H2O Swim Golf 'Splained

Swimming golf is a test of technical ability. It requires you to juggle the skills required for taking long strokes with the skills required for faster stroke tempo. Swimming Golf can be used as a benchmark to indicate technique improvement over a period of time. The rules are as follows:

  • Swim a prescribed distance (usually 50-100 yards or meters), counting the total number of strokes you take—count once for each hand as it enters the water. (ex. If you are in a short-course pool and you take 21 strokes on the first length followed by 22 strokes coming back, your total is 43.)
  • At the end of the swim, note your elapsed swim time in seconds. (Let’s say the swim took 47 seconds.)
  • Add the number of strokes to the number of seconds. The total is your score for that swim. (Add the 43 strokes to the 47 seconds for a total of 90.)
  • Take the prescribed amount of rest and repeat from the top, this time attempting to get a lower score—hence the name “swimming golf.”

If you do this a half-dozen times and average your scores you can use this as your "par" the next time you include a swimming golf set in your workout. (Say your scores are 90, 89, 90, 89, 88, 88. Your average, or new par, is 89.)

Over 50 yards, better swimmers take fewer strokes in less time than less accomplished swimmers. In a typical Masters group, 50-yard freestyle golf scores can easily range from the high 40s to more than 100. Start lowering your scores by lowering your stroke count. Once you get comfortable with a lower stroke count, try to increase stroke tempo (how often you take strokes) without adding any strokes. Every time you hit a new, lower score, you have become a better swimmer.

When trying to go slightly faster tempos at any given stroke count it is often hard to judge precisely how much faster tempo you are going - and hard to keep it consistent. But a Tempo Trainer Pro by Finis can be a big help. By allowing very small increments in the beeper setting (as little as 1/100 of a second) the TTPro gives you complete control over how much faster you are trying to go. For instance, if you are going 15 SPL for 100 yards and set your TTPro for 1/100 faster tempo, you'll be swimming just over 1/2 second faster (15 x 4 X .01 = .60 seconds) per 100, or 1.2 seconds faster per 200, etc.

A beeper can also help you go a lower stroke count while holding the same tempo as before - fewer strokes at the same tempo = faster elapsed time, which results in a lower swim golf score.

If you swim with others, swimming golf allows people of different abilities to compete head to head. Two experienced swimming golfers can take turns swimming 50s and then compare their score for each swim to their personal par, keeping score over several (perhaps 9…or maybe 18) 50s. Scores for Swimming Golf are tallied in much the same manner as scores for Beer Drinking Cart Driving Golf.

Jotting down numbers in your waterproof notebook (you do have one of those, right?) between swims makes it easy to keep track of your scores. You can photocopy the blank Swimming Golf (SGolf) Performances chart, found on page 202, of my book, Fitness Swimming, 2nd Edition, in order to to keep track of your swimming-golf performances so that you can easily see your progress over time.  

Don't like counting your strokes? Want an even more direct measure of bio-mechanical efficiency? Check out Alternative Swim Golf.

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