I live in South Carolina and just last night we were dumped on with snow. It reminded me of when I lived in Connecticut in the early 2000's and the winter was long and not very desirable for a PGA Tour player who had to work on his game year around. That kind of weather pretty much stamps out golf in many people's minds. There are however many ways we can still keep working on our games during the bleak winter months- so we are fully prepared for the new golf season when Spring rolls around again.
1) IF YOU WANT TO IMPROVE YOU WILL FIND A WAY
Even in harsh climates there are many "golf crazy" venues that still allow you to hit balls to keep your swing in shape. I had a net setup in my basement. Domes and indoor ranges, whilst not offering the full golf experience, at least give you the opportunity to keep a club in your hands and feel the club face on the ball. Some even have enough room to view at least some ball flight. Work on good contact and your mechanics. Doing the setup basics- ball position- grip- alignment- repetitively over a period of time builds consistency. Striking the ball in the center of the club breeds confidence. It doesn't even matter how fancy or down trodden the place may be, some kind of golf is better than no golf at all.
2) REVIEW YOUR MECHANICS- WORK ON ANY CHANGES
We all know installing a swing change can be a tough proposition. Too often our mind wont allow these changes to occur whilst we are out there on the course trying to play golf and put a score on the card. Knowing the weather outside won't give you the chance to go play golf can free your body and mind up to make the alterations your swing needs due to the fact you won't be able to truly hit the links for another 3-4 months. Don't be scared to make the big changes during this time. Changes need time and you've got it...
3) USE TECHNOLOGY TO PINPOINT & FIX YOUR FAULTS
Great strides have been made in recent years with technology tools to help your game. Ball flight simulators such as Trackman can give the golfer a greater understanding of what occurs with the swing path or club face on their good or bad shots. These tools are designed for indoor or outdoor use. Whilst they are expensive to own, many golf venues have these machines in place and ready to utilize in their lessons or even for practice sessions. Understanding your faults is the quickest way to improvement. Technology- if used correctly- can pinpoint the faults quicker than any amount of ball beating or soul searching can and is worth the investment if you have time on your hands.
4) STUDY & COPY YOUR FAVORITE GOLFER
Imitation is the greatest form of flattery. It can also be very good for your game. I would swing and putt all day long pretending to be Greg Norman or Tom Watson in my formative golf years. Putting yourself in your favorite golfers shoes and pretending to setup or swing like them can be beneficial. These players all do things at setup and with their swings that allow them to be world class golfers. You obviously won't be able to do everything like them but if some of their swing components rub off you will be better for it- plus it will make you feel good and offer you some swing freedom by attempting to imitate rather than trying to be perfect with your own swing.
5) UPDATE YOUR GOLF WARDROBE
Even if you can't play a perfect game, it certainly pays to dress like you can. Find a style you like- colors you like- caps or hats you like and golf shoes that look good. Update your golf wardrobe. You will appreciate the feeling of the "new you" and it will also give you something to look forward to when the new golf season rolls around.
6) WORK ON YOUR MENTAL GAME
I guarantee if I went out and caddied for some of my students and told them what clubs to hit on each shot- what targets to aim for and how to prepare for each shot with a practice swing or a nice image key they would all score better- immediately. Golf is not just about the golf swing. The 6 inch space between your ears is more than 50% of the game. Use it wisely and you will eliminate mistakes. Better mental prep will also allow your swing to be move and function more freely. It's a win- win situation. Find some golf books relating to the mental state and read them and apply them. Watch the pre-shot preparation of great players on television and learn from their approach also. A better mind is the quickest sure fire way to dropping strokes. You can do much of this learning from your lounge chair at home and then put your routine to work in your indoor practice to make it second nature and a part of you and how you will approach each shot.
7) FIND A COACH WHO MAKES SENSE & YOU TRUST
Not all coaches are created equal. Some have a better understanding of the swing and can convey simpler easier ways to their students to hasten improvement. Some can be a pillow- a comfort level- that allow you to relax and benefit from each session. Some are quick fix instructors and some are more long term orientated with goals in mind along your journey. If you need outside help because you don't have the answers yourself...Find someone that best suits your level of play- advanced or simple & Find someone that best suits your personality- complex or basic. Winter time is a great time to work on your game- even through online lessons if there isn't someone in your area that meets your approval.
8) GET YOUR EQUIPMENT DIALED IN
Get the right clubs for you in your bag during this downtime from playing. Proper swing weights. The correct shaft flex and shaft weight. Lie angles. Club length. Grip size. Club lofts. These things are all easily monitored through your practice sessions and through education about equipment. Find if cavity back style or blade style suit your swing best for well struck shots- as well as miss hit shots. Learn the best loft on your driver to maximize your distance without giving up control. Get wedges suited to your course or area as far as low bounce or high bounce soles and find the perfect gap between lofts. Get this done now rather than waiting for the first game of the new season and then swapping and changing and putting the blame on your equipment for the poor results.
9) LEARN THE RULES
I know we can all feel bewildered by the rules of golf and often feel like we are on the receiving end of some harsh penalties. The rules of golf are there to help you rather than hinder you. If you know them you can actually use them to your advantage some of the time. With new rule changes coming into effect in the New Year it would pay any golfer to do a refresher course of the old and the new rules. That way when the time comes you can drop the ball in the proper place and in an advantageous place even. You will also avoid the embarrassment of being penalized for technicalities or wrong doings.
10) BE PREPARED TO HAVE SOME FUN
Golf is a tough game. There is probably none tougher. We all want perfection in a game that rarely offers perfection. Bad bounces. Gusts of wind. Wrong yardages. Selecting the wrong club. Making a bad swing. It becomes very easy to beat yourself up during a game of golf, so make it your intent to have more fun. Enjoy the good shots. Enjoy the friends you are playing with. Enjoy the cold beer at the turn. Having a brighter outlook will filter through your game. You will hit more good shots by not losing your patience...and after all isn't that the reason why so many of you play golf...to have fun. Make that a reality next season rather than a statement and begin that throughout the winter months in your practice and preparation..
Bad weather and a winter break- although it won't enable you to enjoy the great outdoors- can be a wonderful time to get your golf game in order. With a proper perspective, a willingness to learn and the time to try new things, improvement can be vast. Instead of waiting until March and the better weather get yourself a head start this year. Good luck and great golf to you all.........Bradley Hughes...