Golf Practice Versus Warming Up
I spent the majority of my time this year on the practice range and around the putting green at the Deutsche Bank Championship watching the players PRACTICE on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday then WARMING UP during the event Friday through Monday.
On Thursday as I walked past the putting green, I saw Charlie Hoffman, this year's winner, practicing 4-6 foot putts. That is to be expected. What struck me on this day was Charlie being so immersed in his putting practice. I used to see a lot of what Hoffman was doing years ago but not so much anymore at venues.
Charlie had set up tees off the toe and heel of his putter and one each to check the length of his take away and follow through. Watching him on the range then the putting green, I can tell you he spent as much time working on his putting as he did on his full golf swing that day.
I watched as he worked on the putting green for almost an hour. When I left, he was still at it. While I did not realize I was watching the eventual winner, I did have a sense I was observing one of the top 10 finishers of the event. It was his dedication to the flat stick and his stroke that, as a teacher, I took note of.
As the tournament got underway on Friday, I checked back on Charlie, and he was warming up on the range, like everyone else, under the silent and watchful eye of his coach, Sean Callahan. When golf players are warming up prior to the start of a tournament, generally the words from coaches to their players are words of encouragement.
After hitting balls and a little chipping, Hoffman went to the putting green where he practiced 4-10 foot putts without any putting aids. He hit a few long putts to get the feel for the speed of the greens. However, it was time to play the game, and he was tending to re-enforce his feel prior to the day's play.
The point is to know when to work on your golf swing and when to simply warm up letting the swing take shape as you loosen up and get the feel of your swing before you play a round of golf.
Trying to practice as you warm up generally will turn a round of golf into a round of 'golf swing', where you are more focused on your swing instead of the game.
On play day, put simply, "what you take to the range you take to the course." As you warm up, you are looking for the feel you have been working on. No, you cannot make that feel occur. Either your practice has paid off or it hasn't, and you are not going to fix the problem on play day.
To illustrate, as you go through your warm up routine, you find you simply cannot seem to find that feel you have been practicing. Or, your ball striking and feel is perfect on the range but disappears on the golf course.
I would submit to you, in either case that you are trying to force your swing motion, creating tension, throwing you out of sync, making feel nonexistent.
Trying to swing the club a particular way with no sense of feel, creates tension and your rhythm, tempo and timing go out the window. Remember. Less is more. Lighten up, warm up and go play the game. Feel the freedom of a balanced golf swing motion, relax and enjoy your round.
Know when to pull out the training aids and when to leave them in your car. Given a little time, you may just wake up and find you are having more fun playing golf because your practice/warm up routines are a bit more in perspective.
About the Author
Steve Riggs is a retired golf teaching professional of over 30 years working with countless clients in the U.S. and the Caribbean. Now retired, Steve is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America and regular contriubtor to Par Excellence Magazine, New England Golf Monthly magazine and mynegm.com. Steve is the host/producer of a weekly Radio/Internet golf program, THE myNEGM LESSON TEE which airs Wednesdays 10:05-11am ET. Listen live at WNRI 1380 AM radio or online at: mynegm.com and www.wnri.com . The show is followed around the country and Canada in it's second year on air.