A good warm up before a junior golf tournament is essential for a junior golfer. In our experience, the best golf tournament warm up routine is focused almost entirely on loosening the muscles and firing up muscle memory. Keep the conversation light and positive. The more the mind interferes in a warm up the more stress the junior may carry on to the course.
The junior golfer should approach the warm up with trust in his or her mechanics. There are many times a junior will get on to the practice range and find that nothing is going right, can't hit the ball on target and the distance just isn't there. In these instances it is imperative to breathe through the rising panic and have faith in the preparation made to date. The practice range, before a tournament and during warm up, is not a place for coaching, reworking or making any last minute changes to a swing. It is amazing to see how many parents do not buy into this wisdom. The practice range before a junior golf tournament is often filled with over anxious parents desperately trying to rework or "fix" their child's swing, leaving them both frustrated and the relationship strained before the first tee.
Ironically a bad warm up very often manifests into a stellar round - perhaps because the player concentrates that little bit better. This even true on the PGA Tour where some personal best rounds follow a shaky warm up.
The warm up is thus a time of mental rest and muscle firing. A solid warm up routine for a junior golfer should be 45 minutes to an hour - not including arrival, registration, restroom and walking to the first tee in time to arrive 10 minutes before tee time.
A good warm up starts with a few thorough body stretches. Start at the head and work down through the neck, shoulders, arms, wrists, back and legs. There are a few books on the market with stretching exercises formulated specifically for golfers, for example: Stretching For Golfers: The complete 15-minute stretching and warm up routine that will help you improve your golf swing, score, and game by David Nordmark.
Some junior golfers like to start their warm up on the range and others on the putting green. In our experience it does not matter too much and sometimes depends on where the range and practice green are in relation to the first tee and if there are spots open on the driving range. Our boys like to start on the driving range.
On the driving range first take out a short iron and do some full swings without a ball. Some juniors like to swing with a weighted warm up club or a weight donut or "swing sock" weight on a club, in order to gently stretch the muscles. Start hitting balls with a wedge. Once you feel good with tempo and rhythm work from short irons up to long irons then hybrid, fairway woods and finally the driver. Focus on balance, tempo and control. On the practice range the emphasis should be on solid ball contact.
PGA National Driving Range
From the driving range move to the chipping green and use a tee in the green as a target. Practice chips from just off the green and from various types of rough surrounding the green. The object of this part of the warm up is seeing how the ball is going to roll and test the grass conditions of the rough around the green. Always try to chip and putt with the type of ball you are playing with as they generally perform very differently for chips and putts, than the hard one-piece range balls.
On good courses the grass around the chipping green will be cut the same as on the course. This is especially important for courses that cut the grain away from the green which means that you are chipping "into the grain" and ball contact needs to be a lot more precise. If this is the case juniors should make sure they hit enough shots so that they are comfortable with these chips and will sometimes mean chipping with a pitching wedge instead of a lob or sand wedge.
On the putting green you need to focus on green speed and putting stroke. Start with long (20, 30 and 40 foot) putts from different angles. Don't feel like you have to putt to a pin - a tee or other marker works well. We often use the edge of the green as a target and try to roll the ball to stop right at the fringe. Do long uphill and downhill putts, all the time keeping the stroke motion smooth and deliberate. It is helpful to know the type of grass as some grasses like Bermuda have lots of "grain" that impact the speed and break of putts. If you are playing on grainy grass you should observe how the grain impacts the speed and break of putts. Putt at least 5 shorter putts of about 3 feet from around the pin and you should be in a position to move confidently to the first tee.
PGA National putting green
It is a good idea to follow the same routine for every warm up. For the junior golfer, in the warm up as well as during the game, the more the player's mind is at ease and they allow their body to do what they have trained it to do, the better the result is going to be.