Start­ing to play bet­ter is find­ing the right warm-up.

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Contents - By Jor­dan Spi­eth

Isee a lot of am­a­teurs warm up on Wed­nes­days, which is pro-am day on the PGA Tour. For many of them, it’s a big day and re­ally want­ing to play well is an at­ti­tude and en­ergy I ap­pre­ci­ate be­ing around. How­ever, hit­ting balls in front of a gallery and along­side the pros is, I’m sure, an ex­pe­ri­ence that could make a club player rush or get fraz­zled. Whether this is how they get ready to go at their home course, I’m not sure. From what I can see, it seems a lot of am­a­teurs would ben­e­fit from ap­ply­ing some struc­ture to their warm-ups. There’s a way to get the body and mind primed to play, and then there’s dig­ging holes beat­ing balls. Hard prac­tice has its place, but never be­fore a round. Ba­si­cally, I have two rou­tines – one takes a half an hour and the other is an hour and 15. The shorter one I re­cently filmed with Golf Di­gest. Cameron McCormick – my coach since I was 12 – and I wore mi­cro­phones, and you can watch and lis­ten to the en­tire ses­sion on Golf Di­gest All Ac­cess. On these next pages, Cam and I will pro­vide an over­view of that rou­tine. The thing about warm­ing up prop­erly is that it doesn’t re­quire any ex­tra skill, only the dis­ci­pline to com­mit to it. When you start play­ing bet­ter more of­ten, you’ll be glad you did.

walk the wedge

spi­eth Be­fore I hit ball one, I dial in a feel­ing for the bot­tom of my swing. Stand­ing with my feet to­gether, I lightly rock my lob wedge back and forth with the force of what would pro­duce about a 20-yard shot. I swing un­til I see the sole of the wedge con­sis­tently bruis­ing the turf. Even though I’m not mak­ing a shoul­der turn or even hing­ing my wrists, the rhythm of this pen­du­lum mo­tion sets the tone for my full swing that day.With the first ball, I kick off a game we call Walk the Dog. I hit a lit­tle pitch, and wher­ever that ball stops, maybe 20 yards away, be­comes the tar­get land­ing spot for my next shot – and so on. Each ball runs a few yards far­ther than the pre­vi­ous, and this is how I grad­u­ally, yet quickly, work to­ward hit­ting full lob wedges. Not only does this game loosen the joints, it puts you in the mode of re­act­ing to a tar­get in­stead of ex­plor­ing me­chan­i­cal thoughts. If you start the day by, say, hit­ting to a flag that hap­pens to be 50 yards away, the ten­dency is to get lost search­ing for the tech­nique to hit that shot per­fectly over and over. Be­fore you know it, you’ve blown through half the bucket, your grip gets too tight, and the only shot you know how to hit is from 50 yards. mccormick If you watch Jor­dan warm up, you’ll see how he pops the turf with his club to give him­self a slightly raised, flaw­less lie.You might think, Isn’t that mak­ing it too easy? Well, prac­tic­ing from tough lies can be good train­ing, but the warm-up should be done in the vac­uum of ideal con­di­tions.Take a lie that al­lows the shot.Why do any­thing to dis­rupt the free­dom of your swing on game day?

work the irons

spi­eth Even for my quicker warm-up, I’ll work down the bag from my short­est irons to my long­est, us­ing the even num­bers one day and the odds the next. I’m mov­ing quickly, but if you watch, you’ll no­tice that I never hit a care­less ball – ev­ery shot has a pur­pose. Be­fore each swing, I an­nounce to Cam or my cad­die (or just to my­self) the tra­jec­tory I in­tend to hit, like a high fade or a low draw. If I’m strug­gling to achieve these flights, I’ll take a break and try some wild shots. I’ll slice a 6-iron as far to the right on the range as pos­si­ble, and then with the next ball, I’ll hit a low, run­ning punch with hook spin over to the left side. Ei­ther shot might travel only 100 yards and look pretty ugly. It’s funny be­cause I’ll do this at tour­na­ments, and I know fans are think­ing, Wow, he re­ally doesn’t have it. But what I’m do­ing is brack­et­ing ex­tremes to find the mid­dle for the day.When you stand on the range and try to hit ev­ery shot per­fect, you can get locked into play­ing golf swing. Bet­ter to stay loose by hit­ting some funky shots, so you’re bet­ter pre­pared to ac­tu­ally play golf. mccormick It al­most goes with­out say­ing: Only highly skilled play­ers should con­cern them­selves in a warm-up with vary­ing the tra­jec­tory and shape of shots high, low, left and right. For most of us, the goal should be to find one re­li­able shape to go play with. But you can still learn from Jor­dan’s ex­am­ple. Don’t be afraid to ex­per­i­ment with the feel­ing of a ma­jor slice or hook to learn con­trol of the club­face and club path through im­pact.


tame the driver

spi­eth On the range, most am­a­teurs spend way too much time hit­ting driver. I get it; it’s the club that’s the most fun to hit. But whal­ing away and bend­ing over to re-tee 50 times is no way to pre­pare for a round. Not only is it phys­i­cally tax­ing, it can wash away the good feel and tempo you’ve pre­sum­ably just es­tab­lished with your wedges and irons. I’ll of­ten hit only four or five balls with my driver to close a warm-up ses­sion. But you might no­tice I start to be­come more de­lib­er­ate. I step be­hind the ball and walk into the shot as I would on the course. I’m visu­al­iz­ing the tee shots on the open­ing holes, imag­in­ing the bor­ders of the fair­way and the trou­ble. I stretch the time be­tween shots to bet­ter sim­u­late the pace when I’m on the course. Hit­ting only a hand­ful of driv­ers – but like each one re­ally counts – gives me the con­fi­dence that I’ll bring my range game to the tee. mccormick I love this photo (pre­vi­ous page) of the top of Jor­dan’s swing. His hip turn is un­re­stricted, pro­vid­ing am­ple free­dom for a deep shoul­der turn. One un­de­sir­able ten­dency Jor­dan mon­i­tors, and that I see from many am­a­teurs, is the front hip buck­ling and caus­ing the torso to tilt for­ward. A few times dur­ing the warm-up, I’ll ask Jor­dan to re­hearse a “hip check,” where he pauses the swing half­way back to ver­ify that his front hip is sta­ble. It’s es­pe­cially im­por­tant that we do this with the driver, be­cause bad idio­syn­cra­sies of­ten sur­face when us­ing the long­est club. It’s OK to check one or two me­chan­i­cal el­e­ments in a warm-up, but no more.

last­ing lessons

spi­eth The first thing I learned from Cam was pa­tience. For me to be­come a more con­sis­tent ball-striker, he be­lieved it was nec­es­sary to make a cou­ple sig­nif­i­cant swing changes. I re­mem­ber hit­ting bags where only one out of ev­ery three balls got off the ground. It was frus­trat­ing be­cause my friends were go­ing out to play, but a lot of weeks Cam didn’t want me on the course. When prac­tice got real dreary, he’d try to keep it some­what fun by mak­ing up games.The sim­ple range tune ups we now en­joy are the re­sult of a lot of work. To any golfer not will­ing to sac­ri­fice the time to make swing changes, my ad­vice is to prac­tice your short game as much as pos­si­ble.

Mccormick Map­ping out a pro­gram for a golfer to get bet­ter is a re­spon­si­bil­ity that doesn’t sit lightly with me.At the high­est level, the dif­fer­ence be­tween suc­cess and fail­ure can be a mat­ter of mil­lime­tres, and it’s my job to tease out those mil­lime­tres. What amazes me about Jor­dan, and com­pet­i­tive golfers in gen­eral, is the courage they dis­play in try­ing things that ex­pose them as hu­mans. When­ever I take on a new stu­dent, the first order of busi­ness is al­ways a lengthy con­ver­sa­tion in my of­fice. I want to know the per­son be­fore I see the swing.


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