I’m not sure how many women have tried to play while pregnant, but for those of you who are out there, I’m going to share my story. I’m a full-time golf instructor, and as I’m writing this, I’m pregnant. I have taught and coached hundreds of women, and I have a special appreciation for what it is we go through, especially how to handle the changes to our bodies as it relates to playing golf.
We know that a good number of LPGA Tour players have played pregnant (Laura Diaz, Karen Stupples, and Juli Inkster to name a few) and many have testified to actually playing better. But what does it mean for you?
Over the course of my pregnancy, I will share my thoughts about how to manage your ever-changing body while enjoying golf based on my own experiences. (As a general disclaimer, always check with your doctor before taking on activities that you haven’t already been doing pre-pregnancy. Every woman is different, and some of you may have specific medical reasons necessitate you laying off the golf or taking modified steps. Your doctor will know best, so be sure to check.)
For me—and I know many women have felt the same way—this is the period where I just wanted to sleep and get some rest. I had morning sickness, but it wasn’t just in the morning; it was general nausea at random times during the day. For a while, I thought that I had eaten something funny. It took a while to accept that it was a change in hormones. The tired and slightly sick feeling definitely deterred my interest in golf. Hopefully, you are lucky enough not to have any of these symptoms.
However, there wasn’t anything physically stopping me from moving and grooving as usual. Luckily my obstetrician cleared me to play golf all through this trimester. I was feeling “thick” around my middle and my thighs but generally everything was moving the same, including my balance. I even skied while in my first month! The main issue for me here was nausea and general fatigue. I just didn’t have the extra energy to play golf as much as I normally would.
When I did feel okay to play, I didn’t have any physical changes to contend with. I just had the knowledge that I had a little, tiny life inside that I didn’t want to constrict or put into danger. My ability to swing was completely fine and technically there was no reason why I shouldn’t make a full shoulder turn going back, or move as fast as I normally would. But I have to admit, I was hyper-aware of every little twist and feeling. I’m not sure if I actually felt different turning back and firing through to hit, but in my mind it was different. Now I had precious cargo to protect and didn’t want to do anything that might compromise her safety.
Here is where it got interesting for me. Most women, including me, feel great. This was the best trimester for me to play and practice because I had more energy and my bump wasn’t big enough to be in the way. Over time, my center of mass started to lower slightly and with the added weight it kept my posture in place through the swing. I guess you could say that the changes helped my set up and my golf swing by supporting the forward bend.
I felt great in terms of moving around and didn’t stop from doing all the movements the way I had been doing them. I was tentative to move too quickly or make really full turns, but the reality was my joints were looser, so I was less restricted. Knowing this, I was careful when I swung to not pull anything.
As I enter my third trimester (the stretch of week 28-30), I am starting to feel heavier in my lower abdomen and less inclined to move fast. The little wiggles and movements from the baby inside are more apparent. From those signals, I’m getting the message that I need to slow down a bit. Instead of bending from the waist, I stay more upright and bend from my knees like I’m doing a squat. I’m sure it looks odd, but it feels better than squeezing my lower abdomen by folding from the waist.
Sometimes I look at some of the men around me with potbellies and wonder how they do it. How do they manage to play golf all the time like this? Now I completely understand why some people keep the plastic suction cup on the end of their putter – because it’s an awkward feeling to bend down and pick the ball out of the hole. I suppose the same goes for slip-on shoes and those long shoehorns—bending down isn’t so easy. If you don’t already know how to pick up your ball from the putting green with the back of your putter, now is the time to learn!
The other most obvious change for me is the energy level. I’m having a harder time sleeping and that effects how I wake up. Instead of leaving the house early, I am much slower in the morning. I used to teach lessons beginning at 8 am. Now I’m less inclined to book them even though the temperature is cooler at that time of day. My big game plan during the homestretch was to teach four hours a day beginning with an 8 am lesson and leave by noon when the sun is the hottest. It was a good plan until I had a random bout of early contractions and was put on modified bed rest.
Sometimes I think that the scare made me slow down. Prior to that, my mind wasn’t in any mood to slow down: I love golf and love teaching. Now I know during pregnancy I needed to keep my exertion level to a minimum.