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Sep 18

The Humble Corkonian At The Forefront Of The Golf Fitness Movement – Balls.ie

An amateur rugby player would leap at the chance to work with the strength and conditioning coach at Leinster. Likewise, a young, aspiring, footballer may only dream of training with a Premier League fitness coach.

If golf is your sport of choice, regardless of ability and skill-level, then being trained by the best is a very real possibility.

Mike Carroll, just a humble lad from Cork, is at the forefront of the golf S&C movement. A trainer of the pros - Seamus Power, among others - he provides a service whereby anyone can avail of expertise.

Through his app and website, FitForGolf, Mike offers personalised training programs for those who sign up, along with free blog posts, a podcast, and exercise videos on his social media pages (he currently has 109k followers on Instagram, and 62.5k on Twitter).

We have come to associate S&C with with adding size and bulk, but when you apply it to specific sports with specific skills, it becomes so much more. Combined with advances in data analytics and the rise of wearable technology, golf is in the midst of a revolution, and, despite being unknown to many fans of the sport, Carroll, and the work that he does, should be seen as an integral part of it.

"Similar to a lot of people in Ireland I was in a pretty sporty household growing up," Mike Carroll tells. "A lot of GAA, soccer. I did a little bit of cross country in secondary school and picked up golf around the start of secondary school as well."

After being inspired by his brother to enrol in the Sport and Exercise Science degree at UL, and acquiring up weekend work at Fitness Works Cork, Mike gradually began to find his calling.

"I started training in the gym as well, I just had an interest in it. I could kind of see pretty quickly that I was interested in the transfer it had to sport. So I noticed after a couple of months of lifting weights in the gym I was hitting the golf ball way further, and I was a bit more powerful on the football field.

"As I was learning in college, I was also getting to practice making programs for general public and people who were interested in different sports. And then coming towards the end of the college degree I kind of had the idea that jeez theres a big gap in golf here in that theres nobody really doing. At least I didnt know about anybody doing good quality physical preparation for golf."

A natural progression for Mike was to get his TPI qualification. The program, run by golf equipment power-house Titleist, has been completed by the majority of golf's top fitness pros, and its website claims that '18 of the last 20 major championships were won by players advised by a TPI Certified Expert'.

During the course, which took place at the Belfry, Mike first met Simon Keelan, future caddie Seamus Power.

The TPI certification opened a whole new world for him, and a youthful ambition and adventurous nature would take him to California, not long after finishing in UL.

"I finished college in 2014, and then in 2016 I saw a job listing on the internet for a TPI certified strength and conditioning coach to work with golfers in Irvine, California.

"I was in my early 20s, was single, had no real ties to home, so I thought it was a great opportunity to work full-time with golfers. I got in touch with the job listing which was by a place called Hansen Fitness for Golf, which was a small studio in Irvine, and is very nearby to where I still am.

"Did a couple of interviews with the boss there, his name is Mike Hansen, and he was able to apply for a visa to sponsor me and come over and work for him. That was in October 2016, when I moved over."

FitForGolf then began to take shape. With a growing need to earn some extra cash on the side, and keep up with California's high cost of living, Mike began to build subscribers, while developing the website and the app.

With his experience from Hansen Fitness, and his portfolio from FitForGolf, he was able to apply for a greencard in 2021 and become self-employed, making FitForGolf his full-time job.

In the meantime he had begun to rub shoulders with some of the pros, and began with working with Charles Howell III in 2020, who had discovered Mike through his online content and videos.

Current world no. 78 Mackenzie Hughes copied Howell III in seeking the help of the Corkonian, before his most prestigious client, Seamus Power, followed suit.

"I think it was about three or four months later. My friend Simon [Keelan] had started caddying for Seamus, and I think Seamus had expressed interest that he was interested in maybe changing his physical training and maybe getting a new trainer.

"And Simon suggested to him that he have a chat with me, that I had been working with a few different players on the PGA Tour. Id probably dealt with maybe four or five of them at this stage. And Seamus just one day sent a message basically and asked if we could have a chat. I think that was in about the summer of 2020.

"I was really just trying to help him with his physical training programs, to help him come over his elbow surgery. Try and get him a little stronger more mobile there so he didnt have any nagging aching pain for that, and basically just make sure he is as best a shape possible to withstand the rigours of a PGA Tour season.

"And then most of the guys who get in touch are also interested in increasing their club head speed so they can hit the ball a little bit further, and hopefully have a knock-on effect to shooting lower scores."

Power, who currently lies at 41st in the world rankings, rocketed up from a lowly 459th in April 2021, to a career high of 36th in June of this year.

While Mike takes no credit for Power's phenomenal rise, we know that the margins at the very highest level of golf are atom-sized, and thus, each changeup in one's game and preparation has a sizeable impact.

Mike explains how sees his professional clients 2-4 times per year in person, and may rock up to tournaments for 3-4 training sessions during the week. The rest of the contact is online and through text, and he is currently working on an off-season training plan with Power.

Distance. It's a topic that has a large stake in the golfing sphere, and has brought both delight/awe, and skepticism.

While we can't help but be sucked in by Bryson DeChambeau turning monstrous par-fives into drive and half-wedge holes, there are concerns that courses will be unable to adapt to the ever-increasing average driving distance.

Mike's knowledge and insight does nothing to dispel neither the feelings of delight/awe, nor the skepticism.

He talks about Mark Broadie, the inventor of the Strokes Gained Data Analytics system, which is used by the PGA Tour. The system showed that those who scored highly in strokes gained off the tee, were those with the most success.

The number of golfers on the PGA Tour who are averaging over 300 yards is growing, while those languishing below 290 will continue to be left behind.

Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald, once world no.1, and only 44 years of age, finds himself at 566th in the world with an average driving distance of just 286.5.

Matt Fitzpatrick was once a notoriously short hitter, who scoffed at DeChambeau's search for power. He then saw the light, and worked tirelessly on his swing speed and distance, which resulted in him winning the 2022 US Open.

Young golfers are being taught to increase their ball and club head speed, above other attributes such as their accuracy and approach game.

The result is that players fresh out of college, and some still in college, are hitting the ball considerably longer than in years gone by, and it is leading to a greater amount of success on the PGA Tour at a younger age.

One name mentioned by Mike is Chris Gotterup. Fresh out of college, Gotterup talks about bending two irons with his club head speed, while his ball speed can reach over 200 mph (Cameron Champ, the PGA Tour's leading man in this area, has a ball-speed high of 194 mph this season)

Another interesting point which Mike puts forward, is the rise in the 'coolness' of golf. Young prodigious athletes who might once have chosen a different, more glamorous sport, are now opting to pick up a stick.

"Golf is now way cooler and popular. So athletes that would have once chosen basketball, or football, or baseball, or something like that when they're teenagers, now they might be deciding I want to play golf. So the pool of athletes that is going to be going into the US college system is going to be much more athletic.

"So then the ones who end up making it through college and out on tour, theyre going to have massive raw material that give them the tools they need to compete."

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The Humble Corkonian At The Forefront Of The Golf Fitness Movement - Balls.ie

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