Well it’s here. If you live in the northeast or pretty much anywhere not named Florida, Arizona, or San Diego, winter has welcomed itself. I love the holidays, and it’s a nice distraction from the sun setting at 5:00pm, but January, February, March, and lately April, can be a real drag. Especially when we are watching the pros tee it up in Hawaii while we have 3 feet of snow outside. A new driver under the tree or a few sleeves of Pro V1’s in your stocking keep the golf juices flowing, but what can we do in the next few months to make sure we are as sharp as can be for that first round come spring time? 

Take a golf trip Round up the fellas, or even your golfing spouse, and take a trip; anywhere it’s warmer. There are options for every budget, and if you can’t get away for a whole week, take 3 or 4 days. And you don’t have to go to the obvious destinations like Myrtle Beach, Scottsdale, or Hilton Head. States like Kentucky, Tennessee, and the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail through Alabama have phenomenal golf at tremendous pricing. And if you’re coming from Ohio, New York, or Michigan, the weather can be 10 to 20 degrees warmer and none of that white stuff. During my time in Kentucky, if we came upon a 50 degree day in December or January, we would have many players drive an hour from Cincinnati to play a round. There is a big difference between 40 degrees and 52. Check out Cherry Blossom Golf Club in Kentucky, as they have accommodations right on the property at their sister course, Longview GC. Visit mygolfvacation.com and see what they have to offer in the south and east coast. 

Get out and play on that abnormally mild day I remember about 4 years ago in Kentucky it was 70 degrees on Christmas Eve and the course did almost 80 rounds. It was mind-boggling. Mother Nature is off her rocker these days, so it is not as unexpected to get a warm front for a few days during the winter. It is also not out of the norm for a course to open on those nice days and get that bonus revenue. Course owners and pros are always watching the weather and they’ll be thrilled to see your face. Weather-permitting, they may even be able to roll the greens. Even if you’re a player that puts the clubs away after club championship or Labor Day, in lieu of winter sports like hunting or skiing, you must take advantage of a nice day during the offseason and get out and play. Sure the course isn’t in top condition, or there may be a slight chill in the breeze, but it sure beats playing golf on your Playstation or watching Caddyshack for the 77th time, right? 

Play a softer ball If you do get to tee it up on that mild winter day, do yourself a favor and play a softer ball. Balls have a solid-core and haven’t been wound for 20 years now, so there aren’t really compressions on them. But the manufacturers tell you, and even advertise what the compression would be. Wilson boasts a 29 compression on their Duo Soft. That is an unheard of number. Titleist says that their flagship Pro V1 is the go-to ball no matter your club speed and no matter the temperature or air quality. But do you really want to play a $50 ball in the middle of winter where the course isn’t pristine and your swing isn’t neither? If anything the lower compression ball will feel softer at impact, stay in the air longer, and spin less off the tee in the colder air. Chances are the greens will be slower and softer from the recently melted snow or rain, and you will be able to hold any ball you choose, but you may have to deal with the occasional plugged ball or one that’s hiding under an ill-placed leaf. 

Battle the elements, comfortably The thing that annoys and bothers me the most with playing in not-so ideal conditions isn’t just the weather, but the bundling up and feeling stiff and restricted. Nothing says loss of power, limited flexibility, and a shorter golf swing than an undershirt, a turtleneck, polo, and a jacket. You look and feel like Ralphie’s little brother on “A Christmas Story.” A long sleeve baselayer is a lifesaver. These new fabrics are performance based as they harness your body and use it to keep you warm, but also keep you from sweating. They aren’t bulky so they’re perfect for under a polo or under a light jacket. Pair with some golf specific rain or winter gloves and you are good to go. 

Play Pebble Beach! No, really Top Golf facilities are popping up like corn fields in every metropolitan area in the country. It’s a laid back, fun golf atmosphere with tv’s, food, drinks, and more. Oh, and it’s also a place to practice. The bays are heated and most locations have professional instructors on hand if you want to take a lesson or two. You could also search and find an indoor facility near you with simulators and launch monitors. Here at Golf Headquarters you can buy range time just to hit balls and stay sharp, or you can book an hour or two on our state-of-the-art Foresight simulators and play a round at Pebble Beach or another track. To stay sharp and achieve your goals for next season, you can also book a lesson package so you can improve all winter long and have a leg up on your foursome come spring. 

Offseason drills and conditioning At the end of the day golf is a sport and the swing is an athletic move. You’ll no doubt play your best when you feel your best. We will all put on the holiday pounds here soon, so it is important to take advantage of all the time you may be spending indoors and work on your body and flexibility. Aside from the benefits of cardio and jumping on the elliptical or lifting weights, there’s some helpful golf specific things you can do as well. Remember, golf is muscle memory. The more you do the correct thing over and over again, the easier it becomes to repeat and the more comfortable you are with taking that action to the golf course.

Swing a weighted club everyday From the simplest thing like getting one of those weighted swing donuts and putting it on your club, to getting a heavy swing trainer, or even the orange whip…….swing one of these objects for 30 minutes a few days a week. This will add club head speed and teach you what a proper release should feel like, all while strengthening your hands, forearms, and shoulders. If your indoor facility isn’t open or there’s not one close to you, go out in the garage.

Perfect time to work on a grip change It is extremely difficult to effectively change your grip, especially during the season when you’re trying to play as much as possible, and especially if you have had an improper grip and played that way for years. Your grip is the only relationship you have with the club, and you want it to feel comfortable. But your grip is important when it comes to manipulating the club correctly and getting it in the proper positions. You may hit a slice for no other reason than your grip stinks. Winter is a perfect time to incorporate a grip change into your game without going out and constantly shooting 100 and wanting to throw your clubs off a bridge. Buy a swing trainer with a corrective grip trainer on it, or grab an old iron from your garage and go to your local golf shop and get a grip training aid installed. It’s just like a normal grip but it is grooved and shaped to put your hands and fingers in the proper positions. Swinging that a few days a week for 3-4 months will do wonders and the shock factor and awkwardness won’t be present when you step on the tee for your first round of the new season.

Roll the rock Get yourself a putting green or mat for the office, man cave, or your “she shed.” They come in all shapes, sizes, and prices, and some even have a few holes. They’re usually 9 to 12 feet, which is the “money zone” and a length we all wish we made more of. Nothing beats being out on an actual putting green, but this will help maintain your touch and is a perfect way to work on fundamentals like alignment, path, speed, etc. Putt while you’re watching the game or have a little contest with your significant other – loser does dishes. 

Attention Tiger Haters U.S. Captain Tiger Woods made his 4 captain’s picks for the upcoming event in December, and along with Patrick Reed, Gary Woodland, and Tony Finau, he picked himself. A decision we all felt he would make, and rightfully so. But I am absolutely stunned and beside myself reading the comments on social media from the “Tiger Haters” that are appalled by him picking himself and they “hate him even more now.” This had nothing to do with ego and had everything to do with Tiger’s competitive spirit. He is perhaps sport’s greatest competitor of all time. He is the 7th ranked player in the world, the reigning Masters champ, and he just showed that he is fully recovered from another minor knee surgery by winning his 82nd PGA Tour event in Japan 2 weeks ago! If any other player had accomplished all that in the last 10 months there would be outrage and pitchforks if they weren’t chosen for the team. “Tiger is selfish and should give a younger a chance, like Kevin Kisner!” Kisner is a fine player and a match play stud, having a successful showing in the last President’s Cup and winning the WGC Match Play back in February. But he finished 22nd on the points list and didn’t do much the rest of the year after that win. There still may be another pick to be made if the injured Koepka can’t tee it up, and I think that should go to Kevin Na. He’s a gritty bulldog, has a great relationship with Tiger, is tough as nails, and has had his best season on tour. People against Tiger picking himself, take the hater blockers off and be reasonable. Tiger has done so much for the game he deserves to be on every President’s and Ryder Cup team from now till eternity. The U.S. has dominated this event; having only lost once, so I’m sure Tiger and the PGA Tour knew him being on the team would help draw eyeballs immensely. He brings excitement to anything he does. When he was the vice-captain at Liberty National in ’17, one of the biggest gallery roars of the week was because Tiger simply walked onto the green to approach an official to dispute a ruling against Justin Thomas. You don’t have to like him. You don’t have to root for him. But you’re pulling at hairs here and making fools out of yourselves. It’s embarrassing. 

Mexico picks The tour heads to Playa Del Carmen, Mexico, just south of Cancun for the Mayakoba Classic. Here are my 3 picks for your fantasy players and gambling enthusiasts. I’ve done pretty decent this year, (self high-five) so I hope you’ve been paying attention. Will contend Charles Howell III Chuckie Three Sticks is a ball-striker extraordinaire and this course suits him well. He plays well this time of year and is always cashing big checks. Sleeper Denny McCarthy He’s 11th on tour in greens in regulation, and the course isn’t super long. You’ll have to hit it close all week to hoist the trophy on Sunday.  Winner Tony Finau He’ll be riding high after receiving the “call he will never forget” from Captain Woods. He’s too good not to win more. Time for win #2.

Enjoy the game and each other,

Written by Seth Zipay, Head Golf Professional
Published by Craig Walton