Warming up vs. stretching: What’s the difference and how can it help your golf game?

Rory McIlroy warming up before the PGA Championship.

Rory McIlroy knows the importance of a quality pre-round warm up.

Getty Images

Most amateur golfers roll up to the range before their tee time, stretch quickly (if at all) and start banging balls before heading to the first tee.

While this routine is quick and easy, it leaves out an especially important component of any athletic activity: the warmup. 

When you see pros swinging on the range before their rounds, it’s presented as them “warming up,” however they’ve likely done a light to moderate workout and gone through some stretching and mobility work prior to swinging on the range.

You don’t have to get in a full workout like some of the pros, but getting a proper warmup is crucial to playing well on the course. That’s because stretching a cold muscle can result in pulling or straining it, which is the opposite of how you should be feeling before a round of golf. 

So what’s the difference between warming up and stretching?

The goal of warming up is to elevate your heart rate and get your blood flowing, which increases your body’s core temperature whereas stretching is used to loosen your muscles and increase your range of motion. 

Warming up properly before you stretch or swing a club is pretty easy. You can do something as simple as making a few slow-motion golf swings, taking a brisk walk, or doing a few squats and lunges — anything that gets your heart rate up and your body moving through a complete range of motion. 

Once you’ve warmed up, you can run through some stretches to loosen up your muscles and prepare your body to swing a golf club. Getting ready for your round in this order will not only help your performance but also prevent injuries, keeping you on the course longer.

If you’re at a total loss of where to start with your warmup, try this simple five-minute routine:

  • 5 small arm circles forward and backward
  • 5 large arm circles forward and backward
  • 5 forward lunges with extension per side
  • 5 forward lunges with rotation per side
  • 5 squats with arm extension per side
  • 5 squat jumps

For a demonstration of these exercises, see below. This routine will get your blood flowing and get your body ready to play, so give it a go before your next round. Your body will thank you.