Warm up for golf
Fail to prepare? Prepare to fail. It's a strong statement and one I like to instil in my players. Nobody really wants to spend ages warming up before playing golf but if you fail to warm up at all you are doing your body some serious harm. All you need is 5-10 minutes to prepare your body to swing the club with flow and a few simple stretches will do that. Added flexibility not only helps prevent injury but also helps the turning of the torso in the backswing. This is the key element of the swing that produces power: a full balanced turn of the upper body, coupled with a lower body that resists this turn. Young or old, beginner or expert, stretching will help you keep your athletic edge and give you the greatest chance of shooting low golf scores. Remember to perform each of the stretches slowly and to your own level, making sure that you never hold your breath.
This stretch is the most commonly known but often neglected when it comes to golf. Tight hamstrings have a negative effect on our ability to maintain good angles when we swing the club. They also make it nearly impossible to keep grounded and balanced, therefore leading to inconsistency. Simply take a shoulder width stance with a club held in your fingertips. Now from an upright position tilt slowly forward towards the ground, ensuring that you inhale and exhale. The legs don't have to be completely straight; you can have a minimal flex at the knees. Hold for 15 seconds and then slowly return to standing.
Warming up the hands, wrists and forearms is key to creating control in rotation and hinge. It also encourages better feel and makes it easier to blend your golf swing with the turn of the big muscles. Hold two golf clubs together out in front of you, gripping the shaft six inches from the hosel. Now simply make clockwise and anti-clockwise rotations, keeping flow. Do this with the right and left arms. You will probably find one arm less well-coordinated than the other - perhaps something to work on?
In an effective golf swing the body will create side bend through the torso and hips. Therefore these all-important side muscles must be stretched. To do so position a golf club along your spine; holding at both ends. Gently tilt to either side with minimal hip movement. When you tilt to the left you should feel the stretch down the right side and vice versa. Hold for 15 seconds on each side.
This stretch will increase your torso mobility, improving your backswing turn and allowing the arms to support the club in the backswing. Place a rolled up towel across the top of your shoulders. Get into your golf posture and make your backswing turn loading your weight onto the right side. Try to get your left shoulder pointing slightly down and resist from the ground. Hold for 15 seconds. You should feel the resistance down your left side. Then repeat on the opposite side trying to keep the head central in the axis as you hold the throughswing turn. Once you have done this a few times start to add some flow.
Shoulder mobility stretch
This stretch is slightly more advanced but will improve your shoulder flexibility. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, grip a club at both ends behind you and tilt your body forwards as though you are trying to touch your toes. You can have a slight flex in your knees; simply raise your arms as far as you can up over your head. The best players in the world are all able to lift the club beyond their head, demonstrating exceptional flexibility. Make sure you attempt this stretch very slowly as it will feel unfamiliar and will take some getting used to.
Once you have stretched out your golfing muscles, rather than going straight into hitting balls I would prefer you to start by hitting shots using this simple step drill. It will wake up your co-ordinations and natural athletic instincts, dramatically improving the sequence of your golf swing and stretching you to make better dynamic balance throughout the swing. Start with a narrow stance. Make a smooth and balanced backswing and then take a step towards your target to initiate the change of direction into your downswing. Free-flow into a finish facing the target.
Remember: Narrow, load, step and flow.