Now that golf season is in full swing (no pun intended), we have the U.S. Open right around the corner on June 13-16. We have seen some incredible wins from Tiger, Koepka, Mcllroy, and Johnson over the past year. Who is going to come out on top this month? Will it be one of the former champions or an underdog? It’s an exciting time of year no matter what the outcome.
All this golf talk makes me want to hit up the country club and play a round or two, but before I do, I need to engage in a proper warm-up. I cannot stress enough the importance of this and the positive effect it has on your golf swing. I see time and time again how golfers get to the course just 5 minutes before their tee time and expect to play a good round after a few static hamstring stretches and some practice swings. I’m not going to lie, I used to be “one of those” golfers, but after having a back injury or two, my routine has changed. It may take a little longer in the beginning, but the benefits it has to my body and game are worth the extra time. Those green fees aren’t cheap, so every stroke counts in my book!
The golf swing is one of the most complex, athletic movements to execute correctly. Each swing requires a lot of coordination, strength, explosive power, flexibility, and balance. Without a proper warm-up, your body doesn’t have the flexibility and blood flow needed to make all this happen. Not to mention, you have considerably increased the chance of straining muscles in your back, thighs, or shoulders. Believe it or not, a proper warm-up has positive effects on swing performance such as increased club head speed, increased ball speed, straighter swing paths, and making better contact. But the question is, what is a proper warm-up?
An ideal warm-up should loosen up your body and consist of exercises that engage all the major muscle groups. These exercises should include overhead reaching, squatting, lunging, and rotation. The literature suggests performing 9 exercises at 10-25 repetitions, depending on the movement to prevent injury, activate cold muscles, and enhance performance. Here is an example of a routine to incorporate before you hit the first tee.
Windmills: Feet shoulder width apart and arms out to your side. Rotate your arms and trunk back and forth. Keep arms elevated and let your whole body rotate. Then taking your 6-iron posture, begin rotating your upper body around a stable lower body.
Palm-up club lifts: Grab an iron. Hold it shoulder width apart and out in front of your body with the palms facing the sky. Slowly raise the club as high as possible over your head while pushing the club away from your body.
Leg swings: Take a standing position and use a club on the opposite arm to support yourself. Swing your leg forward and backward.
All 4’s reach backs: Get into the all-4s position. Place your left hand behind your head and keep your spine stabile and rotate your left elbow up toward the sky and then downward toward the opposite elbow. Repeat these movements with the opposite arm.
W-Turns: Place a golf club across your shoulder and behind your neck. Grab both ends of the golf club with your hands. Your arms should form the letter W. Get into your 6-iron posture and begin to make shoulder turns back and forth while maintaining a stabile posture at your pelvis.
Supported squat: Hold onto your golf cart, golf bag, or a club. Perform a deep squat with keeping your heels on the ground.
Lunge with twist: Step into good lunge with your front knee over the ankle and your trunk upright. Once you are in a good lunge, rotate your upper body over your front leg. Make sure to keep your weight centered over your front foot. Step into the next lunge position and repeat to the opposite side.
Standing Trunk Rotation with band: Tie your resistance band to a golf cart, bench, tree, or other stable object. Stand tall with feet shoulder width apart and arm straight out in front of you. Rotate away your upper body from the band. Be sure to engage lower abdominal muscles. Turn and repeat to the opposite side.
Lunge with band twist: Tie your resistance band to a golf cart, bench, tree, or other stable object. Step into a lunge with the foot away from the band. Keep your arms straight out in front. Rotate your upper body over your front leg keeping your weight centered over your front foot. Turn around and repeat in the opposite direction.
Moran KA et al. Dynamic stretching and golf swing performance. Int J Sports Med. 2009; 30: 113 – 118.
Tilley NR, Macfarlane A. Effects of different warm-up programs on golf performance in elite male golfers. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2012 Aug; 7(4): 388–395.
Coughlan D, Taylor M, Jackson J. The impact of warm-up on youth golfer clubhead speed and self-reported shot quality. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2018 Oct; 13(5): 828-834.
Meira E, Brumitt J. Minimizing injuries and enhancing performance in golf through training programs. J Sports Phys Ther. 2010 Aug; 2(4): 337-344.
Big thanks to Kyle Martin, PT, DPT, COMT, OCS at The University of Kansas Health Systems: Sports Medicine and Performance Center
About the Author: Mark Smith, PT, DPT, received is clinical Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Arkansas State University. He has been practicing in outpatient orthopedics since. He enjoys golfing, hunting, fishing and believes being a PT is his opportunity to “give back” and improve someone’s life.