This Tom Watson warm-up drill is best tip this teacher ever learned

Tom Watson warms up prior to the 2019 Senior Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in England.

Tom Watson warms up prior to the 2019 Senior Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in England.

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What’s the best tip the best teachers in the game have ever heard? Whatever it might be, it likely carries a lot of weight, and it was a question we asked a handful of them at GOLF’s Top 100 Teachers Retreat at The Westin Kierland in Scottsdale, Ariz., in December.

Andrew Park is a Top 100 Teacher at Orange County National in Winter Garden, Fla., but he previously worked for legendary instructor David Leadbetter. It was during that time, around 2002 or 2003 he says, when Tom Watson was in town.

Standing on the range, Park said they wanted to watch Watson hit a 6-iron, 9-iron and driver, but the eight-time major champion wasn’t ready to do that yet. He was still warming up with the first club he had picked out of his bag: a 3-iron.

Park said the interaction still sticks with him as the best tip he’s ever heard.

“He was hitting these 3-irons, full swing, only 100 yards,” Park said. “And he said to me, ‘The reason why I do that is because the contact and the timing of your body has to be absolutely precise,’ and that meant he was in control of his body. And I thought, Oh, that’s interesting. Because everybody always starts off with the easy clubs, the wedges that you can hit high, and that leads to the longer clubs.

“He was taking a normal setup, full swing, but he was swinging so slowly it would just go 100 yards,” Park continued. “Sometimes it landed 100 yards or sometimes it rolled to 100 yards. It also helped him time up the synchronizing between the club and the ball so you have everything timed correctly.”

Now, think about the difficulty of this for a second. Most amateurs don’t even carry a 3- or 4-iron, as the majority would have trouble hitting them anyway. Then throw in the discipline necessary in both the mind and body to hit 3-iron shots at that yardage. Park said it was a great warm-up tool. He added that Ben Hogan used to do something similar, often electing to practice hitting 150-yard drives instead of full-send drives, just to get his timing down.

But here’s the other part of this: who in their right mind starts a warmup with a 3-iron anyway? caught up with Watson on the range in October 2021, although this time he elected to start his warmup with a hybrid instead of a 3-iron (he said he goes back and forth). Watson explained he wants his first swings of the day to be “bigger swings” that will get him loose in a hurry, something he wouldn’t achieve by hitting “little wedge shots.”

That said, there’s also a mental edge he gains here.

“If I don’t hit the hybrid good then who cares?” he said. “It’s a hard club to hit, and it’s the first swing of the day. If I can hit [my hybrid] well without warming up, I know it’s going to be a good day.”

Josh Berhow Editor

As’s managing editor, Berhow handles the day-to-day and long-term planning of one of the sport’s most-read news and service websites. He spends most of his days writing, editing, planning and wondering if he’ll ever break 80. Before joining in 2015, he worked at newspapers in Minnesota and Iowa. A graduate of Minnesota State University in Mankato, Minn., he resides in the Twin Cities with his wife and two kids. You can reach him at