Trouble getting loose before a round? Try a dip in the hot tub
Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com file photo
Cool Michigan mornings bring on the greatest challenge when trying to warm up the body. Nobody likes to start the round on a Par 3 over water that’s all carry. Primarily, this is because we haven't warmed up yet, found our rhythm for the day. When the muscles are on the stiff side, that begins to play games with the mind and can chip away at a golfer’s confidence.
Nobody has more confidence going to the first tee than Tiger Woods regardless of the day and conditions. He has been up since 4:30 a.m. in the morning working out and practicing before 90 percent of the guys on tour even roll out of bed. True, it’s highly unlikely we will match his routine for a Saturday morning round with the gang, but there are a few tricks to use to help prepare us for those cool morning tee times when bragging rights are on the line.
Fellow Michigander Tom Gillis taught me the hot tub trick a few years back while we were playing the eProfessional Golf Tour together. There It was a frost delay in the morning and I was in my car with the heat cranked trying to get as warm as possible before the round. It was 37 outside and the 30 miles per hour winds weren’t helping. It feel like an ice box.Tom shows up to roll a few practice putts and actually starts taking layers off. As I walked over, he just started laughing seeing the look on my face of confusion as to how on earth he was staying warm. Tom had already rode the spin bike for 30 minutes, sat in the hot tub for five and taken a warm shower before arriving at the course.
Wouldn't you know it, Tom won that week en route to the PGA Tour.
When you get to the course in the morning to hit a few balls, the goal is not hit them perfect or with 100 percent effort right away. I recommend starting with a wedge and finishing in the middle irons .
The goal is to feel loose, not to find the perfect swing five minutes before getting to the tee. By not trying to find your game on the range and concentrating on getting loose and finding a rhythm, it relieves the mind of potential anxiety. Don’t worry about how you hit the shot, good or bad, just a focus on warming up.
If you can't find a hot tub or don't have the time to work out before the round, when you get the course, try these steps for your warm up session.
- Warm up with pitch shots while properly alligned: If you look at professionals on the driving range before a round, you will see that almost all of them start their warm-up by hitting pitch shots with a sand wedge or pitching wedge. This lets your muscles warm up slowly, and helps you get your swing into a nice flowing rhythm. Always warm up with a club on the ground parallel to the target to ensure that you set up square every time. It’s better to hit 25 balls from a perfect set-up than 200 from a faulty position. The pitch is among the shots least practiced by amateurs, but one of the most commonly played in a round of golf.
- Practice body rotations: A good way to start warming up is to practice the body rotation. Hold a club across your shoulders and stand upright. Start rotating the club, along with your shoulders and hips, backwards and forwards around your spinal axis and in a horizontal plane, making sure your body follows through until you face forward. Once forward, lean from your hips, take your set-up position and continue to turn around your spinal axis to practice the correct body rotation for your swing. If you feel your hands are not releasing the club enough to allow the head to pass freely through the ball, take your grip and then hold the club horizontally in front of your body. Start to swing the club around you, backwards and forwards, with a relaxed rotation of your hands and body.
- Practice half swings: Once you have practiced your body rotation, take a pitch or sand wedge and hit 5-10 half swings. Then play five balls with alternate numbered irons (for example say 9- , 7-, and 5-irons) before moving on to hybrids and fairway woods, then take out the driver. Concentrate on swinging the ball away rather than hitting it.
- Finish with more pitches: Finally, you can return to the pitching wedge or sand wedge to finish off with a few more pitch shots and reinforce that relaxed, flowing motion.
For your next round of golf with your buddies or in preparation for upcoming competition, use this routine to prepare you for the day.
Contact a local golf professional and have them help you develop a warm up session tailored to your needs before rounds of golf.
Kyle Dobbs is a former professional and University of Michigan golfer. He grew up in Ann Arbor and won the individual Big Ten title for the University of Michigan men’s golf team his senior year in 1997. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.