It is wonderful to spend hours playing and practicing golf over the summer months, but if you’re serious about getting your handicap down, winning the club championships next year, or becoming the world’s best golfer; winter time is key for your development. In this article we’ll cover a simple approach to see how you can optimise your progress over the winter.
Analyse stats & set goals
The first step is to reflect on your current golf game. Having some simple stats on fairways, greens hit, up and downs and putting should help you decide on the 2 or 3 areas that are going to lower your scores.
Below is a chart from a previous Golf Insider challenge article, it isn’t perfect, but it gives you a good guide on where to focus.
Start in the top left corner, on level one. If you are currently averaging over 36 putts a round this is the biggest leak in your golfing scoring bucket. If your playing stats pass this metric move one to the right. Check if you achieve level one ~ priority two: over 30% of up and down (for amateurs I class this as any shot inside 30-yards, for pros inside 50-yards).
Keep moving along left to right until you complete level one. Then move onto Level 2 and repeat the process. Pick the first two areas you fail on as your key practice priorities.
This chart is a great start, however, what it doesn’t capture is the fine detail – you may hit lots of greens, but rarely hit it close, because you ball striking is okay, but not great. You may hit lots of fairways but struggle with distance, and as a result, hit fewer greens. You may not feel confident chipping. Mix and match your golf stats data with the specific pain points you feel you have in your golf game.
From this list dial down to 2-3 goals for your winter progress. Ideally, each of these should have a clear target so you know what success looks like. It also helps to assign a practice game and target score too (see the practice indicator column below).
Above is my own list for this coming winter. These three areas are the keys for me getting back to a +2 playing standard and hopefully beyond. Each point has a practice game attached, that I will aim to play as often as possible. I have also set a clear performance indicator during play. This system allows you to see how you are performing in practice and in play, and allows you to adjust your practice time accordingly.
Building a plan
Next, you need to build a plan for how you are going to improve each area. The plan should have some notes on the following areas:
Work out what technical changes are required. For example, my driving and short iron issues are both caused, because I don’t keep the club face square through impact for long enough, meaning the spread of my misses is a little too wide. Check out this article on swing drills to look more into this area
There are a few things that I need to clear up in my downswing to help with this, but I shall spare you the details. I always suggest finding a great, local pro to help you keep things simple and focused, but if you want a few technical guides to read you can check out these for chipping, pitching and wedge play. More on the full swing coming soon.
Make a few short bullet points for the technical changes you need to make for each area.
Next up practice. To begin with fit in lots of technical practice, this guide will run though the six practice steps to improve your golfing technique. However, as we discussed above, try to keep playing a skills game or two through the winter. Trying to beat your personal best and reach your target will really help you transfer your skill onto the golf course.
Consider any holistic aspects that may help with your target areas and changes. For my goals there are some specific areas of hip rotational strength and mobility that won’t magically change my golf swing, but should help. Make a few notes on which areas might be useful to develop. Obvious considerations are lower body mobility and strength and their correlation with driving distance. However, just being generally fitter and a little stronger should help you practice more effectively for longer periods of time.
Lastly, think about your mindset, if you have the putting yips then how you think is obviously a factor. However, at a more basic level, your mindset is key in transitioning any weakness into a strength. You’ll find that your confidence within a given area lags behind as your skill level improves. You will be a better putter, but it will take you a long time to believe you are.
This is where many golfers get frustrated with being able to execute in practice, but not when it counts on the course. Read the chapter on self-efficacy in this guide and make a few notes on how you can build your self-efficacy over the coming winter months.
How to practice golf in the winter – Summary
At the end of this process you should have a detailed set of notes for each area. It is then as simple as keeping the plan with you and sticking to the processes each week.
If you want a little book to help you keep track of your progress check, then out the Golf Insider Performance Diary. Also, if you want an article, like this one, sent to your inbox every Monday then come join the golf insider weekly post.
Happy golfing – Will @ Golf Insider
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