6 steps to nail your pre-round warm-up after a long layoff

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Getting in a proper warmup is key to a good round.

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Ed. Note: After a long winter layoff (which has been extended with the various shutdowns in parts of the country) most everyone’s game has some rust. That’s where we come in. Over the next several weeks, we’ll answer the questions every golfer is wondering when it comes to getting their games sharp for the 1st tee. Today, we discuss the six steps to warming up properly for your first round back after a long layoff.

Hitting your first few shots after a long break from the game is always a strange experience. The club feels foreign in your hands, your entire body is tight, and something just feels off. After waiting through a long break from the game, this can be discouraging. All those mental reps you took in the winter can seem to be all for naught when you return to the course as the realities of the difficulties of the game come flooding in.

However, even after a long layoff, the first time back doesn’t have to be a painful experience. One of the ways you can shake off that rust is through a thorough and proper warm-up routine. Here are six steps to warming up properly after a long layoff.

1. Stretch before anything else

Really this is something you should do before any round of golf, but especially so before you play for the first time after a long time away from the game. For the best results, try stretching out the night before your round as well. Activating those muscles early will make it easier to control them when you get to the course. So before you even head to the range, get in a solid round of stretches.

2. Hit lots of wedges

A typical warmup starts with several wedges, but for this routine try to stick with them a little longer than normal. The hardest thing to regain after a hiatus is your touch, and there are few shots that require more touch than ones with your wedges. Try to feel out how big a backswing is needed for those gap shots — 50, 75, 100 yards — and make a mental note. These positions are most likely different than they were the last time you played, and you’ll surely need these shots on the course.

3. Work up to a full swing

After getting in a healthy number of those feel shots, work your way up to full swings. Start with your wedges and then graduate to your irons. As you do this, take a bit off your swing and focus on your tempo. Getting that internal metronome in sync will go a long way toward producing solid contact. Focus on finding the center of the clubface more than generating swing speed. Once you start making solid contact consistently, you can worry about speed.

4. Make sure you have a go-to tee shot

When you get to the longer clubs in your bag, make sure you are practicing with them off the tee, too. Whether it be a fairway wood or a hybrid, make sure there is a club other than your driver that you feel confident you can hit fairways with. That way if your driver starts betraying you, you can holster it and think your way around the course with the alternate options.

5. Visualize the first tee shot

As your tee time gets closer, start visualizing the first tee shot. Pick out targets on the range and try to land your ball in the middle of them, representing a fairway. But don’t just do this mindlessly. Go through your entire pre-shot routine and simulate the entire process of the first tee shot. When you actually do take the tee, do everything exactly the same as you did on the range.

6. Roll some lag putts

You’ll want to get a feel for the speed of the greens, and there’s no better way to do that than rolling lag putts. Put a few balls at the center of the practice green and try to roll the ball as close as possible to the fringe without hitting it off the edge. This will help you feel out the speed. Plus, if you haven’t played in a while, you’re sure to have a hefty dose of lag putts throughout the round. The last thing to do is roll short putts. Once you’re comfortable with these, head to the tee box and play away.  

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Golf.com Editor

Zephyr Melton is an assistant editor for GOLF.com.