Four studies included at least one biomechanical measure of performance (20,21,33,37). Moran et al. (33) found that a dynamic warm-up resulted in straighter swing paths than static stretching and no stretching, but no differences were observed in club face angle at impact. Green et al. (20) measured the effects of a 500-m walk on several biomechanical variables in a subset of their sample (n = 6) and found that right knee rotation decreased by about 2.5°, but no other changes were observed. A comparison of a dynamic, rotation-specific golf warm-up and a sham warm-up found that both significantly increased X-factor stretch, but neither influenced X-factor (21). Finally, trigger point therapy in combination with a medicine ball warm-up clinically improved backswing hip rotation while the control group declined (37).
Five studies included a subjective measure of shot quality (8,17,18,43,45). The first method involved asking golfers whether they struck the ball well or not as a “Yes” or “No” after each shot. An outcome score was calculated as the number of “Yes” answers out of 10 shots (17,18,43,45). The second method asked golfers to rate the quality of each strike from 0 to 10, and an average shot quality score was calculated (8). Gergley (17) found a significant decline in shot quality when static stretching was added to an active dynamic warm-up (−16.3%). A follow-up to that study using the same warm-up protocol also found an acute decline in shot quality (−31.3%), which remained impaired at 15, 30, 45, and 60 minutes after stretching (18). Tilley and Macfarlane (45) found that a functional resistance-band warm-up significantly increased shot quality compared with an active dynamic warm-up (+13.4%) and a weightlifting warm-up (+12.1%). Dynamic stretching tended to result in greater reports of shot quality than static stretching, although it did not reach significance (43). Finally, Coughlan et al. (8) reported that a dynamic warm-up resulted in significantly higher shot quality than a golf club-only warm-up (+40.0%) and no warm-up (+40.0%).
Four studies also assessed objective measures of shot quality as distance between the impact point and the center of the clubface (20,33) and smash factor ratio (ball velocity/CHV) (37,45). Moran et al. (33) reported that dynamic stretching resulted in more central impact points than static stretching (Δ0.7 cm), whereas Green et al. (20) found no changes after a 500-m walk. A functional resistance-band warm-up resulted in greater smash factor ratio compared with an active dynamic warm-up (+1.5%) and an active dynamic warm-up with the addition of weightlifting (+0.7%) (45), although Quinn et al. (37) found no significant differences between trigger point therapy with either stretching or medicine ball exercises and a control group.
Accuracy following warm-ups was assessed in 8 studies (3,17,18,20,25,37,43,45), defined as shot displacement from a target line. When static stretching was added to an active dynamic warm-up, it significantly impaired accuracy (17,18), and it remained impaired 15, 30, and 45 minutes later (18). A dynamic stretching warm-up resulted in greater accuracy than static stretching (43), and trigger point therapy with either stretching or medicine ball exercises had greater improvements in accuracy than a control group (37). However, no differences in accuracy were observed in the remaining 4 studies (3,20,25,45).
Eight studies assessed CHS or CHV (8,14,17,18,33,37,38,45). Moran et al. (33) found that dynamic stretching resulted in greater CHS than static stretching (+1.9 m·s−1) and no stretching (+1.7 m·s−1). Fradkin et al. (14) reported a greater CHS with a multicomponent golf warm-up group compared with a control group that did not warm-up. Two studies observed the effects of adding static stretching to an active dynamic warm-up and found it impaired CHS acutely (17,18) and after 15 and 30 minutes, but not at 45 or 60 minutes (18). Read et al. (38) found that the addition of postactivation potentiation in the form of 3 countermovement jumps resulted in increased CHS (+2.2%). Similarly, Tilley and Macfarlane (45) found increases in CHS after a functional resistance-band warm-up and weightlifting warm-up compared with an active dynamic warm-up, but it did not reach statistical significance. Finally, Coughlan et al. (8) found significantly higher CHS following the combination of a club and dynamic warm-up compared with a control condition (+1.1%).
Carry and Total Shot Distance
Shot distance was assessed through carry distance or total distance. Bunker et al. (3) reported a significantly enhanced carry distance after whole-body vibration. Langdown et al. (25) found a small but insignificant increase in carry distance when comparing dynamic and resistance-band conditions with a control, but there were no significant differences between the dynamic and resistance-band conditions.
Total distance was assessed in 8 studies (3,7,17,18,20,37,43,45). Costa et al. (7) found that a stretching-only group had a significant decrease in distance at week 2 measurements, whereas the addition of spinal manipulative therapy resulted in slight increases over time. The addition of static stretching to an active dynamic warm-up impaired distance acutely (17,18) and at 15, 30, 45, and 60 minutes after stretching time points (18). The addition of whole-body vibration after a typical warm-up led to a significant increase in distance (3). Similar findings were observed with the addition of a 500-m walk in more competitive golfers, although the less experienced golfers had no significant changes (20). When comparing warm-up protocols, Sorbie et al. (43) found greater distance after dynamic stretching than static stretching. A dynamic warm-up with the addition of functional resistance-band condition also resulted in greater distance than when weight-training exercises were added (+4.8%) as well as the dynamic warm-up alone (+5.6%) (45). The only study to find no significant changes in distance was Quinn et al. (37), who found similar distances between groups administered trigger point therapy with stretching, trigger point therapy with medicine ball exercises, and a control group.
Other Shot Performance Variables
Ball speed or velocity immediately following impact was assessed in 3 studies (3,25,33). Moran et al. (33) found greater ball speed after dynamic stretching compared with static stretching (+3.5 m·s−1). Bunker et al. (3) assessed ball speed after a standard warm-up and then again after whole-body vibration, finding significant improvements following a whole-body vibration protocol. Langdown et al. (25) found no differences in ball velocity after dynamic or resistance-band warm-ups, but both were greater than a control condition with no warm-up.
Spin rate and launch angle after impact was assessed in 2 studies (3,25). No significant differences in the spin rate were observed in either study. A dynamic warm-up condition did result in greater launch angle compared with no warm-up, but no other differences were observed (25).
The purpose of this review was to summarize the current state of the literature regarding warm-ups for golf and to parlay the findings into practical recommendations as well as ideas for future research. Twenty-three total articles were reviewed (9 observational and 14 experimental) to answer the following 3 research questions: (a) What are the current warm-up behaviors of golfers?; (b) Is warm-up behavior associated with golf-related injury?; and (c) What are the effects of warm-up protocols on measures of golf performance?
Overall, data from 7 observational studies suggest that many golfers do not consistently warm-up before play or practice. Those who did warm-up tended to perform only one type of activity for short durations. The most common types of activities were air swings and stretching of some form. Although aerobic activity is recommended before physical activity (29), 2% or less of golfers included it before golf participation (11,12,15).
Professional golfers likely have the highest risk of injury (19,39,44), because of the high swing velocities and the large practice and competition loads that leave them susceptible to overuse injury (19,39,44). Despite the increased risk, little data exist on warm-up behaviors of competitive or professional golfers. One study in this review found that a small subset of professional golfers warmed up for greater durations than recreational or amateur golfers (19). Clearly, more data are needed to determine the warm-up behaviors of competitive golfers before practice and competition.
Another group that is considered at high risk of injury is the large population of older golfers (4,44), mainly due to a cumulative stress from repetitive swings combined with physiological changes that accompany aging, such as reductions in strength, power, and coordination (4,36,44). Despite the higher risk of injury, the available data indicate that older golfers are less likely to warm-up than their younger counterparts (12). Given the large number of older adults who play golf (5) and their higher risk of injury (4,19,44), future attempts should be made to evaluate whether warm-ups may mitigate injury risk and explore options to increase warm-up compliance.
Although warm-up behaviors were generally poor, most golfers believed that warming-up is beneficial (15). Improving performance and reducing risk of injury were also the 2 most common reasons given for why golfers chose to warm-up (12). Golfers who did not warm-up typically stated that they did not need to, did not have the time, or could not be bothered. In addition, most golfers did not know how to properly warm-up in a way that could improve performance or injury risk (12). However, golfers were 3 times more likely to warm‐up prior to golf play if they reported to know how to warm‐up properly. Given this information, it is possible that evidence-based education on the benefits of warming-up, as well as instruction on how to warm-up in a time-efficient manner, may improve the quantity and quality of warm-up behaviors.
Most of the data were collected using retrospective questionnaires. This is a concern because questionnaires relying on recall are often unreliable, especially if people are asked to remember information from distant memory (40). Self-report may also elicit different answers depending on the questionnaire format, order, and wording of the items (40). For example, many of the studies did not clearly define the types of warm-up activities, and only one study differentiated between static and dynamic stretching (11). In addition, most of the studies were primarily concerned with golf-related injury and not warm-up behaviors specifically and, as a result, included only 1 or 2 basic descriptors of warm-ups such as average duration.
Moving forward, researchers should clearly define warm-up variables and consider using physical observations and longitudinal methods. Likewise, more data are needed on the warm-up behaviors of competitive and professional golfers, as this was seen in only one study (19). This may be particularly important because more elite golfers produce high levels of CHS, experience more stressful loads on the musculoskeletal system (23,26), and have the highest risk of injury (4,44). Finally, future research may address whether educational or instructional programs lead to improved warm-up behaviors.
Based on the studies identified in this review, the current data on the association between warm-up behaviors and injury in golf are conflicting. Gosheger et al. (19) found that golfers who reported to warm-up less than 10 minutes also reported more injuries than those who warm-up for longer durations. However, Palmer et al. (35) and Silva et al. (41) found opposite associations, as those who reported a history of musculoskeletal conditions warmed up for a greater duration than those who did not. Similarly, a mix of results was observed when analyzing warm-up behaviors as a risk factor for injury. A retrospective study of Australian golfers found that performing range of motion activities was associated with a higher risk of injury (30). The prospective follow-up to this study found no association between warm-up behaviors and injury over the subsequent year (31). Interestingly, 2 studies by Fradkin et al. (15,16) found the opposite, with failure to warm-up significantly associated with increased injury risk.
All the studies were observational, meaning that no firm causal inferences can be made from the data. For example, Palmer et al. (35) and Silva et al. (41) found that those with an injury history also reported longer warm-up durations, but it is unknown whether the warm-up behaviors contributed to the injuries or whether the golfers chose to spend more time warming-up as a response to previous or current injuries. Conflicting results between the McHardy and Fradkin studies (15,16,30,31) also make it unclear whether warm-up behaviors are a significant risk factor for injury. As mentioned previously, there are limitations to self-report data that may have impacted the findings (40). It is also possible that the way injury was defined (Table 3), how the questions were asked, and how the data were analyzed may have contributed to the differences between the 2 authors. More clear definitions on what constitutes a warm-up or range of motion activity would allow for a more straightforward interpretation. In sum, due in large part to a lack of longitudinal and experimental research, it is unclear whether warm-up behaviors significantly reduce, increase, or have a null effect on the risk of golf-related injury.
Several steps should be taken to improve the quality of data on warm-up behaviors and injury risk. First, clear and more consistent data collection procedures and definitions of variables are needed for comparative purposes and to allow for the aggregation of data in meta-analyses. As it currently stands, the ways in which researchers have defined injuries have varied substantially, making it difficult to compare results between studies. In addition, as mentioned previously, the definition of what constitutes a warm-up is often vague or undefined, and different warm-up activities are often grouped together into broad categories. It is possible that different warm-up activities (dynamic stretching, aerobic activity, and resistance exercise) may have different effects on injury risk through different mechanisms and should be studied as isolated variables.
Second, the research would be substantially improved if injuries were diagnosed—or at a minimum confirmed—by a qualified research team member, as opposed to relying solely on golfer self-reports. Obviously, this would impose additional burdens on both research subjects and investigators, but it is clear from the current literature that the reliance on self-reports (especially retrospective questionnaires) is hampering the synthesis of clear conclusions and recommendations. Similarly, more longitudinal data are needed; in some cases, golfers were asked to recall injuries from up to 3 years before (35,41). Preferably, some of these longitudinal studies would use experimental designs so that causality can be determined, but this may be challenging to do in elite golfers. Finally, future research needs to delineate between recreational, competitive, and elite golfers. The only study identified in this review that included data on professionals did not separate them from the remainder of the sample when analyzing the association between warm-up duration and injury rates (19).
Fourteen experimental studies assessed the effects of warm-up protocols on measures of performance. The measures were not direct performance indicators (score or handicap over time), but they are commonly regarded as valid proxy measures of golf performance. Distance off the tee and CHS are considered vital components of golf success because of close associations with skill level and on-course performance (2,13). Other measures included were accuracy and shot quality, which are important to assess because a common concern among golfers is increased CHS or distance will be accompanied by decrements in shot quality and accuracy. An ideal warm-up would enhance CHS and distance while simultaneously having a positive or at least minimal negative effect on accuracy and shot quality.
Although the warm-up protocols used, outcomes assessed, and research methodology was inconsistent, a few general themes emerged from this review. First, static stretching appears to be a suboptimal warm-up approach for improving golf performance. Static stretching was outperformed by dynamic stretching (33,43), and the addition of static stretching to an active dynamic warm-up resulted in impaired CHS, driving distance, accuracy, and self-reported shot quality (17,18). Moreover, performance on these metrics remained impaired for up to 30–60 minutes (18). In contrast to static stretching, dynamic warm-ups tended to enhance measures of performance compared with control conditions or club-only warm-ups (8,25,33). Moran et al. (33) found that dynamic stretching produced greater CHS, ball speed, and straighter swing paths than static stretching or no stretching. Similarly, Coughlan et al. (8) and Langdown et al. (25) found that dynamic exercise warm-up conditions resulted in superior results compared with either no warm-up or a club-only warm-up. The findings are in-line with the current literature, and recommendations suggesting dynamic stretching is often superior to static stretching before strength or power activities (1,28).
A second general theme to emerge is that resistance-type exercise may be a viable warm-up strategy. In nongolf research, resistance exercise before activity has improved strength, power, and performance through a potentiation effect (29), and the results of 2 studies from this systematic review suggest these effects may extend to golf. Specifically, Tilley and Macfarlane (45) assessed the effects of adding barbell weight-training exercises and resistance-band exercises to an active dynamic warm-up consisting of weighted air swings and practice golf shots. The addition of the weight-training exercises resulted in greater CHS, but not distance, accuracy, or smash factor ratio. Although this could potentially be an effective warm-up strategy, barbells are not readily available at most golf facilities. Instead, the addition of resistance-band exercises may be a viable alternative. In fact, the investigation by Tilley and Macfarlane (45) showed the addition of resistance-band exercises produced greater distance, smash factor ratio, and self-reported shot quality in comparison with an active dynamic warm-up of weighted air swings and practice golf shots alone or when weight-training exercises were added to the dynamic warm-up. In terms of CHS, both weight-training and resistance-band exercises resulted in greater performance than a dynamic warm-up alone. The second study that showed a benefit of resistance-type exercise was from Langdown et al. (25), who reported that both resistance-band and dynamic exercise warm-up protocols were more effective at increasing ball velocity than a control condition.
Clearly, more studies are required to make firm conclusions about the benefits and risks of resistance exercise before golf, but the limited current research suggests it has a positive or neutral effect on most measures of performance. On a practical note, resistance-band exercises may be a feasible addition to a warm-up, as they are easy to transport and can be used anywhere. Finally, the addition of 3 countermovement jumps to a warm-up resulted in a moderate increase in CHS (38). Therefore, including a form of postactivation potentiation within a warm-up may be beneficial before golf participation.
Beyond dynamic stretching and resistance exercise, several other studies reported significant performance improvements. Two studies used within-subject, repeated-measures designs to assess golf performance after a self-selected warm-up and then again after the protocol of interest (3,20). These studies reported improvements in performance after the addition of whole-body vibration stretches (3) and a 500-m walk (20). Unfortunately, the lack of counterbalancing makes it difficult to determine whether the improvements were due to the protocol being superior to the standard warm-up, due to an order effect, or simply due to more thorough warming before testing.
A final area of the research worth commenting on is aerobic warm-ups. Previous research has highlighted that aerobic activity during warm-ups may increase muscle temperature, resulting in improvements in physical performance (29). Increased muscle temperature is associated with increased muscle fiber conduction velocity and rate of force development in type II fibers (29). As CHS is associated with rate of force development and impulse (46,47), raising muscle temperature through aerobic activity during a warm-up could, in theory, be beneficial for a golfer. The descriptive data suggest that very few golfers perform any sort of aerobic warm-ups (11,12,15). Several of the experimental studies included aerobic activity as part of the warm-up protocols (14,33,43), but only one assessed aerobic activity in isolation (20). They found that driving distance was greater after the addition of a 500-m walk in a more competitive group of golfers, but not in a group that played infrequently. As noted above, the lack of counterbalancing makes interpretation difficult, but it is possible that aerobic activity could be of benefit as part of a warm-up.
Future research should continue to compare different warm-up protocols on measures of performance with the addition of a control group or condition. Although aerobic activity and whole-body vibration showed significant improvements (3,20), they should be assessed using randomized or counterbalanced designs. Likewise, it will be important for researchers to determine how long the benefits of warm-up protocols persist. Gergley (18) and Moran et al. (33) assessed results over various time points, but more studies are needed. A round of golf generally lasts 2.5–6 hours (42), and short-lasting improvements in CHS, ball speed, accuracy, etc., may offer only minimal overall benefits over an entire round. If effects are short-lived, studies may want to assess “rewarming” protocols, which could be used at various time points during a round to enhance overall performance. Finally, Fradkin et al. (14) reported the potential of a conditioning effect from regularly performing their three-part warm-up protocol; therefore, future research should explore whether regularly warming-up has chronic effects on performance. The authors should consider reporting whether subjects currently warm-up in a similar fashion. It is plausible that acute or chronic responses to warm-up protocols could be greater if it provides a novel stimulus that the golfer has not experienced previously. In addition, as golfers may be more likely to perform warm-up protocols that are relatively short in duration, the authors should consider reporting data on how long the warm-ups took to complete.
The results of this review suggest that many recreational golfers do not warm-up before golf play or practice. Of those who do, warm-ups tend to be short in duration and usually involve air swings or stretching of some form. Many golfers believe that warming-up has value for injury risk or performance enhancement, yet most seem unsure of how to warm-up properly to achieve these benefits. Golfers who report knowing how to properly warm-up seem more likely to follow through and warm-up regularly. Given this information, educational sessions or seminars could be used to improve the warm-up behaviors of recreational golfers moving forward, although this should be evaluated in future research.
Given the mixed results with warm-up behaviors and injury, it is difficult to make practical suggestions until more data are available. That said, the injury prevention potential of warming-up is supported by research done outside of golf (48), so if a golfer has to choose between warming-up or not, opting to warm-up seems like the prudent choice. Still, much more work is needed to clarify the optimal types of warm-ups for golfers. In contrast to the lack of research on warm-ups and injury, there is decent evidence supporting the use of various warm-up protocols for performance enhancement. Specifically, warm-ups should include dynamic stretching or activity, and possibly some form of light resistance exercise to enhance several measures of golf performance, whereas static stretching should be avoided. From a practical standpoint, most golfers will not have access to a full gym before playing golf, so warm-ups that require minimal equipment are preferable. Many dynamic exercises can be performed with just body mass or with the assistance of a golf club on the range. Resistance bands could be a useful method of adding resistance exercise to a warm-up, as they are relatively inexpensive, easy to transport, and can be used at the practice facility of a golf course before play. Future research should aim to determine optimal warm-up protocols, examine the duration of performance benefits, explore the potential of “rewarming” protocols throughout the course of a golf round, and assess the role of various warm-up behaviors on risk of golf-related injury. In addition, efforts should be made to improve the warm-up behaviors of recreational golfers moving forward.
No sources of funding were used to assist the preparation of this systematic review.
Alex Ehlert and Patrick Wilson declare that they have no conflict of interests relevant to the content of this systematic review.
The authors thank Jaison Wynne for assisting with the literature search and article screening process.
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Keywords:Copyright © 2019 by the National Strength & Conditioning Association.
sport; dynamic stretching; static stretching; power