Well, it’s sadly that time of year when the frost starts to creep up in the mornings, the chill in the air just doesn’t go away as the day progresses, the trees have lost their leaves, and the birds have all flown south. Unfortunately, this also signals the end of the golf season for those of you who experience cold winters. For most recreational golfers out there, this means that golf is totally off the table until spring hits. This is not a great position to be in for half of the year. It causes golfers to lose the technique in their swings, as well as their putting and chipping feel. Ultimately, this will likely take away all those improvements you made over the course of the summer season and then it’s back to ground zero again once the spring hits. Another unfortunate part of winter is being confined to the house more often, leading to less activity and a decrease in your golf ready fitness.
How can we stop this seasonal cycle? Well, for starters we can’t think about winter as the “off season”. No, winter is the preseason; a time to prepare ourselves for the spring so we are ready to beat all of our friends and competitors who have been sitting on their couches all winter. It’s a time when you have more time to put into your fitness, a time to make strength and power gains in the gym, a time to focus on your mechanics, your putting, your chipping, and a time to prepare your mental game for the upcoming season. It is an important time, and all the above can be done in the gym or in the comfort of your own home. OK, and possibly a heated or indoor driving range.
Golf Off Season – Stay in Shape
Depending on the amount of golf you play, and other activities you are into, you probably have limited time during the golf season to actually make big gains in your strength and power output. Once the winter hits, you will likely be golfing a bit less, giving you more time to work on your golf fitness. You can check out my posts on golf fitness here, here, and here. So, get to the gym our wherever it is you work on your fitness.
Golf Off Season – Practice
Getting in sufficient practice when the weather does not permit us to get outside on the course is a huge impact to staying at the top of our game during the off season. But don’t worry, there are ways to practice during the bad weather months to keep us as close to the top of our games as possible. Here are a few ways to do it.
Drive for show, putt for dough, nothing more true in golf than that I must say. Also, putting is absolutely the easiest thing to practice in the privacy of your own home. All you have to do is set up a target in a carpeted area of your house…don’t have any carpet, a yoga mat does the trick. Putt while you watch TV, putt while you work from home, and putt when you are making dinner. No reason you can’t squeeze in a good 50 putts per day around the house. Focus on your technique and distance control. You can even use most of your favorite on course putting drills. You may even want to purchase one of the below to make it feel more like you are on the course.
No, you can’t chip in the house, it isn’t allowed! Who said so, you just have to take a few precautions. Like making sure you are not chipping towards any breakable furniture or windows. I like to use my couch to chip onto. I also remember the days when I had carpeted stairs in my house as a kid and would chip onto each stair to practice different distances. Another option is to set up a specific target to chip to (like a towel or maybe even utilizing something like in the above pictures. Please make sure you have sufficient space and to chip off of carpet. I don’t think it would be good to do this off of hardwood floor. However, the yoga mat thing works here also (but not as well).
3.) Full Swings:
What, you can practice a full swing indoors? Of course: however, practicing a full swing and actually hitting a ball is different. Just to be clear, I am not suggesting you hit golf balls with a full swing in your home (unless you have some type of driving net set up…I wish!), I am however suggesting that you can take full swings in your home to practice your form and technique. Think of them as the practice swing you take during your pre-shot routine. You can still retain your swing form during the off season without hitting a ball. On that note, maybe you can hit “some” type of ball in your home given you have the space and appropriate set up. I have heard of people using ping pong balls or those soft practice golf balls in their homes. Again, maybe just make sure you are hitting into a brick or cement wall, or maybe in your garage if you are lucky enough to have one. Also, I am sure that you will be able to locate either heated or indoor golf facilities that you can utilize during the off season. Try your best to find a place where you can actually see at least the majority of your ball flight; if not, I know there are plenty of indoor golf simulators all over the place. They may not be fully accurate with regards to shot shape but at least you can hit some actual golf balls.
Golf Off Season – Mental Game
For any of you that read my blog, you will know I have written about the mental approach to the game of golf previously, here, here, and here. The off season is a fantastic time to put together your mental approach to the game and start practicing it…ie. what are my swing thoughts, when will I think and when will I just swing, rehearsal of positive self talk, etc, etc.
Another important thing to think about is mental task rehearsal or imagery. If you can’t physically be on the course, you can imagine you are on the course and rehearse your swing, as well as your on course thought patterns. The fantastic thing about mental rehearsal is that you can perform a swing infinitely more times than you would physically be able to accomplish. There are many studies out there that clearly show physical task improvement from mental rehearsal (1, 2, 3, 4). Not only that, mental rehearsal can reduce task related anxiety (5), something that I know we all want to eliminate on the course. I know the study I referenced here is performed on surgeons; however, there would be no reason this would not work for golf. So, by the time the golf season starts again you will have played hundreds of rounds of golf in your “minds eye” as they say.
I hope the above tips and tricks will help you stay in tip top form for the upcoming golf season. I know I want to start my season strong and far ahead of the competition. Next year is my year!!
The Barefoot Golfer