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The best golf warm-up: 5 easy stretches to prep your body

Cold weather, injuries or a busy schedule are just a few reasons that you might take a break from golf, and as we all know, getting back onto the horse can be difficult. Those first few range sessions back often lead to sore muscles and sometimes cause you to ingrain bad habits into your swing. The best way to avoid those issues and others like them is to have a plan in place.

We worked with golf-fitness instructor Tyler Campbell and one of Golf Digest’s Best Young Teachers Jarut Padung to create a guide for getting back into golf. Whether your time off is seasonal, injury-related or you’re just giving golf another try after all these years, we’ve got you covered. This simple plan will give you the tools to prep your body and head off injuries while also arming you with a practice plan that will help you create better contact and shoot lower scores.

Better performance on the course starts with better preparation off the course. “It’s been found that players who performed a deliberate dynamic warm-up prior to playing a competitive round saved an average of 1.5 strokes per round,” says Campbell, the head trainer at the Golf Performance Center in Ridgefield, Conn.

How can a warm-up affect your scoring ability, you might ask? According to Campbell, “a proper dynamic warm-up wakes up your nervous system and allows the brain to talk to the body and respond favorably to the demands being asked of it.” Think back to the rounds you’ve played without any warm-up. When you started out, was your chipping inconsistent? Did it take you a while to get a feel for the greens? Was your tempo or speed control off at the beginning of your round?

If you answered yes, that’s probably because your nervous system was waking up while you were playing. If shooting lower scores isn’t enough for you, Campbell also explains that warming up before a round will get your blood flowing, therefore reducing your risk of injury.

The good news is that anyone can incorporate a dynamic warm-up into their game. All you need is a little space, a golf club and about three to five minutes. “Use these five exercises before every practice session and round of golf, and you’ll come back feeling more confident in your game,” Campbell says. Move at your own pace to feel the full benefits of each exercise.

1. Body Weight Squats:

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Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart, then grab a golf club and hold it overhead, try not to let it drop throughout the exercise. Lower your hips like you’re going to sit into a chair, keeping your upper body tall with your arms extended on the way down. “Keep your knees over your laces,” Campbell explains, “this will prevent your feet from flaring too much.” Now, push off the ground and return to your starting position, being sure that your knees don’t buckle in on the way up—complete 10 reps.

2. Toe Touches:

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Start standing, then reach overhead, extending your spine through your mid-back. Campbell says to imagine getting your shoulder blades to clear your heels. Even if you can’t do that, it will help you use your mid-back instead of your low-back, which is the goal of this exercise. Then, hinge from your hip and try to touch your toes. “Refrain from rounding your back or tucking your hips, as this is not a proper hip hinge,” Campbell explains. Use your breath to get a deeper stretch and exhale on your way down. Perform this move ten times.

3. Split Stance Rotations:

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Get into your golf stance and hold a club across your chest. Step one foot behind you to get into the proper split stance position. Campbell says to keep your lead leg stable while you make controlled torso rotations to the right and left. Complete 10 reps, then switch legs and repeat.

4. Reverse Lunge with Overhead Reach:

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Standing tall again, step your right foot back into a reverse lunge.“This should be slightly lower than the split stance position you were just in,” Campbell explains. Raise your right arm overhead and rotate your torso toward your left leg. “You should start to feel a stretch throughout the front of your right hip, oblique and even up in your abdomen,” Campbell says. As you rotate, reach your left hand back like you’re trying to touch your right heel. After reaching overhead, return to your start position and repeat. Then switch legs, completing 10 reps on each side.

5. Speed Swings:

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Grab your driver and get into your golf posture. Without a ball, make 10 swings as fast as you can to the left. Be sure to reset after every repetition. Then switch your grip, and make 10 swings as fast as you can to the right. “This will help you create speed and get your blood pumping before your round,” Campbell explains.