As you prepare to take your last swing of the season and bury your beloved set of clubs deep within the shallow confines of the garage, there are some things that you might consider during the winter months to improve your game.
Below, I have created a list of 10 off-season golf training tips that will help better prepare you to open up strong when the next season rolls around:
1. Watch the scales: During the off-season, the average golfer can put on an additional 5-10 pounds. This will not only raise your pant size, it will raise your score. Extra weight (non-lean mass) will not allow your hips to fire or rotate as quickly, causing a less-powerful drive and a more ineffective swing. One way to maintain your weight is by creasing your portions or cutting back 500 calories a day. Not only will you keep the weight off, but it will keep you focused throughout the off-season.
2. Pillows are not just for bedtime: Developing body control for better golf shots can be as easy as placing an old pillow on the floor. Take either your left or right leg and stand on the pillow, while keeping the opposite foot off of the ground and raise the knee even with your belt line. Hold for as long as possible. Once you lose your balance with the planted leg, switch to the other side and repeat. This will activate your abdominal region, creating both stability and strength throughout the core.
3. Stay loose: a simple rule of the game: The less flexible you are, the shorter and less effective your swing becomes. Try to stretch your hips once a day. An easy way to develop hip flexibility is to lie flat on your back and pull one of your knees to your chest, while the opposite leg remains extended. Hold the flexed knee for a total of 30 seconds, then switch. Repeat, performing two sets on each leg.
4. Cardio is not just for gym-goers: So, you may not be the type to run on the treadmill, or jump into a high impact class. But, your body does need its fair share of cardio work, not only for a better game but more importantly, for a longer and healthier life. So, if you're in the city, I suggest walking as much as possible or even trying out a run. Roughly each city block represents a tenth of a mile. If walking or running isn't your thing, any one of the following will do: boxing, step walk, jumping jacks, in-place marching, racquetball or squash. About 20-30 minutes three times a week is optimal for a healthy heart and stronger game.
5. Keep your mind active: The off-season is the perfect time to develop mental performance skills. I suggest watching golf improvement videos on YouTube, or having your swing video taped. Watching these videos will enable you to visually learn from others-as well, as recognizing your swings strengths and weaknesses that might otherwise have been overlooked.
6. Increase the speed of your swing: The lunge is an excellent way to develop hip strength, which is essential for a faster swing. Start in a relaxed stance, and step forward with a large step until your lead leg's shin bone is vertical to the floor and the knee is over your planted foot (but, not ahead of it). Next, your rear knee should bend as you rock up on the rear toes. After getting fixed in this position, explode back to a standing position. I advise starting with 10 repetitions on each side.
7. Hold on: Stability and core strength are so imperative to being a successful golfer. The stronger and more stable your core is, the less likely you are to develop lower back pain-which will ultimately can keep you off the course. One way to develop the muscles in this area is to place the body in a military-style push-up position with your legs fully extended and your hands directly under your shoulders. Next, hold yourself up in this position for as long as possible. When you hips start to sink to the ground, relax and repeat. I suggest performing 1-3 sets of this exercise.
8. Bigger, faster and stronger: Words are not usually associated with the game of golf. But, these days such greats as Tiger Woods are enjoying the benefits from strength training. This may sound New Age since the old rule was that "lifting weights will decrease your flexibility." However, it will actually improve hip rotation and keep you from experiencing an injury. So, try some the following exercises that will bring out the tiger in you: wall sits. Place your back against the wall, with your feet approximately 1-2 feet away from the wall. Then, drop your body down as close as you can to make your hips parallel to the ground. Remember to keep your knees riding over your toes. Hold, from 10-60 seconds. Perform 1-3 sets. Push-ups are another great way to build upper body and core strength. If regular military push-ups are too difficult, try performing on your knees.
9. Diet is the key: Whether it's reaching for that last slice of fruit cake, or downing just one more glass of Eggnog -- it will affect your game and health. Be cautious of what you eat and how it will add strokes to your game. Smarter choices such as unsalted nuts, fruits, water and green tea are not only better for your body, but will keep you fit and trim for your next round!
10. Take a swing: Either with a weighted club, or your favorite club. There will be days, during the winter months when the sun shines through, making it feel like spring is right around the corner. So, grab your club and take an endless amount of swings. Not only will you be keeping flexible, but it is a great way to remain mentally and physically sharp!
Until next time, set your sights on perfecting your game!