Tag Archives: warm up

First Tee, Fast Start!

You get to your golf course early.  Hit a large bucket of balls, work on your chipping and pitching, then then putt for 20 minutes.  You’re fully warmed up, mentally comfortable and step to the first tee.  You then proceed to knock one out of bounds or cold top your tee shot.  Or worse yet, you hit the fairway and lay the sod over your approach shot.  What went wrong?  Why are you so out of kilter?  Has this ever happened to you?

A lot has been written about the first tee jitters, but this is more than combating nerves. It’s about conditioning your mind.  Most of last season, and early this year, I was plagued by these poor starts, but I’ve learned there are several tricks you can play on yourself to ease the transition from warm up to game time.

Don’t discount the need to warm-up physically, and you should experiment to learn how many swings you need.  When I was younger, I would often start my round just as the sun was coming up but without the benefit of any warm up.  I’d notice that it took about four holes until I had my golf senses fully activated and I was in rhythm.  Doing the math, I figured this came out to about 12-15 full swings.  Now, I’ll stretch, and hit a minimum of 15 balls (five sand wedges, five 7-irons, and five drivers) and that’s what I require to get loose.  Then, I’ll start work on the mental side by simulating play of the first two holes of the course using my full pre-shot routine.  I’ll sight targets with my range finder, check wind direction, pull the right club and hit.  In essence, I’m getting my brain into game mode from warm-up mode.  This is an important concept because most folks rake range ball after range ball when practicing or warming up.  When you rake, there’s little focus and no consequences.  Hit a bad shot and just pull another.  During the simulation, you pressure yourself to hit a good shot.  This is what most players struggle with on the first hole because their brains are in rake mode, not consequence mode.  Get to consequence mode and you’ll feel more relaxed.  You should feel like you played your course but reversed the nines.  You want to feel like you are hitting your tee shot on #1 with nine holes under your belt.

Next, I’ll move to the putting green and roll putts of various lengths for about five minutes.  Then I’ll take one ball and start playing holes.  The key is to make it hard on yourself.  Start with a 50-foot putt from the fringe.  Mark your ball, go through your full pre-shot routine on every putt and hole everything out.  Don’t worry if you three-putt because the goal here is not to score but to feel some pressure.  Make all the starting putts difficult.  Use big breakers, downhillers, and long uphill putts.  This is game mode.

Both the physical and mental warm-up are important.  Most courses have a practice putting green where you can do the majority of your work.  But some don’t have a driving range.  The next best thing to driving balls is hitting bunker shots.  It’s essentially a full swing and the impact of club into sand will jar your golf muscles and senses into order.  Hit 10 or 15 bunker shots and you’ll be close to warmed up.  With no bunker, try hitting pitch shots and then playing a short game of up-and-down.

The key is to trick your mind into thinking you are in game mode during warm-up.  These are the techniques I’ve successfully employed.  Give them a try and let me know if they work for you.

Play well!

Learning The Same Lesson Over and Over

Golfers, more than athletes of any sport need to be reminded of the old adage that says, “If you keep doing what you’ve done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve got.”  This takes the same form as “practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes permanent,” and today I relearned that lesson the hard way.

For some reason I periodically feel compelled to practice mechanics during my pre-round warm-up and I know you should never do this.  My guess is that today, I felt compelled to catch up from yesterday because I didn’t practice and subconsciously felt unprepared to play.  Or maybe it was the fact that I forgot to bring my golf shoes to the course and was going brain dead in general, but I know that your warm-up is designed to get your body and mind ready to play and you should avoid all mechanical preparation.  Last week, I had practiced the day before and felt prepared to play on game day.  During my pre-round warm-up, I was off kilter and searched successfully for a minor swing key to get me through the round.  This type of adjustment is okay but going out and deliberately working on mechanics is not.  Why do golfers do this?  I know I’m not alone here.

So, today, I hit the range for warm-ups determined to keep my arms and chest connected, and I put a head cover under my left armpit for a dozen swings or so to work that good solid feeling.  On or about the 8th hole, I started to pull the ball.  Struggling to recover as the pull became a pull hook, I managed to make the turn in 1-over 37, but was clearly starting to rearrange mental deck chairs.  Smothering nearly every shot, I bogeyed #10, lost two balls on #11 on my way to a snowman, and continued to fight the hook through the 16th hole.  Having already hit the proverbial iceberg, I finally realized standing on #17 tee that the head cover drill had pulled my hands too low on the back swing and I was attacking the ball from a swing path that was much too shallow and from the inside.  I made the adjustment but the damage had been done and 47 strokes later, I had my 84 and made my way to the parking lot humbled and exhausted.  The only thing worse than having a knock down drag out with your golf swing is doing it when you’re walking and it’s over 90 degrees and humid.

So I take some solace in the fact that I figured out what was going on with my swing, but was left to wonder why I periodically have to relearn the same hard lesson.  Has this ever happened to you and if so, same lesson or a different one?

Is your warm-up a coffee and a doughnut?

Ever go to a PGA tournament and watch the best players in the world warm-up?  I will park myself at the range for hours and marvel at the machine-like ball striking consistency of a Vijay Singh

Vijay warming up
Vijay warming up

or the effortless rhythm of a Fred Couples.  Vijay typically warms up with alignment sticks laid out all over the ground, umbrellas stuck in the turf to guide his swing plane, head covers under his armpits, and training aids sprinkled around his station at the ready.  You wonder how the guy gets ready to play with all the mechanical input.  We weekend players love to emulate our heroes on tour but you need to be very careful when it comes to copying their warm-ups.  These guys typically get to the course two hours before their round and condition their bodies and every aspect of their game before play.  We don’t have that luxury.  Usually we grab a coffee and a doughnut and do nothing, or throw on our shoes in the parking lot and rush to the first tee, or buy a bucket of range balls, pound 30 drivers and roll a few putts before heading out.  I’ve tried ’em all and none of them work.

Last year I thought I had this whipped when I tried a new warm-up routine and followed it up with a great round, but soon discovered the routine wasn’t extensible enough to support different practice facilities and different amounts of time.  I can’t count the number of times that I’ve either played with no warm-up or tried to warm-up sensibly and still stumbled out of the blocks.  How frustrating is it when you always need to play three holes to fully engage the golf circuits?

In 2013 I’m determined to find the perfect warm-up routine that will:

1)  put me in the best frame of mind

2)  put me in the best physical condition

3)  have me looking good doing it (got to avoid the Miguel Angel Jimenez  10-200 scenario.)

So coming soon are two warm-up routines constructed from a combination of exercises out of my workout regimen, and from trial and error at the golf course.  Look for the:

A)  Economy warm-up (10 minutes)

B)  Business Class warm-up (30-60 minutes)

Send me your ideas to help move this along and I’ll try the good ones.  Thanks!

Found the perfect warm-up routine!

I’ve been experimenting with several warm-up techniques this season and have finally hit on one that fully prepares me to play.    Several routines have left me fidgety and uncomfortable for the first few holes until my natural rhythm takes over, and usually with some bad scores on the card.  My goal is to feel as comfortable and confident on the first tee as I am after playing five holes.  Here we go:

Start by getting to the course early.  Normally, I’ll arrive 50-60 minutes before my tee time but have recently found that an additional 15 minutes is required to eliminate any feeling of being rushed.  I’ll start the warm up on the driving range by slowly swinging my 4-iron with a weighted doughnut around the hosel.  I’ll deliberately hold the finish position on each swing to ensure I’m fully rotated, weight is distributed correctly on my forward foot, and my rotational muscles have been fully stretched.  I’ll take about 15 of these.  Next I’ll hit about 15 balls off a tee with my pitching wedge.  I use the tee to promote good contact and to build confidence.  Next I’ll hit about half a dozen 7-irons, again off a tee to build more confidence.  Next, I’ll move to driver and hit half a dozen.  If I feel really good, I’ll try to shape a few because drawing or fading the ball on command is a tremendous confidence boost, but only try this if you understand how to shape your shots.  The warm up is for getting loose and building confidence, NOT for experimenting with new moves or getting overly mechanical.  Finally I’ll wrap up with about 10 shots off the turf with my 56 degree wedge.  On every shot, I’ll alter the target because I don’t want to get robotic and do want to get my mind in game mode.  I find it helps to pause between shots and maybe chat up a friend or fellow competitor, just to remove any focus on yourself and set your mind in a relaxed state.

Next I’ll move to the short game area (hopefully you’ll have one), and hit some easy chips off good lies to a flag that has ample room to run out.  Very important to hit easy shots because you want to see the ball getting close (or in) to build confidence.  Chip for about 5-10 minutes.  Then take a few pitch shots from good lies to easily accessible holes, again to build confidence.  See a pattern developing here?  Finally wrap up with some lag putts of 10-20 feet.  You want to see the ball get close or go in and not end up in three putt range.  Finish up by making half a dozen very short putts of two feet or less, just to make sure you make them all.  It’s VERY important to see the ball go in the hole.

Want to be prepared for success on the first tee?  Try this routine.  Let me know how it goes and good luck!

Ten minutes from parking lot to the tee – help!

It’s happened to every one of us, so how do you get an emergency warm-up in a rush situation?  Two keys to focus on:  prepare your body to make an athletic move and get a feel for how the course will play.  You’ll need to divide your prep time into two five-minute halves.

First half:  grab a club and hold it by both ends out in front of you.  Do 10 full squats, getting as low as you can, and raise the club as high over your head with each squat, returning it to its starting position as you raise up.  This will loosen the shoulders, hips, knees, and get your heart pumping.  Next, while still holding both ends of the club in front of you, tilt slightly from the waist and turn your upper body 90 degrees to the right and left without moving your legs.  The resistance of your lower body will provide an excellent rotational stretch.  Do 15 in each direction.

Second half:  spend the time hitting low running chips on the practice green; the longer the chip the better.  This will offer the opportunity to take your full swing grip, make a small golf swing, get the ball rolling to judge green speed, and focus on a target.  All the things required to be successful on the course.  Finish up by hitting six straight three-foot putts into a hole to build confidence and put you in a “make it” frame of mind.

Ready to go, hit ’em straight!