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 sometimes 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 wedges or short irons. 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 making solid contact with ball (center of the clubface). On the practice range the emphasis should be on solid ball contact vs the number of swings or club/ball speed.
From the driving range move to the chipping green. Juniors can use a tee stuck into the green as a target. Practice chips from just off the green and from different 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, or even deciding to putt from off the green vs chipping.
On the putting green, focus foremost on green speed and putting stroke. Start with longer (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 close to the fringe. Do long uphill and downhill putts, all the time keeping the stroke motion smooth. 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.
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.
How the AJGA organizes the warm up schedule
When COVID hit in early 2020 it became necessary to limit space on the range and putting green in order to effectively keep junior golfers at a reasonable distance from one another. In addition, tournament organizers did not want juniors showing up at the course hours before their tee time. The AJGA implemented the following rules for most tournaments, as it relates to timing and warming up. We found this set up to work well for our juniors.
- Players are assigned practice times on the driving range and practice putting green before the round.
- A player’s time on the driving range starts one hour prior to their tee time and they are allotted up to 30 minutes to warm up on the driving range.
- An AJGA staff member will be located at the driving range monitoring players start and end times on the range.
- At the end of the player’s driving range time (so 30 minutes before tee time) they may go to the practice putting green and short game area for 20 minutes.
- Players are required to be at the first tee 10 minutes prior to tee time.