Regardless of what the weather is doing, we all still get the bug. You’re hungover on Sunday watching a rerun of DJ conquering his demons to take the US Open, and you wonder if you still have any magic left in you. Unfortunately, some of you won’t have the chance to find out until March, but for those like myself who enjoy a virtually nonexistent golfing offseason, here’s some advice for your winter rounds.
Winter golf rounds are few and far between. Save yourself the struggle of putting your tight, underworked muscles on the back tees. Move up at least one set of tee boxes, maybe even two, and enjoy having all the same clubs you had in your hands back during the summertime. You lose distance in the cold anyway, so that 200-yard 5-iron you were cranking out in the 100 degree heat is looking more like 170-180 come December. Winter golf isn’t about hero distances; you’re not going to see somebody big dog a par 5 from 250+, so save yourself a lost ball and some penalty strokes and don’t try it. Keep the flag in front of you and give yourself a little advantage with some easier tees.
Since the rounds will be further apart and the muscles will be tighter and less familiar with the motion, keep your swing compact and focus on smooth rhythmic transitions. You don’t want to ruin what little golf you’re going to see by screwing up your back trying to go for broke off the first tee. Three-quarter swings at about 70% power are as much effort as I’d apply to winter rounds, and make sure you’re emphasizing the big muscles; those are the ones that lose their memory last. Focus on your shoulder turn, your hip rotation, and don’t worry about what your wrists and elbows are doing. Winter swings should be smooth big-body-focused and shorter than your summertime swings. Prioritize the follow through and just let the takeaway happen naturally.
Bump and Run
At my course, the ground turns soft in the winter. This can lead to chunks or skulls. To avoid that, put the 60-degree back in the bag and use an 8-iron (or a putter if you can) anywhere around the green. This will also help with adjusting to dormant greens, which roll faster and break more on approach shots than greens during the growing season. Your high flops and one hop and stop chips to the cup also require a lot more feel, which requires a lot more regular practice than winter golf allows. Go for the easier shot; it won’t look as cool, but it won’t penalize you either.
Put a lower compression ball in play
I mentioned earlier that you lose distance due to the cold weather, so alleviate this by playing a lower compression ball. Your shorter, lighter swing will pair better with a softer golf ball as well. If during the summer you’re John Dalying a ProV1X, stay just shy of parallel on your takeaway and go with a ProV1 or the NXT. If you normally play a ProV1, try the Callaway Chromesoft; it’ll give you a more forgiving response through the club on your irons shots, which your hands will thank you for should you skull a 4-iron. For those of you who don’t break the bank and play DT Solos, look at something like the Pinnacle Soft or the Callaway Supersoft.
Keep the Flag in Front/Big Targets
Ever wonder why you always hear those old guys talk about shooting their age during the winter time? It’s because winter golf is perfect for playing small ball. Make the thought of the day to keep the flag in front of you. You’re not trying to drive any greens or dunk any pins. Keep it smart, and keep your targets big. If you play for the green, there’s a chance you strike it well and put it close. If you play for the one foot spot in front of the pin, you’re once again asking a lot of golf muscles that haven’t been regularly worked in a few weeks.
Besides being the staple of every 18 to 34-year-old male at a bar from September to April, vests are invaluable on the golf course. They warm the most crucial part of your body necessary for golf without hindering your arms during the swing, and if you get hot they’re easy to shed. Waterproof shoes help fight the hidden damp spots that never get burned off in cold mornings, because there is no hell quite like wet socks on a golf course when it’s below 50 degrees.
Keep in mind why you’re out there. Winter golf isn’t about taking strokes off the handicap. It’s not about dialing in those muscle backs you should have never purchased. Winter golf alleviates the physical ache all us golfers feel when we see anything golf related and we’re not on the course. It’s just enough to tide us over until the greatest week in April. See you on the tee..
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