THIS IS ME

Meet Mike Carroll: Working in his dream job and helping the rise of Seamus Power

by Ronan MacNamara

Mike Carroll, the man behind Fit For Golf spends his life guiding PGA Tour players and amateurs off the golf course so they can reach the next level on it.

The Douglas native grew up playing golf as a junior in Mahon Golf Club. Growing up in a very sporting household with his mother, father and older brother, Carroll was a talented sportsman, playing soccer, GAA and picking up athletics when he attended Douglas Community School.

A senior footballer for Douglas, Carroll didn’t play golf during his time studying sports and exercise science in UL. However, he returned to the sport after graduating from the University.

His older brother had also studied the same course, so Carroll was able to learn the tricks of the trade while working part-time in Fitness First Gym in Cork.

From there Carroll moved into GAA, working as a strength and conditioning coach with the 2014 Cork All-Ireland winning camogie side and the 2016 ladies football All-Ireland winners.

Shortly after that stint, he moved to Orange County in southern California to work at Hanson Fitness for Golf. Before taking that job Carroll had already established Fit For Golf and had been working with golfers for 18 months. After settling in America, Carroll set up his own Fit For Golf app in order to earn a little extra income.

“I took up a job offer with a place called Hanson Fitness for golf, which is a small private training studio. When I took that job, I had been working with golfers under the brand name Fit For Golf for about 18 months or so and I was really lucky I had good contacts with some of the teaching pros in Cork from when I was playing golf and taking lessons so Steve Hayes, David Barry, Fred Twomey and Padraig Dooley, in particular, were very good for a kind of referring golfers to me. 

“I came over to the US in October 2016 and that is when I started the Fit For Golf app because when I got to the US, the cost of living was sky high and my wages weren't matching it so I needed to do something to earn some extra cash.

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“I kind of found out how to start online training and just recorded a load of videos on my iPhone and built a WordPress website and just used the social media profiles on Twitter, Instagram that I already had from when I was working with people in person in Cork and basically just started promoting them there every day for about 3-6 years now. 

“I was uploading free educational content about physical training for golf and gradually the app took off as did the online presence with a lot of different podcasts and writing articles for a couple of big websites like TPI and presenting at a couple of well-known conferences like Coach Camp with Andrew Rice.

“Eventually I was able to secure an EB1 green card, which allowed me to go out on my own. Now it’s my full time gig so that's primarily for the regular golfer who wants to be able to follow training programmes in their own time,” he added.

Carroll has branched into coaching tour professionals and can count Mackenzie Huges, Charles Howell III and Brian Gay alongside Seamus Power in his stable.

He is currently on-site at the American Express tournament on the PGA Tour where both Power and Howell III are in action.

“In the last two years I started getting some interest from the PGA Tour, European Tour, Senior Tour and all the main tour's really which was great.

“I have probably worked with a dozen PGA tour players on and off. Some of them still in the last two years, so that's something that I'm really enjoying. 

“I'm actually at the PGA Tour event in palm springs to meet up with Charles Howell III and Seamus Power.”

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Golf is quickly becoming a young man’s game with eight of the world’s top-10 under the age of 30. Phil Mickelson bucked that trend when he won the PGA Championship to become the oldest major champion.

Another player in his twilight years on the PGA Tour is 49-year-old Brian Gay who won the Bermuda Championship in 2020. Gay’s longevity is down to maintaining his speed and strength and he now hits the ball further at 49 than he did at 40.

“I actually wouldn't take much credit at all for Brian Gay’s longevity,” said Carroll. “He got into strength training a couple of years before he got in contact with me, and that was really when he had his big gain in distance. So he was working closely with his coach, a guy called Joe Mayo and he got into basic barbell strength training and he saw a huge jump in clubhead speed and to be honest when he got in touch with me he'd already made pretty significant gains and he was in his late 40s. 

“So really all I did was tweak his programme a little bit so we might be able to get slightly better gains in speed and maybe not have to train quite so hard to get them.

“Brian Gay at 49 is longer than he has been in a number of years. His clubhead speed and his distance is longer than when he was probably 45. So there was number ways he was doing that without getting physically stronger because at that age if you're not training it's going to be gradually getting worse.

“He went from about 108 or 109, two about 112 clubhead speed, which is a pretty decent game for a tour player, especially one at that age,” he added.

Going to the gym has become part and parcel of being a professional golfer and Carroll feels that the modern golfer can’t reach their full potential without incorporating some training into their routine.

“There is no doubt that you can be a world-class golfer without ever getting into physical training because that's been proven over and over again. 

“The last number of decades we've seen players win majors and get high in the world rankings without having physical training as part of their development, but I think those guys are going to get less and less now because as golf continues to drag in a bigger pool of players who want to have a career on the PGA Tour, they are going to be exhausting every avenue and fitness is definitely one of them.

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“Even though someone can become a very good golfer and a world-class golfer without exhausting physical training, I don't think that they can reach their full potential, even though some guys might be in the world-class category. 

“I think if they're not physically training appropriately, they're probably leaving some minor gain on the table and we know at that level fractions are everything.”

Carroll’s programmes specifically target mobility and strength. He doesn’t prescribe and cardiovascular work given golfers generally walk for up to 5 hours per round.

The main objectives for players who work with Carroll are to increase clubhead speed and develop their joints to be able to move through a greater range of motion.

Carroll also caters to the regular club golfer who might have only a few minutes to spare to do a few mobility and strength exercises.

“Players want to be able to increase their clubhead speed which is the main determinant of how far you hit the ball as a professional golfer. The other thing is that players have a very long schedule and they do an awful lot of practice and play so you want to be in better physical condition so that they can tolerate all this practice, play and travel and not be running out of energy.

“Because golfers walk so much I don't do any cardiovascular training with them at all. I've never prescribed any cardiovascular work for a professional golfer, so the things that we tend to concentrate on in the gym are mobility and strength.

“Trying to get their muscles bigger and stronger mobility trying to get their joints to be able to move through a bigger range of motion. Then some power work more explosive work, and then most of the speed stuff comes outside of the gym, either on the range or in one of their training studios. 

“Definitely hitting balls with speed feedback has made speed training much more popular. That's what players are mainly interested in. It's a tough balance because you want to make sure that players there are getting stronger and they are getting faster, but we need to remember that is just one ingredient of their overall development.

“So you're really trying to drip-feed it to them and make sure that it supports their practice and play. But they're not doing so much that maybe they are getting a little bit stronger and faster, but then they are tired or sore stiff in there and don't have as much energy for golf so that's kind of one of the constant things that I’d be in communication with the players about.

“People do not need fancy equipment. They don't need a lot of space and that's why I cater to everybody with the social media posts and blog posts on my website and the routines in the app and stuff like that. I want to be able to train and provide something for people who might only have 10 minutes at home in a spare room but I also want to be able to provide something for the college player who is trying to turn professional or the PGA Tour player,” he added.

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The rise of Waterford’s Seamus Power has been sensational. He has risen 385 places in the world rankings and is now a career-high 49th in the world with a Masters debut on the horizon.

Carroll began working with Power in May 2020 after his caddie Simon Keelan suggested the pair link up. The Cork man has been impressed with Power’s athleticism and is thrilled to see him reaping the rewards of his hard work.

“I'm a very good friend of Seamus' caddy Simon Keelan. Simon's about five or six years older than me. But we became quite friendly, we knew each other vaguely because we both played golf in the same area and he was a much better player than I was. He was a very good player so I would have known who he was and I played with him once or twice through some mutual friends. Then Simon was actually an assistant professional in Monkstown Golf Club before he got into caddying on the LPGA Tour. While he was in that job, he did the TPI level one certificate in the Belfry, which is a golf education course basically and we went there together.

“We stayed in the same hotel room and we were there for the weekend and stayed really good friends since.

“When he started carrying for Seamus, he knew that I was working with Mackenzie and Charles Howell, and he suggested that Seamus should get in touch if he wanted to talk about his training.

”I've been working with Seamus for just over a year and a half and that's been great. He's really, really good to work with, it's been really good to see him come round and do so well.

“He was an exceptionally good racquetball player. I think he was reasonably good at GAA. He’s an unreal athlete. He told me a story a couple of months ago. On his college team in East Tennessee, one of the guys on the team was left-handed and Seamus was able to outdrive your man who was left-handed with his left-handed driver just for the fun of it.

“Going back to how coordinated he is from racquetball and hurling so there's definitely some good athleticism and coordination in there,” he added.

Power took seven weeks off before returning to action at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. During that period off he worked closely with Carroll and has a strict gym programme to follow for the season ahead.

The Tooraneena man is doing everything he can to reach the next level and maintain his place in the world’s top-50.

“He just finished up his off season. He'd six weeks of an off season in three days a week. He was in the gym and in those gym sessions he has a starts with some dynamic mobility work, so trying to work on the range of motion in his hips, his spine, his shoulders and things like that, which also doubles as a nice warm up. He does some explosive movements, so things like different jumping actions. So jumping side to side, jumping off, trying to get lower body power really good and then some medicine ball throwing and slamming to train, develop the strength and power of his trunk and upper body. Then he would do some regular heavy lifting. So things like squatting whingeing or deadlifting some bench pressing some pull ups and things like that just to keep his general strength levels high.

“He would also do some direct speed work on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday or something like that. That may be on the range or it might be with some of his speed training tools he uses the speed sticks also.

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“After practice, he would do his gym session and what's nice about doing them both on the same day he’d be able to take a day off from training and just practise and go for a walk or something like that. Or do maybe some light mobility. So then by the time Wednesday rolls back around it’s been 48 hours since he's trained and he's pretty fresh to go again.

“For his competitive run, we will be doing the exact same training programme but will only be doing it two days per week. We will reduce the amount of sets in the session but we won't reduce the weight that he's lifting because we want to keep him as strong as possible so we reduce the amount of volume he's doing but not how much weight he is pushing and pulling,” he added.

While Power’s improvement has been fantastic, Carroll has also experienced his own remarkable rise in almost six years in the US.

From barely having enough money to pay rent, he now owns his own website, has 42k followers on Instagram, 28k Twitter followers and his own podcast where he recently interviewed Power.

“It’s been unbelievable how things have developed and it wouldn't have been possible without the way that smartphones and social media have gone like that's where all of my breaks came from basically and the vast majority of tour players that I ended up working with, they got in contact with me through social media. 

“They were just following the things that I was posting and were interested in, got in touch, and I now make my living through online sales. 

“Having worked with players at major championships in person, being a consultant to 10 or 15 top tier tour players, travelling to tournaments and all those doors have opened up like it's been really enjoyable.

“I started the podcast during Covid because I just had a lot more time. I was just really interested in starting a podcast. I might have 27 episodes now so I don't do them that frequently, but I really try and almost wait until I have an idea for someone who I think will be really, interesting and can basically help the average person either get better at golf or improve their health and fitness. 

“I've had some other kind of well-known people in the golf world like Mark Brodie who invented the Strokes Gained an analytics system that's used on the PGA Tour and Satchel McKenzie who is the world's leading golf biomechanist to talk about how speed is created and just our long conversations that I would love to have anyway and being able to record them and sharing them with people is great,” he added.

The common club golfer might not be knowledgeable about mobility and strength training and how it can benefit their game.

Fit For Golf caters to everyone with simple drills and workout routines. Whether you are already an avid gym-goer or only have a few minutes to spare Carroll has everything.

Preparation is vital for a round of golf regardless of what level so he also produces workout routines that are ideal pre-round and can help you elevate your game to the next level.

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