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Golf instruction: How to ace your warm-up before a big match

July 09, 2021

Five years ago this month, Henrik Stenson won the Open Championship at Royal Troon in an epic duel with Phil Mickelson, setting a record for the lowest four-round total (20 under par) in a major championship. With his phenomenal closing 63, which included 10 birdies, Stenson tied Johnny Miller (1973 U.S. Open at Oakmont) for the best final round to win a major.

In the weeks leading up to the 2016 Open, and in his pre-round warm-ups in particular, Stenson rehearsed hitting low, boring 3-woods and knockdown iron shots that would pierce the winds at Royal Troon. That preparation paid off, as Stenson hit 56 of 72 greens in regulation (77.8 percent) for the week to lead the field.

You can bet Stenson will be following a similar game plan for next week’s Open at Royal St. George’s, where he’ll be seeking his second win and fifth top-3 finish in golf’s oldest major. It’s also good advice for those of you about to tee it up in your own big event, whether it’s your club championship or a grudge match with your buddies.

“You’ve got tournaments like the Open where it can be extremely windy,” says Stenson, who hit 16 of 18 greens in that historic final round in 2016. “I would work on those shots I’m going to play on the course. If that’s a knockdown 4-iron, why not hit some of those in the warm-up?”

In this video, Stenson shows how he adjusts his warm-up from round to round:

The lesson here is simple: If the course you’re playing or the conditions you’re playing in will call for certain shots, don’t waste your warm-up going through the bag hitting standard shots. Yes, you need to warm up your body and get your swing clicking, but practice what you know you’ll need. You’ll see better results on the course.

Learn all the secrets to getting more out of your time on the practice tee in “Range Rules with Henrik Stenson,” now available in Golf Digest Schools. In this three-lesson video series, Stenson will teach you how to create a plan for each trip to the range and, as a result, transfer your prep time into better performance when it matters most.

“Range Rules with Henrik Stenson” is one of more than 130 video programs in Golf Digest Schools. Take your game to the next level with instruction from the top teachers and players. And with the new Golf Digest Schools app, you can bring it all with you anywhere you go. Check out Golf Digest Schools, a revolutionary experience in golf instruction.