When you walk down the line at a PGA Tour driving range, one thing is abundantly clear...This aint' you’re Grandpa’s PGA Tour. Gone are the days of Tour pro’s looking like average Joes. Physically, the modern Tour pro is more of an elite athlete than ever before.
Then, as you look further down the range, there are the two physical freaks of nature banging balls 340 yards. They look like NFL or NBA players with a driver in their hands. Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson simply stand out. Not just because of their length off the tee, but because of their physical frame.
The two friends and workout buddies have combined to win five of the last 13 majors championships and have revolutionized the training that goes into becoming a major champion. The man behind that revolution is Joey Diovisalvi. “Joey D” as he is affectionately known, is the golf trainer who has transformed Brooks and DJ into the athletic specimens they are today.
SI.com’s Ryan Asselta recently had a chance to catch up with Joey D for a quick nine and get his thoughts on strength conditioning for golfers, Koepka’s controversial weight loss and the differences between DJ and Brooks in the weight room.
Ryan Asselta: Joey…you’re a biomechanics coach and trainer, but you chose to specialize in golf. Why golf?
Joe Diovisalvi: Golfers are what we would consider late adapters. With traditional players and true loyalists there was a little bit of fear that if you do any type of strength and conditioning, you would basically jeopardize your swing mechanics. But knowledge is power and science evolves. I think that we saw an opportunity years ago to be able to go and create a program and partner up with the PGA Tour and players.
RA: When did this fitness revolution begin for golfers?
JD: Gary Player was the father of golf fitness, he still is. He represents truly, what the human body could do and stand up against time and age. For the modern golfer it began during the Tiger era and maybe a bit with David Duval.
It just took a while. We try to integrate science, and people have a big misconception about science. They think “Oh, if I'm going to go lift weights then I’m going to get muscle-bound.” Just misconceptions. I think there's so many different modalities that we know about now that can help. It’s been a really interesting opportunity to create a program where sports science and golf became harmonious.
RA: Your two most high profile clients have now combined to win five major titles. How did you begin working with Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson?
JD: Just like anything else, it was word of mouth. Out here it's such a small, intimate community that if you do what you do well, the Tour players get to know you and you get an opportunity to have people come to you. So it’s sort of been a referral-based thing and now I work with multiple PGA Tour players
RA: How are Brooks and DJ different?
JD: You know what I love about Brooks? I was listening to him in an interview the other day and he was talking about how he likes to look at different things that he takes from players. Things that he could kind of use and kind of hone his own skills from what he sees visually. I love that.
Brooks and Dustin are two different body types. Dustin's athleticism, if you look at it overall, he's probably one of the best-built human machines for golf that I've ever seen. Someone like Brooks is different. If you took Brooks back when he was 20 and put him and his body type on a college football team he’d be a fullback. Brooks’s upper body strength is massive.
RA: What’s one thing DJ and Brooks do better than the other?
If you put Dustin under the Olympic squat, which is a very technical lift, he has a very good understanding of what you have to do to execute that lift properly, safely and effectively. And if you put Brooks with a pair of heavy dumbbells on a stability ball, he finds the center point of balance. He takes heavy dumbbells and he uses them in balance very well.
If you split the human body at the waist, I think Brooks has a very keen advantage when you talk about how the brain and the body work together. He is genetically predisposed to have a lot of load to transfer into good use of power and energy.
Dustin's lower body is a much more efficient use of power and energy transfers. I look at Dustin overall as a supreme athlete. I'd say if I ever had to design the perfect model for an athlete it would be Dustin. It's like watching a racehorse just trotting out to the starting gate. Dustin just has that uniqueness. I would look at Dustin's lower body as a more efficient machine and Brooks is a very more efficient upper body when it comes to load capacities and how they use that in their golf.
RA: Brooks is rumored to have lost 25 pounds earlier this year for a magazine body issue. He’s been pretty adamant about defending the decision as his choice. What was the thinking behind that?
JD: He looked at it as an opportunity for a personal challenge and one that I think he fully embraced. When you look at actors, some of them take four or five months to get ready for a movie or a scene by changing their body.
Brooks went through a very challenging period. He got sick a couple of times from all of the travel and I believe that his body was challenged and he wanted to take that experience and show people that perfection is really imperfection.
Brooks is somebody who carries a lot of muscle mass, but you wouldn't look at him as a body builder. He wanted to challenge himself to be able to say “This is one of the accomplishments in my life.” He’s taken a ton of criticism, but what I love about him is that he's got thick skin.
I recently saw a thing about Jack Nicholson and he's smoking a cigar and he says, “I am who I am, approval not needed.” That’s Brooks Koepka!
RA: Was the criticism he received fair?
JD: He did it for himself. Some TV personalities and hosts referred to him as reckless. And then he and Dustin finished second at the Masters and you began to see the voices of his critics grow very quiet.
This was a challenge for Brooks and he’s a guy who likes to challenge himself. I think all of us, as human beings could be a little more like that.
RA: How about nutrition? Whether it’s recovery or diet, are there certain plans or products that are tried and true for you that your clients use?
JD: I love having the opportunity to help players understand both the nutritional component and the hydration component. And you know, those two things being key for recovery. If you look at Olympic athletes, they're the best at it in the world. They take four years and they go through very critical protocols of how their bodies work, right? So constant blood work and constant maintenance of how we recover. I work with BODYARMOR and it’s a company that has taken the science of hydration and helps athlete with absorption. On a daily basis it helps your body absorb electrolytes, vitamins, low sugars, higher potassium.
Athletes or parents of athletes generally don't understand that by the time you're thirsty and you're starting to feel dizzy, it’s already too late. So BODYARMOR and BODYARMOR LYTE are great products. I also believe in quality, whole foods. Fruits, vegetables and foods that are balanced. Foods that when you absorb them, the body is going to have a good response.
RA: Joey, give recreational golfers one tip. One fitness tip for a player that wants to maybe add a little more length off the tee, or a little more flexibility.
JD: I would focus on balance and rotation as a combination. We always think the harder we swing, the further the ball goes. But a chaotic thing happens to the body when you swing the golf club. People don’t understand that you have to have better balance to swing the club faster. If you’re not aware of you’re balance you can’t really control how hard you swing the golf club. Focus on improving you’re balance and the swing speed will improve.