Make the Most of Your Time in the Off-Season

What are you working on now to get better for [next year’s] Golf Season? If your goal is to play College Golf someday, you need time to develop your game and raise it to a higher level. The fall and winter months are busy with homework and shortened days, so time management for improving your golf game can be difficult. But if you think you are strapped for time now, wait until you get to college. Even though these months are busy, it is a great time to look at ways to take your game to the next level.

Short Game Mastery
Every chance you get to practice, you should spend the majority of that time chipping and putting. When you are playing your practice rounds, you should drop a few balls after putting out and chip around the greens. Find hard spots, easy spots, etc. Think about this! If you hit a poor tee shot, you can usually get the ball back in play and get within 100 yards of the hole. If you hit one good short game shot, you can save par. However, if your short game is weak, you are almost certain to bogey (or worse) every time. If you think Tiger Woods is the best player in the world because of his ball striking, think again. He has strength in all areas of the physical game, made even better with a superior mental game. Watch the shots that he can hit to recover from difficult situations. He is saving par when others will make bogey; he makes birdie when others will make par. If he does this a few times in every round, by the end of 72 holes, he has lapped the field!

Quick Tip
At the end of each practice session, play from 18 different locations around the green and putt out too. Keep your score each day with par being 2 for each placement. Try to keep your score as close to 36 as possible and keep a record of your progress. If you can consistently lower your daily score, then you know you are getting better. I recommend you choose six hard locations, six medium, and six easy spots around the green. If you don’t have a lot of time, just play from 9 different placements: three hard, three medium, and three easy spots.

Putting Dominance
Practice putting under pressure. Do drills that force you to make clutch putts. Most people practice their putting but never get into that tournament mode where you are trying to score. Make sure you end every putting session with a competition of some kind, either with another player or against yourself. Spend a lot of time this fall learning to read greens better. You can probably manage to adjust when you are missing on the high side or missing on the low side, but how do you improve overall? Learn to better understand the break of each putt and the speed with which to hit your putts. If you get better at reading the greens. You will have greater confidence and your speed will improve; and if you can hit the line as intended, you will start making a lot of putts.

Favorite Drill: The Penny Drill
Start with a six-foot putt. Place a penny where you think the ball will enter the hole if you hit the putt with perfect speed (for the purpose of this drill, a pacer that would carry the ball one foot past the hole). Place another penny at the highest breaking point of the putt. Your goal is to hit your putt the ball over both pennies and into the hold. This helps every element of putting. You have to read the green and then set the pennies of the line you believe will be the correct path to the hole. You then have to strike the putt and hit the first penny, which trains you to hit your intended target line. You must also hit the putt with the correct speed so the ball doesn’t travel more than one foot past. For more consistency, add this twist: if you miss the first penny three times in a row, you must place a tee in front of that penny and then hit it ten times in a row before trying to hit both pennies again.

Driving Distance
Striking the ball in the center of the club face is critical for all players. Always tape up your club face when at the range to make sure you are hitting the sweet spot. Impact tape is great but duct tape works just as well. The key is to strike the ball in the center of the face and apply a consistently fast club head speed to the back of the ball. As a junior, it is important to constantly work on driving farther. There is no need to swing slowly when you are young, except when doing a drill.

Favorite Drill?: Hit Your Driver From Your Knees
I learned this drill from watching Jim Flick teach at a teaching seminar. This is a great drill to learn how to create club head speed during the swing and a great way to learn how to properly apply the club to the back of the ball. Create the speed by being tension-free and creating a fast, yet smooth rhythm. Another drill I really like for juniors is to work out with the swing fan daily. The resistance this training aid creates is a great recipe for increasing club head speed and getting through the ball better.

Mental Toughness
Playing tournament golf is very different from playing with your friends. Most players so desperately want to play well that they tie themselves in knots and cannot perform in tournament situations. Many young players play great in smaller events, but when they make it to a big tournament, they play below their average. To be a successful player, you need to be extremely confident. Most players have already lost confidence by the time they shake hands with their competitors on the first tee. If you believe at any moment that your competition is better than you, you will likely play to a level far below your norm. Just about every player who enters a tournament thinks they have some great ability to play this game, and they should. And so should you! Do yourself a favor and take a beak in-between shots. Then, when it is your turn, refocus on your golf and go through your routine and hit the shot. If something distracts you, then start over. More bad shots are caused by a negative feeling, lack of trust, a wandering mind, or an annoyance about something else going on.

Simple, but very important ideas: Build a Solid Pro-shot Routine
Prepare the same for each event by arriving at the course at the same time prior to tee time, warm up the same way, walk at the same pace. Eat the same foods prior to and during play. You don’t want any surprises while you are out there. Do your best to stop thinking about score. Stay in the moment and try to hit the shot you are faced with. Avoid worrying about upcoming holes, tough shots, or any shot you have previously hit poorly. Never say “don’t” or “can’t” and always focus on the target not the trouble. Lastly, play within yourself and keep the game simple!

Fitness
The fall and winter months are great for working on getting stronger and more flexible, which will help you during the busy, upcoming golf season. As a junior, you want to do exercises that are fun to do while building core strength and flexibility. Karate, yoga, and gymnastics are great for golfers. Additionally, every junior golfer over the age of 14 should be on an endurance program, a strength training program, and a core-strengthening program of some kind.

Advice
When you get to college, you will be put on a strict fitness routine with your team mates. It is very important to arrive well-trained in this area. Coaches want to see their players managing all areas of their game and their life prior to college so they can focus on golf, confident that you already possess the basic skills to make yourself a champion.

 

Originally from Golfer Girl Magazine. Written by Chris Smeal

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