March 29, 2001 -- What separates the average duffer from Tiger Woods may not be the mechanics of the stroke, the power off the tee, or the ability to hit a hole-in-one.
Well -- honestly, yes it is.
But another factor could be that most golfers take to the course completely cold, new research suggests.
In a study of more than 1,000 amateur adult golfers, barely half of them did anything even resembling a proper, pregame warm-up, according to study author Andrea Fradkin, an advanced degree candidate at Deakin University in Burwood, Victoria, Australia.
The study, which ran in a recent issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine, found that just 53.4% of the golfers observed did any warm-up at all. Less than 10% did any stretching, and none did any aerobic activity -- both of which are important, Fradkin says.
Most commonly, the golfers simply do a few air swings as preparation, Fradkin reports.
"There are two major negative effects of not warming up before playing 18 holes," Fradkin tells WebMD. "The first is that you are at an increased risk of injury, and the second is a decreased level of performance."
That's right: Cold muscles lead to a cold game -- and higher scores.
An ideal warm-up for amateur golfers should last 10-15 minutes, Fradkin says.
"It should consist of a period of aerobic exercise to increase the temperature of the body [and] should be followed by stretching of the sport-specific muscles that are to be used in the subsequent performance," she says.
Finally, a period of activity similar to the event to be performed should be done. "For golfers, this means air swings," she says.
However, Fradkin admits, it's not always possible for recreational golfers to take that amount of time or complete all the recommended exercises. To address that, she is now testing the effectiveness of a warm-up program golfers can start at home and finish at the course.
Another issue that needs to be looked at, she says, is education -- teaching golfers why they need to warm up, how to do the exercises, and what benefit they'll see as a result.
It's a lesson the big boys have long since learned, she says.
"I believe that all professional golfers would perform an appropriate warm-up, as they would know better than most the demands the game places upon their bodies," Fradkin says. "I am pretty confident ... Tiger Woods performs a warm-up."
However, she says, her hunch is that very few amateur golfers do the same, and this requires some serious attention.
"Do golfers warm up? No. Should they? Yes," says Mark Gombotz, a physical therapist at HEALTHSOUTH Physical Therapy of Manchester, Conn.
The most important areas to stretch before teeing off are the trunk, legs, and shoulders., he says.
"Trunk rotation is important to help with the pivot, and a great way to do this is to hold a club in front of you and keep your feet planted and turn as you would do for a back swing. Go back as far as you can, hold it there for 15 seconds, and then go in the other direction nice and slowly," he explains. "Repeat this three times."
To do a shoulder stretch, put down your club, he says. "Grab either arm above the elbow and pull it across your body and hold 15 seconds -- and then repeat on the other side. Do this three times each way."
For your legs, he says, "Take one leg and put it on the golf cart or tee box and keep your knee straight and toe pointed upward. Lean forward at the hips, and you should feel it in your hamstring. Hold for 15 seconds, and repeat three times per leg."
One last word of caution: Be sure to get instruction from a golf pro or a physical therapist before trying these warm-ups for the first time, Gombotz says. Doing them incorrectly can cause an injury -- and that won't help your score at all.