Pre-Round Warmup: Don't get Stuck Practicing!

By: Scott Hogan, PGA Professional

From 2010 to April 2013 I've had the privilege to work in the winter golf mecca of Arizona during the winter months.  The times when all the “snowbirds” have grown tired of being cooped up inside and watching the PGA Tour on the Golf Channel keeps fueling their desire to get out and tee it up.  Every day would bring a new group that has traveled to play a few rounds and so often they arrive early to head out to the range well over an hour before to “practice” and try to find their golf swing.

This is just one example of the type of player I see head to the practice tee before a round with the incorrect mentality of how there are going to get ready to play.  When you head to the practice tee to warmup before a round you should be remember to do exactly that.  It is too late to try and make any adjustments to your swing that would have any chance of working for you on the golf course, and by focusing on swing mechanics you will miss the answer to the most important question, what is my golf ball doing today?

The focus of the driving range before a round, especially a tournament round should be to figure out how our body feels for that particular day and what it can and can't make the golf ball do.  The time spent before heading to the first tee on full swings should be spent picking a variety of targets and hitting a variety of shots to those targets, and then evaluating which ones seem to be working and which ones we are not going to rely on today. 

The first thing that my students will learn when the begin taking lessons is the relationship the club face has with the golf ball and how they work together to make the ball achieve certain flights.  When my students head to the range before a round (not just competitive rounds), the first thing they will do is put down an alignment aid to give them a reference point on where they are aiming.  Then when they hit golf balls, they will focus on what the golf ball is doing relative to this reference point they created.  If they make 10 swings and see they are consistently pulling the ball 10 yards with the driver, they will take this knowledge to the first tee and make adjustments to their strategy for the day. 

Too often, I see people who consistently hit a shot on the range, go to the first tee and aim right down the middle  and try to “correct” the problem.  Unfortunately, their results are less than ideal and in Arizona with house and desert lined fairways, that usually means another golf ball.  If you are hitting 10 yard pulls on the range consistently, then adjust your aim to aim down the right side so your pull won't put you in trouble and leave you feeling foolish that you ignored all the signs that were right in front of you.  Save the time to practice and improve your swing for after the round.

Next time you go to tee it up and hit the range beforehand, leave all the swing mechanics at home and focus on what your natural swing for the day is producing.  You'll be surprised at how much your scores will improve.

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