This time of year I tend to play in quite a few pro-ams. Tournaments in which the professionals play with a group of amateurs… sometimes the amateurs play their own ball and the team takes a couple of their best scores, or some the amateurs play a scramble and the team either takes the scramble score on the hole or the pro’s score, etc.. (there are other formats).

A couple of weeks ago, I played in a pro-am in northern Oklahoma (a pro-am that has been played annually for over 50 years). (On a side note, I probably played one of my best rounds of golf in very long time – I shot a 66 (6 under par) in winds that were gusting up to 50 mph… I ended up winning the tournament by quite a few shots – shot 66, 66). But, I wanted to talk about some lessons everyone can learn from what I typically see at the pro-ams.

In this practice tip I’m going to give you 5 points everyone should do to prepare for a round of golf (things I see that most amateurs DON’T do before they play). Things the professionals / very good players do to prepare, but most amateurs miss…

1. Get to the course IN TIME to prepare for your round.

Most professionals arrive at the course an hour early to get ready for the round. This gives them time to prepare without being rushed. The worse thing you can do is be rushed in your warm up to get ready for an “important” round as it will only make you more nervous and will put you in a “rushed” rhythm for the day. Arrive in time to get something to eat (a snack) plus time to have a proper warm up session.

Most amateurs I watched were lucky to get to the course 30 minutes (or less) to get ready….

2. ALWAYS stretch before you warm up.

Most professionals have a stretching “ritual” in which they will stretch “in general” – back, neck, shoulders, wrists, etc… And then stretch areas that are “weak” for them. Maybe they have a bad back – they will give that area a little more time. Maybe bad knee(s) – will give that area more time, etc… I do recommend starting your warm up session by hitting a few putts. And you should stretch before you hit these putts. Putting is stressful on the back and if you don’t stretch before you start any practice / warm up – you will forget… Stretch first.

Most amateurs I watch do no stretching… nothing. And 2 Advil DOES NOT count as stretching…
It’s a wonder why 70% of golfers over the age of 50 have chronic back issues….

3. Warm up your short game AS MUCH as you do your long game.

Professionals will actually warm up their short game more than their long game. Meaning they will spend more time warming up their putting, chipping, pitching and bunker game compared to their “long” game. How many of you warm up your chipping before you play? How many warm up your pitching… or find a bunker to hit a few shots before you play? If you can’t find a place to hit a few pitches, do it on the range while your warming up your long game… the bunker may be hard to find.. but if possible try and hit a few bunker shots. Nothing worse than hitting a ball into a bunker on one of the first few holes and you haven’t hit a bunker shot yet that day…. don’t expect to do anything good you haven’t “warmed up”.

Most amateurs I watch warm up their putting, but do VERY LITTLE to warm up their chipping, pitching, and almost never, their bunker play. If you don’t warm it up.. don’t expect to do it well.

4. Warm up on the range before the round – DON’T PRACTICE on the range before the round.

Professionals use the warm up session as it is stated.. to warm up, not practice. And many times, it actually will tell them how they are going to play shots that day. I remember one time listening to an interview with Mark O’Meara. The reporter asked Mark if he would rather play a cut or draw when playing.. Mark responded, he decides when he is warming up before the round. Which is working that day, that is what he would play. If he was hitting a cut during his warm up, he wasn’t going to go on the course and try and draw the ball all day. In other words, he was going to play with what he had that day.

Too many amateurs use their warm up sessions as practice sessions and are unrealistic when taking their game to the golf course. It is a warm up session, you should not spend excess time on one club. You should go through the bag hitting a few shots with your low irons, mid irons, hybrids, fairway woods and a few more (extra) with your driver. Too many amateurs will get stuck on one club and try and hit it “perfect”…work through the bag and warm up to the best of your ability… You are not going to correct anything or create anything prior to a round. Plus, if you aren’t hitting something well enough to play with it – DON’T! For example – try and hit a few fairway woods.. if your not getting them in the air (hitting well) on the range, don’t expect to hit them well on the golf course. Maybe hit a long hybrid instead… I promise it will help you scoring if you hit a hybrid pretty good rather than hit a fairway wood terrible… let the warm up session determine what you need to be playing that day.

5. Last thing – work on SPEED OF GREENS before going to your first tee.

The last thing you do before you go to your first tee is hit a few mid to long putts to finalize your feel for the speed of the greens.

(You can also hit a couple short putts to get a positive mind set of making a putt or two before you leave the green) – make sure and get a “feel” for the speed of the greens before you go on the course. Professionals will warm up their short game and their long game, but will always end getting a feel for the speed of the green. Nothing worse then hitting a shot onto the first green and having a mid to long putt and being unsure of the speed. DO NOT set yourself up for a 3 putt on the first green.

Too many amateurs go to the first green without having a good feel for the speed of the greens. I see way too many amateurs three putting the first few greens because of not preparing properly during their warm up sessions.

Preparing properly (warming up) before your round will give you the BEST CHANCE to play your best golf that day. Warming up properly should help take a some nerves away, should put you in a “positive” state of mind and make sure you don’t hurt your body… If it doesn’t, make changes in your warm up routine to help with those areas.