The Terrible Twos Syndrome of Golf Club Fitting: Part Thirty-One

Having discussed one’s wearing apparel and a means of securing precise amounts of clubhead weighting required for convenient application once swinging begins, I will now briefly address the subject of warming up sufficiently before swinging begins.  This is an element that I have usually effected satisfactorily in a fairly natural manner throughout my extensive number of years performing in all kinds of various activities, though not always, sometime being rather inconsistent and/or foolish regarding warming up.  Not addressing this element appropriately each and every time a clubfitting session begins can lead to inconsistent and/or incorrect clubfitting results as well as potential injury that certainly no one wants to experience.  As a poor example of my own previous behavior, I often did not warm up adequately before beginning to go over a range of swingweight values as is about to be done here.  Among my reasoning was that I always believed I would be starting at a swingweight value that was far below what my ideal value would be, and by the time I approached that ideal value I figured I would be warmed up well.  I commonly just started swinging easier at the lower swingweights and I was essentially fully warmed up by the time I got to more typically normal swingweight values, having often made dozens of swings in reaching that point.

While for the most part I avoided injury and got correct results doing this, it is certainly still not a very smart thing to do.  Among other things, I eventually became less confident in the results and perceptions obtained at the lower swingweights, which kind of defeats much of the purpose of testing at those lower values in the first place.  Plus, while this could be done for swingweight testing if starting at a value that is sufficiently below one’s final value, it cannot be routinely done for subsequently testing other club specifications, where one will need to be fully warmed up and critical clubfitting decisions will be at hand starting with the first swings.  I did not like the inconsistency I developed there with respect to warming up.  Now some genuinely good things can in fact be learned about certain golf swing and/or clubfitting principles by intentionally swinging before one is fully warmed up.  However, doing this by intent where one is fully aware of the testing circumstances would make one much less prone to overswinging and bringing potential injury into the picture.  While this aspect was also in my mind and contributed some to my decisions to not warm up at times as described above, it was not the express purpose of not warming up, thus making it a foolish protocol to follow.  Not being warmed up can actually be mimicked to a certain extent and under the right conditions even when one is in a fully-warmed-up state, and I will address this a little more a bit later.

Regardless of whether you consider warming up to be a science, art, or a combination thereof, when it comes to how to specifically do so there might be as many different recommendations as there are about how to swing a golf club, and I will not analyze this in depth here.  But I will post a few broader points to keep in mind.  The general object of warming up is to be able to reach a physical state (as quickly as possible for most people) where one’s body can perform one’s golf swing to its maximum potential.  In an overall sense, not being adequately warmed up leaves one in a physically “weaker” state.  This should be pretty obvious with respect to our golf swings, as we all routinely hit the ball shorter for a time using any given club right after being physically inactive for a period and swinging without duress until our muscles become more stretched out or loosened up.  That is simply the way our human bodies work, and I am not really familiar with the physiology of this.  But beyond the less swing strength and increased potential for injury when swinging too forcibly (whether intentionally or inadvertently) before one’s body is satisfactorily warmed up, perhaps it is not as obvious that this weakened swing strength can also have a direct impact on golf club fitting results.  When one’s golf swing is in a weaker state, a selection of a lighter swingweight value can easily be unwittingly made and is just one of many possibilities of how not being sufficiently warmed up can be directly linked to a serious deficiency concerning any given clubfitting exercise.

Now momentarily put aside actually hitting some golf balls on a driving range to warm up, which would commonly be done by swinging easy at the start with one of the shorter, heavier (in total weight) clubs and then frequently progressing in both swing intensity and club selection.  I will instead briefly discuss warming up on the first tee when one does not do so on a driving range.  The use of a driving range (for warming up before play and not clubfitting purposes), which is very important before starting serious play right from the first tee shot, is generally not common for most players before most rounds of golf.  (Practice putting greens are another matter, more commonly utilized by golfers to practice putting and/or perhaps chipping as the particular venue allows before teeing off).  Various reasons for limited driving range use before play (fairly legitimate reasons) include many golf courses not even having a driving range on site to begin with.  And even if they do, the amount of benefit received on the course relative to the time spent on the range, particularly for rounds that are less serious in nature compared to tournament play for example, is usually not worth it to most typical golfers.  Even if one makes no attempt to warm up before one’s first tee shot (dismissing the potential injury factor here) and then proceeds to loosen up once play has actually begun, one is commonly pretty well warmed up in a few holes or less (depending upon many cumulative circumstances).  And even that figure can be lessened considerably through warm-up exercises that can be performed as time permits before making the first stroke that counts.

(But again, warming up on a driving range before serious play begins, from a common sense standpoint, can be extremely beneficial.  Many things are accomplished there aside from just warming up one’s physical body.  This includes but is not limited to getting a more tangible sense of physical club/ball contact, how solidly one is contacting the golf ball on any given day, and whether one’s swing that day might be producing a golf ball flight that is any different than expected [in which case one may or may not decide to make any physical and/or psychological adjustments with the intent of playing one’s best that day].  None of this specific type of feedback is available from warming up one’s golf swing without hitting some actual golf balls before play begins.  Also know, though, that the way one hits the ball on the range can often be quite different than the way one hits it once on the course for a virtually unlimited number of different reasons, like one or more specific conditions existing at the particular driving range stall that one warmed up at).

Anyway, assuming that a driving range is not employed to warm up, one of the simplest and quickest ways to get loose to both aid in injury prevention and get one’s swing up to speed so to speak is to take hold of any of one’s golf clubs and repeatedly swing it back and forth in a manner such that it could be considered one continuous motion, having just momentary club stoppages and reversals at the top of one’s backswing and the finish of one’s follow through (some might suggest placing a special warm-up weight on the club or using multiple clubs as just a couple of many variations of this procedure).  In other words, one’s next swing (other than the initial swing) actually begins from the position one finishes one’s previous swing at, which is the final position of one’s follow through.  This is an exercise that also has other extremely valuable golfing implications aside from warming up as will be discussed later.  The exercise is begun slowly, physically swinging only as far back and forth as one comfortably can given the overall circumstances (which can include the weather conditions and other circumstances in addition to the specific state of one’s physical body at the time).  With each successive repetition one tries to extend one’s swing backward and forward a little more in an effort to quickly yet safely warm up all of one’s body parts that will be used to swing with when play commences.  Because the club will already be in motion at the point that a normal golf swing begins from, the force of this motion will aid in stretching out one’s muscles a little more during consecutive repetitions toward getting warmed up fairly efficiently.

Now while being able to fully warm up one’s body performing this exercise once would apparently be nice, I cannot usually accomplish this.  While hardly taking my breath away to the extent of running a sprint, I nevertheless usually find myself sufficiently winded that I need to stop and catch my breath before I am anywhere near being warmed up well enough to make a full, hard swing and be comfortably confident that I will not strain something or otherwise injure myself when doing so.  So even when performing this particular exercise I usually need to repeat it more than once with a short break in between each one.  But while this exercise is a fairly quick way to warm up one’s golf swing when one goes to the first tee after barely waking up in the morning or is otherwise physically inactive for a period, its relative quickness does have drawbacks.  This motion used to warm up one’s golf swing is highly specific, and if one thereafter makes a golf swing that deviates from that specific warm-up motion to a notable degree, one can still be prone to sustaining an injury.  I have encountered this in the past.

Beyond that, there are numerous other kinds of warm-up exercises recommended by a multitude of various sources.  Such exercises can go well beyond the range of just the very specific motion gone through when performing one’s golf swing, which is better for helping to prevent injury if one makes some early swings during play where one’s motion goes outside of the range covered by the “perpetual golf swing” exercise described above.  Such exercises might target only specific muscles and not all of those involved in one’s golf swing all at once, and so multiple individual exercises might have to be performed.  Thus, reasonably it would take longer to comprehensively warm up, but it would also be more thorough in what is accomplished.  (Warming up can be done at home if the routine is deemed too long for first-tee preparation, but depending on the travel time to the course one might be just as stiff again as before warming up at home).  Some such exercises might be specifically geared toward warming up one’s golf swing, while others might be more general in nature that can be used for warming up for performing any number of activities.  It is up to each individual to investigate and decide what one wants to do in the area of warming up before play begins, or in this case before clubfitting begins.  Aside from the perpetual golf swing exercise, I will not address any other potential warm-up exercises here but will perhaps discuss others if and when they are relevant to a particular topic.

Again, the crucial goal is to be able to achieve one’s fullest and hardest of golf swings (without putting oneself at risk for injury) through sufficiently warming up one’s body before commencing any clubfitting exercise in this instance, or results could easily be inaccurate and/or inconsistent.  Do not confuse (as I sadly did for a very long time) being able to make a well-coordinated golf swing with being physically warmed up well.  I can roll out of bed and with my eyes still closed make a well-coordinated swinging motion, albeit my muscles are so contracted and restricted that I easily know my capable range of motion is not being achieved.  I essentially feel that I am only swinging half way back at that point.  I used to foolishly believe that as long as I made that well-coordinated swing none of my club specifications would be different to any notable degree regardless of whether I was sufficiently warmed up or not (until I resoundingly discovered otherwise).  Even if actually hitting golf balls to warm up for playing, warming-up exercises that do not require hitting golf balls (some may not even utilize a golf club) might as an extra measure toward preventing injury still be performed before starting to hit golf balls if desired, as we all sometimes tend to think we are physically and psychologically better than we are and swing harder than we should before being acceptably warmed up.

Time frame wise, I have noted that I am often to the point of being slightly winded right after finishing warming up, and I do not want to immediately commence swinging right from that point for testing purposes.  Minimally, one may only need a minute or so to sufficiently recuperate if one is standing on the first tee and required to tee off at that time.  But when at home preparing for a clubfitting session, I will often take a breather for about fifteen minutes give or take, maybe clean the grips of the clubs I will be testing, and gather up the clubs plus any supplies I need.  After that period, even if I sense I have started to stiffen up at all, only a minimal amount of warming-up activity usually needs to be repeated before being ready to begin testing.  (If not playing or swinging for a period such that one becomes sore within a day or two of doing so, it is only common sense to refrain from fitting any golf club specifications until that soreness disappears and one is in better “golfing shape”).

Again I am not familiar with the exact physiology and timeline for how long it takes one to fall into a performance-affecting, non-warmed-up state from a warmed-up state.  I do know that it is not an abrupt change but more gradual and that there are various factors involved.  As a simplified example, if getting totally warmed up for golf and then just resting for a while, getting into a fully-warmed-up state again a half hour later will in principle require less warm-up activity than if getting into a fully-warmed-up state again an hour later instead.  Another very actively involved factor is the weather temperature.  Once warmed up well, in hot weather one often does not fall back into an insufficiently-warmed-up state for an indeterminate longer period of time, whereas in cold weather one might just walk to one’s next shot and already be stiffening up.  Tournament regulations can even exist where if play is officially delayed for more than a certain period of time, players must be allowed to warm up again before they continue play.

While I would not go as far as to say that it is possible to warm up too much when done so rationally, it is definitely possible to warm up in such a way that one can actually feel artificially stronger, albeit temporarily.  Warming up for hitting in baseball while using a weighted doughnut slipped onto one’s bat or using two golf clubs to warm up one’s golf swing are a couple of examples.  When thereafter swinging one’s equipment in its normal state immediately after utilizing such warm up strategies, one’s equipment can essentially feel as light as a toothpick.  But such a perception of increased strength usually subsides rather quickly.  It is commonly gone by the time one walks to one’s second shot (unless one’s tee shot is still essentially on the tee, not out of the question for anyone given how extremely light and out of control a single, regular golf club can feel immediately after warming up in such a manner.  Therefore, one must also be careful to not start assessing clubfitting results too soon after warming up in a manner that can temporarily give one a false sense of strength.  This information can be used as a supplement to one’s experience to date to help determine how one chooses to proceed with the science/art of warming up before clubfitting sessions are started.