He’s the Brit with a distinctly American twang, who fired back from injury this year to clinch the Soudal Open in May. That victory in Belgium was his first in two years, yet the 25-year-old retains the reputation of being one of the most exciting young golfers on the circuit, even though his play is characterized by calculating the risks and rewards of each shot.
As he reveals to RSNG.com, he takes this mindful approach in the gym too, training intelligently for excellent results…
**RSNG What’s your philosophy when it comes to doing extra work in the gym, for golf performance?
SAM HORSFIELD, LIV GOLFER “I know what works best for my game, and I know I’m not going to undertake the sort of routines you see from Brooks [Koepka], Rory [McIlroy], Jordan [Spieth] or Bryson [Dechambeau] to get to that point.
“That said, being strong and knowing you can play the shots you want to around the course is really important. There is no greater frustration than being on the course knowing the shot you want to play you can’t, so I think there’s a real responsibility now to stay in shape properly.”
RSNG So how do you train?
SAM HORSFIELD “I train by listening to my body. Anybody who has seen me play will know I get around a course in a way that doesn’t mean taking too many risks. I’m not going to jeopardize all the caution or sensible approach play I have in 14 or 15 holes just to play outlandish, reckless shots on the other three or four – that’s just not me.
“And that pretty much filters through to the way I train in the gym as well. It’s about gradual improvement all the time, and never pushing myself too far, too quickly.”
I would rather hit a score with no mistakes, compared to one where I’m chasing round trying to correct because I’ve gone big
RSNG People sometimes label you an extremely talented, yet conservative player – is that a fair description?
SAM HORSFIELD “I don’t like making mistakes and would rather hit a score with no mistakes, compared to one where I’m chasing round trying to correct because I’ve gone big.
“The driver I’m using, for instance, I know is a bit slower than others than are out there, but I also know when I hit it it will always go straight and then draw. I know it won’t get me into trouble very often, and I know even when it does it’s going to keep me in the short grass.”
RSNG So what about when it comes to injury recovery?
SAM HORSFIELD “It’s much the same thing. I’ve had one or two occasions in the past where I’ve really rushed to get back, and all you find yourself doing is actually delaying that date when you are back on the course; or you speed up when you make it back, but you still have the odd niggle or ache, and I’m always of the mind that to play a great round of golf you have to do so without thinking anything is holding you back.
“So these days, although I hate to take time out of my schedule, particularly in the summer months, I will not come out of an injury program until I am absolutely clear that I am back at 100%. My aim is to get back out on the course and, bar a bit of rustiness perhaps, feel that from the very first tee I have a chance of winning again.
“I don’t think you should ever turn up at a tournament knowing you can’t or won’t win.”
RSNG What specifically will you do at the gym to aid recovery?
SAM HORSFIELD “All my injury prevention in the past has been about getting width and scope back into my body shape. Injury has a real habit of drawing you in on yourself, both mentally, of course, but also physically. I guess it’s that natural protective element where we almost cocoon ourselves in order to prevent further problems arising.
“My trainer has always been of the opinion that I should be pushing outwards to keep movement and flexibility in the rest of my body, so that’s something I’ve really tried to do. Everything in the gym needs to replicate everything on the course, so even when I ripped a disc in my back, the instruction was still to stay tall and, when back out there, stay behind the ball.
“It’s about doing as much as you can without aggravating the injury. It’s all about what feels and looks right, and I will always say I am the best judge of that in the gym, above anyone else.”
RSNG Easier said than done?
SAM HORSFIELD “I find you can generally do more than you think you can, even when injured. When I did my back, obviously I had to be very careful all the time. Another physio once told me that, with the exception of an Achilles injury, you can pretty much continue to exercise on every other injury you can possibly get, so although I’ll enjoy more time on the Xbox when I am injured, I’ll never just stop completely.”
Sometimes being good at something, or being able to retain a passion for it, means stepping away from it from time to time
RSNG We know Ian Poulter has been an important mentor for you. Does that relationship carry on?
SAM HORSFIELD “Yes it’s kind of cool how long we have stuck together. It’s now over 10 years and obviously I was very young when I first got to know Ian. We joke that my game has improved a lot in that time whereas his is pretty much where it was!
“But yes, he has been a big help in helping me physically and mentally through a number of challenges that have come about over the years. Ian has also had back injuries so he is all too aware of the limitations and the timeframe.
“He is also a great motivator and someone, like me, who loves his golf, but won’t let it consume the whole of his life, which I think is important. Sometimes being good at something, or being able to retain a passion in it, means stepping away from it from time to time.”
RSNG Do you have any golfing idols?
SAM HORSFIELD “I think when you become a pro you put away the idea of golfing idols. You need to have respect for yourself in who you are and the way you play the game, so idolizing other players shouldn’t come into it.
“Certainly, when growing up it was all about Tiger. It’s fair to say I don’t think there’s ever been anyone on the course who could strike fear into an opponent even before a shot had been played, and Tiger could do that… he still can!”
WHAT NEXT? Find out why LPGA star Lexi Thompson swears by strength training to power up her game in this exclusive RSNG.com interview…
Photos: Shutterstock, REX