When observing the game of golf one has to wonder what preparation and strategy takes place prior to one actually stepping onto the course to play. To the eye of an observer, golfers tend to appear to approach the sport with a calm aloofness and confidence. Even with this restrained countenance there is certainly a set of masterful skills at work as well as preparation to take on a game that requires an inordinate amount of focus for success. Strategic preparation and pre-game warm up contribute to this confidence. Though the game of golf appears a relaxed and laid back sport it also in its own right can be intense, requiring great focus, physical endurance and excellent visualization skills. So it is one must know what to do to prepare physically to garner this focus and perform at peak performance on the course while avoiding injury.
Warming up prior to a game of golf not only enhances flexibility, it prevents injury and improves ones’ game. By warming up ones’ body otherwise tight muscles are stretched and lengthened decreasing the chance of pulling and straining while allowing for optimum performance during ones’ swing. In today’s society, golfers range in ages from teens up to seniors. Certainly as we age our flexibility decreases and our bone structure changes creating greater challenges physically. Age does not necessarily have to be a detriment to one’s game. It is the approach and preparation that must change. One must treat the body as a finely tuned instrument and by doing so; warm it up prior to execution of the game.
The Physical Demands of Golf
A strategic warm up allows the golfer to mentally and physically prepare for the game by going through each stage as if on the green. There is much to consider in the game of golf such as ones’ stance, grip, and setting up of the ball position and the swing. Where golf looks as though it is an easy and lackadaisical sport, the entire body is in motion when a golfer is taking a swing. One must engage the head and neck muscles, the hands, arms, wrist, shoulders, trunk, legs, hips and the back when golfing. Imagine going onto the green cold sans warm up to swing a club and the possible injuries that could occur. What exercises should the warm up program include? According to Owen Anderson (“The Sports Injury Bulletin,” n.d.) one should focus on doing 10 minutes of continuous exercise to raise the temperature of the muscles, thus avoiding muscle stiffness. Where he found intense stretching is not extremely important, one should perform actions that are similar to what they are about to engage in following the warm up. According to the British Journal of Sports Medicine (Fradkin, Finch, Sherman, 2001) a study was held to determine the proportion of golfers that actually warmed up as well as their warm up behaviors. Researchers directly observed golfers over a three-week period and found only 53.4% actually warmed up and this was done by method of air swings. After concluding the study, researchers recommended that the golfers receive education regarding a structured warm up program and its benefits.
Risks and Benefits
Failure to warm up prior to a game of golf not only sets the golfer up for the possibility of physical injuries that might occur but could also affect ones’ game strategy. The mind, focus and concentration must all be on the game of golf. Visualization is a major part of this game and this skill is keener when ones’ confidence level is high. During a warm up one has the time to see how the game should and will be played on that day as well as ones’ expected performance for said game. It would seem that the designated time for warm up is also a practical time to visualize while warming the body up physically since in the game of golf everything should be established in the mind first before it occurs in the physical realm. It is important to be able to focus so as not to swing haphazardly causing injury. Dr. Kevin Plancher (World Golf News, 2006) a New York City Orthopedist discusses the demands golf places on the shoulders muscles, particularly the rotator cuff. His recommendation for the avid golfer is to partake in a weight training and exercise program specifically to strengthen the shoulders muscles thus preventing injury. He recommends light weights, as this area is delicate and prone to injury. The recommended exercises to focus on to strengthen the shoulder area are the lateral fly and forward dumbbell raises. He also recommends walking, jogging or biking prior to golfing. On the other hand, Dr. Plancher advises against the military press because of its awkward position and suggests substituting an incline press in its place. The key here again is to avoid injury.
The Warm Up
The approach to a warm up varies depending on the golfer. There are a couple of things to consider. One, a golfer doesn’t want to warm up in excess but only enough to get the body flexible and prepared to stretch muscles without injury. Stretching prior to warming up is ideal as this is a pre-warm up as it insures cold muscles and tendons not be stretched in excess resulting in injury. After stretching, ideally one would want to warm up at the driving range by practicing the swing beginning with three quarter shots and progressing to half shots and on to full shots. Never start out with full shots. This progressive movement gradually prepares the body for the physicality that will take place on the green throughout the game. Once graduated to full swings, continue to practice until confident the muscles and tendons are loose and flexible. Not only does the body feel prepared, the mind and confidence level of the golfer is increased by the preparation for the actual game. According to Dr. Stacy Rosenberger (n.d.) stretching should be done before and after exercises. His recommendation for stretching the muscles is the following exercises; side bends, hip rotation, hamstring stretch, back extension and shoulder stretch. All of these exercises focus on the trunk, legs and shoulder areas, which are the main areas utilized in a game such as golf. Dr. Rosenberg also emphasizes correct posture such as bending at the knees properly, and using correct posture with angles that involve the spine such as driving and putting to avoid strain and injury.
Does pre-game warm up have a psychological effect? Certainly this pre-game warm up not only positions the golfer for the best chance to succeed by preparing him mentally and emotionally but there is also that reassurance that one is now physically prepared for the challenge ahead increasing confidence. This provides an edge for the player by acting as a means of self-security mentally and physically as one knows one has been proactive in taking steps for mental preparation and physical preparation to avoid injuries. One then enters the game feeling prepared mentally and physically thus allowing the advantage of having an edge over others who may not have chosen to warm up. Warm up programs are beneficial according to results of a study performed by Fradkin, Sherman and Finch (2004) to determine is there was improvement in performance prior to play and over a period of time after participating in a warm up program designed specifically for golf. The study which consisted of common stretches and overseen by a sports medicine doctor, was done over a five week period with participation five days a week. Out of the twenty male golfers participating in the study 10 participated in the program and 10 did not. According to the results of the study (Fradkin, Sherman and Finch, 2004) there was weekly improvement in the mean head club speeds of those participating in the exercise program. The conclusion of the study showed that the performance of those participating in the warm up program improved over those who did not participate.
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