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Start scoring from the first tee The value of a warm-up
By Steven Adams, Blackburn Golf Advisory Board Member

Does this sound familiar: Arrive at the golf course – get the golf clubs out of the car (or locker) - meet playing partners on the first tee – pull out your driver and ball - have a few swings until its your turn at the tee. For most recreational golfers this constitutes a warm-up. Admittedly most golf clubs do not have a fully equipped gym facility or instructors on hand to prescribe appropriate exercises. In many circles the perception still remains that golf is not a physically demanding sport, and therefore a warm-up is not something they would contemplate when preparing to play what is considered a purely social game. Certainly, many do not see the golf swing as a movement that presents any injury risk. Perhaps then, it is not surprising that many golfers do not begin their serious scoring until the 4th or 5th hole in their round. If recreational golfers were more aware of the fact that a good warm-up may be performed without the need for specialized gym equipment, and possibly worth 1 or 2 shots in those opening holes, how many would change their current practices?

Before spending time performing a warm-up, it is important to know exactly what you are aiming to achieve. Essentially the warm-up has two main purposes: firstly, to prepare the body for golf performance (whether practicing or competing), and secondly, to reduce injury risk. A warm up will also provide mental clarity and improved concentration – a must for those hoping to lower their scores.

The physiology behind warming up is quite straightforward. Many of the smaller blood vessels that supply muscle are constricted while at rest. Light physical activity in the minutes leading up to an event will increase muscle temperature and dilate these blood vessels, increasing blood flow and oxygen delivery. A good warm-up will reduce muscle stiffness and facilitate motor unit recruitment, allowing for an increased speed of muscle contraction and relaxation. This provides greater economy of movement and an increase in the muscle forces produced, with the possible advantage of longer driving distances and more consistent shot placement. Warming up will also activate the body’s sweat mechanism earlier so that an individual is able to cool effectively and help prevent overheating early in the round.

An effective golf warm-up should follow a few basic steps:

A. General continuous activity

This involves a continuous activity that is primarily aimed at bringing about the physiological changes previously listed. This part of the warm up should last about 5 minutes, however, the presence of a light sweat is a very good indicator of sufficient increase in muscle temperature. Suitable activities include:

  • A brisk walk with playing partners. Take your favourite club to hold and swing as you walk.
  • A light jog.
  • Jumping rope. This is an easy item to carry in the golf bag. Vary the activity by jumping forwards and backwards, from side to side, or alternate legs.
  • Bench step-ups. Select a bench (if available) that is no higher than your knees. Walking up and down flights of stairs provide a good substitute for step-ups if no bench is available.

B. Flexibility exercises

Flexibility exercises must always be performed after a light, continuous exercise. Stretching cold muscles will inevitably lead to discomfort, muscle strains or even more serious injury. The stretching performed before play should be dynamic in nature, avoiding static stretches that are held for prolonged periods.

Dynamic stretching involves moving a joint quickly through its full range of movement. It is an ideal method of preparation for a sport that relies so heavily on explosive movements. An added benefit of dynamic stretching is that the exercises require more energy to perform and therefore helps maintain muscle temperature and further reduce muscle stiffness.

Leg swings forwards and backwards

  • Stand using a wall or golf bag as support. Look forward and stand tall.
  • Begin with legs slightly bent at the knees.
  • Swing the leg closest to the wall or golf bag forwards and backwards.
  • Try to keep the pelvis neutral and prevent it rocking forwards and backwards.
  • Begin with small swings and increase range of motion gradually.
  • Perform between 5-10 swings each leg.
  • Avoid uncontrolled, jerky movements.

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Leg swings across the body

  • Stand using a wall or golf bag as support. Face the wall or golf bag and stand tall.
  • Swing the right leg across the body midline and in front of the left leg.
  • Swing from one side to the other.
  • Begin with small swings and increase range of motion gradually.
  • When finished, perform the swings with the left leg.
  • Perform between 5-10 swings each leg.

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Sharpened Rombergs Position with Rotation

  • Stand tall on a level surface with feet aligned in a tandem heel-to-toe position. Start with the right foot forward and left foot behind.
  • Rest the golf club across the top of the chest and shoulders.
  • Cross arms over the chest, with the open palm of the hand falling on opposite shoulders and thumbs holding the golf club in position.
  • Rotate from left to right while looking forward. Try to maintain balance.
  • Perform 10 rotations. Repeat with the left foot forward and right foot behind.
  • If this is too difficult, maintain the heel-to-toe position with feet at hip width to provide a larger base of support.

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C. Whole body exercises

Prone holds with alternate leg raise

  • Assume a prone position while supporting body weight on the elbows and toes. To make the exercise more challenging support the body on hands and toes (push-up position).
  • Feet and elbows are at shoulder width. The body is held in a relatively straight position from the ankles through to the crown on the head.
  • Raise the left leg approximately 1 foot in height then lower.
  • Repeat immediately with the right leg.
  • Perform 10 alternate leg raises.

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  • Stand tall with feet shoulder width apart.
  • Rest the golf club across the top of the chest and shoulders.
  • Cross arms over the chest, with the open palm of the hand falling on opposite shoulders and thumbs holding the golf club in position.
  • Initiate the squat by moving hips back and bending the knees and hips to lower the body.
  • Lower the body until the thighs reach parallel to the ground. Do not squat lower.
  • Drive up leading with your hips. Do not bend the torso forward while rising.
  • Perform 10-15 squats.

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Walking lunges with rotation

  • Stand tall with feet together.
  • Rest the golf club across the top of the chest and shoulders.
  • Cross arms over the chest, with the open palm of the hand falling on opposite shoulders and thumbs holding the golf club in position.
  • Step forward with your right leg and lunge until the right thigh is parallel to the ground. The left knee should almost be in contact with the ground.
  • As you lunge rotate the torso to the right
  • Bring the left foot forward next to the right foot, standing tall again with feet together.
  • Repeat with the left leg stepping forward and rotation of the torso to the left.
  • Perform 4-5 lunges each side.

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Tennis ball throw
Gentle throwing of a tennis ball is a great way to complete the warm up before hitting golf balls. It allows you to rehearse the transfer of momentum from the larger body parts (legs, hips and torso) to the smaller body parts (shoulder, upper arm, forearm, hand) then finally the ball. Like a ball throw the golf swing relies on a similar transfer of momentum between body segments, the golf club and ball.

  • Stand side on to the target.
  • Gently throw the tennis ball to your partner, and then catch the return throw.
  • Perform 15-20 throws.

By this stage the muscles are warm, supple and ready to perform the golf swing repeatedly. If a practice range is available, start by hitting balls with wedges, then gradually progress through most of the clubs in the golf bag. With no range available you are best to perform a number of practice swings that gradually increase in intensity before teeing off.

Choosing an appropriate warm up is a very individual process that comes with experimentation and experience. Try the warm up within this article, before progressively modifying the type of exercises performed to arrive at one that best works for you. As a simple guideline, keep the warm up at approximately 10 minutes duration in the beginning so there is significantly less chance of any muscle fatigue once play begins. Arrive at the golf course a little earlier and make the warm-up part of your normal routine. It is the best way to start your scoring from the first tee.

Greystone Golf & Country Club


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