SOUTH OGDEN — Troy Markham, a furniture buyer for RC Willey, takes physical therapy seriously, though he's not trying to recover from a specific injury. He just wants to golf better, now that the weather's warming up.

He's achieved results that are more far-reaching.

"The stretching has made me feel so much better all around," he said, adding that every aspect of his life benefits.

He takes winter off from the "golf fitness" routine prescribed by physical therapists Julie Knighton and Brandon Arrington, who call their center here Body Balance for Performance. (They're opening a location in Murray April 1, as well, in conjunction with another physical therapy clinic.) The rest of the time, he comes in once a week for a little guidance as he goes through the physical therapy regimen of stretches and exercises tailored not just to his body's strengths and weaknesses, but to his golf game, based on a video analysis. The center treats people with injuries and regular physical therapy needs, too, but it's the "complete golf health and fitness training program" that's more unique, Knighton said.

Unlike programs that offer golf exercises in a class setting, the same routine for everyone, Knighton and Arrington do a full-body evaluation and then customize the program to recognize an individual's strength, flexibility, balance and deficits, Arrington said.

A few weeks ago, Markham went to St. George to play for the first time in three months. After 18 holes, his equally rusty buddies all complained of sore backs and legs. "I wasn't sore at all. The stretches made the difference. And I had a lot more stamina."

The Body Balance for Performance program is a franchise of sorts, with 40 centers in the country. Knighton owns the only existing Utah model. It was founded by the man who first served as director of physical therapy on the PGA tour, back in the 1980s.

It's a dog that chases its tail, with more satisfying results. Someone who has a physical flaw will see that translate into a swing flaw. Tailoring exercises to correct it helps both the golf game and the physical problem. The goal isn't to teach someone how to swing, said Knighton, who leaves that to the pros. But there are different exercises that can eliminate weaknesses.

Senior golfers like it because as you age you lose flexibility and strength. Then, as a golfer, you can wave goodbye to distance shots. And find you can't turn as much.

"You're finally retired and have time to play, but you're physically tight and restricted," she said.

Much of the work strengthens hips and helps back problems. And you don't have to be a golfer at all to benefit from that, she said. It even just makes it easier to tie your shoes and get in and out of the car.

The entire program is based on setting individual goals. Some people want to play without pain or hit the ball 20 yards farther. Some actually want to compete in tournaments.

People will put in effort for their golf game that they might not otherwise, she said with a laugh.

"Golfers as a group are very motivated. If you say the arm muscles will look better, who cares? But for the game — sure."

Balance becomes an issue as people age, starting in middle age. It can be off right to left or front to back. The most common is a forward hunch/slouch. Tailored exercises correct that by stretching the chest and strengthening the upper back. People who slouch often also suffer daily headaches. Curing the slouch becomes a quality of life issue, Knighton said.

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The program comes with a three-ring binder that has pictures of everything the physical therapists recommend, as well as a description. That means it's an exercise program that can be returned to over and over. With the exception of the stretches that the physical therapist actually does on the individual, the exercises can all be done at home.

"Your body is your most important piece of golf equipment," said Knighton. To play the game, "you need to have your body in shape."

Markham, she said, is pretty typical of her clients. The program seems to attract more men than women. But so does golfing, though the numbers of women who golf continue to grow. The physical therapy practice treats a few juniors, as well.


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