Now that the cold weather is upon us, it doesn't mean that you should hang up the clubs. Sure, you may not be able to play very often but it doesn't mean that you can't keep working on your game. Here are a few tips so you don't have to re-learn the game once spring arrives.
A great swing starts with a great grip. Learning the proper neutral grip can be very uncomfortable. The easiest way to work on it is while your watching your favorite TV show. Before the show starts, take a practice club (preferably with a training grip on it) and place your hands on in perfect position. While you are watching, you will be concentrating more on the TV show than your grip. As a commercial comes on, take your grip off. Once the show starts again, re-place your hands on the club again. Because you are watching TV, you won't be thinking about how uncomfortable it is to learn the proper grip. If you keep doing this regularly throughout the winter, you will have the proper neutral grip mastered as the new season rolls around.
The Set Up
The proper athletic set up position takes effort. After a long lay off, your body will try to set up in a position that takes very little effort. This means that you may end up in a position that is all hunched over or not athletic. To remedy this, try to set up a practice station at home using a full length mirror (these can be purchased cheaply at Home Depot or Wal-Mart). Once you have your mirror(s), take your proper set up position and have a friend or spouse place masking tape on the mirror indicating your spine angle, and hip and knee flex. Throughout the winter, keep doing your set up and look to see if you match the masking tape when you are in your set up position. This is an easy way to make sure you don't get lazy and lose your set up angles throughout the winter.
The Full Swing
A long lay off effects your full swing as well. Making a great swing requires you to coil and uncoil your body properly. This action takes effort. After taking time off of this game, you will want to hit the ball the easiest way possible. This means you will just try to hit the ball with your arms as opposed to coiling and uncoiling your body. To keep your body coiling and uncoiling properly, just take one of your clubs, a broom stick or a weight lifting bar (no weights) and hold the ends of the object as you place it across your shoulders. Then, take your athletic set up position. From here, simply coil the shoulders back in a circular, clockwise motion, while resisting your hip turn. Once you are tightly wound up, uncoil in a counter clockwise direction by turning the lower body the other way. If you do this drill properly, the object on your shoulders will resemble the twirling blades of a helicopter. If your club is moving in an up and down see saw action, you are not coiling and uncoiling properly. Just remember to make sure that you mimic the helicopter blades and get the tight feeling as you coil back. If you do, you will maintain the proper coiling and uncoiling of your body so that you won't just try to hit the ball with your arms next season.
The Short Game
As you know, the short game is a very important part of the game. Unfortunately, a long lay off really causes you to loose any touch you have around the greens. All you have to do to keep your short game sharp, is practice a little throughout the winter.
First, you should set up a putting station. There are plenty of inexpensive putting devices out there that will create an artificial golf hole that you can set up at home (some even include indoor outdoor carpet for those who don't have the proper surface). Try to practice putting as often as you can (especially the short putts). If you have a friend or spouse that likes to play golf, try to have putting competitions on a regular basis. This will help you to keep your putting sharp when the new season rolls around.
Secondly, you can use this same putting station to practice your chipping stroke (if you don't have the proper chipping surface, simply find a 1x1 piece of higher pile carpet and lay it on the ground to chip from). If you do use a piece of carpet as I suggest, you can move it closer or farther away from the hole, to vary your chipping distances. When next season begins, you will be able to get the ball close to the hole instead of leaving these chip shots short of the green.
Finally, pitching can really be difficult if you haven't practiced in a while. What I used to do in the winter, was to practice hitting pitch shots into an old upholstered chair. This game me a specific target to aim for. If you don't have an old chair like this laying around, you can always get a small pitching net at any golf store. Just set up the net or chair in an area that you won't break anything. Then, use your small piece of carpet to pitch from and you will be sure to keep your touch around the greens.
In order to eliminate the beginning of the season frustration, it just takes a little creativity and practice. Hopefully, you will set up a practice station at home and try a few of the drills I mentioned. It does take a little effort, but once the new season rolls around, you will be glad you kept working on your game.
Until next time,