After a 90-minute evaluation
of my body and my golf swing, David Ostrow, physical therapist extraordinaire, and I sat down
at a conference table to review the results.
Ostrow, owner of FitGolf
Performance Centers, formerly known
as Body Balance for Performance, had
the look of a physician who was about to deliver bad news.
"When I look at you," Ostrow began,
almost somberly, "what I see is four functional issues."
Four functional issues...?
"One, you don’t touch your
Okay, not to quibble, but technically,
that is not correct. It’s not don’t touch my toes; it’s can’t.
Truth is, I can’t remember
the last time I could touch my toes.
I’m not sure I ever could touch my toes, in my whole life, come to think
of it. I am 6-foot-1 and my toes
are a long way away, for one thing.
For another, there is the fact that hamstrings are pathetically tight.
"Your left hamstring is
actually short, too," Ostrow
"Oh, great," I said.
Before I go on, let me offer
a little background on what’s going on here.
Ostrow is a familiar face to many in the Philadelphia golf community for his
years running the Body Balance
franchises in the area. In January 2003, Ostrow bought the entire
company, then eight years olds. What he got was 90 franchises spread out across
the nation, about half of which were "dysfunctional," in his view. He later discovered that another 22 or
so were not so good, either.
Over the next year or so, Ostrow pared the
company down to about 20 franchises, from New York to Honolulu, and moved the
headquarters from California to Philadelphia -- specifically, to 701 E. Elm
St., in Conshohocken. That’s the
studio where we are today.
Ostrow also decided that what he really needed to do to make the company grow
and prosper was to rename it and rebrand it. Despite the name Body Balance, it had actually been primarily a nutrition company,
with a golf fitness component, called FitGolf. Because the vast majority of his
clients were golfers looking to improve their game through improved fitness, Ostrow decided
to focus strictly on golf fitness and rebrand the company with a name that made
sense, FitGolf, beginning in 2012.
That’s where I come in. Two weeks ago, to help spread the word
about his company’s rebranding, Ostrow invited me over for a 90-minute evaluation of my
fitness and how it might affect my golf game -- free. I wasn’t sure quite what to expect or
what would come out of it.
In his studio, the first
did was have me stand on a device that looks every much like a set of bathroom
scales, except it measures how my body stacks up -- the alignment of my ankles, knees,
pelvis. Is everything perfect in
line or do I stand there like a wobbly stack of dinner plates?
Like most people, it turns
out what I am slightly out of alignment; Ostrow reached into his bag of
tricks and fitted me with a set of Aline shoe inserts, designed to improve my body alignment.
Next, he laid me out on an
examining table and tugged and pulled and flexed, checking out my hamstrings,
my glutes, among other muscles. Standing again, he had me see how far I
could turn my shoulders in each direction, and my hips. All the while, he’s making notes.
After that, it was off to
the hitting bay, where Ostrow
hooked me up to an elaborate electronic harness that measured pretty much
everything about my lower and upper body motion as I hit balls.
There was also paperwork
involved. Ostrow asked me a battery of
questions about my over health, conditioning and about the state of my golf
game. What, he wondered, was my
biggest complaint about my golf game?
Well, I can’t putt worth a
lick, for one thing. I’ve never met
a short putt I can’t gag, or a long putt I can’t three-putt. But other than that, I told Ostrow, my biggest beef is my loss of distance
in recent years. I used to hit the
ball a long way, 285 yards or more off the tee. Now, when I kill it, I’m lucky to get 240-250
yards out of a tee shot. The loss
of distance is throughout my bag, from my driver down through my lob
wedge. I’ve had to completely
recalibrate the yardages for each of my clubs.
In my own mind, I’ve
attributed the gradual loss of distance to advancing age. I’m not 35 any more -- I’m not even 55
any more. Ostrow would tell me different.
Even before Ostrow and I sat
down at that conference table, I had a sense of what he was going to tell me,. But not everything.
"You are my client," he
declared almost immediately. "You
To wit: I’m well into middle-age,
I spend too much time sitting behind a desk or staring into a computer screen
and, in my case, I’m a little
thicker around the mid-section than I used to be or hope to be. It all adds up to a body that, let’s jus
say, ain’t what it used to be.
What I notice most is, I
can’t turn on the ball like I used to.
I try to turn, and it feels like I’m turning, but the computer printouts
slid across the conference table proved otherwise.
When I swing, my hips rotate
25-30 degrees; 40-45 degrees is normal.
That lack of rotation costs me in distance. My upper body is no better, the rotation
coming up 15-18 degrees short of where it should be. I also can’t do a decent squat. My glutes are
weak and my abs aren’t great.
Basically, as I have lost my
range of motion, my swing has become shorter, more arms than torque, which is
where real power comes from. As for my lower body, rather than rotate, I
unwittingly compensate by sliding my hips.
"You did a fabulous
merengue, but there wasn’t much rotation," said Ostrow. "That’s good for Dancing with the Stars but not necessarily good for the golf
The real culprit in my lost
of distance isn’t age, Ostrow
told me, it’s loss of flexibility and range of motion. The good news, that doesn’t have to be
permanent. You can’t turn back the
clock, but you can improve your flexibility.
Ostrow is convinced he can help me regain my flexibility and range of
motion. It will take weeks of
commitment, maybe the entire summer, but he promises he can get me to regain most
of that 40 yards.
Before I left, Ostrow and I came
to an agreement: He’ll put me through his program; in return I’ll write
on-going updates on our progress. What
is he doing to me? How does it
feel? What does it do for my golf
game? How about the overall quality
of my life? This is the first of
As I was about to leave, Ostrow said, "All
I ask is one thing."
Uh oh, here it comes, I
But no, all he required was
that I commit to truly working at his program. Our weekly, hour-long sessions won’t be
enough. I’ll have to work at home,
too. He’ll give me specific
exercises, based on what we did at the studio that week. All he wants is 20-30 minutes each day.