By Garrett Johnston
Two-time PGA Tour winner Kevin Streelman grew up playing golf in Chicago. He caddied at a couple of local clubs and first went to Wrigley Field with his dad at age five. Today, he lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, and plays golf with some of the players on the current Chicago Cubs roster. Streelman’s affable demeanor leads to many friendships with other sports stars including his AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am partner, Larry Fitzgerald, as well as actors like Chris O’Donnell and Mark Wahlberg. The 42-year-old’s advice on his practice range habits is not just relatable, it’s also, in his words, meant to “save you shots.”
Golf Range Magazine: What’s your advice for a proper warmup before hitting golf balls?
Kevin Streelman: Flexibility is vital in our hips and back since everything comes from our core. You have to keep those hip flexors open. Sit in a position for a good stretch – do leg kicks and side kicks – stretch your hips over a foam roller. You want to do anything to get your hips moving and feeling flexible, agile and open, so you can swing effectively.
Golf Range Magazine: What does that look like on the range with our clubs?
Kevin Streelman: I start with my wedges and hit 60-70 yard shots with my 60-degree wedge. Then I’ll amp it up a little bit. One superstitious thing I do is to hit my even clubs on Thursdays and Saturdays, and my odd clubs on Fridays and Sundays. So, Thursday I go pitching wedge, 8-iron, 6-iron, 4-iron and a few with each of my woods. Then on Friday and Sunday, I go 9-iron, 7-iron, 5-iron, 3-iron and then a few more woods. It helps to work steadily up the bag to progressively increase my swing speed.
I don’t get too crazy about how I’m hitting it on the range, and I’m also not too target-oriented in my warmup. It’s mostly about securing solid contact and getting my body moving. As soon as I get on the golf course, I focus on the target and let go of any swing thoughts. I might have a rhythm thought or a grip pressure thought, but that’s it.
When I come down the stretch, like at the 2020 Travelers Championship, (where he shot 63-67 on the weekend to finish one stroke behind the winner, Dustin Johnston) I am very focused on my targets. You can’t mess with your swing at that point. You want to be in a great place mentally, visually see your shots, step up, take one look and rip it.
Golf Range Magazine: What about practice putting? How can we improve on that?
Kevin Streelman: One important key for most amateurs who play many different courses is to get the speed of the greens down as much as possible. You don’t even need to stroke your practice putts towards a hole. Putt across the green to the opposite fringe – then come downhill to a different fringe. After that, try getting it halfway to the hole – then halfway past it. Dial-in your putting distances and speed for that day and that specific course. It will save you many shots.
The last thought you should have when you step up to a putt is stroking the putt 12-18 inches past the hole. Whether it’s a three-footer or a 50-footer. In your mind you want it to go that far past the hole every time because that means it has a good chance of going in. If you leave every putt one or two feet short, you’ll miss every putt you have. So, you have to think speed and then your line comes from your speed. Golfers too often start with their line and then consider speed, but it just doesn’t work that way.
Golf Range Magazine: How can we improve our chipping in practice?
Kevin Streelman: Be observant of the grass that you’re playing on. It can be tricky chipping and pitching from spongey bermudagrass. You have to have the right lie. If you’re chipping into the grain, the turf can grab your wedge and lead to steep chunk shots that go nowhere.
When you arrive at your practice area, observe what the chipping surface looks like, how thick the rough is and then how thick the bunkers are playing. Is it thin sand where you’re grabbing it with a lot of spin, or is it super thick? Those are some of the things you try to analyze that help you prepare for your round.
Golf Range Magazine: If we only have 15 minutes to warm up, how should we spend that time?
Kevin Streelman: If you can only hit a few balls, hit two or three wedges, two or three mid irons, two or three drivers and then go back to two or three wedges just to get that rhythm and solid contact down. Then get on the putting green and feel the speed. Take a few 15-20 footers and understand that it’s not about making the putt – it’s about feeling how fast the greens are. You’ve got to dial that in with your body, and when you’re looking at a 25-footer on the first hole, you’ll know how hard to hit it. Save shots out there!