EDMOND — In the parking lot of any PGA Tour or Champions Tour golf tournament, there are two big, red trailers.
It’s a common sight. No big deal to most on tour.
But Fred Funk, who had a knee replacement in 2009 and a thumb fused in 2011, said these trucks saved his career.
Some say they’ve changed golf entirely.
“The reason I’m even out here is because of those fitness trucks, no question,” Funk, 58, said.
As the brainchild of a former Los Angeles Dodgers team trainer, the PGA Tour introduced the Player Mobile Health and Fitness Trailer in 1985.
Then, it provided the basics of a training room, plus a few workout options. In 1986, the Champions Tour got its own truck.
As sports medicine changed and golfers such as Tiger Woods started flexing and bombing balls down the fairway, one truck turned into two. Now, pro golfers have a fully functional training room and a multipurpose fitness room at their disposal. The trucks are even sponsored by Visionworks.
Paul Schueren, a physical therapist for the PGA and Champions Tour since 1988, watched the evolution firsthand.
“When it started out here, it was an anomaly,” Schueren said. “Most tournaments were like, ‘What do we need this for? It’s golf. These guys would rather go have a beer.’
“Now every tournament wants this. It’s turned around from the days of the guy opening the door and shutting it and running away to guys running in. It’s a big part of the daily routine.”
The training trailer features a chiropractor and multiple physical therapists. Golfers can go in at any time and get whatever treatment they need. The trailer has knee braces, elbow braces, wrist braces, moist heat, cold packs, training tables and even a GE diagnostic ultrasound. It also offers dermatology treatments a few times a year.
“When you’re out on the road, you can’t go see a doctor, you’re trying to play through a lot of injuries and stay out here,” Funk said. “You don’t want to miss a start so you end up going in there a lot, and that saved my career.”
The fitness trailer has every band, weight, cable and machine you could ask for, complete with a certified athletic trainer to assist golfers with their workouts. It even provides players with workout attire.
Schueren said 60-70 percent of Champions Tour golfers use the fitness trailers on a regular basis. On the PGA Tour, the number is even larger.
“That’s been really a blessing for all of us,” said Jay Haas, who ironically withdrew from the U.S. Senior Open with a back injury. “Thirty years ago it wasn’t an option. If you are hurt, you look in the phonebook for a chiropractor or somebody like that.”
Schueren also said almost every player has visited the trailer at some point to get treatment.
“I’m not a person that goes in there on a weekly type basis,” Gil Morgan said. “But I go in maybe if I’ve got some sort of injury, and every once and a while I’ll go in and do a little bit of a workout from time to time. We’ve got a lot of guys who have nagging injuries who go in to get some ice or get rubbed down if they’ve got tense muscles or a strain.”
For golfers such as Haas, the merger between fitness and golf truly has a made a difference. The Champions Tour might be where that is most evident.
Haas is 60, but still consistently near the top of tournament leaderboards.
“If you go back 10 years ago, probably 95 percent of the tournaments were won by players under 55,” said Kent Biggerstaff, a tour certified athletic trainer. “Now I think that age group has moved up closer to 60 where players are still very competitive.”
Biggerstaff said most workout regimes on the Champions Tour focus on injury prevention. They also address golf-specific needs by working on balance and range of motion.
If a golfer comes in wanting to start working out, Biggerstaff conducts an evaluation and then tailors a program to that golfer’s specific needs and fitness level. The programs are also designed so golfers can continue the workout even if they are away from the equipment available on tour.
Given all that, the best counterargument to the statement “golfers aren’t athletes” might not be young, fit players on the PGA Tour. Instead, try the old guys who are still playing as if they are young.
“Even guys who are 40 now on the PGA Tour … they’ll think, ‘Well gosh, I can play another 20, 25 years if I take care of myself,’” Haas said. “It used to be if you turned 55, write that guy off, he can’t go anymore. Now, who knows what that number is? It’s definitely increasing.”