Routines in sports are as common as the rising and setting of the sun. Some routines are normal and simple while others border on the obessive. From football and baseball players to cyclists and race car drivers, these athletes have developed very specific routines that must be completed prior to any athletic endeavor. Golfers should be no different. A specific routines helps get the golfer in the right mindset in preparation for the day’s play. Here are a few bits of wisdom from a coach that has seen a fair amount of poor pre-round practice routines:
- Start your pre-round “warm-up” on the putting green. Use one ball (instead of multiple balls), and putt until the one ball is holed out (no “gimmes”). This makes you focus on the practice green like you need to focus on the golf course. Start with a very short putt (to gain confidence), and end with long putts where the primary focus is distance control. Again, putt until your ball is holed out before hitting the next long-distance putt. If you want bonus points, try to finish your practice with some 3, 6, and 10 foot “I-need-this-for-my-best-round” putts. Do your best Keegan Bradley (or Christina Kim) impression when you hole them, if you wish.
- After you have gained confidence in your putting, head over to the chipping and pitching area of the practice range. Hit a handful of “bump and run” chip shots with a lower-lofted club (7 iron), then hit a few pitches with a high-lofted club (like a sand wedge). Once you have a “feel” for each shot, alternate shots – hitting one chip, then one pitch, etc. Focus on the different landing points needed for each shot, and make it your goal to have a putt after every chip or pitch. Simply put, just get the chip or pitch anywhere on the putting surface, and you will be pretty well prepared for the course.
- Now it’s time to hit the range. Start hitting balls with your highest-lofted club, and work your way through your set (skipping clubs if necessary) until you get to the “big dog” (the 1 wood, the driver, etc…). Three or four balls with each club should be sufficient. Try not to wear yourself out on the range, as there should be plenty of time after the round to practice your “deficiencies”. Always finish your range session with the club you will tee off with on the 1st hole, and hit a few extra shots (5 to 10) with that particular club. Try to use the same pre-shot routine on the range that you will use on the 1st tee!!! If your first hole requires a hybrid or long iron, make that the club you end your range session with.
The above “warm up session” should take 30 to 40 minutes (maximum). Be sure to hydrate while you are journeying around the practice facility (and on the course as well).
When you head to the first tee, be sure to have the following things in your pocket: A few tees, a divot tool, and a ball marker are must-have golfing utensils. Please don’t be the golfer that has to beg for a tee on the first tee box, or asks for a penny on the first green. A wet towel will allow you to keep the grooves on your clubs clean during the round, and will help you keep the ball shiny, white and rolling true on the putting surfaces. To really show the group that you are ready to play, mark your ball (keep it simple) with a sharpie marker and be sure to indentify your ball on the first tee. This will help give everyone a better chance of playing their own golf ball during the round, and avoid unnecessary penalty strokes (or derision from the group, which is even worse in my opinion). Also, if having your ball nicely marked doesn’t impress your golfing crew, then I’m pretty sure nothing will…
Have a great rest of your golf season, and play well.