This surprising pre-round warm-up will improve your game, according to a study

Welcome to Play Smart, a new game-improvement column that drops every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from Director of Game Improvement content Luke Kerr-Dineen to help you play smarter, better golf.

I keep thinking about something GOLF Top 100 Teacher Jamie Mulligan told me at the 2020 Masters. We were watching his student, Patrick Cantlay, navigate his way around Augusta National, when I asked him to which other sport golf is most similar.

“Golf is played more like chess,” he said. “You’re trying to think ahead and move your ball from position to position, safely.”

Golfers think a lot about warming up. The best stretches to do and what clubs to hit — all important things, undoubtedly. But for all the pontificating we do about the literal act of warming up, we hardly ever think about the best way to, well, think. And why shouldn’t we? The brain is just another muscle, after all, and if golf mirrors the strategy-based game of chess, shouldn’t we learn to warm up our brains just as we take time to warm up our bodies?

That’s exactly the topic explored in a paper “Attention game training effects on EEG and golf putting performance” by researchers Chih Chia Chen and Debbie Crews, presented at the 2014 World Scientific Congress of Golf.

In the study, 21 golfers were hooked up to an Emotiv brain-wave measurer and split into the experimental and control groups. Each group hit 10 practice putts then took a 10-minute break, at which point the experimental group embarked on a mental-game exercise while the others simply rested. Once that concluded, the groups embarked on a putting test.

The learning: the group that took 10 minutes to warm-up their brain outperformed the other group across the board. They had “significantly improved quality of feel” and improved performance.

“It appears that playing the attention mental training game prior to golf putting may enhance brain states and performance,” the study concluded.

A quick warm-up of your brain, it turns out, can work wonders.

How to warm up your brain

Warming-up your brain doesn’t need to take long in order for you to reap the benefits from it, the study says.

Just take 10 minutes and play a brain game like Sudoku (here’s a list of different brain games you can choose from) on your phone or iPad before you play. You’ll be better focused, more attentive, and your scores will benefit from you being more mentally prepared, too.

Luke Kerr-Dineen

Golf.com Contributor

Luke Kerr-Dineen is the Director of Game Improvement Content at GOLF Magazine and GOLF.com. In his role he oversees all the brand’s service journalism spanning instruction, equipment, health and fitness, across all of GOLF’s multimedia platforms.

An alumni of the International Junior Golf Academy and the University of South Carolina–Beaufort golf team, where he helped them to No. 1 in the national NAIA rankings, Luke moved to New York in 2012 to pursue his Masters degree in Journalism from Columbia University and in 2017 was named News Media Alliance’s “Rising Star.” His work has also appeared in USA Today, Golf Digest, Newsweek and The Daily Beast.