What are you doing when you go to the driving range before a round?  Over the last few years, I stopped going.  I always seemed a little pressed for time, and besides, it never seemed to make any difference.  Most days, I got up on the tee, went through my pre-shot routine, and striped the ball down the middle of the fairway, which someone in the group followed up by saying “so much for practice.” But more recently, I’ve been forced to think more about loosening up my back muscles, acknowledging that “going from zero to sixty in 2 seconds on the first tee” is the likely culprit in creating low-mid back tightness and guarding.  When that happens, I can no longer turn freely, so the swing becomes all arms and I start pulling everything left (so will you).  

Golf is a sport after all and deserves the respect of a proper warm up.  There is a reason we warm up – and for those of you getting a little older, this is even more important.   So, let’s acknowledge there is this physical aspect of warming up on the range before a round, which is of value, as long as you don’t go out there and just start pounding your driver.  Ease into it.  Recently, I was coaching someone on the range before teeing off, standing next to that small perfect pyramid of sparkling white practice balls.  

I asked, “What do hope you hope to accomplish here at the driving range?”  

And he responded, “I’m going to get my swing in shape and work on straightening some things out.”

 “Really? Ten minutes before a round, you are going to figure something out and make some corrections?  Has this been working for you?” 

 “Not really, but it’s just what I do.” 

“Let me suggest another approach here.  If you start hitting some great shots right now on the range, what usually happens next?”

“Usually, I can’t take that to the course.”

“That’s a very common. Transferring driving range success onto the course has a number of solutions, based on various psychological types and it’s also a mental issue for some people.  At best, you’ll hit some great shots and then have to deal with your hope of carrying that onto the first tee.  Or, you won’t “find” your swing and, at worst, start shanking the ball.  Then what?  You drive over to the first tee and face your round with that baggage.”  

“So, what do you suggest?” 

“Warm up your muscles a little.  Start with some short clubs and swing in a nice tempo.  Finding your best personal tempo is one of things you can do on the range before a round - and forget about where the balls are going.  If they go great, you may not carry that over, and if they aren’t so great, it doesn’t matter either.  For our purposes now, it doesn’t matter where the balls are going. Find your tempo and link it with some proper breathing – slowly inhaling on the slow backswing, and smoothly exhaling to the end of a completed swing – never forcibly expelling your breath.  Feel this tempo coupled with the integration of breathing with it and notice how good these swings feel.  It may even feel like these swings create energy for you.  Five to ten minutes of this may be enough.  Now, let’s go play some golf.” 

Dr. Rich