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Practice vs. warm up

I always start a lesson by asking students, “did you get a chance to practice this week?”  Almost always, the answer is either “no,” or “yeah, I hit a bucket of balls before I played last weekend.”

Hitting a bucket of balls before you play, while helpful, does not qualify as practice, in my opinion.  So what’s the difference between warming up for a round, and practicing?

Warming up means exactly that — getting your muscles warm (hopefully) before you take a full-speed swing.  I am always amazed when people walk up to the first tee, and after maybe one or two practice swings, they unleash a full-speed swing with a driver.  I don’t know about you, but I need to get my body moving more gently before taking a good rip off the first tee.

Here is what I suggest as a warmup routine:

1)  Move

2)  Stretch

3)  Chip

4)  Swing

5)  Putt

6)  Meditate (no, I’m not kidding…)

This stuff doesn’t have to take long.  First, move.  Jog in place for 30 seconds.  Lift your arms over your head.  Rotate your arms 360 degrees to loosen your shoulders.  Pick up your knee and touch it to the opposite elbow.  Repeat in the other direction.  There, you are moving.

Second, stretch.  Hold a club with both hands over your head.  Bend left.  Bend right.  Bend over and touch your toes.  Spread your feet out — lean left, lean right.  Hold the club in both hands directly in front of your chest, shaft parallel to the ground.  Turn right then left.  Okay, you are stretched.

Third, chip.  You can do this on the driving range with the first five balls in your small bucket.  Please, please, please don’t make your first swing a full swing.  Start small, make cean contact, get your confidence up.

Fourth, swing.  Let me be clear here:  when you hit balls before you play, you are not practicing what you learned in your last lesson.  You are looking to see WHAT GAME YOU HAVE WITH YOU TODAY.  You know the expression, some days you got it, some days you don’t?  Golf epitomizes that, and you should just concede that the golf Gods like it that way.  Some days, in spite of all your best intention to play a draw, all you can do is fade the ball.  So fade the ball.  Don’t fight it — play the game you have on that day.

Fifth, putt.  Again, the purpose here is not to practice putting.  It is to check the speeed of the greens for the day.  A couple three footers, a couple ten footers and a couple of thirty footers should tell you what you need to know.

Finally, mediate.  Not the cross-your-legs and say “om” kind of meditation, though that is great for golf.  Just a couple of minutes to quiet your mind, picture your first tee shot, and get yourself in the moment to enjoy the day.  It’s a game, remember????

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