Ready to go

Personal trainer and fitness columnist Shawn O’Neil on how to prepare for a round of golf

Golfers of all ages and abilities warm up in different ways – from a couple of miles on the bike and a 30-minute stretching routine to a couple of practice swings on the first tee – but what should you be doing before you play golf or hit balls on the range?Let’s start with what you shouldn’t do – such as putting two clubs together and swinging them at full speed fresh out of the car. Starting from cold, this only increases your chance of injury and ultimately makes you swing slower when you get to the first tee.

In a warm up, we’re aiming to prepare the body physically for the upcoming activity in order to optimise physical performance and minimise our risk of injury.

Three things determine how I warm up, starting with how much time I have. I’ll consider whether I’m rushing to the tee after work with very little time, hitting balls on my lunch break, or if I have plenty of time to spare.

Second, I consider what my goal is in this time – am I looking to make sure I don’t pick up an injury or am I trying to give myself the best chance to perform?

Finally, I think about the situation – am I going out for seven holes and a laugh with friends after work or am I competing in the club championship?

My optimal warm up consists of some physical movement preparation followed by a specific warm up (eg hitting golf balls). While the specific movements can be unique to every golfer, the focus is always the same – preparing the body to prevent injury and perform well.

A routine to prepare your body for swinging the club can be as short as a couple of minutes if it needs to be. I keep this section of the warm up short if I feel good, but when my body feels a bit stiff, something a bit longer and more detailed helps a great deal.

I like to look at the body in relation to the golf swing as a series of mobile and stable joints – we want the joints that move to be moving freely, and we want the muscles that stabilise to be strong and firing.

The most important muscles in the golf swing are the glutes as they extend the hip, which is a huge source of power, and stabilise it. If you’ve spent most of the day sitting, your glutes are not going to be ready to fire, and your hips may even be blocked from their full range of motion by other muscles. Sitting is the enemy of internal hip rotation, so if you only have a couple of minutes, I would start here with some toe touches and stork turns. From there, look at rotating your thoracic spine, then add some rotation to the shoulders, and then some general movement of the wrists and ankles.

With even a couple of minutes of simple movements, you’ll be in a far better place to begin hitting balls and building the scores and/or hitting the shots you’re looking for.