Jul 062009

As a coach, I continually stress the need for a good warm-up before beginning a round with my players.  I remind them that loosening their muscles, getting a feel for the golf ball and course, and focusing themselves mentally, is crucial to a successful round and good score.Frequently, however, there is neither time nor adequate facilities for a thorough warm-up, so an abbreviated routine is needed to prepare to the greatest extent possible for success on the course.  This is especially true during high school golf matches, where time in particular, is the enemy of a satisfactory warm-up.

First though, if facilities and time are available, here is the sequence that I prefer my players, (and any others) take.  I have them begin by simply swinging a few of their irons – the 5 and 6 irons usually – together to give them some weight and loosen their muscles.  This needs to be done only for a few minutes. 

Next, I have them begin to hit balls.  Here I prefer that they begin with a 7 or 8 iron – which they, like all players – tend to hit well.  The reason for this is two-fold and simple.  One, they tend to hit these clubs better than most and with consistently, giving them solid contact and positive swing thoughts, and two, they will use these clubs many times during the average round, so they are working a part of their game that is important to their overall success. 

From this point I have them work down to the wedges and then up through the rest of their clubs – finishing this phase of warm-up with their driver.  I have always felt it important to de-emphasize the driver and other woods, not because they are unimportant, but rather due to the fact that they use other clubs much more and need to get positive feelings with these.  This accomplished, the driver usually goes just fine.

Next, we work on the short game.  If available, I like my players to chip for a few minutes, again to get a feel for this part of their game and how the local greens react to various shots from close range.  In a perfect world, a practice sand trap is also available, allowing players time to get a feel for this type of hazard.  Finally, I have them finish on the practice green, taking at least 10 minutes to get their putting stroke and a feel for the local greens – which we all know are different at every course. 

As with the driving range, I prefer the players begin hitting putts from close range – two to three feet – to get a positive thoughts more than anything.  There is nothing like “draining” a few short putts to build one’s confidence.  From this distance, I then have them work their way further and further from the cup, practicing both straight and putts with break in the process.  As with all phases of the warm-up, successful strokes and positive swing thoughts are the goal, not one or two “great” shots.  A routine such as these more often than not translates into success on the course itself.

When adequate practice facilities or time are not available, which they frequently aren’t, I have my players complete a reduced version of the above.  They begin by simply loosening their muscles by swing a few clubs together and doing some basic stretching exercises for their shoulders and backs.  The goal here is to begin to get a feel for their full swing, without actually hitting any balls beforehand. 

Next, I have them move immediately to the practice green and putt in the manner described above.  Statistically putting is nearly half the shots your average player will take during the course of a round, so it is vital that they have positive thoughts before beginning their round.  Comfort on the greens, and a little success early on, can lead to a very good score, even though a proper warm-up was not possible. 

Finally, I have my players finish with a few chip and pitch shots.  Here my purpose is two-fold: first, to get a feel for the greens in this part of the game, and second and more importantly, to simply get a feel for the ball on the club prior to hitting their first drive of the day.

Regardless of whether or not a proper warm-up is possible, the key to any successful round of golf is to begin on a positive note.  Over the years, I have found my players achieve success by following either routine outlined above, resulting not only in good scores, but an enjoyment of this great game in the process.  Nothing breeds happiness like success, and following these suggestions can help any golfer realize both.