Is a Golf Warm Up Important? – Golf Myths Unplugged

Is Running Late Costing You Strokes?

Every golfer has done it: you run from your car to the first tee, make two half-hearted practice swings, then try to rip driver down the first fairway.  Sometimes it works, but often you’re muttering, “Breakfast ball,” while the first one is still sailing into the trees.

For this edition of Golf Myths Unplugged, we wanted to examine exactly what golfers are giving up by failing to warm up properly before their round.  The results may shock you.

The Myths

Myth #1 – Warming up increases club head speed

Myth #2 – Warming up improves ball speed

Myth #3 – Warming up leads to longer drives

Myth #4 – Warming up improves accuracy

Myth #5 – Warming up improves consistency

How We Tested

For this test, we brought together seven golfers, all with handicaps below ten.  Each golfer hit seven drives without any warm up at all.  After hitting those seven drives, they were given as much time as they wanted to warm up with exercise and hitting shots.  Once they were warm, they hit seven more drives.  Every shot was measured by Trackman and no shots were removed.

All testing was done at, and with the help of, Club Champion.

The Results

I doubt that anyone will be surprised that warming up increases club head speed.  What was surprising was how much it helped.

Our testers gained an average of 3.14 MPH of club head speed by warming up (median improvement was 2.9 MPH).  Two of our testers gained nearly 5 MPH!

It’s also worth mentioning, if only anecdotally, that the cold swings were followed by endless complaining.  The faster, warmed up swings were made without a single mention of aches or pains.

In addition to improving club head speed, warming up helped our testers gain substantial ball speed.  On average, our testers gained 5.6 MPH of ball speed (median improvement was 6.1 MPH).

Interestingly, this improvement was not just the result of faster swings but of slightly better ball striking.  Three of our seven testers had higher smash factor during their warmed up swings, as much as 0.05 better.  One tester had the same smash factor in both sets.  The other three had higher smash factor when cold, but only by 0.01 each.  In total, the group smash factor was 0.01 higher when warmed up.

More ball speed is great, but what we really want is longer drives.  Warming up delivered there, too.

After warming up, our testers hit drives that were, on average, 13.9 yards longer than when they were cold (median improvement was 15.5 yards).  Every golfer in our test was longer when warmed up.  One tester was 26.7 yards longer!

Our testers also saw their best drives improve.  The group’s median and average improvement for their best drives was 15 yards.  Imagine tacking an extra 15 yards on to your best drive of the day!

Warming up is clearly beneficial for distance, but it did not help accuracy.  Looking at the L-R dispersion, three of our testers had better accuracy when they were warmed up, four were better when they were cold.

Viewed as a whole, the difference between the warmed up swings and the cold swings was marginal.  When cold, our group averaged a 52 yard gap between their furthest left and furthest right shots.  When they were warmed up, that grew to 55 yards.

For this myth, we looked at consistency as the gap between a player’s best and worst drives.  For some players, warming up made no difference.  When they were warmed up, their best and worst drives were longer, but the gap between them was the same as when they were cold.

For others, warming up made a huge difference.  Their best drives were predictably longer, but when warm they didn’t have the one or two embarrassing mishits.  Even for this batch of good players (10 handicap or less), those mishits can be really bad – as much as 92 yards short of their best and 60 yards short of their average.  Those are the kind of tee shots that lead to big numbers on scorecards.

Since warming up was neutral at worst and hugely important at best, we rated this as “Plausible”.  Our hypothesis is that a highly skilled player player can manage a few good shots in any situation, but a higher handicap player would be more negatively affected by being cold.

Conclusion

It is our sincere hope that this edition of Golf Myths Unplugged puts an end to your days of running from the parking lot to the first tee.  Not only is warming up better for your body, it is a major factor in hitting your best, longest drives.  If you’re willing to buy a new driver to pick up distance, shouldn’t you be willing to take ten minutes to add 14 yards or more to your tee shots?

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Matt Saternus

Co-Founder, Editor In Chief at PluggedInGolf.com
Matt is a golf instructor, club fitter, and writer living in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Matt's work has been published in Mulligan Magazine, Chicagoland Golf, South Florida Golf, and other golf media outlets. He's also been a featured speaker in the Online Golf Summit and is a member of Ultimate Golf Advantage's Faculty of Experts.

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15 Comments

  1. I sign this. Playing cold is silly. It is a massive difference between no warm up at all, and at least couple of iron shots and a few woods. Even more valid for those playing once a week!!! And absolutely agree on swing speed. When I play cold, first couple of shots are “coward shots”, clearly slower swings, not to make too much damage early.
    But there are always exceptions. I have a friend, an 8 handicapper, and he plays always better without a range session before. A few putts and chips and he goes… when he visits the range before round, mostly he has a not very good day…

    • I’m in the same boat. I can’t play at all for the first few holes without hitting about 30 balls but my buddy, who is probably about a 7 or 8 prefers to just chip and put. I also need to chip and put in addition to a short range session. Getting to the course an hour early is a must for me.

  2. Alan Goudie

    It is great to know that warming up really improves your game.
    Thank you for another valuable video.

  3. Thanks, and very interesting! I love you commitment to busting golf myths :)

    Did you quantify the actual warm-up + practice shots across the different players and use as a co-variate? I am guessing not, as you do not mention it. Also, it is possible that there was a carry-over effect from the first session to the next, so I suggest next time you spread the sessions over 2 days next time, and randomly assign half of them to “no warm up” on day 1 and “warm up” on day two. Then you reverse the order for the other half of golfers. Doing this will mean a more solid research design, and you might see your inconclusive results go to conclusive if you use co-variate and/or random assignment+2 days of sessions.

  4. Fantastic myth-busting. I’d love to see a similar study done on pre-round putting green time.

  5. Nice one! Even good players are worse when cold, might be even worse for a hacker like me.
    Playing better is good bonus but most important line is in your conclusion : better for the body. Less chance of injury and reduced soreness.
    A good warm up might include swinging 40-50 odd times so a good portion of a round. Being fit will help, any chance you can do something around that? I often say getting fit is more important for your golf score than getting fitted for clubs.

    • Matt Saternus

      Piter,

      That would certainly be an interesting test, but it would be rather difficult to put together. There are also some interesting counterexamples at the highest levels – players getting very fit but failing to perform at the same high level as when they were less fit.

      -Matt

  6. william Neal

    Warming up definitely helps me but having to wait on your playing partner(s) to show up takes something away.

  7. I’d be interested to see how warming up or not affects the first hole scoring.

  8. Great Read, thanks, Interesting, I didn’t see one mention in the comment section, nor mentioned, (if it would matter), of age in the test. I’m turning 65 in January. My situation now is I often do not have the opportunity to warm up. I’ll use Pete’s description, I take Coward Swings to gradually get to the full wallop. I do notice the difference in distance and accuracy around the 4-5th hole. However, after a good warmup, I believe I’m better off the first tee till finish and quite certain my scores are always lower and with fewer unforced errors. pt

  9. Good enough for the pros, good enough for me-not being a pro! Golf courses should “give” you 20-30 balls to warm up with, having figured the charge into everyone’s charge for the day and make it feel like a “perk”!

  10. Would somebody post a warm-up they use? I know there’s a lot out there. I agree with that part of the game being Important.

  11. Great article! I have an interesting twist on this thinking…. I’ve always found my swings to be more free, fluid and consistent when I’m walking, rather than riding in a cart. Maybe it’s the muscles staying loose and the blood flowing, or maybe it’s just a focus thing.
    When walking, I tend to wear out on course after 13-14 holes and my swing comes apart, so maybe the “staying fit” aspect paired up with staying mobile and “warm” on course by walking would create the chance for better golf.
    I’d be interested to see if there is any connection between “warming up” and “staying loose/warm” and if that creates more consistency in swing speed, club path and AoA. A little loss in swing speed is less alarming to me than the breakdown of AoA and club path… For me, fatigue always gets my AoA steeper and my club path slowly drifts outward.

    Another thought is pace of play. If I’m riding, but the course is open and I can get through 18 in less than 3 hours, I tend to stay loose and play well, but when the course is slow and there is more sitting/standing and waiting between shots I’m more likely to make a bad swing. Same thing goes when I’m playing alone or with 1 partner vs playing in a foursome.

    To summarize (lol):
    Myth 1: Warming up leads to more consistent AoA, club path and swing speed
    Myth 2: Walking the course leads to more consistent AoA, club path and swing speed rather than riding in a cart
    Myth 3: Quicker pace of play leads to more consistent shots
    Myth 3: Better stamina/fitness leads to more consistency throughout the round

    just a thought :)

    • I think the test accessment is on, warming up is going to help. But wow, Adam, you brought back some memories that I did not think to comment on…I had an earlier comment. Living in Northern PA now, I don’t, (or can’t), walk too many courses because of the number of hills. Age and weight haven’t helped. I’ll add another concept to better play; when walking or when alone in a cart, (as well as playing alone), my concentration level is all on the game, no side chatter going on. Therefore, when I’m walking or driving to my ball, in the first few seconds my thought is why/how my shot traveled where it did and as I approach how am I going to execute the next shot…nothing else…that’s it. Every hole plays out the same scenario. In the past when I walked more courses than today, you have all the more time to concentrate on the things I just mentioned, I loved it! I also believe that walking most definitely kept the body warm and fit for more focused shots. The rounds with my group is great, but I believe the side chatter takes away from the concentration and focus I need for the next shot…15-20 seconds is not enough for me. Although no comparison, watch the pros, you think they’re talking or thinking about anything else but what’s happening right at that moment?

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