Roger Fredericks says golfers need flexibility to achieve their potential.
The San Diego Union-Tribune, Sports
By: Tod Leonard
It’s no stretch to say Roger Fredericks has become a guru, improving golfers’ games and swings with his flexibility techniques
October 4, 2005
It has happened to every golf instructor who’s spent thousands of hours dissecting dysfunctional golf swings. It happened to Roger Fredericks several years ago on a driving range in Maui.
Fredericks had done everything he could for months to help one particular pupil find a working golf swing, and yet the guy had shown so little improvement that both teacher and student, totally frustrated, were ready to give up.
“You know, Roger,” the man said, “I was hitting the ball a hell of a lot better before I came to you.”
“Wrong time, wrong day,” Fredericks recalls now with a grin.
Fredericks fumed. He told the guy to take his sorry game somewhere else, that he had absolutely no shot at acquiring a good swing because he didn’t have the physical tools or ability to ever get it done right.
Stunned and hurt, the man replied, “What do you mean I can’t do it?”
It is the question that changed the course of Fredericks’ career.
Convinced by his years of teaching that a sound golf swing is inescapably linked to a golfer’s flexibility, Fredericks was determined to develop a stretching and exercise regimen that would give golfers a fighting chance to improve. He’s since been so successful at it that he’s become one of the sport’s hottest commodities.
“In my gut, I sincerely believe this message about conditioning and flexibility is the next revolution in golf,” said Fredericks, 54, an Encinitas resident who teaches at the Hodges Golf Learning Center in Escondido and the La Costa Resort and Spa.
Fredericks’ 30-minute infomercial, which promotes a three-tape set that sells for $90, has been a smash hit on The Golf Channel for more than three months, and nearly 60 creaky, well-known players on the Champions Tour have come to him for help, including all of the Big Three – Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus.
Last spring, Fredericks was blessed with the equivalent of golf knighthood when Palmer, The King, not only gushed about his progress under Fredericks, but offered to become a business partner to help fund the commercials. Palmer told Fredericks he was the first coach to work with him since his father.
“If someone had told me (about this) before I started (working with Fredericks), I’d have said you’re full of you-know-what,” Palmer said last March. “But all of a sudden, I’m starting to feel things differently.
“The guys who have gone through it over a year swear by it,” Palmer added. “Roger showed me some videos of guys even in their 90s now using the stretching programs, and I just couldn’t believe what they can do as far as their physical exercise is concerned.”
After performing several simple tests on Palmer, Fredericks deemed that his hamstrings were too tight from walking courses for 70 years and his shoulders were severely hunched forward from years of overworking the muscles in his chest and arms. For others, the problems can be over-or underdeveloped quadriceps, or a stiff lower back, or constricted shoulders.
The bottom line, according to Fredericks, is that players can’t possibly make the extremely athletic turn in a proper golf swing without the flexibility it requires.
“What I learned from that guy on the driving range in Maui is that people needed to be educated, and you need to break it down to the simplest elements,” Fredericks said. “You have to explain how they have to stretch and how that influences your swing mechanics. Your body is your swing.”
That golfer on the Maui driving range got with the program, Fredericks proudly points out, and went from a 17 handicap to a 9 in a few months.
Diane Lang, a 50-year-old from Florida, read about Fredericks’ philosophies while on a flight to Hawaii three years ago. She had been plagued with severe back pain for years following a brief professional career. Lang met with Fredericks, got hooked on his program and stuck with it. Last month she beat amateur legend Carol Semple Thompson in the finals of the U.S. Senior Women’s Am.
“The highlight of my life,” Lang said. “To be able to hit all of those balls for all those hours (to prepare); I couldn’t have practiced at that level before.”
At The Farms in Rancho Santa Fe, member Phil Ward, 64, has two goals: to shoot his age and then to do it 100 times. He didn’t feel like he was on the right track before he started working with Fredericks. Now he raves, saying he’s lengthened his drives by 20 yards and his irons by 5.
“My mobility is tremendously better,” Ward said. “Not even considering golf, I was getting to the stage in my life where I couldn’t get up off the floor without it being a chore. Now I can do it quite easily.”
Fredericks takes appointments at Hodges and La Costa, charging $150 per hour for a golf lesson and $325 for a 21/2-hour swing analysis and personalized flexibility program. For the latter, he first observes a player’s swing, then performs a series of motion and flexibility tests. He then prescribes a specific stretching workout program for that golfer.
The program is not for the uncommitted. Fredericks expects his students to do the work at least 20 minutes a day, six days a week.
“Among those who do the work properly, I’ve never had someone not improve,” Fredericks said.
Fredericks knows what it’s like to despair over a crummy golf game. He was an aspiring pro out of Arizona State when he suffered a broken wrist that required two surgeries. Later, he had two knee operations, and he went from a promising player to “50-50 on whether I could break 80.”
A physical wreck, Fredericks found his own guru in former Chargers head trainer Ric McDonald, who was ahead of his time in linking biomechanics to chronic injuries. McDonald put Fredericks on a stretching and strengthening program that cured his ailments, and both became proteges of Pete Egoscue, Nicklaus’ trainer and the self-proclaimed “world leader in non-medical pain relief.”
It was in 1988 that Fredericks got his first glimpse of his future ambition. Nicklaus visited Egoscue at the then-Del Mar Golf College near the racetrack, and golf’s all-time greatest player asked Egoscue why he’d been plagued all his career by an oft-analyzed and much-criticized “flying” right elbow.
The irascible Egoscue bluntly told Nicklaus he didn’t have a swing flaw, but a muscle imbalance.
Fredericks recalls Nicklaus being dumbfounded and saying, “I’ve tried all kinds of things to get rid of that, and it’s all been a waste of time, hasn’t it?”
“Wow,” Nicklaus said. “This is revolutionary. We need to get the message out to golfers.”
Nearly 20 years later, Fredericks is finally doing so.
Roger Fredericks’ Web site is Fredericksgolf.com and he can be reached at (760) 285-3259.