felt more fit and prepared to play golf. Thanks to yoga, my core (abdomen) is stronger and previously chronic back problems – despite a sedentary job in front of a computer – have gone away. My balance, strength, flexibility and coordination have all improved with twice-weekly 90-minute yoga sessions. (For more on this, see the Jeff’s Journal entry entitled, “August 27, 2003 – Salubrious.”)

By alleging these “so-called mind/body exercise regimes (sic)” may actually be harmful, Hartman might really be saying that the growth of yoga and Pilates is threatening his business. With over 21 million practitioners, yoga now outpaces golf in popularity in the U.S.

I’m sure some of Hartman’s golf-specific training programs are fine, and they probably will enhance one’s performance on the golf course. But he shouldn’t denigrate two worthwhile exercise techniques to sell product. (You won’t learn much about Hartman’s system on his website, which is more focused on selling fitness books and golf tip manuals than outlining his programs.)

I don’t need a so-called expert to bad-mouth my training program and tell me it’s destructive. My bi-weekly yoga practice is coupled with fast walks on a treadmill and some weight training the other three days of the week. Not overwhelming stuff, but ample and quite do-able.

The results are clear. I feel better, my weight’s down, am hitting the ball farther than ever, and, at 53, have no problem trudging up and down a hilly 18-hole course carrying a golf bag.

Thanks for the advice, Bill. But I think I’ll stick to my routine.