10 Golf tips to help you get set for the new season
Whether you’ve been bravely playing through the winter months, or are coming out of hibernation – here are 10 tips to help you get set for the new season.
1. Range golf v Real golf
For many golfers, winter limits their golf to driving range visits. Ranges can be beneficial – when used correctly. However, at ranges I see so many people smashing balls, with little thought going into what they’re doing or where their shots are going. They're getting exercise but doing little to improve their games.
Instead, make your range sessions relevant to playing real golf. Try changing clubs and targets frequently and shaping shots (high, low, draws and fades). And add a bit of pressure to it; for instance, pick two markers the width of a fairway – how many drives out of 5 can you find the fairway with? Or play your home course on the range, picturing each full shot you'll encounter from the the 1st tee to the 18th.
2. There is no substitute for getting out on a course
You can make your range sessions as productive as possible, but really there is no substitute for getting onto a course now. Try keeping score, playing the ball as it lies (if possible), and no gimmes or mulligans!
3. Shot selection, visualisation, feel and focus
It's time to concentrate on key playing skills. Shot selection; assessing the lie, wind, terrain, gradient and picking the right club and right shot. Visualisation; creating a clear picture of the shot. Feel and focus; refining your sense for playing different shots and getting the right focus that will help you execute shots successfully.
4. Simplify your thinking
Avoid teeing up with your head full of complicated technical thoughts - that's probably not going to go well. Instead, find a simple feel or swing thought that will help you on the course; something that you can repeat and that gives you confidence.
5. Brush up your short game
Get as much time in as possible on the putting green and work on your chipping, pitching and bunker shots. Now is the time to rediscover your feel for short shots. This is best done with random practice; a few balls, moving to different targets, playing from different spots and lies, switching clubs and altering trajectory and spin.
6. Start small and easy with the full swing
If you've not been swinging for some time, give yourself time to build your full swing back up. Start small and easy with lots of short iron shots with comfortable feeling swings. Have a target but don't stress too much about it. Instead, simply look for solid strikes, finding the "sweet spot" on the club face, and feeling good balance and rhythm. Once you're feeling solid contact, gradually switch your focus to hitting targets. And don't stress either if you're hitting shorter than usual. That's to be expected after a lay off; you'll gradually pick up speed - don't force it!
7. Check your equipment
Take stock of your equipment and act if required. Regripping your clubs is an obvious one and well worth doing every other season or so. Likewise, if you’re playing regularly you can expect wear on your wedges, so it maybe time for new ones.
Technology doesn’t advance at the rate some claim, but little gains do add up over time, so it’s always worth checking out new equipment. Keep in mind too that while the clubs may not be changing too much, our games do; if you were fitted for clubs a few years ago years ago, are they still suited to your game?
8. Get fit
If you’re a regular gym goer or work on your fitness, then fantastic. If not, however, simply getting out and walking whenever possible will help – it’s easy to forget that 18 holes is about a 4 to 5-mile walk. Also, simple stretching and strengthening exercises can be done at home with little or no equipment, so try to take 10 -15 minutes, 3 times a week or so – it will help during the season.
9. Targets, Goals and Expectations
I know many golfers like to set targets and goals for themselves at the start of each season, and this is a positive thing to do. I discussed my thoughts on how best to do this in these previous blogs: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. One of the most important elements is to be realistic with this – make sure they are achievable and that you have a plan for how they can be achieved.
10. Take some lessons
The great Jack Nicklaus would visit his coach, Jack Grout, for pre-season tune ups throughout his career. And it may surprise many that their focus was nearly always back to basics; grip, aim and alignment, stance, posture, ball position. That is a lesson for us all!