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Focus your warm-up on your weaknesses—an LPGA Tour example

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This article is co-authored with Anne-Lise Bidou.

Anne-Lise is a French physiotherapist (trained in Australia), working on the LPGA Tour. Her current stable of players includes Hannah Green, Lizette Salas, Morgan Pressel, Paula Creamer, Mel Reid, Maria Fassi, Madelene Sagstrom, Mariah Stackhouse, Alena Sharp, Ashleigh Buhai, Laura Gonzalez Escallon and Tiffany Chan.

You can follow Anne-Lise and her life/work on tour: Instagram and Facebook

Golf warm-ups are often generic, vague, and lacklustre when they should be specific, targeted, and performed with intent. It’s the last opportunity you get before playing to get your body moving well, so why not make the most of it?

In this article, we present an example warm-up from Mariah Stackhouse, former Stanford star and emerging LPGA Tour player. Like many recreational golfers, Mariah’s warm-up used to be quite random, with no specific goals or direction and as a result, was rarely performed with much consistency.

When she started seeing Anne-Lise at the start of the 2019 LPGA Tour season, there were a few physical priorities that needed to be addressed:

  • General pain in upper back/neck
  • Pain in lower back when playing or practicing a lot
  • Mobility issues at the ankle, hip, thoracic spine and shoulder joints
  • Instability around the core/low back and scapular/upper back
  • History of left wrist pain

Throughout the 2019 season, whilst focusing on reducing pain and increasing mobility and stability, Mariah’s physical abilities have significantly improved. She no longer suffers from upper-back/neck or low back pain, demonstrated when she played a pain-free stretch of 7 weeks in a row in the middle of summer! 

Mariah recording her best finish on the LPGA Tour – T5 at the ShopRite Classic

As Anne-Lise’s combination of treatment and gym work with Mariah started to yield results, a natural progression was to incorporate some of the exercises into a structured warm-up routine. It made sense to ensure the negative physical tendencies didn’t creep into her golf swing and performance when it mattered most.

Mariah kicks off her warm-up with some basic movement preparation that includes mobility exercises using a foam roller and spiky ball to release the muscles that typically get tight (quads, QL/back extensors, pecs, and calves) and some dynamic stretches targeting the hips, thoracic spine, shoulder, wrist, and ankle. 

What follows are examples of the additional specific warm-up exercises that have been incorporated into her routine, along with the reasons for their inclusion relative to the physical priorities outlined above.

Warm-up Exercise 1: Posture Set with Crab Walks

In order to activate Mariah’s glute muscles (“king in the golf swing” according to Lance Gill) she does a crab walk with mini-band around the knee, combined with posture setting and a scapular (shoulder blade) stability exercise. The GravityFit TPro provides load and stimulus for her shoulder stabilizers as she pushes out against the yellow tubing, whilst making small circles. The part sitting on her upper back is called the backbow, providing awareness and feedback on Mariah’s posture.

Warm-up Exercise 2: Trunk Rotation

The trunk rotation with TPro focuses on upper/lower body dissociation; a very useful movement pattern in the golf swing. This an area that Mariah has focused a lot of effort on, partly due to the relevance to her backswing movement. She knows that an optimal take-away, with good arm-body connection, will set her in a good position from which she can make her ideal move into the downswing. 

 Warm-up Exercise 3: Single Leg Trunk Rotation

This exercise challenges Mariah’s ability to balance whilst rotating; another key focus for her. From a more general perspective, working on proprioception helps to improve neuromuscular function, helping to maximise her movement coordination and energy transfer. 

Warm-up Exercise 4: Backswing

One of the last things Mariah does before heading to the range is to practice a full backswing movement with the TPro. Again, for feedback on posture and shoulder position, whilst also pushing out against the yellow tubing with the aim of maintaining the width in her lead arm.

Additional Reasons for including the TPro in Mariah’s warm-up

Mariah tends to overuse her upper trap, neck and pec muscles to stabilize her head, spine, and shoulders. The TPro is useful due to the constant feedback on posture, along with stimulus to her activate her scapular stabilizers and core muscles (allowing upper trap, neck and pec muscles to relax).

Due to some previous wrist injury, the use of the TPro has also been very effective in preparing the muscles around her hands, wrists, elbows, and shoulders. 

Takeaway

You might want to consider adding a few specific movement preparation exercises to your pre-round routine. The self-massage and stretching will help ensure good range of movement, but switching on the right muscles and rehearsing your desired movement patterns could really help you find your swing earlier in the day!

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Nick Randall is a Strength and Conditioning Coach, Presenter and Rehab Expert contracted by PGA Tour Players, Division 1 colleges and national teams to deliver golf fitness services. Via his Golf Fit Pro website, app, articles and online training services, Nick offers the opportunity to the golfing world to access his unique knowledge and service offerings. www.golffitpro.net

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Clement: Load up the full power package in the backswing!

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This video is FUNDAMENTAL FOR POWER GAINS in the golf swing; the arm anatomy BEGS TO BE USED in this manner from casting a fishing pole, to serving a tennis ball to batting a baseball to driving a golf ball. YOU WILL LOVE how much SNAP you will get through the ball and the sound the ball will make coming off the club from the compression off the face. BLISS ON A STICK!

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Clement: This wrist position can add 30 yards to your drive

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Drop the mic on how the wrists should load and be positioned for compressive power, accuracy, and longevity! There is a better way, and this is it!

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Short Game University: How to hit wedges 301

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In golf, there is nothing harder than judging a flop shot over a bunker to a tight pin out of long grass. Why? Because there are so many variables to account for — in addition to what you can and cannot do with a wedge. In fact, up until very recently in the world of wedge design, we were limited to only increasing the landing angle to stop the ball, because relying on spin from this lie and this close to the green was next to impossible.

Now with the advent of things like raw faces, different CG locations, new groove design, and micro-ribs between the grooves, we can now spin the ball out of lies that we never could have done so before. This is not to say that you can now zip the ball back from these types of lies, but we are seeing spin rates that have skyrocketed, and this allows us to not open the face as much as we needed to do before in order to stop the ball.

Before we get into the shot around the green itself, let’s talk a bit about wedge design. For that, I called a great friend of mine, Greg Cesario, TaylorMade’s Staff Manager to help us understand a bit more about wedges. Greg was a former PGA Tour Player and had a big hand in designing the new Milled Grind 3 Wedges.

Cesario said: “Wedge technology centers on two key areas- the first is optimizing its overall launch/spin (just like drivers) on all shots and the second is optimum ground interaction through the geometry of the sole (bounce, sole width, and sole shape).”

“Two key things impact spin: Groove design and face texture. Spin is the secondary effect of friction. This friction essentially helps the ball stick to the face a little longer and reduces slippage. We define slippage as how much the ball slides up the face at impact. That happens more when it’s wet outside during those early morning tee times, out of thicker lies, or after a bit of weather hits. Our Raised Micro-Ribs increase friction and reduce slippage on short partial shots around the round – that’s particularly true in wet conditions.”

“We’ve been experimenting with ways to find optimal CG (center of gravity) placement and how new geometries can influence that. We know that CG locations can influence launch, trajectory and spin. Everyone is chasing the ability to produce lower launching and higher spinning wedge shots to help players increase precision distance control. In that space, moving CG just a few millimeters can have big results. Beyond that, we’re continuing to advance our spin and friction capabilities – aiming to reduce the decay of spin from dry to fluffy, or wet conditions.”

Basically, what Greg is saying is that without improvements in design, we would never be able to spin the ball like we would normally when it’s dry and the lie is perfect. So, with this new design in a wedge like the Milled Grind 3 (and others!), how can we make sure we have the optimal opportunity to hit these faster-stopping pitch shots?

  1. Make sure the face is clean and dry
  2. Open the blade slightly, but not too much
  3. Set the wrists quicker on the backswing to increase the AoA
  4. Keep the rear shoulder moving through impact to keep the arms going

Make sure the face is clean and dry

If your thought is to use spin to stop the ball quicker under any situation, then you must give the club a chance to do its job. When the grooves are full of dirt and grass and the remaining exposed face is wet, then you are basically eliminating any opportunity to create spin. In fact, if you decide to hit the shot under these conditions, you might as well hit a flop shot as this would be the only opportunity to create a successful outcome. Don’t put yourself behind the eight-ball automatically, keep your club in a clean and dry condition so you have the best chance to do what you are capable of doing.

Open the blade slightly, but not too much

Without going into too much extra detail, spinloft is the difference between your angle of attack and your dynamic loft. And this difference is one of the main areas where you can maximize your spin output.

Too little or too much spinloft and you will not be able to get the maximum spin out of the shot at hand. With wedges, people equate an open clubface to spinning the ball, and this can be a problem due to excessive spinloft. Whenever you have too much dynamic loft, the ball will slide up the face (reduced friction equals reduced spin) and the ball will float out higher than expected and roll out upon landing.

My thought around the green is to open the face slightly, but not all the way, in efforts to reduce the probability of having too much spinloft during impact. Don’t forget under this scenario we are relying on additional spin to stop the ball. If you are using increased landing angle to stop the ball, then you would obviously not worry about increasing spinloft! Make sure you have these clear in your mind before you decide how much to open the blade.

Opened slightly

Opened too much

One final note: Please make sure you understand what bounce option you need for the type of conditions you normally play. Your professional can help you but I would say that more bounce is better than less bounce for the average player. You can find the bounce listed on the wedge itself. It will range between 4-14, with the mid-range bounce being around 10 degrees.

Set the wrists quicker on the backswing to increase the angle of attack

As we know, when debris gets in between the clubface and the ball (such as dirt/grass), you will have two problems. One, you will not be able to control the ball as much. Secondly, you will not be able to spin the ball as much due to the loss of friction.

So, what is the key to counteract this problem? Increasing the angle of attack by setting the wrists quicker on the backswing. Making your downswing look more like a V rather than a U allows less junk to get between the club and the ball. We are not using the bounce on this type of shot, we are using the leading edge to slice through the rough en route to the ball. Coming in too shallow is a huge problem with this shot, because you will tend to hit it high on the face reducing control.

Use your increased AoA on all of your crappy lies, and you will have a much better chance to get up and down more often!

Keep the rear shoulder moving through impact to keep the arms going

The final piece of the puzzle through the ball is speed through the pivot. You cannot hit shots around the green out of tall grass without keeping the club moving and having speed. A reduction of speed is obvious as the club enters into the tall grass, but you don’t want to exacerbate this problem by cutting off your pivot and letting the arms do all the work.

Sure, there are times when you want to cut off the body rotation through the ball, but not on the shot I am discussing here. When we are using spin, you must have speed to generate the spin itself. So, what is the key to maintaining your speed? Keeping the rear shoulder rotating long into the forward swing. If you do this, you will find that your arms, hands, and club will be pulled through the impact zone. If your pivot stalls, then your speed will decrease and your shots will suffer.

Hopefully, by now you understand how to create better shots around the green using the new wedge technology to create more spin with lies that we had no chance to do so before. Remembering these simple tips — coupled with your clean and dry wedge — will give you the best opportunity to be Tiger-like around the greens!

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