Play Better Golf – Warm-Up!

I’m sad to say that golf season is coming to an end. The PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup is finished, local courses are offering fall discounts, and you can feel the Canadian winter beginning to set in as temperatures fall overnight. But it’s not over just yet, and like me, I’d wager you’re looking for at least one last chance to score that elusive albatross before the year is out. 

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 1.39.06 PMGolfingHow can you best go about this, and why are you hearing it from me? Cool-weather golf, like that in the spring and fall seasons, leaves us more likely to feel stiff, tight, and inflexible at the tee — not exactly ideal for golf! Stretching could address these feelings, but when was the last time you saw a golfer really warm-up for their round? And no, sprinting to the first tee does not count. 


Stay with me for five minutes, and we’ll review a study published in 2009 that shows how a simple, easy, dynamic warm-up can make direct improvements to your golf game. We’ve already discussed dynamic vs static stretching as it relates to performance, but for golf specifically I have recommended this to others, tried it myself, and noted improvements in my own game! Try it — because really, who’s watching at time of year? This is your time to experiment!

The Study – Warm-Ups and Golf

This is the kind of study people (golfers) dream of being included for. Participants were made comfortable in their surroundings by having them hit golf balls for 20 minutes on their first two days. Over the next three sessions, each golfer either performed no stretching, static stretching, or dynamic stretching, with a final fourth session involving either static or dynamic stretching, and hit even more golf balls. 

Here is the protocol for testing the different stretch groups: 

  • Walk 5 minutes at casual pace (~2.5 km/h)
  • Practice swings for 3 minutes, slowly building up to 80% maximum effort during the 3rd minute
  • Complete static stretching / dynamic stretching / no stretching
  • Complete post-stretching tests (two practice swings, one swing with a ball —> walk 5 minutes to simulate time between shots, repeat x 7)
What Did They Find?
  • More powerful swings — Club head speed is significantly higher with dynamic stretching than static stretching (~1.9m/s) and no stretching (~1.7m/s); Ball speed is significantly higher with dynamic stretching than static stretching (~3.5 m/s) and no stretching (~3.3m/s). 
  • Better swing path — Club-head swing-path significantly improved with dynamic stretching than both static stretching and no stretching 
  • More consistent contact — Central impact point (striking the ball closer to the centre of the club-head) was more consistent with dynamic stretching than with static stretching. 
  • Lasting Changes — Time of measurement, the amount of time past the actual stretching (up to 30 minutes in this case), did not impact the results seen. Which means the effects lasted throughout all testing. 
What Does This Mean?

Dynamic stretching, as part of a general warm-up (brief walking, easy swinging, dynamic stretching) creates distinct improvements in swing speed, swing-path, and how close to the centre of the club you strike the ball, relative to no stretching at all or static stretching activities. These changes last at least 30 minutes after your warm-up — so well after you get off the first tee!

What Exactly Do I Have to Do?
Activity Description Details
Adapted from Moran et al. 2009.
Calf Stretches (2): Gastrocnemius: Stand about three feet from a wall with both feet together. Lean towards the wall and support your body with your hands, until you feel a gentle stretch in the calf. Raise and lower both heels at the same time. Move back as needed to create gentle stretch.
Soleus: Do the same as above, except with the knees slightly bent.
10x
Quadriceps: While walking, bend the knee as much as possible so that it touches (or nearly touches) the buttock. Extend the knee in a kicking motion, and take your next step. Repeat with other leg. 10x
Hamstrings: While walking, raise the knee as high as possible, and then straighten the leg as much as possible. While straightening, lower the leg in a circular arc back to the ground. Repeat with other leg. 10x
Lunges: Take one step forward, keeping the lead knee over the lead ankle, slowly lower into a lunge position. Keep the back knee off the ground, with the torso and head upright. Push forward from here and repeat with the other leg, in a walking pattern. 10x
Trunk rotation: Stand upright, feet shoulder width apart, and knees slightly flexed. With your arms straight out in front of you at shoulder-height, rotate your trunk from left-to-right, and right-to-left. As the trunk rotates, the arms follow, with the same-sided arms bending at the elbow. For example, when turning to the right, turn completely, and then bend the right elbow while keeping the left arm straight — this will increase your motion. 10x
Anterior Shoulder and Tricep: Standing upright, feet shoulder width apart, knee slightly flexed, and arms hanging at the sides. Raise one arm forward, as high as possible — at the top of this movement, bend the elbow fully. At the same time, reach backwards with the other arm, as far as possible. 10x

Try these! They are fairly simple movements. Aim to move your body as far as possible, but only within a controlled motion — so no bouncing at the end! Start slowly (first time through), and get faster as you go.

In this particular study, they completed each of these stretches 10 times in a row, moved to the next stretch, and then repeated the entire list three times. (Again, try it! It doesn’t take as long as you think it might!)

Summary: 

Few golfers complete a warm-up before their rounds, and those who do commonly use static stretching. As evidenced by this study, a warm-up of dynamic stretching can improve overall golf performance (club-head speed, ball speed, swing-path, and central contact) significantly as compared to static stretching or no stretching.

Golf is hard enough on its own — don’t let any chance for improvement sneak away!

Need advice about how to do these? Other ways to improve your game? How chiropractic can support golfing? Dr. Gilliard is a chiropractor in Burlington, ON — contact him at your convenience via email at drjimgilliard@gmail.com, by phone at (905) 634-6000, or book an appointment at Endorphins Health and Wellness Centre.

Primary Reference:
  • Moran KA, McGrath T, Marshall BM, Wallace ES. Dynamic stretching and golf swing performance. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 2009; 30:113-118.

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