My Pre-game Warm-up Routine
Ken Martin, PGA Professional Certified in Instruction and Golf Management, Golf Program Instructor,
Keiser University College of Golf
Preparation for a round of golf typically includes a warm-up session at the golf course’s practice facility. What follows is usual for me when time allows, not racing from the office to the first tee after work for a quick 9-holes! I like to arrive at least 90-minutes prior to start time to enjoy the club atmosphere and chat with friends and staff prior to settling into preparation.
I begin on the putting green, placing a dime on the green away from the cut practice holes and other golfers. I then complete a “compass drill”, i.e., putting one ball from each direction (N, E, S, and W) beginning at three feet from the dime and expanding outward in three-foot increments to twenty-one feet. This allows me to strike 28 putts from different distances and on different lines. My intent with each ball is to roll it at a pace that will allow it to stop on the dime. This is a great way to quiet any verbal noise in my mind and replace it with images and feelings for what I want the ball to do. When finished, I move to the short-game practice area.
I begin using a gap or pitching wedge and play ten to twelve chip shots at varied distances but within 10-yards from the green’s edge, intent on landing the ball two paces on the green. This drill further engages my imagination and refines my touch for distance control. Next, I move to a practice bunker to play ten to twelve shots to become familiar with the texture, depth, and firmness of the sand. I complete the short-game warm-up with ten to twelve pitch shots with my lofted (58-degree) sand wedge (SW) from outside the bunker, playing shots from varied distance and lie over the bunker. I then take a water or juice break and move on to the practice range.
At the range, I begin with the 58-degree SW and a 9 o’clock length swing. This length swing helps establish proper timing, as well as inform me for partial wedge shot distance control. My typical distance for that club and swing is 85 yards carry, so I know shorter distances will require a shorter swing, and longer distances a longer swing. After seven to ten shots, I will change to a 9-iron using a 10:30 length swing, which is just short of a full swing, and use 70% of maximum tempo. I maintain this tempo and swing length for five to seven shots, and then change to the 6-iron. I maintain the same tempo and swing length for the first five to seven swings, and then increase the swing length to full while maintaining the 70% tempo for three to five shots.
Up to this point, my awareness is on balance, tempo, and tension. More specifically, I release all tension in my shoulders and hands during the swing at 70% tempo that completes in a comfortably balanced finish position from where I watch the ball’s flight. Also up to this point, only general distance and direction for each shot are noted. I continue the process by hitting three to five shots with the 4-hybrid, and two to four shots with the driver. When I feel sufficiently loose and in sync, I return to the 9-iron and go through my full pre-shot routine – choosing a target, imagining ball flight, rehearsing the swing feeling for creating the flight, addressing the ball, and executing the shot.
I repeat the full pre-shot routine for two shots each with the 9-iron, 6-iron, 4-hybrid, and driver. Once the pre-shot routine session is complete, I imagine what full shots I will need for the opening three holes and execute those with full routine. For example, if the first hole requires a 3-wood tee shot leading to a 115 yard wedge shot, I will choose a target, execute full routine and shot with the 3-wood, then choose another target and execute full routine and shot with my 52 degree sand wedge. After “playing” the full shots for the first three holes, I return to the club I will be using on the first tee shot and execute two to three final swings, all with full routine.
My goal with each warm-up is to activate my imagination relating to golf shots and generate comfortable tension free tempo. I like to be in close proximity to the first tee 15-minutes prior to my starting time so there is never a sense of rushing or urgency. If there is a putting green nearby, I will roll a few putts from 15 or 20 feet to the edge of the green while I wait for the preceding group to play. Then I head to the tee ready to go!