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hers-cream.com Preparation Hot Tip: Act Like a Pro.
You'll never see a Tour pro arrive at the club 12 minutes before his tee time, rush to the range, hit a half-dozen drivers, then hurry to the first tee. Yet, it happens all day long at courses everywhere. Is it any wonder amateurs struggle to play to their potential?
Pros have found that for peak performance they must employ a systematic warm-up. GOLF MAGAZINE surveyed 30 pros from the PGA and LPGA Tours to find out how they prepare to compete. All of them stressed that a warm-up is not a practice session. It's not the time to try new equipment, work on swing changes, or cell phone your stockbroker. Instead, follow this step-by-step guide and you'll be heading down the first fairway ready to play your best.
DON'T RUSH. Every pro we interviewed arrives at the golf course at least one hour before his or her tee time. 'Everything has to be slow going to the first tee,' explains Grant Waite. 'If you're rushed or unorganized, your anxiety level will rise.'
EAT LIGHT. There is no one perfect pre-golf breakfast or lunch, but the pros are careful not to eat too much to avoid feeling sluggish. They also dine at least 90 minutes before their tee time. Fresh fruit, muffins, and cereal are the preferred breakfast choices. Afternoon tee times call for a simple sandwich and some fruit. Most of the players avoid coffee or soda because of the caffeine. Water is the drink of choice.
STRETCH BEFORE SWINGING. Only two of the players interviewed didn't have a specific stretching routine as part of their warm-up. And both of them said they loosen up with a series of long, slow swings with a weighted club before hitting any shots. The rest of the pros either stretch out before leaving their hotel or in the locker room. This is the primary key to injury prevention.
SWING TO HONE BALANCE AND TEMPO. Preround swings are all about finding a comfortable tempo and balance.
'It's tempo you're looking for,' says Russ Cochran. 'That's why pros hit lots of wedges and short irons before a round and only a few woods.'
'If I'm struggling to find a good tempo, I'll hit a few sand shots,' says Brian Henninger. 'The tempo needed for good bunker shots transfers well to the full swing.'
KEEP SWING THOUGHTS DOWN TO ONE OR NONE. The pros try to avoid overloading on swing mechanics before the round. 'I may change my swing key from one week to the next,' says Tom Kite, 'but I try to stay focused on one thing all day.'
CHECK ALIGNMENT. 'Everything on the course is target-oriented,' explains Larry Mize. 'So it's very important to focus on alignment during your warm-up.'
START WITH THE SHORTEST CLUB. Shorter clubs put less strain on the body at impact. Save the driver until your muscles are completely loose and your swing is on track. As you work through the bag, hit a few fades, draws, and knockdowns to gauge the sensitivity in your hands.
DON'T OVERDO IT. Most pros hit only 35 to 45 shots divided evenly among seven or eight clubs. A typical progression is sand wedge, pitching wedge, 9-iron, 7-iron, 5-iron, 3-iron, 3-wood, and driver. Most Tour players hit their odd-numbered irons one day and their even-numbered irons the next.
SHARPEN YOUR SHORT GAME. The pros hit a mixture of chips, lobs, and sand shots before playing. 'I always start with some bunker shots,' says Mike Hulbert, 'because the tempo and swing you need in the sand pretty much covers all the shots around the green.'
DEVELOP SPEED CONTROL FIRST. Most pros begin by rolling long putts to calibrate the green speed. Often they will roll balls to the far fringe to focus on speed. They finish on the practice green by rolling in a half-dozen or so three-footers.
'I always finish with a few two- or three-footers,' says Woody Austin, 'and I watch every one of them go into the hole to get my confidence pumped up.'
FOCUS THE MIND. You want to arrive at the first tee feeling fresh and calm, and you want to have a game plan. Many pros, including Annika Sorenstam, form their game plan by mentally reviewing each hole the night before. 'It minimizes indecision,' says Sorenstam, 'and it gives me added confidence.'
Mize focuses by using his last warm-up swings to hit the shots he expects to need on the opening holes.
'The first few holes are crucial because they set the tone for the entire round,' says Ted Tryba, who mentally prepares by hitting rehearsal drives in the shape he wants for his opening tee shot.
ARRIVE EARLY ON THE TEE. Nearly all the pros are on the tee before the group ahead of them has hit. During these few minutes, they count their clubs and take care of last-minute housekeeping. Many pros also take this time to visualize exactly how they want to play the first hole. Henninger notes that he analyzes the weather and calculates how the conditions will affect his shots over the first few holes.
By now the pros are loose, alert, and focused on shooting the lowest score possible. Add these keys into your preround prep to give yourself the same opportunity.

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