T.J. Auclair is a Senior Interactive Producer for PGA.com and has covered professional golf since 1998, traveling to over 60 major championships. You can follow him on Twitter, @tjauclair.
Become a complete golfer: Part 2, Game
Series: Golf Buzz
Published: Thursday, January 26, 2017 | 12:12 p.m.
Editor's note: This is the second installment of a six-week, six-part series with PGA Professional Rob Labritz, offering up tips on how you can become a complete golfer. Each feature will focus on one of six topics: Body, Game, Game maintenance, Mind, Nutrition and Equipment in an effort to help you become the best golfer you can be.
There are a number of variables involved in becoming the best golfer you can be.
After focusing on your body and fitness in part one of this six-part series last week, we now turn our attention to your game -- specifically how you go about practicing before a round of golf.
Our resident expert Rob Labritz, the low club pro at the 2010 PGA Championship and a man who was recently named 2017 Pro's Pro by Global Golf Post, has a full-bag tune-up you'll want to execute before heading out to play.
"I like to get to the course an hour and 15 minutes before my tee time," Labritz said. "That's enough to get through the entire bag and get the blood flowing before starting a round. I do want to stress, however, you don't want to knock yourself out hitting golf balls before going out to play."
Just like he envisions playing a hole on the course, Labritz approaches his warm-up session by going backwards from green to tee.
"After I've stretched out, I head right to the practice green," he said. "I start with 4-foot putts. I put my Eyeline Putting Mirror training aid down to make sure my set up is correct. It's a great training tool. When you're set up properly and you see balls going in the hole, your confidence is going to build."
Labritz estimates he hits 5-10 putts from that range, before backing into the 10-15 foot range with golf balls scattered on all four sides of the hole. That way, you're facing putts of every kind -- uphill, downhill, right-to-left and left-to-right.
"The key here," Labritz said, "Is to focus on speed. Don't worry about missing putts. Make sure your speed is right and they're finishing right next to the hole. That's going to give you a good idea of green speed."
From there, Labritz backs up to the fringe to hit chip shots -- 10-15 of them from a 5-yard to 25-yard range (all from the fringe, so hitting chips to hole locations further away on the green).
"Again, with this you're working on getting a feel for the speed of the greens, how those chips are going to roll out and, also, how that club is bottoming out in the fringe. How is the ball reacting when it hits the green?" Labritz said.
Now it's time to back up and work on those pitch shots.
"Personally speaking, I like to find the tightest lies that i can in the pitching area or on the range," Labritz said. "You like to hit pitch shots starting at 25 yards and work out to 100 yards. Hit about two balls from each distance -- 25-50-75-100. That's generally with your wedges, two with a 60-degree, two with 56, two with pitching, etc."
Following the pitch-shot routine, hop in a bunker.
"I like to hit 8-10 bunker shots from 10-20 yards to see the consistency of the sand," Labritz told us.
Once you've reached this part of your routine, you'll be warmed up and ready to move into the full swing.
"At this point, I like to hit one or two balls with every club in the bag," Labritz said. "Loosening your body up is most important -- hit two balls with 9-iron, 7-iron, 5-iron and 3-iron -- short to mid to long irons. That's another eight balls. You're at about 30 shots for warming up and starting to get to get to the maximum you'll want to reach before your tee time."
Lastly, Labritz hits a couple of balls with each fairway wood and hybrid, before finishing up with 3-5 driver shots.
"I can't stress enough -- don't wear yourself out," he said. "Between 20-30 shots is a good warm up and you've worked through your entire bag. Take it right to the course. I prefer ending with club that I am going to use on the opening hole."
Next week, we'll take a closer look at your game maintenance.
Rob Labritz, who has played in four PGA Championships (he was low-Club Professional in 2010 at Whistling Straits), is currently the Director of Golf at GlenArbor Golf Club in BedFord Hills, N.Y. He was also the PGA Met Section Player of the Year in 2008, 2013 and 2016, as well as the Westchester Golf Association's Player of the Year in 2002, 2003, 2008, 2013 and 2015. You can learn more about Labritz at www.RobLabritz.com and you can follow him on Twitter, @Rlabritz.