Bob Gillespie



PowerGolf: Instructor Ken Taylor trains bodies for a better game

Posted 9/8/2013 5:59:00 PM

Ken Taylor punches keys on his laptop, and a view of Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey, swinging a 5-iron, pops up on the screen. Gainey, a Bishopville native in his third season on the PGA Tour, makes his notorious “lash” at the ball – and Taylor freezes the picture.

“Tommy’s hanging back, not getting through his shot,” says the long-time strength coach and former gym owner, who now operates PowerGolf of Columbia out of Brickhouse Gym. “When we took him out and did his ‘screen test,’ we found his problem was ankle flexion – his left ankle didn’t have much flexibility due to scar tissue from a sprained ankle at last year’s Wells Fargo Championship.”

The solution? Taylor set Gainey up with a massage therapist at Brickhouse – the same gym where Taylor, 52, is in his third year teaching golf-specific strength training, as an instructor certified through the Titleist Performance Institute (TPI).

“She worked on his ankle for two hours,” Taylor said. That was in late 2012. Not long afterward, Gainey posted his career-first PGA Tour victory at the McGladrey Classic.

Taylor, a strength coach with the USC football team for nine years and a total of 30 years as a gym owner and trainer, doesn’t just work with PGA Tour players, though. Most of his clients are Columbia-area weekend players, among them Tim Teaster, in his third year with Taylor; Tom Thaxton, a member at Columbia’s Spring Valley CC; Bernie Shealy, who signed up in January; and Michael Duggan. All four fall into the “senior” category (55 and older for amateurs), and credit PowerGolf with keeping their games in shape.

“I was looking for more stamina and a little extra distance -- and less pain,” Shealy says. “You have to be in shape to play well.” Six months into the program, “I can play four days in a row with no issues,” he says.

Taylor uses the same PGA Tour-level technology with his regular students. To demonstrate, he shows a video of a 60-something student from Orangeburg. The issues with his swing – “little hip/shoulder turn, limited flexibility in his hips, shoulders and lats” – are far removed from a PGA Tour player’s, but the principles for improvement are the same, Taylor says.

“I give him exercises to stabilize his shoulders and pelvis,” he says. “I teach the ‘pelvic powerhouses,’ where golf is played. Your gluts (upper legs and buttocks) are the King of Swing; the Queen is the abs (abdominal muscles).”

Taylor knows of what he speaks. In the 14 years since he took up golf (he now typically shoots even par or better), the one-time body builder lost 80 pounds, down to his present toned 200, in order to reach his golf goals. He’s not a golf instructor – “I don’t want to teach,” he says – but says he helps golfers reach their potential through golf-specific strength training.

If you think golf is for couch potatoes, think again. “I’m going after the guy who works out, and plays golf, and has no idea how to get better,” he says. But, he adds, anyone can help their game by being in better shape – golf shape.

Taylor has honed his abilities through TPI, working with Golf Channel trainers Dr. Greg Rose and Dave Phillips at TPI’s San Diego-based clinic. In Columbia, his professional clients include Gainey, former USC golfers Mark Anderson and Mark Silvers, Northwoods assistant pro Burke Cromer, ex-USC women’s player Katie Burnett, now pursuing an LPGA career, and long-drive competitor Patrick Hopper, a former ReMax Long Driving Championship finalist with a career-best 426-yard drive..

Taylor says that in working with average players, he upside is more limited, but the rewards are substantial regardless of age and talent.

“Most players have a lack of understanding of the physical aspects (of the golf swing),” he says. “I’m trying to bridge that gap. I look at a swing and assess mobility, balance, strength, speed. I’m trying to help (golf) teachers help their students.”

Taylor’s section of the 6,000 square foot Brickhouse facility includes two training bays where video cameras record swings at 60 frames/second (“I can give you a reference, things you can’t see on the driving range”); an artificial-turf putting area with green speeds up to 11.5 on the Stimpmeter, and chipping and pitching areas.

“I want people to love the game on both sides of the wall,” he says, referring to the gym and the course.

Still think golf and strength training don’t go together? Taylor offers this: “Close your eyes, extend your arms and then stand on one foot. How long can you hold that? The average Tour pro can do it for 24 seconds.”

That, pardon the expression, is eye-opening. For information on PowerGolf, call Taylor at (803) 318-3590, email, or visit Brickhouse Gym is at 519 Huger St., Columbia.