Full Swing Practice During Winter
Practicing the full swing is probably the most difficult thing to do while one is cooped up during the winter months. The long-term solution is to move to some place where it is reasonably warm enough to spend an hour or so outside without wearing so many layers you can barely swing. However, planning to be a snowbird or a full-time resident of the south later in life doesn’t fix your ability to practice right now.
There are a couple of issues. First, for most people an average ceiling is not high enough for the club to have enough clearance on the follow through. Second, hitting a golf ball into a wall or a piece of furniture is likely to ruin it because they are so hard. Indoor golf facilities can offer a temporary solution. Once you get used to it 18 holes of golf can be played in about 45 minutes which can be conveniently stuffed in during the lunch hour. However, such facilities are not always convenient to get to (the two that are closest to me are both an hour away) and they are not exactly cheap.
Here are 3 solutions:
Plan A: Swing in your house
(This is the most difficult because it requires at least 9 – 10 foot ceilings)
Step 1: Find a place in your house with enough clearance so that on your follow through you don’t smack the head of your club into the ceiling and make sure there are no light fixtures or ceiling fans overhead.
Step 2: Get your shortest club, a lob wedge, for example, and hold it at the bottom of the grip to make it shorter. Don’t be concerned if you don’t normally use the club in this way.
Your goal is not to practice hitting specific shots but to ingrain the muscle memory of the golf swing through practice and repetition.
Step 3: Be sure to do a practice swing in very slow motion to make sure there is enough clearance on your follow through.
Step 4: Use indoor golf balls. You can get these at sporting goods stores or order them online. I recommend the Almost Golf balls because they can be used indoors and outdoors and react to the club the same as a regular golf ball. The only difference is that they travel about 1/3 the regular distance making it easier to use in your backyard. When practicing indoors, however, do not focus on distance, but rather on contact and on the direction the ball goes.
Don’t worry if your swing isn’t perfect because you haven’t had a lesson in 6 months. First, your goal is to know your own swing so well that you don’t have to think about it over the ball when the season begins; that’s the purpose of indoor winter practice. Second, your goal is not a perfect swing, but one that you are so extremely comfortable with you can execute at will and simply focus on the shot. The indoor golf balls are nice because they are very cushy and soft.
Step 5: When you hit the ball don’t look at how far it goes just focus making good contact and hitting it straight. Choose an area on the wall and aim to hit that.
Step 6: Plan to swing 30 times a day hitting the soft golf balls. THIS SHOULD TAKE NO MORE THAN 30 MINUTES. 30 is the number that statisticians use to gauge how representative a sample is of the larger population. If you hit 30 balls and 15 of them do exactly what you want you can therefore infer that on the course you would be accurate roughly 50% of the time.
Step 7: Set goals. Plan to hit the spot on the wall 1/30 times in your first session. After you can do this a few times up your goals to 3/30, 5/30, 10/30, etc. Don’t try to progress so fast that you can hit 30/30 by March 15. That is unrealistic and will only set you up for discouragement. Instead focus on the smaller goals, 3/30 is great and if it takes a week to get to 4/30 that’s fine too.
Your goal is to repeat your swing sequence, and practice making good contact.
Step 8: Pick a time every day that you can commit to doing this. Ever heard the expression “pay yourself” when it comes to saving money? Well this is the same; you are paying yourself in time so pick one that is early in the day and unlikely to be interrupted. If you really do this every day you have no idea how much better you will swing come April. You will be amazed…
Plan B: Go to a heated driving range
There are covered driving ranges with heating in each stall. This is a wonderful solution because you are still outdoors at the range using real balls and aiming at real targets with real distance measurements. I recommend this plan if you are close to one and can afford the cost of buying and using range balls. Because it requires travel it could be difficult to do very often. Therefore, I recommend doing this once per week (you can even invite a friend!) and then using the indoor plan on the other days of the week. This is a nice way to stay motivated because you can see the shots you are hitting.
Plan C: Practice another aspect of your swing
What is your #1 problem in the golf swing? Picking your head up? Swinging to fast? Over-swinging? Taking the club back too far to the inside? Not releasing?
Most people have many faults in their golf swing and every swing from every person is slightly different. REPEATABILITY IS A GOAL but doesn’t have to be a myth.
CHOOSE THE ONE THING THAT MOST HURTS YOU IN YOUR SWING. Pick a way to practice just that during the off-season. For example, my problem is tempo. When I get anxious I swing too fast and my body and arms get way out of sequence and the ball gets topped or gets hit way out to the right. My ceilings are too low and the heated driving range is too far away so I have therefore decided to focus on tempo for the next couple of months. I know what my tempo should be and whenever I have a moment where I am not doing something else I drum the ideal tempo of my golf swing with my fingers over and over. I’m trying to memorize it so that it becomes natural and I do it automatically over the ball even when I’m nervous. The advantage of this is that I can do it anywhere… in the doctor’s office, at a stop light in the car, in line at the bank, while watching TV, and so forth.
What’s your biggest problem? Keeping your head down? Take 30 practice swings, you don’t even need a ball, or you can use a tee, and practicing looking at the tee or the spot on the floor after your hands have passed over it. Do that 30 times per day and I bet keeping your head down will become so ingrained you won’t even have to remind yourself.
Releasing the hands properly is another problem that many people struggle with. You can do this indoors, just grab a short club, like a wedge, and practice swinging only your hands; hinging and unhinging your wrists. Remember: scissors. Your wrists should go from being next to each other before you hit the ball to being crossed over like a pair of scissors after the ball is struck.
The goal is for you to fix your main flaw without the pressure of an actual round. If you fix your problems during the off-season you can focus on getting much better during the on-season!♣