Proper warmup is essential for peak performance in any sport. If you attend any professional sporting event you always see athletes going through a pre-game warmup, and pro golfers are no different. By the time tour professionals step to the first tee, they are fully prepared to make their best swings from the opening tee shot.
Most amateurs, however, get "warmed up" by dashing from their cars to the pro shop to check in, then running to the first tee, all within five minutes or so. Usually this is followed by unsteady play for the first five holes and ends up with another disappointing round. In my opinion, with this style of warmup, golfers are making bogies before they ever step on the course. To avoid this syndrome I recommend the following routine:
• Get to the course early. You need enough time to take care of your business in the golf shop, use the restroom, change your shoes, etc. It is important that you do not feel rushed, so allow time to complete this entire warmup period at a leisurely pace. Remember, your warmup routine sets the tempo for the day, so move slowly and relax. I recommend that you arrive at the course a minimum of one hour before your tee time.
• Begin warming up on the putting green. Putting is 43-percent of golf and the putting stroke is the slowest and smoothest of all strokes in golf. By spending time warming up on the green first, you will not only be prepared for the speed of the greens but you will also be starting the day with smooth, deliberate tempo. It makes no sense to visit the driving range first and get stretched out and limbered up for the opening drive, then stand for 15 minutes nearly motionless on the putting green.
Spend the first five minutes putting to a tee or a coin from twenty, thirty and forty feet and from a variety of angles. Watch the ball and pay attention to how much the ball rolls. Speed control is critical in putting and time spent judging pace will pay off on the course. Many students often complain that the greens on the golf course are not the same as the practice greens. The only difference between the two is the pressure to perform. The practice green is cut at the same height with the same mower and is usually constructed in the same manner as the greens on the course. The putts you roll on the course count and the pressure to perform makes the greens seem different.
You should then spend another five minutes or so rolling putts to a tee or coin from ten feet in to three feet. Do not putt at the cup. You never want to see the ball miss the hole, so just use a tee or coin. Also, if you roll putts at a small target like a tee or coin, the hole will seem huge and, therefore, your confidence level will be high. Confidence is vital to good putting.
Finally, spend a few minutes hitting 25 six-inch putts that run straight uphill. You will make all 25 in a row and this will set you up with the perfect image: the ball rolling in the hole every time.
• Spend 10 minutes hitting chips around the green with a tee as a target. To determine how much the ball will roll you must test the firmness of the greens. On hard greens the ball tends to roll more than on soft greens. Also, different types of rough make the ball react differently when the ball hits the green. Spending time around the green will give you some ideas that will help you choose the best greenside shots during the round, and where to land the ball on the putting surface.
• Begin your full swing warmup with stretching. Stretching can improve your range of motion by up to 17-percent. It also helps you avoid injury and it helps relieve chronic joint pain
• Walk slowly to the practice tee and begin your full swing warmup with short wedge shots. You should use a short tee for all your shots on the range. This will help you contact the ball crisply, which will breed confidence. Beginning with wedge shots also helps you start your routine with smooth tempo and rhythm.
After hitting 10 wedges or so, begin working from your short irons up to the long irons and woods. Make each swing rhythmic and swing with complete balance control. Your last few full swings should be with the club you intend to use on the first tee, usually a 3- or 5-wood. Save the last five balls for some smooth, short wedge shots, or make full, slow-motion swings that only go 50 to 100 yards with your driver (the Fred Couples Drill). This will help you reinforce the controlled rhythm and balance that you will use on the course.
• Time your routine so that at its completion, you can stroll to the first tee just in time for your group’s assigned time. You never want to stand around for more than a few minutes after warmup. If there is a delay, stand to the side of the tee and make slow swings and stretch to stay loose.