Get Your Golf Game Ready for the Season
Regain Your Touch
Regain your golf touch by chipping and pitching because they can be slow to come back. According to Jared Zak, one of Golf Digest's Best Young Teachers, individuals should break the motions down. "Think of the chip as a left-arm swing and the pitch as a right-arm swing." To practice chipping, Zak suggests gripping a wedge in your left hand only and make some swings that feel like the club is an extension of your left arm with your arm and shaft lining up at impact. For pitching, swing your right hand only and let your right arm fold going back and straighten coming down, the club head passing your right hand through impact. Try these one-handed drills to get your short game back in action in no time.
Focus on Fundamentals
When you start to think about your golf swing, the list can get pretty long pretty fast. Try limiting yourself to one or two key thoughts. The trick is to start at the setup of how you start your swing and then work your way forward until finding something that clicks.
Setup: Push your hips back, and angle your spine toward the ball.
Back swing: Turn into your right side, and feel your left lat stretch.
Impact: Keep your head behind the ball, and straighten your left side.
Finish: Point your chest at the target with your right foot up on its toes.
Work on these key points at the practice range, and create a short list of swing thoughts to bring out on the course.
Don't Fear the Sand
If you hate being in the sand - because of bad memories that go back years - try to get rid of that fear. Butch Harmon, top-ranked Golf Instructor, says to hit the sand and follow through. He said you shouldn't quit on it; you should play the ball just inside your front heel, swing back about three-quarters, and accelerate the club down and through. He says to imagine that you're throwing a patch of sand onto the green with the ball in the middle. To do that, you have to thump the sand and keep the club moving.
Sneak in Some Practice
Do you love to play golf but don't love to work on your golf game? The good news is that you can do some practicing while you play. Golf Digest Teaching Professional Jim McLean suggests going out to golf at a quiet time by yourself and playing a two-ball scramble. In other words, after you hit every shot, drop another ball and try it again, then pick the better shot and follow the same procedure. If you want more of a challenge, play the worse ball. You'll learn from your mistakes, and you'll get twice as many swings in. Without the pressure of one ball, you'll focus on hitting the shots instead of posting a score.
Track Your Stats
Knowing what you shot is useless unless you know why you shot that number. How many fairways did you hit? How many putts did you take? How many ups and downs did you convert? Start keeping track of these stats on your scorecard this season, and you'll start to recognize your golf game's strengths and weaknesses.
Get A Grip
The least you should do before each season is clean your grips. Get a wet, soapy towel and rub them down. Even better, replace them. It won't cost you more than $70, and you'll feel like you're playing with an entirely new set of golf clubs.
Buy a New Pair of Shoes
The longest waterproof guarantee on new shoes is usually two years or less. So if you didn't buy new shoes last season, you should probably invest in a pair now. (This shoe guide will help you if you're not sure what to look for.) If you want to make your shoes last even longer, you should buy two pairs and wear both of them throughout the season.
Change Your Cleats
If you're not ready to buy a new pair of shoes, you should at least replace your cleats. It's shocking to realize how many golfers wait until wearing their cleats down to the nubs before replacing them. Go to a golf store, buy the cleats and a wrench, and replace the cleats yourself.
Get A Fitting
Have your lie and loft angles checked, especially if you've been pounding balls off threadbare driving range mats all winter long. It's recommended that you get a putter fitting before a full club fitting, because many fitters say that your swing can be a little quirky if you haven't played for two or three months and then head right in for a fitting. Wait until you've put in a few weeks of serious full-swing practice time before you consider a full fitting.
Strengthen Your Glutes
These large, all-important muscles provide stability to your golf posture and power to your drives while also protecting the lumbar spine from the extreme stress of making repetitive golf swings. Some exercises that will help you train your glutes are squats, glute bridges, and deadlifts. Start by using only your body weight to perfect the movement and then add extra weight as you become stronger and more comfortable with deadlifts. Individuals should train these muscles at least three times a week.
Learn When to Stretch
You want to prime your muscles before a round, not stretch them out. Something as simple as a brisk walk while swinging dumbbells will get your muscles warm, or even try some jumping jacks. Avoid doing long-hold stretches before a round; you should save those for post round or post workout.
Train Torso Separation
Ideally, a golfer should be able to rotate his or hips independently of the upper torso and vice versa to swing a club efficiently. Learning how to rotate the upper body through the mid-back (thoracic spine) and the lower body through the hips is crucial to syncing a good golf swing. Individuals can help train this separation by first holding back your shoulders with your hands and rotating your hips back and forth and then sitting in a chair or on a physio ball and rotating your mid-back in either direction.
Grab Travel Deals
One of the best parts about early season golf is the price. In what's called shoulder season, which is tucked between the off-peak and peak golf-playing months, you'll generally find deals on resort costs and green fees. You will generally get the biggest shoulder-season price breaks as a percentage of the peak rate at true winter golf destinations, such as Scottsdale and Miami. If you visit in the spring or fall, it's not unusual to pay 30 to 40% less than the peak rates, even at popular resorts such as Oregon's Bandon Dunes. If you're interested in knowing a market's shoulder season, Google the name of the destination you want to visit plus "shoulder season" and you'll find the details.
Restock your Bag
It's important to restock your little emergency kit with small sizes of lip balm, sunblock, Band Aids, athletic tape, aspirin, and safety pins. You never know what you're going to need on a given round, so it's best to load up for the entire year.