How to Keep Your Golf Game Fresh in the Offseason
With the cold weather approaching, we all know our days on the golf course are numbered. If we have a winter anything like the last two we might not see the green stuff for 4-5 months.
I’ve done some pretty extreme things over the years to keep my game fresh over the winter. When I was in high school I draped a heavy blanket over my closet and hit full shots like it was a practice net. That experiment ended pretty quickly when I shanked a ball through the wall though.
I wanted to share with you some ideas on how you can continue your practice indoors over the winter months. While there is no substitute for getting out on the course, I believe there are many things you can do to keep your game from hibernating. Of course this will all depend on what your home situation is like. I certainly don’t want any ceilings broken, or errant golf balls striking a family member!
The best thing about winter practice is that you can experiment with changes in your game, and try to work on them so that they will feel natural come springtime. The worst time of the year to make adjustments to your game is during the spring or summer. If you can use the off season as a time to make changes to your equipment and technique, the work will pay off once the warmer weather returns.
The easiest thing to work on indoors is your putting. If you have a relatively flat carpet that rolls nicely, you can always use a cup as your target. It’s free, and I used that method for years!
There are a number of products that won’t break the bank that will help you hone your stroke as well.
First up is the actual mat you are going to use. I’ve been using the SKLZ Accelerator mat for over 2 years, and think this is a great training aid for a number of reasons. It gives you visual aids from 3, 5, and 7 feet away, which are the key distances for improving your putting. If you can start feeling more comfortable over these putts you’ll start saving more pars and bogeys on the golf course.
This mat is extremely durable, and I think it gives a nice roll. Not to mention it will send the ball back to you so you don’t have to worry about walking back and forth.
If you want to take your work with this mat to the next level, you could add The Pill and the Tiba Putting Aid to make sure your alignment is perfect, and that you can strike your putts properly. Check out this video to see the two in action:
Bonus Content: Be sure to check out my complete guide to putting.
Break the bank a little bit: If you have the space, and want to build a more realistic indoor putting green you should take a look at the Birdie Ball custom greens. I’ve yet to try this out, but the feedback I’ve seen online is that this is a pretty solid offering. I might just have to pony up, and put this in my basement. These greens can run you as little as $60 up to the $500 range depending on how big you build them.
Overall, I think a worthy goal of your offseason putting routine is to work on your stroke and alignment. If you want to diagnose actual mistakes with your putting stroke, a swing analyzer like Swingbyte can help.
While you might not be able to simulate the breaks on an actual green, there is a psychological benefit to seeing the ball continually go in the hole from these shorter distances that give most golfers issues.
The stats prove that your best opportunity to make putts is inside 10 feet. If you can improve from these distances you will eliminate more 3 putts, and start making a few more pars.
If you’ve got a little more space, then spending a few months practicing your chipping technique is going to pay huge dividends come springtime. There are so many golfers who can drop serious strokes from their scores if they could just eliminate a few skulls and chunks here and there during a round.
I love this chipping net from Rukket because it gives you a few different targets, and you can reasonably practice from a few feet away into this.
This Callaway mat is easy to plunk down in your living room or basement. If you’re worried about an errant golf ball you could try out these practice balls that won’t cause any damage. They’re weighted a bit so they will feel more like a real ball versus a plastic practice ball.
The key to successful chipping around the greens is being confident in your technique. If you need some help in that department then I would suggested reading the Short Game Bible or Your Short Game Solution. I consider these to be the best two books on the short game.
If you don’t practice, then you’ll be guessing what kind of stroke to use every time you stand over the ball.
Practicing your full swing in the house might be a little challenging because of space constraints. I have just enough room in my basement to swing a 5-iron, which I figured out by shattering several light bulbs. I’ve seen some people set up a portable driving range in their garages as well.
If you’ve got this type of room then I recommend going with the Rukket Portable Driving range net. It’s easy to set up, and extremely durable. Some of the less expensive nets out there will fall apart rather quickly, and are a real pain to get them set up (I know because I bought some of them in the past).
Hitting balls into a net without any feedback can get a little boring, and if you’re not focusing on anything specific then it might not do much for your game. Here are a few ideas to spice things up:
One of the most overlooked ways to improve your swing is to find out where you are actually making contact with the club face. You’ll be shocked at what you can figure out just by understanding your impact point after each swing. The good news is that there are several inexpensive ways to do this. You can spray this Dr. Sholls ($17.24) odor spray on your club.
Or you can use a dry eraser pen to mark your practice ball. The ink will show up on your club face, and all you have to do is wipe it away with a towel when you’re done.
Last but not least is impact tape. You can use these for about 10 shots before you need to replace them.
Golfers are dying to figure out how to hit the ball farther. Well it all starts at impact. Most players assume it’s all about your swing speed, but that is only half the story. If you are not making contact with the club face towards the sweet spot, then all of the swing speed in the world is not going to get you hitting the ball farther.
Check out this article to learn more…
If you read my feature article on swing tempo, you know that I think it’s one of the keys to playing successful golf. This would be the number one thing I recommend working on during the offseason. There are a few products that can help with this:
1) Tour Tempo Tones: This app is changing my game. I highly recommend using the beats to help sync up your swing to a repeatable rhythm.
2) Swing Analyzers: Swingbyte can track your tempo so you can see if you are repeating it properly between swings.
3) The Orange Whip: I use the Orange Whip every night, and I believe in its effectiveness as a strength trainer and a way to smooth out your tempo.
Great golf is all about repetition. At the heart of repetition is your tempo. This should be one of your main off-season goals.
If you’re expecting a big holiday bonus maybe you can step things up a notch or two, and get yourself a home simulator. I’ll certainly envy you…
The Optishot 2 ($399) will get you in the simulation game for under $400. While it’s not nearly as accurate as some systems that will cost you thousands of dollars, you can still enjoy yourself. Anything you can do to simulate a real round of golf will help your game by constantly changing clubs, and the types of shots you are trying to hit. Not to mention it will make your practice sessions more fun.
If things are looking REALLY good for you financially, then the next level of fun would be to get yourself the SkyTrak system. This unit came out last year, and it offers extremely accurate tracking that will get you close to a system like Trackman or Foresight (which retail for 10-25 thousand dollars…gulp).
What’s interesting about the SkyTrak is that they added functionality with the popular online golf service World Golf Tour. You’ll be able to play some of your favorite courses around the world with stunning graphics on your tablet. The whole bundle will set you back around $2000 to $2500 though, so this is certainly a big investment.
Seriously though, what’s more important than your golf game???
If you don’t have the space to practice in your home in a reasonable way, then the winter can be a great time to brush up on some of the best golf books ever written. Your mind is one of the most important tools as a golfer. I’ve always been an avid reader, and many of the great golf books have changed my perspective on the game, and opened my eyes to doing things differently. I have read all of the following books, and highly recommend them:
Golf is Not a Game of Perfect by Dr. Bob Rotella
The Short Game Bible by Dave Pelz
Unconscious Putting by Dave Stockton
Every Shot Counts by Mark Broadie
The Practice Manual by Adam Young
The Complete Guide to Course Management by Yours Truly!
Zen Golf by Joseph Parent
Don’t put the clubs away
Some players just assume that once the cold weather comes it’s time to put your clubs away in storage. For those who are a little braver, they will continue to play the course in arctic conditions. There’s nothing like hearing a golf ball hit the green, and make a noise like it just landed in the parking lot.
Depending on your living situation there are ways to continue your practice sessions at home, you just have to get a little creative. I hope I’ve given you some ideas on how to keep your game a little fresher during the winter.