Tips to Help Your Golf Game This Spring
Spring will be here soon enough and for golfers in cold weather regions, that means it's time to pull the clubs out of the garage and get back to the course or the range. While our spirit for the game hasn't diminished over the winter season, we need to work our way back into golf after the long layoff. Luckily for us golfers, Callaway Director of Fitting and Instruction Randy Peterson has offered some great tips to help us play our best rounds this spring.
Checking Your Equipment After a Long Layoff
If the weather has kept you from getting out to the course, chances are your golf equipment has been stored away for several months. Will the winter layoff affect your clubs in any way?
Randy Says: You may want to check your grips – one winter is not really enough time for your grips to go bad, but if it's been more than a year since they've been changed, it's probably a good time to get new ones. You can also wet a towel with hot water and wipe off your grips. This will remove some dirt and oil and bring back some of the tacky feeling they had when they were new.
The beginning of the golf season is also a good time to update your equipment with the newest technology. The best way to do this is by testing some new clubs. Find a golf shop that has demo clubs or attend a demo day near you to find the right equipment for your game.
Getting Your Body Ready For Golf
The golf swing requires a great deal of flexibility and proper body position. Getting your timing and rhythm back is imperative to making great swings.
Randy Says: Stretching is very beneficial after a long lay off. Before you start to hit balls, do a few stretching exercises, especially focusing on your lower back, hips and shoulders. In anticipation of playing, begin swinging in your backyard, garage, or anywhere where you can safely practice your motion. Start with a short iron and make less than full length swings, gradually building up to a full length and full speed swing. Swinging with a weighted club can also be helpful, but again, start by making slow swings before increasing the speed.
Preparing For The New Golf Season
We all want to hit the ground running once the new golf season begins. But as Randy explains, it's important to keep the fundamentals in place as you work back into your game.
Randy Says: Be realistic, don't expect to come out playing at the same level you ended playing the previous golf season. Spend the majority of your early season practice time on your short game. After a long layoff, the touch shots – the ones requiring less than a full swing – are typically the shots that take the most time to regain control of.
Also, don't neglect your putting. And spend most of your practice putting time working on two specific areas: making putts of 10 feet and closer and hitting lag putts to develop your feel for distance control. A word of caution when practicing short putts – don't stand in the same place and hit putt after putt. Hit putts that vary in both speed – uphill, downhill and flat – and break. Prepare yourself to make putts similar to the ones you'll have on the course. Don't stand in one place and repeat a stroke like a robot.
Generating Power – Clubhead Speed
Most golfers would love to add distance off the tee and on approach shots. We want to hit the big drives that impress the rest of our foursome and turn those long par-4s and par-5s into birdie opportunities.
Randy Says: There are things you can do with your technique to increase clubhead speed. The two most critical factors for distance are the length of the backswing and the sequence of the downswing. To create maximum potential energy on your backswing, make sure to turn both your hips and shoulders fully and also hinge your wrists. Converting that stored-up energy into maximum speed requires swinging down in the correct sequence, which is: hips, shoulders, arms/hands and club.
Concerning your downswing, your main focus should be to start down with a lateral and turning motion of your hips. If you make this initial move in your downswing correctly, there's no need to concentrate on the rest of the sequence as it'll be next to impossible to mess-up.
Playing Out of Fairway Bunkers
For the casual golfer, fairway bunkers can be a tough prospect. But with a little attention to detail on ball position and your place in the bunker, you'll recognize how to confidently attack these shots.
Randy Says: Fairway bunkers and greenside bunkers require different techniques. You don't hit down steeply in a fairway bunker like you do in a greenside bunker. In a greenside bunker you want to enter the sand before the ball, but you definitely don't want to do that in a fairway bunker. In fact, if you hit the sand at all while playing from a fairway bunker, it should be after you've made contact with the ball.
The first order of business is to assess the lie and evaluate whether you can clear the lip of the bunker with the club required to cover the necessary distance. Grip down on the club slightly and take a normal stance and posture—do not dig your feet into the sand as you would on a greenside bunker shot. Play the ball an inch or two forward of your normal position to encourage a shallow, sweeping angle of attack. As you come into impact, try to sweep or pick the ball off the sand.
Improving Your Lag Putting
Putting from 50 feet and beyond may seem tricky if you aren't familiar with the shot. As Randy explains, playing the ball forward and taking a longer backstroke can make a big difference, and lead to more two-putts on lengthy attempts.
Randy Says: There are a couple things you can focus on to improve your lag putting. First, to hit a putt farther increase the length of your backstroke, don't try to over-accelerate the putter on the down stroke. And second, play the ball an inch or so farther forward in your stance at address to help ensure a level to slightly upward strike on the ball, setting the ball off rolling and not bouncing.
Even with great technique, lag putting requires tremendous touch, which is developed through practice. So whenever you have time, take one ball and go out and hit lag putts across a green for 15-20 minutes. You'll see that with a little practice, you can become very good at lag putting.
For more great golf tips, visit Callaway Golf TV and browse our Golf Tips/Fitness video section. And for more great tips from Randy, check out his article on hitting better shots from the rough.