Living in Japan for twenty years, I’m very familiar with the freezing cold weather, much more familiar than I’d like to be; especially considering this year, we had some days as low as -20c.
As someone who is a passionate golfer and cyclist, I’m used to being stuck inside for four months of the year.
However, the great thing about living in a golf-crazy country like Japan is the number of indoor driving ranges and golf facilities. Without these facilities, my golf game would go to the; you know what.
I’ve tried several different strategies to keep my golf game in tip-top condition over the long winter months, and coupled with my experience coaching professional athletes; I think I’ve developed some pretty good ones.
Not only will these strategies that I’m going to outline help to improve your game, but they’ll also make those winter months seem to fly by much quicker.
The winter here generally lasts from December through to March, but in some years, like last season, snow was still on the ground until late April, making golfing impossible.
Technology is wild here in Japan, and some people continue to practice out on the course playing with GPS golf balls that are tracked via an APP; It’s a great idea but considering you can’t putt because of the snow, it just doesn’t seem right to me. Although the snow clears in March/April, the rainy season arrives, and you get very little respite from poor weather conditions.
Depending on where you live, you’ll find that some of the tips might be easier and more convenient than others, but in all honesty, as you’ll see, almost any serious golfer should be able to implement these practical steps. All it takes is a little bit of imagination and the willingness to commit some time to improve your game over the winter.
As we all know, Golf can be a costly game to play, and I’ve certainly taken that into consideration when creating these 15 strategies. The steps outlined range from improving the mental side of your game to working on your diet and stretching.
Most importantly, though, these steps are simple, practical, and easy to implement. I’m confident that by following them, you’ll see significant improvements when it’s time to return to the course.
Let’s get started!
1. Drive for show putt for dough
Have you ever heard of the adage you “drive for show and putt for dough”? Well, guess what; it’s 100% true and coupled with the fact it’s the only club you’re guaranteed to use each hole, it makes sense to practice putting over winter.
Fortunately, putting is one of the simplest parts of your golf game to improve during the winter months. Most people have carpeted rooms in the house, which are perfect places to whip out your putter and get some solid practice in. However, if you have hardwood floors or “tatami” like me, you might want to look at investing in a putting mat.
Putting mats are relatively cheap and come with an auto-return system and plenty of markings designed to help with alignment. Trust me; you’ll get hours of enjoyment putting inside while the snow comes down.
2. Flexibility and mobility
As a professional coach, I can tell you one of the most critical facets of your game to improve doesn’t involve clubs.
I’ve seen increased flexibility and mobility literally transform the swings of multiple professional golfers, and it’s something any golfer and level can work on. The stretches you perform don’t need to be overly complicated; remember, it’s the consistency of stretching daily that improves your flexibility.
Flexibility and mobility are essential for several reasons:
- Increasing postural balance
- Improving swing speed and power
- Improving mobility in the shoulders and
- Helping to reduce your chance of injury
Yoga is also something you may want to consider, and many professional golfers now include yoga in their training programs. Yoga is great at improving functional strength and flexibility and helps calm the mind.
3. Hit the gym
Strength training is another part of your game you can work on during the winter months. Professional golfers spend a lot of time in the gym, and so should you. As a matter of fact, you don’t even need a gym because there are plenty of strength and conditioning exercises you can do in the comfort of your own home that require no equipment.
Don’t just jump into it “willy-nily,” though, because there are a few things you need to consider before starting a strength and conditioning program.
- Set clear goals for your training plan
- Create the training plan based on your goals
- Continually track your progress and
- Consistency always wins out
Remember to be patient, you’re not going to see immediate results, but as with anything in life, the more you put in, the more you get out. So stick at it, and you’ll be bombing 300-yard drives in no time.
4. Work on all aspects of your swing
Working on all aspects of your swing during the winter will go a long way in helping you get ready for when spring rolls around. Golf is on the TV pretty much all year round, so it provides an excellent opportunity to analyze your swing and the game’s top pros.
With the advent of technology, you can download a bunch of free coaching apps that allow you to analyze your swing by setting up a camera. These apps are great because you can replay your swing in slow-motion and even compare your swing from earlier in the year.
If you’re not a tech geek like me, don’t worry; swinging in front of the mirror is how every pro golfer used to practice before iPhones became popular.
5. Improve your mental game
As golfers, we all know that it’s a beautiful game that gets you out enjoying nature with friends and keeps you fit and healthy; but boy, can golf be frustrating.
Working on the mental side of your game is, I would argue, much more important than perfecting your swing dynamics. I’ve seen many pro golfers with perfect technique never reach their full potential because they couldn’t control their emotions.
Becoming mentally stronger and learning how to control your emotions is much easier than most people think; now, I’m not saying it’s easy, but any golfer can improve their mental game with a little hard work. Start by reading books on sports psychology; they don’t have to be golf-specific, although there are some good ones.
And remember, at the end of the day, it’s just a game of golf; will shooting 15 over your handicap really be that important five years down the road? Probably not.
6. Set goals
Professional golfers are superb at a number of different aspects of the game, but the one aspect you might not think of is their ability and commitment to setting and achieving goals.
The beauty of setting goals is that any level of golfer can do it because your goals are specific to you. Maybe you’d like to lower your handicap by 3 shots or break 100 for the first time; whatever your goal is, it doesn’t matter, as long as it’s yours and yours only.
The SMART way to set goals is by using a proven framework that just happens to go by the same name.
SMART is an acronym for
- Relevant and
Follow these guidelines, and you’ll be well on your way to achieving your goals this winter.
7. Watch your diet
You might have the best golf swing in the world, but if you haven’t got the energy to get through 18 holes, forget about it. Fuelling correctly will not only improve your golf game in leaps and bounds but will significantly boost your health in all areas of your life.
The benefits of a well-balanced diet
- Weight loss
- Reduced risk of injury
- Boosted immune system
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- Improved cognitive function
- Improved sleep quality
Eating a well-balanced diet doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself of your favorite foods; it’s just a matter of cutting back and consuming them in moderation. Together with a daily exercise routine, fuelling correctly will help keep your concentration levels high for the entire 18 holes.
A healthy diet will have you playing and feeling better and have you looking great too.
8. Work on your short game
Your short game is another critical area of your golf game to work on during those long winter months. We all know that putting is where the money is made but did you know that your short game from 150 yards is the most important?
Golfers with an average handicap rarely hit more than 50% of the greens during a round, which means they are often left with tricky little chip shots to make par. Over winter, you can invest in a chipping net and practice your short game in the garage or a long hallway. If you don’t have the money to spare, how about getting creative and resting an old mattress on the wall to hit into.
9. Get some coaching
Hang on; I know what you’re thinking; how can I take lessons when there’s 6 feet of snow on the ground?
If you’re new to golf, you might not realize that most golf shops also offer coaching and have large indoor nets you can hit into. Golf shops also have access to the latest swing technology, which allows you and your coach to take a deep dive into your golf swing to see what’s really going on.
You can access critical swing data such as clubhead speed, spin rate, and launch angle. If you haven’t seen your golf swing on video, this is an excellent opportunity as golf shops have high-tech video camera equipment so you can replay your swing in slow motion or frame by frame.
10. Get out of the cold
I know I said most of these strategies to improve your game are cost-effective, but this is one exception. If you have a little bit of extra cash, one of the best ways to improve your golf over winter is actually playing golf; the only trouble is you’ll probably have to hop a plane to do it.
Great summer golfing destinations
- Palm springs
- Puerto Rico
Planning a summer getaway with your family or some golfing buddies is a great way to get back out on the course and keep your game in tip-top shape. A bonus of getting away is you’re probably going to experience playing on some exciting new courses.
11. Pre-shot routine
Here’s one area of your game to improve that doesn’t even require you to hit the ball or even use a club. Practicing and perfecting your pre-shot routine is an aspect of the game the vast majority of amateur golfers neglect; they either don’t know how to develop a pre-shot routine, or they do but don’t realize how critical it is.
Having a pre-shot routine allows you to focus fully and consistently on the shot at hand. Your pre-shot routine is easy to practice and requires little to no space. However, if you do have plenty of space, it allows you to practice not only your pre-shot routine but also your swing.
Practice your entire routine, everything from standing behind the ball and visualizing your shot to walking up to the ball and taking your address stance. Remember to be positive and visualize your shot landing in the middle of the fairway.
12. Mirror the pros
If you’re a passionate and dedicated golfer, then chances are you’re probably subscribed to the Golf Channel on cable TV. Watching golf is not only enjoyable and relaxing but informative and educational.
Have you heard of “mirroring”? It’s a term used in sports psychology that means that when you watch professional golfers play, your subconscious mind keeps everything it sees in the memory bank. Take note of things you usually wouldn’t such as swing tempo, player/caddy relationship, pre-shot routine, and player mannerisms.
A top tip is to focus on players similar in size and stature to you; if you’re 6 ft 4″, there’s no use focusing on a pro golfer who is 5 ft 7;” their swing dynamics and mechanics will be entirely different and can lead you to have unrealistic expectations.
13. Buy some new equipment
Winter can be a real bummer for golfers, but winter sales are one positive area that most golfers don’t think about. Many golf shops have winter sales to get rid of merchandise left over from the summer and autumn, allowing you to pick up some great bargains.
14. Indoor driving range to the rescue
Indoor driving ranges and practice facilities, make it great for avid golfers to keep their game at a high level over the winter.
There’s no substitute for actually hitting “real” shots; now, don’t get me wrong, the other strategies are all valuable and, when combined, can make significant improvements to your game, but there’s just something magical about hitting a real golf ball.
Many indoor ranges have virtual simulators that allow you to play an entire 18 hole round. The technology is simply amazing, and although you’re not out on the course, the fact you can take full swings and hear the sound of the club on the ball, makes it all worth it.
15. Custom fitted golf clubs
Long winter months provide an excellent opportunity to get fitted for a set of golf clubs. If you already have an existing set and don’t want to buy new clubs, it’s still worth taking them to a golf fitting expert where they can check specs like launch angles, lie of the club, length, and stiffness of the shafts, and even things like grips.
If you do have the extra money, why not splurge and buy yourself a brand new set of fitted clubs. Getting fitted for new clubs can make massive changes to your game, and quite frankly, you’ll feel like a completely new player. Club fitting experts will set your clubs up to your specifications and consider your height, weight, swing type, handicap, strength, and other critical metric points.
The bottom line is that by using a little imagination and putting in the hard work, you can improve your golf game over the winter months.
It’s important to remember that the best strategy is to use a variety of different steps outlined above and choose the ones most relevant for you. Golf is one of those games that is always a work in progress, so don’t become disheartened if you don’t see immediate results.
Stay focused on your goals and be consistent with your training program because before you know it, you’ll be standing on the first tee, and all eyes will be on you.