Off-Season Conditioning Tips
Unfortunately for many golfers the season is coming to a close. Many find that it takes months every spring to get their game back after the long winter months. This off-season take a little time and keep your game sharp. It can be done indoors and will make your comeback easier next spring.
One of the best off-season activities is simply hitting putts in the living room. In fact it is beneficial to work on your putting stroke without worrying about making putts. There are basically two factors that go into making putts, the stroke and the ability to read greens. By perfecting your stroke in the off-season it leaves one less thing to worry about come spring. There are many great putting aids that can be used indoors. Find one that works on the plane of the stroke. This will help you keep, or learn, the feel of a consistent stroke this off-season.
Another great aid is a pack of table tennis balls. These are great for practicing chipping inside. Always be sure you have enough room to swing without breaking anything valuable (or you are guaranteed to be in big trouble with someone!). Try hitting low and high chip shots into a wastebasket or onto a chair or couch. They are great because they react much like a golf ball but only travel a few feet. This is also a great way to practice a new chip or flop shot.
The last is the simplest of them all. Swing a club as often as possible. Even if it is in your garage on a piece of old carpet. This will help keep the feel of a solid swing fresh throughout the winter.
By following these simple steps you may find that weeks, or even months, are saved when the season rolls around. A good short game can make up a lot of strokes so take the time to learn how to hit a new chip or pitch this off-season. The results will be well worth the small amount of effort. [BACK TO TOP]
With the 2011 golf season less than a couple of months away it is important that golfers consider a pre-season conditioning program to get you into shape following the winter layoff.
The physical demands of golf are often underestimated!
Many golfers take the physical aspect of the golf game for granted because of its slow pace, but this should not be the case. According to the book, Complete Conditioning for Golf (Westcott and Draovitch), ‚Å“the golf swing is one of the most unnatural, explosive movements in sport‚¦you must prepare your body to both produce and withstand the forces required for powerful drives.‚ Most golf injuries stem from poor swing mechanics, which are often related to lack of strength training, balance and flexibility.
Golf conditioning should focus on strengthening the muscles used in game and should work to improve flexibility, balance and stability.
A pre-season conditioning program
A pre-season golf conditioning program should be performed a minimum 4 days/week, for at least 10-15 minutes per session. It is very important to pay strict attention to form and technique.
Consider including the following types of exercises in your pre-conditioning training:
- Cardio exercises - consider walking for a few minutes followed by a short burst of running; or go for a lengthier walk several times a week, increasing your pace of walking each week.
- Strength exercises - work on strengthening your core muscles. Use a medicine ball to help strengthen your oblique‚„s (the abdominal muscles along the side of your waist), which are the main muscles used in rotating your spine during your golf swing. Don‚„t forget about exercises to strengthen your upper back and shoulder areas.
- Flexibility exercises - when your muscles are relaxed they lengthen and longer muscles result in few injuries. Flexibility and stretching exercises, such as the cat stretch (stretching the lower back) and hamstring stretches are simple ways to warm up and relax your muscles.
There are many resources available to help you build your own pre-season golf conditioning program. Head to your local gym and talk to their trainers, or visit your local bookstore to research information on golf specific fitness.
Golfers spend a lot of money on their golf equipment, but in fact, your own body is your most valuable piece of equipment when it comes to your game, so a pre-conditioning program will well worth the investment! [BACK TO TOP]
Winter Suggestions for the Golf Enthusiast
Now that the golf season is finished for another year, what is the golfer going to do with their idle time during the winter months? Here are some suggestions, as supplied by our resident Hidden Lake / Lowville golf addicts. Feel free to add your own ideas to this list, and drop us a note and let us know what you‚„ll be up to over the winter!
During the long winter months a golf addict can‚¦
- Read about golf - in books, magazines and online.
- Watch golf on TV - the 2010 PGA Tour starts on January 5th with the Mercedes-Benz Championship.
- Putt in your living room or down the hallway - your family will love you for it!
- Play the golf course in your head when you can‚„t get to sleep - beats counting sheep!
- Go to your favorite indoor golf facility - your family will be glad to get you out of the hallway!
- Plan to play the Hidden Lake / Lowville Golf Clubs!
- Plan to attend the Toronto Golf & Travel Show,
Take up ‚Å“yoga for golf‚ - or at least meditate about it!
- Track your putting statistics - that should be interesting!
- Set realistic golf goals for the upcoming season - and write them down
(you can analyze them next winter to see how you did).
- Make a golf gear ‚Å“wish‚ list - if you get this done before Christmas and leave it lying around you may get a better gift than a soap-on-a-rope!
Check out our Golf Packages at www.hiddenlakegolf.com
- Consider a golf junket to the sunny south - it‚„s what all the Club Pros do!
And if you wonder what your local Golf Professional does during the off season, you‚„d be surprised to hear that it‚„s not all leisure and golf junkets. We spend time cleaning up from the past season and then planning for the upcoming season including reviewing and ordering new product for the Pro Shop, planning events, activities and tournaments, and getting ready for the annual Toronto Golf & Travel show. That being said, I do take the opportunity every year to take a group of golfers from our club to a Pro-Am tournament down south. Our upcoming trip to the Dominican Republic is already full, but if you‚„re interested in future trips, please let me know and we‚„ll add you to our list.
I would like to take this opportunity to wish you and your family a happy holiday season, and I look forward to catching up with you in the spring and seeing you at the course once again in 2009! [BACK TO TOP]
No matter how much we‚„d all like to avoid them, bunkers are part of the game of golf at most courses. Many would argue that the bunker shot is one of the most challenging shots in the game, and for that reason it seems that many golfers simply bury their heads in the sand (pun intended) and do whatever it takes to get out of the sand. However, armed with the right technique, you can recover after landing in the bunker.
A bunker shot is not a conventional pitch shot!
Take a look at your sand wedge and you will immediately recognize that something is different. It has a bump on the bottom that you won‚„t find on other clubs. The bump on the bottom of your sand wedge is called a ‚Å“bounce‚ and has been designed so that when you swing your club, the ‚Å“bounce‚ will be the first part of the club to touch the ground, allowing the rest of your club to slide under the ball and propel it out of the bunker!
All bunker shots are NOT created equal!
Every bunker will be different, and in fact the same bunkers can be different each time you play, depending on the weather conditions and the conditions of the soil/sand, so be sure to keep this in mind when assessing your shot.
A bunker shot also requires you to adjust your shot for the specific conditions that you face: is your ball buried or sitting atop the sand; are you hitting towards the green from a relatively close distance or are you hitting from a fairway bunker where you need to maximize distance; will you be hitting uphill or downhill?
Each condition will require you to adjust your shot accordingly, but the basics remain the same:
Establish a solid footing in the sand. Twist or shuffle your feet in the sand to provide secure footing, which helps you maintain your balance, prevents you from sinking deeper into the sand, and allows you to stay firm while hitting the shot. By sinking your feet deep into the sand it also lowers your swing path, which helps you hit the sand before you hit the ball.
Open the club face. By opening the club face you help increase the height of the trajectory of your shot and decrease the chance of digging into the sand.
Smoothly accelerate your swing through the sand. Remember that your back swing and follow through should be of roughly equal length. Accelerate smoothly through your downswing, through the sand and under the ball. Follow through is essential to lift your ball out of the sand.
Create a sand ‚Å“splash‚. By sliding your club under the ball you will create a ‚Å“splash‚ effect in the sand. The path of the sand should be directed towards the target, and usually your ball follows this splash path! You do not need to slam your club into the sand (which usually results in the ball staying where it started), but rather you should focus on an easy swing with a follow through.
Practice in the sand!
Okay and whether you want to hear it or not ‚ practice makes perfect! The more you practice, the more comfortable you‚„ll feel with your bunker shots. Head to the chipping green and practice hitting out of the bunker. Hit uphill out of the bunker; hit downhill out of the bunker; hit towards the flag from a short distance; and hit for greater distance. Try hitting from the bunker when the conditions are dry and when conditions are wet. You‚„ll see that each condition requires a slight modification to your shot. But the more you practice, the more confident you will feel. And while we‚„d all like to avoid the bunkers every time we play, we know the reality is that we‚„re going to have to deal with them at some point or another, so let‚„s make the most of it! [BACK TO TOP]
Achieving Perfect ‚Å“Pitch‚
A pitch shot is one of those in-between shots: longer than a chip, but usually shorter than a full swing. A pitch shot is often used to play over a bunker towards the green. Because the pitch shot is an ‚Å“in-between‚ shot, it‚„s often a shot that gets overlooked when it comes to practice!
70% of all shots are played within 70 yards of the green
According to golf great Gary Player, 70% of all shots are played within 70 yards of the green, and for this reason alone it is important to practice and develop a consistent pitch shot.
Control your shot and your swing
Control and accuracy are essential in making a good pitch shot. A standard pitch shot requires that you correctly address the ball and then control your swing. Your body rotation should control the length of your backswing and in the downswing you need to consciously make your body and arms control your swing, accelerating the club head down into the ball and through to impact, making sure that your through swing is the same distance as your back swing!
Not all pitch shots are created equal
One of the most common problems golfers have in regards to their pitch shot is judging and controlling the distance. Depending on the distance your ball has to travel, golfers must adjust their backswing in order to regulate the amount of force they exert on the ball in their downswing. Ultimately the length of your backswing directly relates to the distance the ball flies!
Develop a 4-gear system
It‚„s a good idea to develop a practice system for hitting your pitch shots. Consider using the analogy of a four-gear system, with first gear being the gear you use for hitting a short shot and fourth-gear being virtually a full swing. Obviously the length of your backswing relates directly to the ‚Å“gear‚ you are in - shorter back swing (about a ¼ swing) for first gear and almost full swing for fourth gear. Second gear would be roughly a 1/2 back swing and third gear would be about a ¾ swing.
When approaching your ball, immediately assess the distance your ball has to travel to make your shot. Decide what ‚Å“gear‚ you want to be in, and adjust your back swing accordingly, making sure your follow through is as long as your backswing.
Practice makes perfect
Take your wedge and practice your 4-gear system on a regular basis. Using the same club, hit your ball in first, second, third and fourth gears and make a note of the average distance your ball travels in the air. Practice this over and over again until the process becomes second nature.
If you are having trouble getting a feel for your pitch shot, be sure to talk to one of our CPGA professionals for some help and guidance.
Also, consider a visit to the Pro Shop and check out our selection of wedges. Most professional golfers carry up to three wedges in their bag, usually ranging from 52° to 60°, so that they have the option of playing a wide range of shots at critical angles. Test out our wedges and find one (or two) that work for you. You‚„d be surprised what a difference a good pitch shot can make in your game. [BACK TO TOP]
Putting - The Game within a Game
It‚„s often been said that putting is a game within the game of golf, and there seems to be no general consensus as to the best technique for putting.
Choose the technique that‚„s best for you.
There are a number of proven methods for putting, but it always makes sense to pay attention to the fundamentals and then adapt from these principles to suit your game.
The essence of putting
In its most simple terms, there are three key elements to sinking your putt: making contact with the ball with the centre of your putter face; ensuring that when you contact the ball you are online with the target; and accelerating the club head through impact!
The orthodox approach to putting
A basic approach to putting involves placing your hands in a neutral position with the palms facing one another, bending from the waist with your arms and hands hanging down naturally, using a basic pendulum action stroke, controlled by the shoulders (imagine a triangle formed by your arms and shoulders when you address the ball), and maintaining a triangular relationship throughout your stroke, from backswing to follow through!
Controlling your grip
One of the major problems when putting is allowing your wrist to break down through impact ‚ often called the ‚Å“yips‚. Sometimes a new grip style is the best solution to this problem. A new grip style can take the problem off your actual stroke and help cure the yips. Consider a grip where you drop your left hand below the right, which locks your wrist into position and prevents any unwanted wrist action. Or consider the Langer grip which was developed by golfer Bernhard Langer to help keep your wrists locked and involves clasping the fingers of your right hand around your left forearm, effectively taking the right hand out of the stroke action.
Stabilize your lower body
Great golfers have one thing in common when they putt ‚ they have an extremely stable lower body and swing the putter from above the waist! Do your utmost to keep your lower body stable through your putt!
Other traps to avoid when putting:
- Don‚„t look up too soon!
- A continuous swing action is essential ‚ always ensure that your through-swing is exactly the same length as your back swing.
- Don‚„t over think your putt ‚ stick to the fundamentals of your swing and let it work for you!
Practice your short putt!
While practicing your long putt is fun, the vast majority of your putts during a game will be from within 15 feet of the hole, so when you‚„re on the practice green, practice, practice and more practice those short putts! Remember that while putting is open to personal interpretation, it‚„s always best to start with the fundamentals! [BACK TO TOP]
It‚„s all in the set-up!
Last month we talked about the importance of developing a proper golf grip, and mentioned that this, along with set-up and posture were the fundamental elements in your golf game. This month I want to talk about shot set-up and all that entails. It seems obvious that you can‚„t expect to hit a target if you are aiming in the wrong direction, and the same can be said about your golf shot. If you don‚„t set-up you‚„re shot properly you have little hope of hitting it in the direction you want.
There are a number of key elements that you need to address in regards to shot set-up. Alignment, balance, posture and ball position are all closely related in ensuring that you make the most effective shot you can.
Your body, which includes your feet, knees, hips, arms, shoulders and eyes, should be in parallel alignment to your target line. Many professionals often suggest you imagine a railway track, with the outer rail a straight line between your club face and the target, and the inner rail where you would line up your feet.
Your feet should be approximately shoulder width apart, with your front foot angled slightly toward the target and your back foot relatively square. This is the ideal position for your feet when using your middle irons. For short irons your feet should have a slightly narrower stance and for long irons and woods your stance should be slightly wider than shoulder width apart.
Positioning your golf ball correctly relative to your stance is fundamental to a great shot. The positioning of your ball varies depending on the club you are using. When using your driver or long irons your ball should be slightly forward in your stance, opposite the inside of your lead heel. For short irons it makes more sense to position the ball further back in your stance, midway between your feet.
Make sure that your weight is balanced on the balls of your feet not on your heels and toes. For short irons your weight should be balanced slightly more towards your target foot, for middle irons it should be balanced equally between both feet, and for your longer clubs slightly more towards your back foot.
Good posture helps ensure a good approach to your swing. Start by standing upright with your club resting by your side. Bend forward from your hips (not your waist), since your spine acts as the axis of rotation for your swing. Then reach for your club without altering your angles as you address the club, and use your favorite grip (overlapping, interlocking or baseball grip).
As always, don‚„t hesitate to talk to any of our CPGA professionals for some advice. [BACK TO TOP]
Improve your grip & improve your game!
Ultimately it‚„s the fundamentals of the game of golf that are the difference between a good round and a bad round! While the fundamentals may seem less glamorous than the latest driver or putter on the market, the importance of grip, setup and posture should not be under-estimated. In fact, I would argue that most challenges to a golfer‚„s game can be traced back to problems with their golf fundamentals.
Get a (good) grip!
Your golf grip is your only physical point of contact with your golf club, and it clearly has a direct relationship on how your ball takes flight! The primary function of your golf grip is to help you correctly align the club face with the ball, so that you can hit the ball correctly.
Three basic golf grips
While everyone has their own minor variations, there are really just three basic golf grips:
1. Overlapping Grip
Often referred to as the Vardon grip, named after golf great Harry Vardon; this is probably the most widely used grip. Because it uses fewer fingers to control club movement, it tends to be more effective for use by those with stronger hands.
2. Interlocking Grip
This grip keeps your hands connected during your swing, and tends to be favored by golfers with small hands or relatively short fingers.
3. Baseball Grip
Ideal for junior golfers and golfers whose hands aren‚„t as strong, this grip gives you a firmer hold on your club since all 10 fingers are used for support. This grip allows you to more easily release your wrist during the swing, helping to provide a little more force when you hit the ball.
Once you decide on the type of grip that best suits your game, the other main factor that you need to consider is the strength/pressure of your grip on the club.
Your grip pressure influences the positioning of your hands on your club. Too much or too little pressure causes your hands to turn too far one way or the other on the club. Ultimately you want your grip pressure to be neutral ‚ not too strong or too weak. A weak grip means you are holding the club too loosely, and results in loss of club control during the swing. Gripping the club too tightly reduces the movement in your wrist, hand and forearm, and results in less distance in your drive.
Take some time to study and focus on your golf grip! We offer private, semi-private or group lessons ‚ a single or series of lessons can have a dramatic effect on your enjoyment of the game and your score! As legendary golfer Ben Hogan said so eloquently, ‚Å“A player with a bad grip doesn‚„t want a good swing!" [BACK TO TOP]