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A Little Light Warmup Goes a Long Way

All right, finally, some of us have been able to hit some golf balls! How do you get yourself ready for the season?

This past weekend, I witnessed a golf-hungry customer buy a large bucket of balls for the range, holding only a driver. I was curious and asked if he’d hit balls yet this spring, and he had not. My first thought was, “Be careful!”

Our bodies are just coming out of hibernation, and we need to ease our way into the twisting and accelerating motions of the golf swing. (I also looked for some ibuprofen in case he asked later, but I took some myself as my body started to ache just thinking about this fellow hitting driver right out of the gate!)

How should you warm up for the golf season? By stretching first, of course. But stretching is no fun, so if you have to do a little, focus on your hamstrings, hip flexors, back, shoulders, wrists and ankles.

Begin your first practice session of the season with some chip shots. This smaller half-swing will help develop some feel and timing between your body, the golf club and the ball. Hitting solid chip shots requires your weight on your lead foot and an accelerating swing, with the leading edge of the club descending to the ground, the same characteristics needed for a full swing.

If you warm up the full swing with chip shots, you’ll be halfway there. Plus, early in the season, getting a feel for the short game is always the most difficult thing to do, so this approach also gives you a headstart toward lower scores.

When you’re ready for the full swing, ease into it with your shortest-length clubs, like a sand wedge or pitching wedge, and begin with shorter and slower swings until you find the center of the club’s face. As you loosen up and get more comfortable, you can begin ramping up the speed.

Now that you’re feeling good, work your way down the bag, hitting your irons — 9-iron first, working down to the 5-iron — before your hybrids, fairways and driver. The driver should always be the last. Is that’s why they say — save the best for last?

Hey, this is how tour players warm up. If it works for Bubba Watson, it has to at least help you and me.

Peter Harris is director of golf at the Fore-U Golf Center in West Lebanon.