Now we all know that we have to warm-up if we are playing football or tennis or we’re going for a run. If we don’t, we run the risk of picking up a silly and unnecessary injury. But golf? Don’t be daft, hitting a ball round a field and walking after it. Wrong! We need to warm up in a different way for golf, but we must avoid getting out of the car and going straight to the first tee without stopping to prepare properly.
Or think about it another way. We may not have played all winter in the run-up to Christmas and then in the cold weeks after it. We may have had an enforced break from golf because of injury or health issues and have not picked up a club for a prolonged period of time. Or even one of our New Year’s resolutions was to take up golf for the very first time or return to it after a long period away. In all those scenarios, swinging a golf club will probably feel very alien the first time we do it and it will require muscles that may have gone dormant for a while.
Unfortunately, most of us reading this blog have probably gone beyond the age where we can just roll out of bed and everything feels free and loose. That means a warm-up for hitting balls at the driving range or on the golf course is essential. And here are some valuable tips to get the most out of our pre-round warm-up. How often when we play does it feel like it takes half-a-dozen holes or so to get going? The answer is probably too often, and it’s usually because we have not done any kind of warm-up before stepping on to the first tee. We need to get our body, our game and our mind ‘warmed-up’, and ready to play.
Warming up before playing golf
Warm up our body:
This focuses on a series of quick, simple exercises that can be done to get the blood flowing and remove any stiffness in our joints.
For a good golf swing, we need to get our hips moving, so that’s where we should start. Take a club out of the bag and hold it horizontally out in front of us about chest height. We can use that for control as we aim to rotate our hips 90 degrees to the right and then 90 degrees to the left. This allows us to get turning like we would do in a golf swing. Aim to do between five and ten of these rotations on each side.
The next thing we need to do is get our body moving. Put ourselves in the position we would take for a golf swing with our feet apart and our bottom sticking out. Now we want to perform a windmill-like movement with our arms so we swing them one way as we would do with a club in our hands and then back the other way. This should get the shoulders and the main part of our body flexing nicely as well as warming us up. There should not be too much movement below the beltline as it is important to maintain good posture. Again, aim for between five to ten of these exercises.
The third of these gentle warm-up exercises is arm rotations. First of all, it’s time for vertical arm swings, swinging our arms straight up from down by our sides to up past our ears if possible. Do five of those and then change to horizontal arm swings. For these, we need to get our arms out and across our bodies. With this, our left-hand swings across and touches just under our right shoulder and our right hands swings across and touches just under the left shoulder. After five of these, our body should be starting to get warm.
Warm up our long game:
The easiest thing to do would be to take the driver out of the bag and hit a few shots with that straight away. No! Instead, pick our favourite club from anything between an eight-iron and a lob wedge. Without aiming at a specific target, just hit five nice, easy shots. The purpose is to get the body moving in a nice, relaxed way with a club that makes us feel comfortable.
Then move back to a mid-iron and do the same with that, hitting five nice, easy shots. Again, it is about being relaxed and getting the body warmer and more golf-ready. Finally, go for the woods. Now pick a target and aim for that with two or three shots, getting close to the approach we would have on the first tee (or whatever hole we first use a driver or three-wood on). The driver is the club that requires most physical exertion, so we want to give ourselves the maximum opportunity to be warmed up and ready to hit the type of shot we want.
Warm up our chipping:
Why do professionals spend so long practicing their short games? Because they know it can make or break a round. No golfer expects to hit every green in regulation during 18 holes, so chipping will always be a factor. So let’s make sure that it is part of our warm-up.
Head to the chipping green and decide to practice a chip that is no more than ten yards from the hole. It does not need to be a difficult chip, as it is about building up rhythm. Have ten shots at the target, looking to hit the ball as close as possible. We may not hole any, but that does not matter. We want to get a feel for how the ground is for chipping when we are out on the course. There is nothing worse than duffing a chip because we don’t realise how wet or soft the ground is because we have not warmed up.
Warm up our putter:
In a normal round, around 40% of our shots come on the putting green. We take more shots with a putter than any other club so it’s imperative that we warm up with it. The keys to good putting are feel and confidence. We want to see the ball going in the hole, so a quick warm-up on the putting green should be to do five to ten putts from three feet. Aim to confidently roll them in. When we have successfully holed them all, move back to around six to eight feet. Take two or three efforts from this distance as by now you should have a feel for the speed and line of the green. Then find a hole over 20 feet away and take two or three putts and try to get them as close as possible. This should mean that we will have faced most types of putts when we get to our balls on the first and second greens and we won’t be tackling the putts ‘cold’.
Warm up our mind:
It’s easily forgotten, but the mind is so, so important in golf. We need to be mentally ready if we want to play a good round of golf. A simple way of doing that is while we are getting our balls and tees ready to focus in our heads on what we are about to do.
What is our thought for the day that we want to keep revisiting? It could be good tempo in our swing, good rotation of hips or shoulders, how to play certain holes in terms of club selection. What we must not do is overload our mind, but keep one particular idea prominent. That way we can keep going back to it when we are on the golf course, making sure we are putting it into practice.
Now we have done all these warm-ups, we are ready for the golf course. Knowing golf the way we do, it is no guarantee that we are going to play lights out golf. But it is about giving ourselves a proper chance to succeed rather an excuse to fail.
About the Author
Adam Lanigan - Golf Writer
Adam is a freelance news and sports journalist who has written for the BBC, The Sunday Post, The I, The Times, The Telegraph and more. He has been writing about golf for nearly two decades and has covered 13 Open Championships and two Ryder Cups. Not only does Adam cover golf, but he has played golf for as long as he can remember. He was a member at Northenden Golf Club for around 25 years until his children arrived and his last official handicap was 11, although on any given day his form fluctuates anywhere between eight and 18.