After a bitter and long winter, preceded by an unusually wet summer here in the UK, for many of us ‘fair-weather’ golfers, it is a time of the year when we consider dragging the clubs out of hibernation and starting to swing a club at a ball again in earnest.
Of course, if you’ve not been playing any golf for a sustained period of time then you’ll have no doubt quickly realised that your body and mind will seemingly have forgotten the basics of the game. So before you take to the course and embarrass yourself and playing partners by slicing your first six tee shots into the pond; follow these handy hints to get you back playing better, more quickly after a long winter lay off.
1. Check your clubs & shoes – If you’ve sensibly packed and prepared your clubs away for the winter break then they should be in good condition and ready to be used again, but if you’ve flung them under the stairs and then piled on a vacuum cleaner and other assorted household detritus, then you’ll need to give them a thorough check.
Check the shaft of the club, especially around the connection with the club head for any signs of cracking or wear and tear (especially on graphite shafted clubs). Check the grooves on your irons are still sharp (if not, get them regrooved before you play and you’ll regain more control over the ball), check the standard of your grips and if they are worn, replace them.
It is also worth checking the condition of your golf shoes. Sore feet on a golf course are no laughing matter and can make even a great round into a horrendous one. So give your shoes a thorough examination and ensure they are still comfortable, water-resistant and flexible. You don’t want to find out your shoes have had it after four holes of the first yearly medal!
Once your kit is sorted and you are happy the clubs are in tiptop condition, now it’s time to take a look in the mirror!
2. Get yourself in shape – Golf is not a hugely demanding game physically, though walking 8 miles carting several kilos of metal is tiring. However the golf swing does exert unusual forces upon certain muscle groups in the body and turning up at the range, taking a driver and giving it a full whack without any warm up or preparation can lead to injury.
You don’t have to go mad here – just get down the gym, or do a little flexibility work, or even a bit of swimming. The video below has some excellent exercises for golfers to practise to help them gain more flexibility and strength.
Once you have warmed up those key muscle groups and worked up a level of fitness to enable you to get around the course, then you are ready to throw your clubs in the car and head out.
3. Work on the range intelligently – When you are regaining your game after a break, you are unlikely to start hitting the ball perfectly from the first shot off the tee. Don’t get to the range grab the big stick from the bag and then get depressed because your first ten drives all were snapped right or sliced left. Work intelligently and build up your swing.
A great place to start is the putting greens – putting can take between 30 and 50% of your round so sharpening up your putting, a gentle, easy stroke, is a good way to gently ease yourself back into the game.
Then when you are happy with your putting skills, work through your bag from shortest club up. Start with the wedges but don’t just hit them full pelt. Pick a number of target at different ranges and as you are working on finding your rhythm to your swing once again, work on distance control at the same time.
Don’t get frustrated if you can’t hit clubs well initially, as your swing comes back to you, your accuracy and distance should improve. Don’t be tempted to tinker with your swing or to try and hit the ball harder – usually that just leads to even more wayward shots and more frustration!
If you are having troble finding your swing, then contact the club pro and book yourself a refresher lesson or two – you’ll be amazed at just how much you’ve forgotten over the winter and how quickly someone with expert knowledge can put you quickly back on track.
There’s no point doing all the above if you are only going to play two rounds this summer and then find any excuse not to play. You’ll only see your golf scores and swing improve by getting out onto the course and playing.
You’ll not only improve your golf but reap a number of positive health benefits too, as well as being out in the open air, away from the stresses and strains of everyday life.
That’s why I am heading out this week for the first time. I hope to see you out on the course too soon!
(Images Courtesy of Gorilla Golf Blog Media Library)