When it comes to playing golf there’s not much regular golfers can easily imagine they can do anywhere close to as good as the pros do it.
However one area of the game where it’s easy to learn from the best players in the world, and where the average player can definitely match them, is in the quality of our pre-round preparation and how many balls we hit, pitch shots we play and putts we make before heading out on the course.
On average pros hit around 80 balls and close to 50 putts before a round but numbers vary of course by player. Hideki Matsuyama and Adam Scott can hit more than 100 full and chip shots prior to play while Jason Day and Brooks Koepka can hit less than 60. Tiger Woods will often hit close to 70 shots and more than 100 putts.
The number of balls the top pros hit prior to heading to the first tee is just part of it though, and if we were to focus solely on the number of balls that they knock around the range before a round we would miss out on key things we can all learn from them when it comes to preparing for a game of golf.
So in the remainder of this post we delve deeper into the warm-up routines of the pros to find out how exactly they get ready for a round, what else they are doing beyond simply hitting balls, and why one of the all-time greats goes against all the ‘best warm up’ advice!
|PLAYER||TOTAL WARM-UP SHOTS||FULL SWINGS||CHIPS (Bunker)||PUTTS|
|Rory McIlroy||110||52||41 (10)||17|
|Jordan Speith||139||65||17 (8)||57|
|Jon Rahm||139||61||32 (10)||46|
|Jason Day||87||37||21 (6)||29|
|Brooks Koepka||91||51||13 (5)||27|
|Justin Thomas||121||32||52 (12)||37|
|Hideki Matsuyama||180||49||59 (10)||72|
|Adam Scott||156||56||48 (6)||52|
|Rickie Fowler||98||36||29 (-)||33|
|Tiger Woods||169||44||24 (-)||101|
How Do Pros Warm Up Before a Round? A Look at 10 of the Best
When we look at what we can potentially learn and copy from the warm-up routines of pros on the PGA Tour and around the world it is clear there is much more to consider than simply the number of balls they hit.
Looking solely at that does not give the full story and indeed very few of them stick to hitting the exact same amount of balls every time before a round in any case.
As a whole pros get to the course to warm up between 45 and 75 minutes before teeing off. Most begin on the putting green, before going to the range where starting with sand wedges they hit a variety of clubs up to driver, and occasionally back down to wedges, prior to going back to the putting green and heading to the tee.
One thing to recognise also is that the complete ‘warm up’ time for the pros is likely to have started before they have even reached the golf course and what you may not therefore see if you go to a pro Tour event is the light workout and stretching and mobility work many will have done before they get to the range.
Then once at the course every player is of course different and there are clearly differences in the approaches of the Tour pros we studied in detail when it comes to how they warm-ups.
Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, and Rickie Fowler get to the course later and seem to prefer a shorter and sharper warm-up than others such as Jordan Speith, Hideki Matsuyama, and the great Tiger Woods who spend well over an hour getting ready to play.
In the table below we give a detailed outline of the various practice stages individual pros go through before their rounds but what is not included is the various additional elements that different players will add to their warm-up routine.
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During his 55-minute spell on the range for example Tiger Woods begin by first taping up his finger and in between the 60 to 70 shots he hits with a sand wedge, 8-iron, 4-iron, 5-wood, 3-wood, and driver he will also study the yardage book of the course and pin sheet for that particular day.
Many of the pros we studied meanwhile used different training aids as part of their warm-up session from alignment sticks on the range to putting aids on the practice green to help them dial in their stroke prior to play.
Hideki Matsuyama, like Tiger Woods, hits a number of one-handed putts to start with but will then also hit some one-handed wedge shots to kick off with at the practice range.
Other pros such as Jordan Speith and Rickie Fowler take the opportunity to work on specific drills they are focusing on to help their swing and to assist with this Speith will video record and study his swing on the range to confirm how it is looking.
Adam Scott meanwhile often likes the last shot of his warm-up to be the same as the first one he will play on the course so if he plans to hit a 3-iron off the first tee he will complete his range session with two or three 3-iron shots.
While the warm-ups of the pros vary in their precise details from player to player there are clearly general themes that they all follow.
And that is first to prepare ‘physically‘ by hitting at least one of all the different ‘families’ of clubs – woods, long irons, short irons, wedges, and putter – they will need on the course, finding their tempo and playing a variety of different shots with each.
But the other key theme the best players in the world follow is to prepare ‘mentally‘ for the upcoming round of golf.
They don’t just hit putt after putt on the practice green or ball after ball on the range. Their use of training aids, videos, and yardage books clearly shows it is not about the number of shots they hit but about quality.
As they prepare to play they are visualizing the round ahead, fine-tuning their distances, and going over the key swing thoughts they plan to take into the round that day.
There is a ‘purpose’ to each element of their warm-ups rather than simply a following of an exact amount of time spent or number of balls hit.
That of course does not mean however that there is one, and only one, way to do it.
One of the greatest golfers of all time, Tom Watson, goes against all the prevailing expert advice by kicking off his warm-ups by smashing golf balls rapid-fire with this hybrid rather than a wedge and without any stretching whatsoever!
If a coach saw an average golfer do this they would likely tell them they are doing it all wrong but for Watson this approach serves both a clear physical and mental purpose.
Firstly he says that he starts with a hybrid or a long iron because he wants his first swings of the day to be ‘bigger swings’ as this gets him looser faster but secondly it also gives him a mental lift by taking the pressure off his mind with his first few shots of the day.
So as we can see there is more than one way even the pros do it but whichever way they do warm up it is clear and key to remember that there is always a ‘purpose’ behind it.
[Note – To find out more about ‘deliberate’ or ‘purposeful practice’ and the reasons why you sometimes get worse rather than better the more you play check out our in-depth look into the practice habits of some of the greats here.]
What Range Balls Do Pros Use? They Don’t Bring Their Own!
If you have ever been to a pro Tour event one thing you will likely find yourself envious of are the facilities that are readily available to the top players.
When it comes to their warm-ups for example you will quickly notice that the practice range, putting green, and short game area are all awash with golf balls that look very different from the battered ones of all different varieties and compressions we regular golfers bring with us or are provided with.
And of course you would be right as the pros certainly do not bring their own practice golf balls with them for the range.
Pros are provided with brand new golf balls of the same type they will play in competition to use on the practice range. All the top manufacturers send thousands of balls, each stamped with the word ‘PRACTICE’ on them, in advance of each tournament to provide every player with an unlimited supply of balls to prepare with.
Golf Digest estimates that over 5,000 balls of up to a dozen different brands are needed for the practice range every single day of a regular PGA Tour event and with over 150 players competing you can imagine it is no easy task for the group of volunteers tasked with bagging them by ball type ready for the pros to grab.
And it’s also a task not made any easier for them by a quirk of the top pros who Todd Lawton – the man in charge of overseeing the volunteers at each tournament – notes “won’t hit each others’ balls, even if it’s of the same type. If there’s a bag with some leftovers, they’ll toss it out the way and grab their own (bag)!”
Given this huge number of brand-new golf balls getting smashed away on the range every day of a PGA Tour tournament it seems natural for us then to wonder what happens to them all.
As a general rule PGA Tour range golf balls are cleaned and given away after use. Past range volunteers estimate around 60-70% are distributed to local junior programs such as at First Tee and schools, with the rest either taken away by the volunteers or given to the host club members. Any damaged balls are thrown away.
So while we can all be justly envious of the brand-new range balls the pros get to use to warm up the upside is that they don’t go to waste after they are used with the vast majority going to great causes.
Should You Hit the Range Before a Round? Just Find Your Tempo
So there you have it. Every Tour pro golfer goes to the range to hit balls as part of their warm-up before playing golf.
And given golf is their job, and they are the best players in the world, it would seem to make sense for amateurs to take note to inform their own preparations prior to a round, how long and how they should warm up, and whether they should go to the driving range or not.
As a whole amateurs should go to the range before playing to hit at least 20 balls across all the main families of club – woods, long irons, short irons and wedges. World Scientific Congress of Golf research indicates ‘randomized’ practice, hitting many different shot types with different clubs leads to better performance.
If we consider the variations between the top pros that we have already seen though there is clearly no ‘one way’ to warm up for a round of golf but there are clearly some general principles that amateurs should base their own preparation routine on:
- Hit different shots to different targets at different distances covering all the main club types.
- Start with small swings (e.g. with wedges) and build up the swing length and speed to driver.
- Treat it as a warm-up session and not a practice session.
You could also add things in, as Adam Scott does, such as to finish your warm-up with the same club you will hit off the first tee, or you could go further and ‘play’ the first couple of holes with the clubs you plan to hit on them from tee to green.
“From what I can see, it seems a lot of amateurs would benefit from some structure to their warm-ups …. The thing about warming up properly is that it doesn’t require any extra skill, only the discipline to commit to it.”Jordan Speith, 3-time major champion
But while it is of course true that there is no one perfect way to warm up, and that there is no one set number of balls that every golfer should hit before a round, what is definitely true is that the focus should always be on quality over quantity.
It is key to remember that the main purpose of any warm-up is simply to prepare your mind and body to get ready for the different situations you are going to encounter on the golf course.
We would therefore repeat again that it is not a practice session and you definitely should not treat it as such. A warm-up is simply a way to get your body loose and your mind ready before a round.
And it is certainly not the process through which you can definitely judge how well you are going to play in the 18 holes ahead!
[Editor’s note – If you are like many amateur golfers and don’t have the time to hit balls before you play check out our 5-step warm-up routine that doesn’t require you to get to the driving range here.]
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