For many golfers winter is a miserable time. The course is closed, it’s blowing a gale and it’s freezing outside, temporary greens are in use and the nights are dark so you can’t even squeeze in a few holes after work but all is not lost, you can still work on your game and improve your golf during the winter months, and you can do it from the warmth of your home… below we outline 5 ways to improve your game and get you ready to lower your handicap when summer arrives again.\r\n
\r\nThe old saying ‘Drive for show, Putt for dough” is as true as they come. Think about it, there are 18 holes on a golf course and each hole is allocated 2 putts per hole, that’s 36 stokes on your card or 50% of your round on a par 72 golf course… and many golf courses are in fact par 69, 70 or 71 so it’s more than 50% of your round!\r\n\r\nWhy then do so many golfers generally not spend anywhere near as much time practicing their putting as they do with the driver or mid to long irons? Probably because it’s more fun to be stood on the practice ground booming drivers and fairway woods as far as you can to make sure you’re the Don when you and your three playing partners are stood on the tee in next week’s Medal comp. But wait, wouldn’t you prefer to be the golfer in your group who has the honour on the tee rather than the golfer who tees off last? Well winter is a perfect opportunity for you to work the part of your game you’ve neglected all summer, the part of your game that probably costs you more shots per round than any other.\r\n\r\nPracticing your putting is easy, all you need a reasonably smooth carpeted surface in your hall, lounge, dining room or bedroom to simulate your green and you’re set. Be varied in how you practice, don’t just hit the same length putt over and over again the full length of your space. Consider the different putting elements you need to incorporate into your stroke and play little games with yourself to test different skill sets of your putting and your putting stroke.\r\n\r\nWork on your grip, your stroke, your stance and ensuring your eyes over directly over the ball whilst putting, consider that how tight you grip the putter affects the feel and tension of your stroke, the way you strike the ball and how the ball roles. Work on a light, relaxed grip where each hand feels balanced with the other, take note of the how it feels when both hands and your arms feel inter-connected, balanced and bound together to build yourself a routine which ensures you grip the putter the same way every time and which generates the feeling of everything being inter-connected each time. Build yourself a structure to your putting stroke that breeds confidence in your ability as you stand over each and every putt.\r\n\r\nWork on your confidence of holing out from 3ft to 6ft, take 5 balls and stand fives tees (or AA / 9v batteries) on end and practice knocking each of them over from short distances to improve your confidence of short putting, imagine that the object you’re trying to knock over is the sweet spot you want to your ball to hit at the back of the hole as it drops in.\r\n\r\nWork on your long distance feel, place a piece of A4 paper on the floor, mark a cross on it near the front and work on trying to stop your ball as close to it as possible, work on leaving your ball one or two foot past it, after all if you don’t reach the hole when you’re on the green there is no chance of it dropping in so you always want to be just past rather than just short.\r\n
\r\nChipping can be practiced in a manner much like we’ve suggested for your putting. Obviously chipping indoors means you’re not going to be practicing from 30 or 40 yards but you practice as if you’re around the edge of the green and you’ll see the benefits of improving the touch and feel of your short game around the green translate into improvements further back from the green too. As with the putting working on building yourself a comfortable address setup paying attention constructing a feeling of confidence in your grip and stroke, one that feels strong and reliable and which you are able to repeat time and again. The familiarity of the feeling you build in your grip and stroke will give you the confidence you need to commit to those tricky little shots which are all too often fluffed because of a lack of confidence or fear of knocking it just as far past the hole as you are away from it now.\r\n\r\nVary the way you practice your chipping once again and work on different aspects of the shot. Work with different clubs to master different shot types and to appreciate how club selection affects the trajectory and the length of roll after the ball has first pitched.\r\n\r\nPlace a target on the floor, just as with the putting, and try to chip towards it and leave the ball as close to it as possible. If you need to, place a pillow, rolled up towel or pile of cloths against the wall or furniture you may be chipping towards to protect them from any damage.\r\n\r\nChange the drill and instead of leaving the ball as close to it as possible this time try to pitch the ball as close to it as possible. Change the distance between the target and yourself. Try the same drills using different clubs, from your wedge to your 7 iron and keep repeating them until you feel just as comfortable with every club. Grab a pillow and place it in front of you on the floor and practice a drill of chipping over it, change the distance away from you that you place the pillow, change it for different (none breakable!) objects that are of different heights or lengths, a pile of books or magazines, anything that changes up the practice shot you have to play. The variation and repetition is how you will improve and build your touch and feel, along with your confidence.\r\n
\r\nThe takeaway of the club head at the start of your swing is critical to everything that comes after it, it sets your swing in motion and helps determine the path, the rhythm (or lack of) and how in control of your swing you are. Work on a smooth and controlled takeaway, build yourself a routine where once again you are aware of the feelings in your swing and concentrate on the small piece by piece elements so when you have those feelings it naturally leads into the next stage.\r\n\r\nWork on getting your setup and grip correct, if you’re making adjustments to correct your stance or grip working on it at home over the winter will give you the time you need for to feel natural.\r\n\r\nPersonally, one of the key elements I find for my swing is to go through my pre-address routine. Stand behind the ball, pick a point three or four feet in front of the ball to line myself up on, move around to the address position and line the club head up behind the ball with the point I picked before finally taking my stance against the club and ensuring my grip is correct. The routine is broken down into individual elements that I repeat every time I address the ball, if at any point during this routine I have a feeling of something different to the way it’s felt for the 1000s of times that have gone before, I know something is wrong and I step away and start from the beginning again.\r\n\r\nHaving gone through the address routine I am confident I’m aligned and setup correctly, now the only thing to do is swing correctly. The takeaway of the club that starts the swing is the first element of the swing and as we’ve said it leads into each of the remaining sections of the swing so practicing it, getting it right and getting it drilled in to your muscles will improve your swing, how you strike the ball and your scoring.\r\n\r\nThere are plenty of instructional videos on the technicalities of the swing and in particular the takeaway available on the web, three of our favourites for you study are:\r\n
\r\nYou can practice The Takeaway portion of your swing quite easily at home, you don’t need to complete the full swing you just need to work on the takeaway portion so you don’t needs loads of space or need to worry about breaking ornaments or TVs which may be in close proximity to where you’re swing!\r\n\r\nTo work on the smoothness and consistency of your Takeway place a ball behind the clubhead, as you start the takeaway and begin moving the clubhead backwards the idea is to roll the ball backwards with the clubhead, place a marker where you want the ball to finish and keep performing the drill, each time your aim is to complete The Takeaway correctly whilst consistently leaving the ball as close to the marker as you can do.\r\n
\r\nNot just any book though… Golf is Not a Game of Perfect is packed full insightful stories about golf that will improve your game no matter who you are. That is why Dr Bob Rotella, or ‘Doc’ as most the players such as Nick Price, Tom Kite, Davis Love III, Brad Faxon and John Daley among many others called him, is renowned as one of the best consultants in golf.\r\n\r\nThe book covers all range of topics but consistently aims to create the correct mental attitude and mindset in a golfer’s game. We all know only too well the frustrations we encounter when we don’t live up to our own expectations, when we hit a poor shot or miss a short putt but we don’t appreciate just how important the way in which we approach and deal with mental side of the game whilst on the golf course affects the way we play. Golf Is Not A Game Of Perfection will enlighten you and prepare you with a way of thinking that will improve your game when the new golfing season arrives again… it might even save your playing partners from having to watch you tear strips of yourself week after week too!\r\n\r\nDr Bob Rotella has a small collection of golf books available beside his the most popular Golf is Not a Game of Perfect, so if you have time to read more than one during your winter break from the course then we’d also suggest Putting Out Of Your Mind as another great mental training exercise and one that complements our first method of improving your game over winter… putting practice and drills.\r\n
\r\nAlthough golf doesn’t, on face of it, seem to require great leaves of fitness or strength it can perhaps play a more crucial role than you might expect. The golf swing is an explosive process that places large amounts of stresses on shoulders, elbows and wrist joints whilst also producing large torsional forces on the hips and lower back areas. You may think increasing your fitness and strength will simply allow you to swing faster and increase your hitting power and you would be correct to some degree. What you are actually looking for is the ability to generate more power but using relatively less effort, in doing so you will be able to produce a smoother and more controlled swing, which will make your swing more consistent and therefore your ball striking more consistent. You may well also add some additional yardage to your shots but it is the control and consistency of your swing which is most important.\r\n\r\nA further factor of your improved fitness will be your stamina and ability to maintain concentration of the course of your round, most specifically during the closing stages when you’re trying to hold your card together. How often have you found yourself in the position of coming down the final four or five holes, often with a good card in hand, only to find your energy levels dropping and a couple of dogged tee or iron shots costing you the card that could have been? Well you may well find that is simply down to fatigue and your fitness levels, as you tire towards the end of 4 hours on your feet your posture and swing mechanisms aren’t are strong and energetic as they were on the first nine holes. With tiredness, faults creep into your swing, a little dip of the legs on your downswing and you’re going to catch it fat costing yourself shots. Concentrations levels drop as fatigue begins to creep in too, golf is a game of fine margins and a lack of concentration over your shot can be dear on the score card.\r\n\r\nFor more information about how fitness can affect your game Greg Norman has a great fitness tips section on his website – http://www.shark.com/sharkwatch/fitness-tips/\r\n\r\nSo that’s our five ways to improve your golf over the winter months. Stick to working on each part of the items above consistently giving 5, 10 or 20 minutes at time to practicing the drills and we are sure you’ll notice the difference and improve your golf and be ready to shoot lower scores by the time the golfing season starts again next year.
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