Performing under Pressure: How I warm up

Preparation is a critical part of success in a golf tournament. Tournaments and big events lead to pressure for players of all skill levels. Yes, even the pros. On the morning of a tournament, I like to get myself in a great rhythm from the moment I wake up.

I generally arrive at the course a little over an hour before my tee-time. My routine is as follows: stretch, putt, short game, range session, putting & short game, and finally, 1st tee shot! Here’s a little detail about what each session entails.

The Stretch - 10 minutes

I start my day at the course with a good stretch to get my body loose and mind relaxed. I begin by using a RadRoller to get my muscles moving. With the RadRoller, I focus on my hamstrings, hips, back, and shoulders. After rolling out some kinks, I move to my new routine, a dynamic warm up that really loosens me up. 

Putting - 10 minutes

After the stretch, I head to the putting green, where I work on two things: pace and short putts. These are the two critical components to mistake free rounds on the greens. With good pace, I will avoid 3-putting from lengthy distances. Making short putts is critical to my momentum and attitude during the round.  To find my pace, my favorite drill is featured below. I generally do this drill 2-3 times before I move on to short putts. For my short putting warm up, I find a relatively straight 3-5 foot putt.  From there, I make 15 putts from the same spot. My purpose here is to simply see the ball go into the hole a lot. This is great to build confidence, and will be something to draw on when I face my first pressure packed 3-5 footer on the course.

Short Game - 10 minutes

After getting through the putting warm up, I like to hit a variety of pitches and chips. I find a couple of different spots around the green, in both the fairway and rough. I hit a few bump and runs, high pitches, and low check spots. By doing this, I am learning how the greens are reacting to different shots. This will dictate how aggressive I can be on the golf course.  If the greens are soft and receptive, I’ll go flag hunting. If they are firm and fast, I need to pick my spots and play more conservatively. 

Full Swing - 25-30 minutes

Next, I head to the range to get my swing warmed up. As a general rule of thumb, I like to only have one swing thought heading into a round. If I am thinking too much about my swing leading into a tournament, the results are rarely good. I start by hitting a few 70% wedges to nothing. The only thing I am trying to do is find a good slow rhythm. I find that my tee-to-green success in tournaments is often dictated by whether or not I am swinging with a good rhythm.  

Next, I move on to low irons. I like to find a target to hit to and a club that will fly in the vicinity of the target. Here, I am focused on smooth rhythm and taking my time on each shot. I never do the drag and fire method you see at a lot of driving ranges during this warm up. 

After about 15 shots with my low irons, I move up to a long iron. I hit about 10 shots, to get the feel of where my long game is before heading into the round. As I mentioned above, this is the place I really think about my one swing thought. I’ve found a key to good long iron play is commitment to my shot and swing. I take my time and build confidence with each great shot.  

Then, I move to the big dog. To warm up with my driver, I like to visualize a fairway on the range using landmarks, such as trees. I will hit about 10 drives, and try to hit each into my imaginary fairway. I’m always thinking about taking my time and going through my pre-shot routine on each drive. 

To wrap up my range warm up, I like to hit 5 shots with different clubs in the bag to different targets. This is a great way to simulate being on the course, since I rarely hit the same club twice in a row. Sometimes, I will go as far as simulating playing the first hole to hit the clubs and shots I would have on it. 

Back to the Green - With the Time I have Left (hopefully, about 10 minutes)

I like to go back to the green and roll putts before I head to the first tee. This time, I like to bring one ball to the green and hit putts of varying lengths. My goal is to get a great feel for the speed and simulate a real course scenario. This is a time to get relaxed and ready to go. I make sure to keep taking deep breaths and expect to play great golf that day. 

Final Step - Have Fun!

I’ve found when players get into a competitive scenario, the pressure can lead to stress, anxiety, and frustration if things start unraveling. It is important to always remember that golf is supposed to be fun, no matter the level of play.