Research Review Series

Research Review Series: The Golf Warm Up

The Authors: Nigel Tilley and Alison Macfarlane

The Article: “Effects of different warm up programs on golf performance in elite male golfers”

Publication: August 2012 in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy

Level of Evidence: Quantitative Experimental Design

Why This Article is Important: Playing golf places a tremendous amount of stress on the body during each and every swing. A successful golf swing requires an adequate amount of mobility, flexibility, strength, motor control, balance, and explosive power occurring in a coordinated, repeatable sequence. Traditional warm up routines can have physiological effects including increasing heart rate, facilitating nerve transmission, and facilitating motor unit recruitment. Previous research has shown that a warm up routine consisting of active dynamic stretches and excluding static stretching has a positive impact on maximum club head speed, driving accuracy, and distance. (Gergley, Moran). Research that is not specific to golf has shown that strength training can demonstrate an increase in peak force via EMG monitoring over a prolonged training period. (Sale). Previous to this study, there had been no investigation into the immediate effects of different warm up methods.

The Purpose of This Study: This study aims to quantify the immediate effect of three different types of warm up programs on golf performance.

The Research Study:

Twelve elite level golfers with no current injuries were randomly assigned to three different groups and each group performed a different warm-up routine prior to hitting golf balls. All three groups performed an active dynamic warm-up (AD) which consisted of swinging a weighted club and hitting golf balls with different irons and woods. The other two groups completed a theraband functional resistance warm up (FR+AC) or a multi-joint weight training warm-up (WT+AC). After performing the warm ups, the golfers were asked to hit ten maximum effort drives. The researchers recorded Maximum clubhead speed (MCHS), Max driving distance (MDD), Smash Factor (SF), Driving accuracy (DA), and Consistent ball striking (CBS).

Results: The AC+FR group showed statistically significant improvement in consistent ball striking (CBS), max driving distance (MDD) and smash factor (SF). The AC+FR group had an average drive of 13 yards longer than the AD+WT group and 15 yards longer than the AD alone group. However, there were no significant differences in maximum clubhead speed between the groups and only the AD group showed improved driving accuracy.

Conclusion: An active dynamic and functional resistance warm up improves important factors related to driving distance and accuracy. A dynamic warm up or weight-based warm up did not show improvements in driving performance.

My Take: I’ve talked about how important warming up prior to a round of golf is. This research study has helped me to confirm my theories about the benefits of a warm up regimen. When I develop warm ups for my golf athletes, however, I take a slightly different approach. Yes, it is important to hit balls to prepare the body for the round. That being said, I do not believe that any of the tested warm-up’s is thorough enough. The presented warm-ups did not include any mobility work prior to adding resistance or swinging a club. Although the authors did find significant improvements in some aspect of performance, I think a long-term warm up strategy that is aimed at improving performance and reducing the risk of injury should include, at the minimum, a few mobility focused drills prior to introducing external load. The rationale for this is that during any warm-up, we want to gradually introduce load to the body in positions that will be utilized during the sport to ready the tissues for the stress they’re about to endure. I don’t place a heavy focus on full golf swings during the warm up. In fact, I think most people over- prepare the full swing and under-prepare all the other types of swings. Yes, full swings with a driver place the most amount of stress on the body, but it is actually the least used swing during the course of a round. I like to work from putts to chips to full shots and then back to putts to gradually introduce load while also focusing on touch and feel on that particular day.

A simplified template that I would use when designing a golf warm up would be:

  1. 3-6 mobility drills aimed at the thoracic spine, hips, ankles, and shoulders
  2. 2-4 functional resistance exercises similar to the research study
  3. 10-15 putts
  4. 10-15 chips and pitches
  5. 15-25 golf swings, starting with wedges and progressing to woods
  6. 10-15 putts

Summary: A proper warm up prior to a round of golf is vital and can help improve driving performance. A warm up should consist of mobility drills, functional resistance exercises, and various types of golf swings. When time is limited, I would focus more on the mobility and functional resistance aspects rather than just taking swings. A solid warm-up should range from 10-20 minutes.