As the golf world jumps from tournament to tournament, two 16-by-40 trailers follow along, serving as a sort of mobile fitness oasis where players can get physical therapy treatment, body stretching, and personal conditioning from trainers and therapists a short walk from where they just played a hole. It was a common sight at the 2018 PLAYERS Championship to see players going in and out of the trailers throughout the tournament for treatment.
The pros have a grueling schedule throughout the year, putting their bodies through tremendous physical wear-and-tear. That’s where the Massage Envy Player Performance Center comes in.
“The Total Body Stretch and massage has been critical to my health and how my body feels,” golfer Jamie Lovemark tells Men’s Journal. Lovemark, a top 100-ranked player and two-time winner on the PGA Tour, has dealt with back injuries in the past, but using the Massage Envy Player Performance Center has helped him overcome those issues. “I’ve actually been a Massage Envy member since 2009, even before the Performance Center came about. I go in there at least once a week; flexibility is always something we can improve. Stretching is so important for what we do.”
Lovemark, pictured above getting a neck stretch, is one of dozens of golfers who use the Massage Envy Player Performance Center each week. The trailers are stocked with massage tables, stretching equipment, heating pads, foam rollers, treadmills, and weights, giving the physical therapists and trainers everything they need to treat the golfers. Players hit the trailers for all kinds of things, like working out a sore muscle that just happened during a round, treating a nagging injury, improving range of motion, or just to get in a quick workout.
“We’re playing 25 times a year, walking six or seven miles per round, so the Total Body Stretch program and soft tissue work is great for me,” Lovemark says. “The soft tissue treatment helps with that lactic acid buildup we have on the golf course from walking so much, and you’re swinging 120 mph in an extremely unnatural position for your body, so you have to make sure you’re keeping up with it.”
Work at the Performance Center is going on nearly non-stop all week during a tournament, with golfers coming in as their rounds end, and before they hit the tee. Some therapists come in as early as 5 a.m. to help players start preparing for their day on the course.
“We’re here to set the table [to] help them go out there and play well,” says Corey Hug, a physical therapist who has been with the PGA Tour for eight years. “Whether it’s work on the treatment table for a preventive thing, or evaluating an injury, we’re always assessing the toll that each day takes on the golfers. The biggest thing we do is probably work around the spine. There’s so much rotation in the golf swing, they do one specific thing, and they do it 400 times a day, sometimes seven days per week.
“Since they do that so often, we go in there and try to restore their motion, and restore their symmetry of motion, which helps prevent injuries and any other issues they have. It’s a grind for them. I like to say that you can get away with driving a new car and ignoring things for a little while, but as you go on, things break down, and we try and get ahead of those things for the golfers.”
Many of the younger golfers on tour have embraced the stretching treatments—like 26-year-old Smylie Kaufman, pictured above getting stretched out by Hug in the performance center. The older players have also taken to it, using the stretching treatments to boost their longevity on the tour. On the same day you can find a range of players getting treatment, from 60-year-old Bernhard Langer, who comes in for treatment before and after every round, to Justin Thomas, the 25-year-old 2017 PGA Championship winner and current No.1-ranked golfer in the world.
Patrick Cantlay, 26, the former number one amateur golfer in the world and two-time winner on the PGA Tour, uses the center at almost every tournament. “I make use of that before and after my rounds to get warmed up and get stretched out,” Cantlay says. “It’s great having that there, it’s so convenient that the PGA Tour has that for us every week. It’s good to get warmed up the right way, so you’re exactly ready to go on the first tee, it can really help your momentum when you get off to a good start.”
Henrik Stenson, 42, is a fan, too. “You have to keep up with the stretching, for both recovery and injury prevention,” Stenson said. “I’ve spent more focus on my fitness in the last 10 years. It’s becoming more and more important for golfers. I’m kinda going on the back nine of my career. If you want to keep on going and stay up there with the best of the game, certainly your body has to be in good shape and that’s a big part of it.”
Tony Finau is another golfer who has raved about the work being done at the Player Performance Center, and for good reason: During the Masters in April, Finau made some headlines after dislocating his ankle while celebrating a hole-in-one during the Par-3 Contest. But the serious injury didn’t keep Finau from finishing his play for the week, and part of his treatment included work from the the trainers and therapists in the performance center. Finau shared a pretty gross photo of what his ankle looked like after finishing at the Masters. But somehow he was able to push through the pain. Here’s a look at Finau getting some treatment at the center at a tournament earlier in the season:
The players on the PGA Tour can’t seem to get enough of it. At The PLAYERS Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach in May, players were in and out of the trailers all through the weekend, and it seemed to help quite a few of them shoot better on the course, including Tiger Woods. The 14-time major champion has dealt with his fair share of injuries over the last few years, but he’s put up some strong performances in the last couple months, and he credited the Performance Center for helping him feel fresh on the course.
“I’ve been using the van, the guys working on me to keep me loose and mobile,” Woods said at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March. “Helps keep me warm, because the car ride over here, get a little tight, I need to get warm, keep warm, keep moving and be ready to be explosive on the course. So that’s where the guys in the trailer are fantastic.”
For as great as the Total Body Stretch and massage is for the professional players on the PGA Tour, it’s something that players at home can get from Massage Envy, too. The Total Body Stretch program features the Streto Method, which is a 10-step treatment that helps the pro athletes, as well as casual golfers at home, boost their flexibility and increase muscular range and performance. The program was developed by a chiropractor, an ergonomics specialist, and a physical therapist, and can help players with nagging injuries to make sure they fully enjoy their active lifestyle.
“Everyone, not just golfers, need to work on those areas, it’s good for body awareness and staying healthy,” says Hug. “Regular people have that goal of body recovery and feeling at full strength. Whether you’re a golfer or at a computer desk all day, you’re in that forward position, so we work a lot on getting that extension back in our bodies, and in our spine. That’s what we stress with the golfers and everyone else, if you restore that everyday, even just 10-15 minutes, you make sure your body doesn’t lose that progress. If you know your body better, you’ll move better, and if you move better, you’ll play better, and so if you play better, you can make more money off your friends on the course.”
The center can also offer a bit of a respite for players after dealing with the pressures of the course during the day.
“It’s private, it’s a players-only thing,” Hug says. “There’s media, fans, sponsors, everything going on out there, and this is one place where players can come in and let their guard down a little bit. It’s quiet and the players can reset and clear their heads and put their game face on, and then go hit that little white ball. Sometimes we’ll put on a good ‘bad movie’ to lighten the mood, and the golfers always love that.”
As the PGA Tour rumbles to the next tournament, one thing’s for sure: The Player Performance Center will be along for the ride.
To go a little deeper, here’s a video of Finau talking about the importance of stretching: