As I lay face down on the massage table, my therapist slips a heated golf ball into the special plastic “caddy” that allows it to roll independently in her hands and begins my hour-long golf ball massage. It is my first day at the Ritz-Carlton Reynolds Lake Oconee, a hotel ideally situated at the heart of Reynolds Lake Oconee, a 12,000-acre private residential community and resort that, thanks to its six golf courses and the Reynolds Kingdom of Golf—an academy and a TaylorMade club-fitting facility (the manufacturer’s largest and most complete outside of its southern California headquarters)—is one of the country’s top golf destinations.
To leverage the resort’s appeal as a golfer’s paradise, the Ritz-Carlton earlier this year unveiled two new golf-inspired services: a guided golf-stretching class and this golf ball massage. As my therapist maneuvers the ball around my shoulder blades, targeting and relieving muscle knots that I never knew were there, my thoughts drift to the character Ty Webb from Caddyshack and his mantra “be the ball.” As I learn very early into my treatment, this massage takes that concept to an entirely new and more therapeutic level.
Surprisingly, the massage is not just requested by avid golfers. “It’s somebody who wants a massage with a twist to it,” says Sherrie Huebner, the spa director. “It’s similar to a hot stone massage, but because the ball rolls on its own, you can have a deep massage but still a flowing massage, which is hard to do sometimes.”
Before my first round the next morning, I meet with Debbie Cornelia—a golf conditioning specialist and fitness instructor at the Ritz-Carlton—to experience the resort’s new golf stretching class. The 20-minute-long guided session utilizes the Randy Myers Golf Stretching Pole, a training aid that Cornelia endorses for its ability to guide users into the proper positions. “[One end of] the pole is [typically] positioned on the ground,” she explains, “so you’re able to keep your body position where it needs to be while you hold the stretch, whether it’s a stretch for the shoulders, the neck, or the lower back.”
The stretching classes are scheduled by appointment only and can be conducted in one of the fitness center’s private studios, or they can be held at the driving range at any of the community’s golf courses. The latter scenario is one that Cornelia prefers. “That way the golfers can arrive as they typically would for the pre-round warmup,” she says, “but I can guide them through some key movements that they might already do or that they don’t realize are important to the golf warm-up.”
During my session, Cornelia’s comprehensive approach includes stretches that target smaller (and often overlooked muscle groups), like those in the wrists, forearms, and neck. By the time I reach the first tee about an hour later, I do feel noticeably looser and more relaxed than I typically am at the start of a round. And unlike the aforementioned golf ball massage, the hotel’s golf stretching class is—as one might expect—designed specifically for those who play. “It really benefits people who are coming here for golf,” says Cornelia.