Getting The Most Out Of Your Winter Practice

By Michael Hinton

There are a few misconceptions about indoor practice and playing golf in a simulator:
1. You can’t practice short game because it is on mats.
2. You can’t practice putting and get realistic results.
3. You can’t practice rough shots or bunker shots.

Indoor practice during the winter months can be the best time to work on your entire game; full swing, physical fitness, short game, and putting! Indoors, you can experiment with technique, hit shots without fear of failure, and be in a private setting where no one will see you or put pressure on you. The winter is also a great time to work on rhythm, and put in a lot of repetitions starting with putting, then progressing to chipping, pitching, half, ¾ and eventually full swings. Let’s take a look at a proper warm up session, leading into a round of golf inside:

1. Start every practice session with 5 minutes of stretching and power fan/heavy club swinging, 5 minutes of chipping followed by 5 minutes of pitching. We here at Life Time Golf Club like “tree of life” squats (see image 1) and twists, followed by heavy bar shoulder rotations (see image 2). Follow this with 10-20 power fan full swings and you will be warmed up in a hurry! The first club you should pull after warm up is a 7 or 8 iron to practice long bump and runs on the short game area of the simulator. The technique is fairly simple; choke down on a 7 iron and play the ball middle, to middle back in your stance. The stroke should be square to square with the face being square down the target line as long as possible. This is a great warm up to learn how to hit the ball in the middle of the face and get a feel for the distance of the required shot.

2. From the short game area, move to a short to medium length pitch over a bunker. Change your club to a SW or LW. From here, all we are going to do is add a hinging of the wrists on the back swing, while keeping the same ball position and feel of finish as the previous chip shot. You can work on this technique with a square blade position, as well as an open club face position. Sliding the club under the ball on a tight mat surface is difficult, but great practice for your bunker game, as well as getting the ball out of deep rough. Every good golfer should have the ability to hit shots with an open blade. Remember to move the ball up in your stance when you practice open blade shots.

3. After 10-20 minutes of stretching, warm up and shorter swings, we will move our practice area to the range and start with a 30-50 yard target. From here, we will gradually increase the length of the swing (try not to change tempo) to a ½ swing. Try some of these swings with 2 or 3 wedges to produce different heights and different carry distances. Write the distances down and keep track of results! After 5-10 minutes of medium length pitching, we can move on to ¾ and full swings and eventually playing. This process will allow blood and oxygen flow to your muscles, reduce the risk of injury, and help increase strength and club head speed. Start slow and build gradually to fast!

This “professional warm up” as I call it, should be done if time allows, every time you come to play or practice here at Life Time Athletic Golf Club, or your local home course. It’s important to realize your body will need time to loosen up over the winter break and stretching is the #1 thing you can do daily to prepare yourself for the upcoming golf season.

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