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Last week I wrote about Barry Walters, the head PGA golf professional at The Founders Club at St. James. Barry is a teacher, an accountant, a merchandiser, an Internet whiz kid, an arbitrator, a rules expert and a psychologist.
He works with dozens of people every day; the cart girl, the ranger, the greens superintendent and a manufacturer’s rep who has a truck full of next spring’s latest offerings in men’s and women’s equipment and clothing. He teaches brand new golfers, interacts with members and supervises his staff. Once in a while, Barry actually has time to play the game of golf.
Teaching the game of golf is near and dear to the hearts of most of our pros, and Barry is no exception. I asked him a simple question about how golfers can use the winter months to their advantage in getting ready for the next season. The dam opened and I found myself writing furiously as Barry outlined dozens of really good ideas about how we can all use the cool winter months to refurbish our game.
So here are “10 Ways to Get It All Together in the Off-Season,” from Barry Walters.
1. Play just a few holes. In the winter, when it’s too cold for 18 holes, play nine, or even four or five holes during the warmest part of the day. Spend an hour at noon on the practice range. An hour’s workout on the course or on the range will hone your skills.
2. Join a gym. Keep up your flexibility and even increase your strength by joining a gym and working out regularly during the winter months. Do stretches, get a personal trainer, do aerobic exercises like biking or jogging or water aerobics. When it’s too cold or too rainy to play golf, go to the gym or work out at home to a DVD.
3. Be kind to yourself. Course conditions are different in the winter months and most golfers’ handicaps go up during the cool season. The greens are different, so are the fairways, and you are often playing in layers of clothing, so don’t get exasperated if your scores go up. They’ll come back down in the spring.
4. Take lessons—better yet, make it a series of lessons. Focus on one thing at each lesson, go back for a review, then start on some other aspect that needs help. Don’t try to cure all your ills with one huge long lesson. It won’t work because you’ll have too many thoughts swinging through your head. Pick the part of your game that needs the most help and begin there. If it’s chipping, focus on that aspect for one lesson. Then practice, practice, practice.
5. Work out with a weighted club. There are numerous training clubs available for use in your house or yard. Try the Momentus Power Hitter, a weighted club that will develop the muscles you need to swing correctly. Also useful is The Orange Whip, a weighted club with a whippy shaft that helps with timing.
6. Putt on your carpet. When it’s too cold to practice outdoors, putt into a glass on your carpet or on a felt pad specifically designed for practicing indoors. You won’t get the sideways roll that are on real greens, but you can prefect that up-and-back stroke.
7. Go to a golf camp. Many pros around the country offer learning experiences for golfers during the winter months. These golf schools may run three to five days or even a week. David Ledbetter has golf schools all over the world; Peggy Kirk Bell runs a ladies “Golfari” at Pine Needles in Southern Pines. There are several golf schools in Myrtle Beach; and many of our local teaching pros offer golf schools right here in Brunswick County. The winter is a great time to hone your game because you won’t be coming back with an overload of golf instruction and then have to play in a big tournament while you’re still trying to figure out what to do with that flying elbow. You don’t want to overhaul your swing in the middle of golf season. Do it now when you have time to work out the kinks before competition starts.
Golf camps provide concentrated golf instruction, a total immersion in golf for several days. You will be with other people who share your commitment to bettering your game. You’ll have fun and make some great new friends.
8. Take a golf trip. This winter, head south, where you can play each day. Plan a trip to a golf resort. You can take lessons, play golf, luxuriate in the spa and pool before dinner. So, think golf when you plan your next trip to visit friends or family.
9. Read a golf book. There are several great ones out there that will provide a nostalgic look at golf or give you a vicarious thrill while sitting in your armchair in front of a crackling fire. “The Greatest Game Ever Played,” “A Golfer’s Life,” by Arnold Palmer, “Final Rounds” are but a few that golfers and non-golfers alike will enjoy. Better yet, read a book on the rules of golf to prepare you for the intricacies of the game next season.
10. Watch a golf movie. Rent or buy “Caddyshack,” or “The Greatest Game Ever Played.” You will yearn to tee it up once more in the spring. As they say, anticipation is half the fun.
So, dear friends, this winter, take some relaxed steps toward bettering your game. You’ll reap the rewards come spring.
GOLF GAB GROANER
Jim and Art went out to play golf with their wives early one Sunday morning. On the 10th tee, Jim hooked his ball into the woods. When he found it, the ball was next to one of the maintenance buildings. There was a remote possibility he could hit a shot through a narrow gap between the side of building and a line of pine trees and get it back into play.
His wife urged him to take the shot.
He did. The ball caromed off the side of the building, striking his wife on the forehead, killing her instantly.
A week after the funeral, Jim and another friend played the same course. When Jim hit his drive on the 10th hole, he hooked once more and his ball ended up next to the maintenance building as before.
His partner urged him to take the shot.
“No way, I can’t hit that shot,” Jim said.
“Why not?” asked his partner.
“I can’t forget what happened last time I tried it.”
“What happened?” asked his partner.
“Well, the last time I tried this shot, I made a double bogey on this hole.”
ELSA BONSTEIN is a golf columnist for the Beacon. Reach her at email@example.com.