While I'm far removed from my college days, I still am able to learn. After watching the pros play at the Honda Classic, I'm ready for a final exam.
Not many of us can drive a ball over 300 yards, hit iron shots from 200 yards away to within a few feet of the hole and generally make playing this game look easy. While we may never accomplish these feats, we can still learn plenty by watching the game's best players.
The best place to start is on the practice range. Even before the pros leave the locker room they make sure they have dressed for the weather. They put on a comfortable shirt; slacks that fit and shoes that won't kill their feet while walking a few miles. They also make sure to bring a sweater or rain jacket if it looks like they may need one.
Each player arrives well before his scheduled tee time. You won't see anyone running from the parking lot with one shoe on, the other in his hand, racing to the first tee. Nor will you spot a pro rushing his warm-up, hitting two or three quick drives and then pronouncing himself "ready."
I was very impressed to see each player apply sunscreen before even beginning to get ready. The players made sure to protect every exposed part of their bodies. A few guys even wear wide-brimmed hats to protect them from the sun.
Warm-ups for the practice round are different from those before a competitive round. On practice round days, the players are doing just that, practicing. Some may not even play the course. Instead, they are working on their swing. Many are trying out new equipment as the courses they play beginning this week in Florida are much different from those they have been playing on the west coast. Some are trying to figure out which clubs they need in the bag or tweaking the clubs they have to fit these new conditions.
Early in the week you will see many pros at the range with their instructors, working to perfect something. In Florida, with the high humidity and low altitude, the players will also get less distance with each club. They spend plenty of time figuring out how far they are hitting each club and their caddies take plenty of notes.
When Thursday rolls around, practice is over. They are no longer trying to change or perfect something. Their goal is to get ready to play and to know how their body is responding. Just like us, the pros have days where the ball simply doesn't want to go where they would like. The players are hoping to discover this during their warm-up, not when it will cost them valuable strokes.
They begin their routine by stretching, slowly working their muscles, getting them ready for taking a swing. Most players take extra time to make sure that their backs are loose and limber.
After making sure their bodies are ready to swing, they start off with short chips with a wedge to get their rhythm. After hitting a few dozen balls with a nice, easy, smooth swing, they begin to take full shots.
The full swings start with a short iron. The pros will usually hit a slight fade, then a straight shot, followed by a slight draw. The idea is to see if all three are working or not. They often change their aiming point so they don't get fixated on one spot.
From there it's on to the mid and then long irons. Most pros hit their odd-numbered irons one day, their even-numbered the next.
After finishing their irons, they pull out the heavy artillery. The fairway woods and then the driver follow. Watching how far and accurately they hit their long irons and woods with so little apparent effort is truly impressive.
The pros will usually finish their warm-up with the clubs they feel they will use on the first hole or two. They may hit their driver one last time followed by their 7-iron.
Now that the juices are flowing, the pros turn things down a notch and head to the practice green. Here they want to get the feel for the speed of the greens as well as some confidence heading into their round. They will also hit some chips and some bunker shots to get a feel for the condition of the rough and sand.
Then it's off to the first tee and the beginning of what they hope is a fantastic round of golf. It doesn't always turn out that way, but their routine seldom varies.
You can learn a lot from professionals before they even hit the first tee. I certainly did.
James Stammer has been an avid golfer and golf enthusiast for nearly 40 years. He hosts the Thursday Night Golf Show on WSTU 1450-AM. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.