Being Ready To Play Your Best
One of the things that puzzles me the most about golfers is that so many will go to the first tee, take a practice swing and off they go. Then they grouse about never getting off to a good start. Now, in my youth, we didn’t have a driving range where we could hit warm up balls, so we did that . . . but then we were in our teens and what teen really needs to “warm up”, right?
This topic came up last week from a reader, Andy C., who has observed the long preparation routines of the tour players, and wonders why, if they need a couple of hours to be ready to play, how in the world the average recreational golfer thinks he or she can get away with no preparation at all. Specifically, Andy asked:
So, wondering if you have set of warm up routines you go thru prior to teeing up. I want to make sure I can maximize the 30 minutes I have prior my tee time, and hope that this will shave some strokes.Well, Andy, I have two approaches. One is for when I have allotted myself a half hour or so before my tee time, and the for when I’m pushed to get ready to tee off in just a few minutes.
Golf is important to me and my preference is to give myself a half hour before my tee time to get in the groove. After getting my shoes on, I’ll typically stop by the putting green to stroke putts for a few minutes. I’ll hit a dozen or so from 3-5 feet to get the positive feedback of the ball going into the hole. I always pick an easy putt for these. Then I’ll putt a 3-4 hole circuit around the green paying attention to speed and lag skill. Time elapsed: five minutes or so.
From there, I head to the range. When I get there, I use the golf cart as a stretching frame, and try to gently stretch out my rotators and large back muscles. And I’ll put my foot up on the cart and stretch the backs of my legs, and also rotate to stretch the inside and outside muscles around my hips. That only takes another 3-4 minutes, but in my opinion is the best pre-round thing you can do.
I always start with my lob wedge and I take about a dozen full back and forth swings to further limber up. I pay attention to a light grip. Then I progress into my warm up routine.
I start with a few short pitches of 5-10 yards to get my feel, then move on to half wedges and comfortable “full” wedge swings. I then move through the set, hitting 3-6 shots with a couple of short irons, middle irons, hybrid, 4-wood and then driver. I try to keep all warm up swings at about 80% and work on rhythm and timing. And I step away and set up to each shot like it was real, paying particular attention to set up and alignment.
When I’ve got the driver feeling good for the first hole, I go back to the lob wedge and hit about 5-6 more short chips and pitches so that it will be fresh when I miss my first green.
Then it’s off to the first tee.
The Short Version
But sometimes, you just don’t have that time, so here’s my “quick drill”. I’ve got less than ten minutes to my tee time and I need to get ready, so here’s what I do.
1. Stretch before I do anything, that’s the most important thing.I hope that this serves you well, and I’d love to hear what you oob readers have to add to this.
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Once again, more wise words from our Wedge Guy. As a minimum, I use the quick drill, almost word for word. The stretching is vital, particularly back, shoulders and legs. Not all courses have practice facilities, but chipping and putting practice is permitted under the rules of golf, in the tee box while you wait to tee off (providing you don't impede another golfer or slow down play). The most important thing is to practice the 'easy' things to instill a sense of confidence for the upcoming round. As Terry mentioned, the positive feedback of holing putts.
You need to hit the first tee physically and mentally ready to play your best round ever. No guarantees, but these steps should help you to get there.
If I have the luxury of hitting balls on a range prior to my round, I always play the last few balls as if I'm playing the first couple holes on the course (providing I'm familiar with it). Driver or whatever-wood off a tee, iron shot to mimic my approach, and so on. I then feel very tuned in when I play those first couple holes and it sets a very positive approach to my round. Good stuff.
Tack on an hour to warm up to a 4 to 5 hour round as it is? Honey, have you seen my driver anywhere? I have no idea where it could have gone?
I do close to what WG suggests, except I start with the 8 iron and work up and leave the wedges for last becasue the wedge swing is a little different and I am trying to focus in accuracy, and I leave putting for the end because I like to tinker a bit with putting and it's always a worse result if I have to cut short the loosening up routine on the range than if I don't get enough putts in.
I read somewhere that it's better to start out hitting easy with a shorter club and gradually get into regular swing, which you can't do starting with a driver. Plus it helps with the stretching effect. I am always amazed at the number of people who step up cold at the range and start hitting driver.
As far as stretching goes, a few sets of lunges next to the 1st tee does wonders for your lower body & back. Only takes about a minute and helps check your balance too.
As always, good post.
I have a similar routine, though I start with chips/pitches (lower lofted wedges to higher ones), then full swing, followed by putts. I like putts to be the thing freshest on my mind before I tee off. I usually take about 45-60 minutes. A bit longer than most, but I've found taking less makes me feel rushed.
For putting warm-up, I like to play 'round-the-world ... imagine a 3-4 foot circle around a hole, take four balls and place them in 1/4 of that circle. Repeat until you've complete the circle. This helps me get confidence in my putting and a feel for breaks from all angles. Expand the circle to 6-8 feet and repeat. Then I try longer putts of 10+ feet to get my distance down. I always like to try one 35+ footer just in case.
All of this also depends on how good of a practice putting green a given course has. I've been to some courses where they are very small and this warm-up is not very practical.
streching is key. i dont have a range at my home courses so i usually just hit the practice green to get my feel down with chipping and putting. Then about 20 practice swings to get everything loose. I will tee up an empty tee and just try and brush the top with my driver so i feel confident that i will make solid contact.
I agree that stretching is important, however, I have read (and forgive me for not knowing the reference but it was in a reputable health journal) that static stretching (such as touching your toes) where you hold a position for a few seconds is actually detrimental prior to athletic activity. It does little to actually "warm up" the muscle and pre-fatigues the muscle so that you will see a decrease in strength sooner during the subsequent activity. In fact, the article goes on to say that doing this type of stretching FIRST can cause more injuries than it prevents. The proper type of stretching to actually "warm up" the muscles is motion based (slow swings, slightly weighted club, short jog, even jumping jacks). Static stretching should be done AFTER a workout when you are already warm in order to increase range of motion and flexibility.
I'm not trying to criticize the article, in fact I enjoy the Wedge Guy's stuff. Just passing on a little knowledge.
I will definitely stretch before my round, and take a few cuts at the practice green just to get an idea as to the speed of the greens for the day, and that's about it. I have a tough time getting into a groove at a range (I don't think I practice good habits there), but I have even given up practice swings before my shots. It started with my driver, where I would take a practice cut that would feel great and then I would muff my drive, so I scrapped the practice all together. I instantly started hitting more consistent drives. I'm starting to eliminate practice swings altogether from my game. It just seems that the "colder" I am going into a round, the better I play.
Balancing warm-up with over-exerting is necessary, right? Don't want to fatigue too soon - need enuf gas in the tank for 18. Even if you are fit it's possible to overdo it. I include mental strain in that too -- afterall, if we all had unlimited ability to focus our concentration, OOBGOLF would not exist (cuz us desk-jockeys would all be workin . . . not OOBing)
When they ask me at the pro shop if I want to purchase a bucket of balls, I always say "Does a professional Carpenter pick up a hammer and drive a bunch of nail in a board before starting to work?" Why would I want to waste my energy doing that? It's said in a joking manner. But it's the truth.
@sigmapete1 i read a similar article in Men's Health about 6 months ago... I usually try to do a few quick jumping jacks in the changing room. I do use static stretches to get loose though, not "warm", theres no way to stretch out those ligaments without actual stretching. Its tough at my home course the "range" or so they call it is only about a buck 50 so i get to about my 6i and then im hitting onto a fairway... I think putting is a must, how hard is to step onto the 1st green without knowing how she's gonna roll? Thats just silly
Actually, new research shows that stretching before an event doesn't really help. The studies showed that there were no less injuries to competititors who did the stretching than those who did not.
The quick warmup goes like this: 1) Stretch my back, hips, legs. (5 min) 2) Putt to get the feel of the green (5 min) 3) Chip a few if time allows (5 min) 4) Hit a handful of wiffle balls near the tee box (<5min). In approx 15 minutes, I can be pretty well ready to go. I have, of course, walked up to the tee box cold, stretched for 30 seconds, and hit the first drive - that's life sometimes.
Oh, one more thing: skip the cart and WALK the course! A couple of fairway strolls and if you weren't warm before, by the 3rd tee, you are.
Any chance I could ask you to post where you read that from? It's not that I think you're lying (please don't get me wrong), it's just that in every PE class I had, they threw that line at us that it would reduce injuries... but if it isn't true, I'd like to read about that!
Steve Munro says:
I'm with c5agalb - a round is a big enough time commitment as it is. Adding on time for a warm up is a step too far. One swing on the 1st and I'm away!
My warmup is actually the complete opposite! You need to warm the muscles with the lighest weight (club) in you bag as you would before you begin a weight workout. I start with the Driver-lightest club in the bag. Get the juices flowing, don't worry about hitting the ball straight - just get everything moving. Start slow, hit 150 yd drives, slow, easy tempo. Hit about 10 ball- the last 3 or so are full bore swings, then start working my way thru the bag, long iron/hybrid, 8-9 iron, wedge, putter is last (the heaviest). Starting off with the heaviest club (weight) is not smart in my opinion. Get those muscles warmed-up, focus on rythem and tempo, then have fun.
Tim Horan says:
I used to use two clubs, gently swung to warm up on the tee. However as I have progressively gone to lighter and lighter shafts in my driver/ 3 wood the transition from two clubs to the driver is non beneficial. I have now adopted the driver with the head cover slowly swung (so as not to throw off the cover) offers sufficient wind resistance to get the muscles warmed up without strain but there is no substitute for a bucket of balls with a sensibly/structured regime before teeing off when time permits.
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