It is still cold and snowing in parts of the country, but the advent of daylight savings three weeks early means extra hours to play golf.
The Bermuda fairways are still brown here in western North Carolina. However, this week the temperatures are unseasonably warm in the mid-70's. The daffodils and crocuses are in full bloom, the flowering trees are bursting with new color, signaling that Spring is definitely on the way. It also means that now is the time to prepare mentally and physically for your return to the golf course.
When you have not played in awhile, it is necessary to refresh your mind and body by reviewing the basics of the golf swing. In order to be successful at golf, you need to have good fundamentals. These include the grip, posture, stance, ball position, alignment, and pre-shot routine.
Good posture will allow you to swing your arms freely and your ankles to be active and provide good balance. When you have good posture, it will be easier to have a proper swing plane.
- Review your basic mechanics and reacquaint your golf muscles before going to the range to hit full shots. Jack Nicklaus said, "Each year I start the season pretending I've never played before."
- Stand in front of a full length mirror and check the basics of your set-up; grip, posture, stance, ball position and alignment. If you have to think about any of these parts of your set-up, practice them until you are confident that they are done automatically without thought.
- Be aware of any tension in your hands and arms.
- Review your swing plane by taking half swings with your back against a wall, making sure that the toe of the club head is pointing up on the backswing and up on the follow through.
- Practice your swing tempo by swinging a club with your feet together. If your tempo is erratic, you will lose your balance.
- Practice hitting through the ball by hitting wedge shots with a whiffle ball or a rolled up sock to a spot on the wall.
- Practice putting indoors, paying attention to balance, and soft hands and arms. Be aware of accelerating through the ball with a consistent tempo. Put masking tape down on the floor to give a good visual of the target line. Practice until you don't have to think about your stroke and can concentrate on the line and distance.
"Take it easily and lazily because the golf ball isn’t going to run away while you’re swinging.” -–Sam Snead, How to Play Golf (1946)
- Write down your long term, intermediate and short term goals for the summer. Make your blueprint for your future game NOW. "Those who fail to plan.... plan to fail......."
- The most important part of your mental game is how you prepare your mind. Write down your pre-shot routine and practice it over and over in your mind the same way every time until you can execute it without thinking.
- The second most important part of your mental game is relaxing your conscious mind so you can focus in the moment. Practice deep breathing through your diaphragm until you can focus easily in the present moment.
- Practice changing your perception of negative situations in your life into positive thoughts. See the good in every situation that you encounter.
- Practice seeing and feeling your swing in your mind's eye as you lie in bed and are drifting off to sleep... or at anytime you are relaxed and day dreaming.
- When you close your eyes at night in bed, see yourself stroking perfect putts. Feel the perfect tempo and hear the ball drop into the cup from four feet over and over.
- Reinforce your belief in yourself and your game with daily affirmations. (PMI newsletter August 2002)
- Practice being patient and know that you can trust your abilities no matter what situation you find yourself in.
- Practice letting go of things you can't control and focus on what you want to create.
- Let go of judgment of yourself or others. Do the best you know how in each situation and praise yourself for your efforts.
- Now is the time to check your equipment. Look at your grips and put on new ones if there are any worn places. Have your clubs checked by a club fitter for consistency between clubs.
- Check your equipment for good rain gear, umbrella and waterproof shoes. Look at your golf shoes to see if any cleats are missing.
- Get plenty of exercise so your body will be ready for a four-hour or longer round.
- If the pros are playing in your area, go and watch them hit balls on the practice range and the putting green. Absorb what you see into your performance memory without analyzing their technique.
"Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated; it satisfies the soul and frustrates the intellect. It is at the same time rewarding and maddening - and it is without a doubt the greatest game mankind has ever invented." -- Arnold Palmer
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