For most golfers, it’s very exciting to get to the course before your round. You’ve spent all week working, and now it’s time to do what you’ve been thinking about since Monday.
However long you have before you tee off, there are several things you can do to give yourself a better chance of performing well and preventing injury. In this article, I’ll go over a few key concepts that I believe are crucial to a successful warmup session. I also want to help you avoid a very common trap that can affect us all.
The Number One Goal
The main thing you want to accomplish before any round is getting your body ready to golf.
If you don’t have time to hit balls, you should consider a routine that includes some kind of dynamic stretching. You need to signal to your body that it’s about to do something physical, which will help prevent injury and get your body loose enough to swing correctly. There are plenty of resources on this topic. Two that I would recommend are Fit For Golf and 18Strong. Even if you have as little as 5-10 minutes, you can do something meaningful.
As I get older, I’ve learned this the hard way. Last year I rushed to the range to quickly hit a few balls in the morning cold. I pulled a neck muscle hitting my driver, which created a nagging injury that lingered for about eight weeks. Had I taken the time to warm my body up properly, I would likely have avoided the injury. I’m sure many of you have similar stories.
If You Can Hit Balls
If you are going to hit balls before your round, I still think you should consider warming up beforehand, but there are a few important points I’d like to get across.
First and foremost, this is not a time to practice or work on your swing. It’s doubtful you are going to figure something out that will have a meaningful impact on your round, so don’t put that kind of pressure on yourself.
Secondly, you should have some kind of routine that you can repeat. When I hit balls, my primary goal is to establish my feel. I’ll start by hitting wedge shots between 30-70 yards. I view this as the most critical part of my process because if I can get those distances locked in it usually translates well to my full swing. Depending on how much time I have, I will work my way through the bag with several irons, and eventually, get to the driver. I also want to spend some time on the putting green to help lock in the speed of the greens. If there is a short game facility, I’ll also hit some chips and pitches.
You don’t have to do precisely the same thing, but if you do have anywhere between 15-45 minutes before you tee off, I find it helps to go through a repeatable process. Granted, you don’t have to have the same intensity as a PGA Tour player because you’re not facing that kind of pressure. Your goal is to get yourself comfortable and ready to play.
The Big Trap
The main reason I wanted to write this article is to help you all avoid a common trap that I have fallen into, and I know most of you have as well.
If you are hitting golf balls, do not use it as a gauge of how well you will perform. Over the years, I have found very little predictive value of how well, or poorly, I strike the ball before a round.
There have been plenty of times where I have had awful warmup sessions and ended up playing very well. Most notably was my range session before my first U.S. Open qualifier, where I started shanking almost every shot – but I ended up having one of my best iron performances of the year. I’ve been around plenty of golfers (myself included) who have declared their rounds over before they even begin because of a poor range session beforehand. The last thing you want to do is approach the first tee with a negative attitude.
On the flip side, if you show up to the practice tee and are striking it very well, that can also create an issue. We all know what happened to Icarus when he flew too close to the sun. I can think of many days where my range session was stellar, only to lose my swing confidence in the first several holes. There’s nothing wrong with going into your round with a positive mindset. Don’t go overboard, though!
Wrapping It Up
Before you play golf, your number one goal should be to get your body ready. I know it might not be fun, but I would put more emphasis on a warmup/stretching routine than hitting golf balls. There are so many golfers who suffer injuries that can last months because their bodies were not ready to swing a club.
If you can hit balls, I think it makes sense to view it as part of the process of getting your body ready. Develop a routine that you can go through each time. Remember, it’s not a practice session or a time to start working on your swing.
Most importantly, don’t declare your day over, or a success, based on the quality of your ball striking. Try not to worry about what happened on the range when you’re on the first tee.