Hint: It’s not by hitting a bucket of balls before tee-time

By Greg Doucette, MSPT, OCS and Lance Howard, PTA, CPT

We’ve all done it. Late for a tee time and rushing to the course, we throw our bag on the pull cart and head straight to the first tee box.  We don’t even think about how the next four hours will ravage our bodies. “Even a bad day of golf is better than a good day at work!” we think as tee up the ball to hit the first drive. Before we know it, we’re swinging away, putting stress on muscles, bones, ligaments, and tendons that are not ready for the task. And sure, we may get through the round unscathed, but each time we fail to prepare like this, we inch closer to the edge of the injury cliff. The more we do this, the more likely we are to fall over that edge and end up in pain for weeks or more, keeping us away from golf, work and everything else we love to do.

What’s the answer? It’s not the driving range, at least not at first. Showing up 20 minutes early to hit a bucket of balls to get loose doesn’t make you ready to play, unfortunately. In fact, hitting a bucket of balls without proper preparation could actually do more harm than good. A basketball player doesn’t get ready for the game by just shooting free throws. A baseball player doesn’t limit their pregame routine to just throwing. A golfer should not limit his or her preparation to only one part of their sport either.

One of the cardinal rules we at Performance tell golfers, is that, especially for those who have a history of injury, is that hitting balls at the range is not adequate.  You cannot swing to warm up. You must warm up to swing. Warming up before a hitting any golf balls decreases your risk of injury and allows you properly groove your swing on the range before walking up to the first tee.

The average round contains about 3 miles of walking.  It will include over one hundred repetitions of bending. Adding just those elements to the 200-300 swings you may take (including practice swings) during a round and you have over 500 individual opportunities for injury. A comprehensive warm-up routine is the best way to prepare your body for ALL the rigors of a round of golf.

A proper warm up should be a series of dynamic activities performed at a pace that allows you to raise your heart rate to about 60 percent of your maximum heart rate. Maximum HR is found by subtracting your age from 220. Therefore, for a 50-year-old, that means you’d look at a maximum heart rate 170 (220-50) and a target HR of 102 beats per minute (60% x 170) during a warm-up. Moreover, your routine should focus on preparing all joints for mobility, from your neck to your ankles, and should include elements of core stability, balance, and flexibility that will carry over into your swing.

Start your warm up about 20 minutes before you start golfing. This means you’ll be doing it at the course. Will people look at you funny? Maybe. But you’ll be the one laughing when you out-drive them off the tee and are two-under after three holes (all while reducing your risk of injury).

Note: Your warm up SHOULD NOT include static stretching, which is when you hold a stretch for a long period of time. Recent research has shown that static stretching prior to athletic participation can actually limit your performance. It is however, a fantastic tool for recovery and should be and element of your cool down, along with re-hydration. So, before you hit the 19th hole, stretch and drink some water!

Perform each exercise for about one minute on both sides in order to keep symmetry. Download a PDF of the exercises here or review them below!

Neck Circles | 30 seconds in each direction

Drop your chin down to your collar bone, then rotate your head in a circle, bringing your ear to your right shoulder, up to the sky, to your left shoulder, then down at the floor. Repeat for 30 seconds and then switch directions.

Neck Rotation | 60 seconds

Turn your head to the left and hold for 2 seconds, then to the right and hold for 2 seconds. Continue for 60 seconds.



Torso Rotation with Club | 60 seconds

Stand in a 5-iron posture with your feet shoulder-width apart, and a slight bend in your knees and waist. Hold the club in front of your shoulders with crossed arms, and keeping your hips steady, rotate your shoulders from side to side.  The end of the club should point forward at the biggest point of the stretch.

Side Bends with Club | 60 seconds

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.  Hold the club on your shoulders behind your neck. Keeping your back straight, bend to your left and hold for two seconds, then to the right and hold for two seconds. Make sure you’re not bending forward or backward as you bend from side to side.

Shoulder Circles| 30 seconds per direction & side

Do small shoulder circles for 30 seconds, first clockwise and then counter clockwise.


Toy Soldiers | 60 seconds

Walk forward, kicking one leg and then the other out in front of you while keeping your back and knees straight. As you kick, reach your arm on the same side, aiming to touch your toes to your fingers. Keep your toes flexed toward your body as you kick.

High Knees Walk| 60 seconds

Walk around where you are, and with each step, grab your leg just below the knee with both hands and pull it as close to your chest as possible, feeling a stretch in the glute. Hold the stretch for a second and then release and take the next step.

Reverse Lunge Calf Stretch | 60 seconds

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and step back with one leg. Keep your back knee straight with your heel on the ground as you bend your front knee and drop into a slight lunge. Hold for a moment and then switch legs, alternating legs for 60 seconds.  Hold onto a wall or chair if you need to.

Greg Doucette, MSPT, OCS is a physical therapist and the clinic director at our East Providence location. Doucette, a board-certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist,  specializes in orthopedics, sports rehabilitation, functional dry needling, post-operative and total joint rehabilitation, and rehabilitation of the knee, shoulder and spine.

Lance Howard, PTA, CPT,  is a clinical education coordinator and physical therapy assistant with expertise in orthopedics, neurological conditions, post-surgical rehabilitation, home care, aquatics and functional rehabilitation.