by Rolf Deming, Head Teaching Professional at Arnold Palmer Golf Academy Saddlebrook Resort.
The thought of the Spring Tune-Up brings back memories of my years spent in snow country. A day would arrive when a warm Southern breeze would begin melting the snow, causing a rivulet of water to trickle down the street, several dark patches of soggy turf to appear on the golf course, and the hearts and minds of every ardent golfer to begin racing in eager anticipation of the upcoming spring.
The next day would bring a blizzard. A foot of snow would blanket the course and smother our dreams. The temperature would then remain below freezing for several more weeks. Our hopes and aspirations were dashed.
How we await the spring! And, as we patiently wait out those last dark days of winter, what can we do to enhance our opening forays onto the links? Some people simply suffer the days in silence. Others go to elaborate lengths to prepare their games; hours spent doing carpet putting, riding their exercise bike, pumping iron at the gym, and finally visiting a warmer clime to hone their skills with a 36 – a – day regimen or a week at a golf school.
But what of those that are motivated enough to attempt some sort of seasonal preparation, but lack the time and money needed to really prepare? Four areas of possible action come to mind:
(a) Although this should have been done at the end of the fall season, it is not too late to make sure your clubs are ready for the new season. Of course, the clubheads should be clean. Special attention must be paid to the grooves. A buildup of dirt and grass can produce a hard filling that will diminish the ability to impart backspin and result in periodic quirky sidespin. Soak the heads in water for awhile, then clean the grooves with a tee or a club brush until the cavity is empty.
(b) A second important area of equipment maintenance is the grips. Grips that are dirty or hardened will feel especially uncomfortable on cool spring days. Wash with a cleanser, scrub vigorously with an abrasive scouring pad, and allow to air dry overnight. If the grips are not rendered soft and tacky, a trip to the pro shop for regripping is advisable. Slippery grips produce increased hand tension, which in turn diminishes both control and clubhead speed.
(a) The legs provide a platform that supports the golf swing, hence their conditioning is a prime consideration. A brisk walk each day of five or ten minutes duration will improve both your golf game, particularly on the last few holes, and also your health. At the very least, park your car in the far end of the lot when going to work or the store rather than next to the entrance.
(b) Few activities contain the upper body rotation found in the golf swing. Consequently, daily stretching of the upper torso is recommended. Holding a club in the crook of your elbows behind the center of your back, rotate to a comfortable limit and hold for a count of ten. Rotate in the opposite direction; hold for a count of ten. Do three sets daily. This should consume under two minutes of time.
(3) Indoor practice;
(a) Some have access to an indoor hitting facility. If this the case, you are in luck. Be careful, however, not to overdo if you can neither see the ball flight for a hundred yards nor obtain the flight from a launch monitor. If your ball smacks into a net thirty feet in front of you, you could be hitting a big hook or slice. Practice long enough and it will become deeply ingrained. Frequent sessions of twenty five or thirty shots will help to retain the feel of solid contact without grooving any unwanted boomerang shots.
(b) Even without an indoor net, you can still obtain benefit from simply swinging a club indoors. Even with a low ceiling, a shoulder high swing will help. Swing back and forth smoothly, paying special attention to feeling rhythmic, graceful, and balanced. You are developing both timing and balance – crucial elements of a successful swing.
(c) Carpet putting is also a good idea. Be sure, however, that your surface is not faster than your course greens. Faster surfaces encourage decelerating the putter, easy enough to do without practice. A slower carpet will encourage a good, crisp stroke.
(4) Mental preparation; This should be simple for the true golfer. Sit or lay in a comfortable position, close your eyes, and experience a few slow, deep breaths to promote relaxation. Now, daydream. Imagine that you are playing your favorite course. The weather is perfect. See the first hole in front of you. Go through the mental exercise of selecting your club, teeing the ball, and making a perfect feeling swing. See the ball fly, land, roll, stop. Fast forward to the ball; repeat the sequence to hit this shot. Continue for a few holes. You should be playing your average game, perhaps a bit better. This, incidentally, is a great way for the golfer to go to sleep.
These are simple things. They require little time and minimal expense. While they cannot replace the joy of playing that long awaited first round, they can make that round even more joyful due to the quality of your performance.