Develop A Winter Plan
We've had the mildest fall in a long time, with more days over 80 degrees than under 70 it seems. But this morning I awoke to a cold (for us) north wind that reminded me that it is, indeed, the beginning of the "off season". I know many of you have already faced that reality and the cold, snow and nasty weather has relegated the golf clubs to the closet or garage for the next few months.

The good thing is that the winter months can be a great time for doing some real maintenance and tuning up of your golf game, so that when spring arrives you have some new fundamentals very ingrained and ready to take to the course. I've long believed that the actual hitting of golf balls really isn't the best way to build swing improvements, as you get trapped between focusing on what you are trying to learn, and actually hitting a good golf shot.

No, to me, the best way to learn anything new about the golf swing is to get as far from the driving range as you can. If it's work on your grip, you can do that in your easy chair, office chair or laid out on your sofa. Your stance and posture can be totally restructured in front of any full-length mirror. You can develop new moves and positions throughout the golf swing in front of that same mirror, practicing them in slow motion over-and-over-and-over-and-over ... until they feel like you've been doing them forever.

Heck, you can also use the winter months to work on your flexibility and strengthening your golf muscles so that you'll be stronger and longer when the snow melts and the grass begins greening up in the spring.

Here are several things you can spend time on this winter to give your golf game an immediate boost when you hit the course again next spring:
  1. Improve your grip. This is your only connection with the club and maybe the most crucial fundamental to hitting quality golf shots. Good golfers with dysfunctional grips are very, very rare. And high handicappers with really good grips just about the same. When you see a golfer who's hands fold onto the club like they've been there forever, you generally know what's in store. And rarely will you be surprised by good shotmaking from a guy that holds it like a ham sandwich.

  2. Improve your posture. Too many golfers just are not in an athletic position before they ever move the club back. Like the grip, a good posture and set-up can be learned by anyone, regardless of your physical stature and limitations. Hold the club right, and get started in the correct position and the golf swing gets a whole lot easier.

  3. Work on your putting. Get a piece of commercial carpet about 8' long and find a place along some wall to put it. Paint a hole on it about 3" in diameter and practice "making" short putts all winter. When you get back on the course this winter, you'll have a short-range putting stroke that you have total confidence in, and the full size hole will look like a washtub.
So, there you have the first three fundamentals for the winter. You guys chime in with more, OK?
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[ comments ]
birdieXris says:
I started my off-season stuff at the end of the season. I finally have the full proper fit on my clubs - ended up taking 1/2 inch off the irons and fairways, and a full 2 inches off of the driver. regripped the big stick too.

Still working on the putting like mad. Finding a good, repeatable setup and stroke. Also working on fitness. trying to lose another 15 or 20 lbs if possible by february of next year and gain a little flexibility. Also have been chipping and pitching in the basement like crazy.
GolfSmith7 says:
Short game, Short game, and fitness is what I am working on between the months of November thru February, even though I can play all year long.
bkuehn1952 says:
Hmmm ... develop an off season plan. Could be something to this planning thing?

Typically, once the ground freezes and/or snow arrives, I pull the clubs out of the car trunk and dump them in the basement along with my muddy shoes, where they languish for 3-4 months. Sometime in March I become re-acquainted with my equipment when I haul them up the basement stairs and toss them back into the car trunk.

Thanks Terry, maybe I will give this planning stuff a try.
GBogey says:
Sounds like several of us have been hitting the charity event buffet. I also plan to use the next several months getting back to my beginning season weight - I think that fitness was part of my end of year slump.

I also echo how Terry focuses on putting. I use to try all kinds of putting drills across my basement, but in my case getting better on 8' foot and shorter is one of the big keys to putting success.
larrynjr says:
been working my swing using Terry's idea from Ben Hogan's book and just received this;
also working my putting and chipping. putting idea from a golf mag, place tees 3' apart from cup out to 18' with a backstop behind cup. either sink the putt 3 times at each distance or between cup and backstop without hitting backstop. if you leave it short or hit the backstop, start over. works very well for developing feel and simulate pressure situation. It really sucks to get to 12' or 15' and have to start over again.......
onedollarwed says:
Worked on the grip a few years ago and it definitely has paid dividends. Though quite honestly, here in RI, you can get out and play if you're lucky. One or two courses stay open except in the case of snow. I know many play in the snow, but I just can't do that. I have to play with bare hands/spikes. Sledding and XC skiing are great fitness even for older folks - so that's what we do if there's snow.

Otherwise the "mostly off-season" is a time for contemplation. How much do we miss the game? How are we going to start the next season? I am a great ball striker, but make a good deal of mental errors. I managed to control my emotion in the last few years. So golf reading is where I go. I always tout John Updike's Golf Dreams. What are your favorites?
Gromit5 says:
I agree, onedollar: a fine golf book refills one's devotional tank. For intelligent, insightful swing analysis, try Cary Middlecoff's THE GOLF SWING. By David Gould, THE GOLFER'S CODE covers the many unwritten (and written) behavioral "rules" of the game, an elegant, must-read gem that I don't believe is very well known. Likewise, AN ELEGY FOR A GOLF PRO, by Dexter Westrum, an emotionally honest story about the author's father, a "might-have-been" pro. I hope everyone gives these a try; they're not big, but they weigh a lot.
onedollarwed says:
Good tip Gromit; I ordered The Golfer's Code for 1 cent plus shipping.
Other books I've enjoyed - nothing instructional here, except in the philosophical sense:
Rick Reilly - Shanks for Nothing. A swashbuckling golf tale, a grassy "House of Games!"
John Feinstein - A good Walk Spoiled. A bit dated, but thorough examination of the game and the players' lives.
Michael Murphy - Golf in the Kingdom. A classic, I suppose. It came a little too highly recommended I guess. A bizarre tale which has us suspending disbelief every other page. However a rich and mysterious tale which puts golf at the center of dinner table discussions, metaphysical melodrama, and spiritual conquest, in tiny Scottish towns. Who could resist? If you get to the end, let me know.
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