If you live north of the Mason-Dixon Line this year, the weather has been a total disaster for your golf game. If you live north of the 49th parallel (sometimes referred to as the USA-Canada border), you know the weather has been a total disaster for your golf game as it has had even the moose stamping their feet for warmth. Moreover, even thinking of practicing your golf game has probably been the last thing on your mind for fear the clubs would stick together in that vehicular freezer called the trunk. Seriously – it was -35 Celsius (-31F) in Toronto the other day.
What this has meant for all of us committed northern golfers, is that our games have suffered because we can’t practice or play over this weather forced hiatus. While we can practice movement with club drills and training aids, it is impossible to see what is happening to the ball. We need space –and more importantly we need feedback to keep our practice sessions and lessons sharp and focused. Remember, just because something feels right doesn’t mean it is.
Unless we head to the southern climes for a brief respite, we’ve been relegated to hitting balls in the winter ‘domes’, those blow up warehouses that are reminiscent of a Wal-Mart with artificial air being blown in by a giant fan to keep the air pressure equalized so it stays upright. While better than nothing, none of the domes here in Ontario let you work on your entire game, specifically realistic putting, bunker, pitching and chip shots – and forget the feedback.
Well, all this is a thing of the past if you live in or around Toronto. Starting last November I’ve had the distinct pleasure of conducting winter golf schools and teaching at The Golf Lab in Vaughn, just northwest of Toronto. This facility is, in my opinion, the premier winter golf training facility in Canada and measures up favorably to anything in North America. The reason is quite simple – the equipment within the facility is geared to give you accurate and reliable FEEDBACK using the large screen Trackman radar system and V1 Video. No more guessing about what is happening.
Additionally, inside the 26,000 square foot building you can practice your entire game in a warm and comfortable environment… putting, bunkers, chipping, pitching, irons and drivers. My personal favorite in the short game area is the bunker(s). The have a cool area set up with a two links style sod bunkers that feature TWO distinct textures of sand. Awesome! There is no better way to optimize your chances of starting the new season fully prepared.
Figure 1 Overview of The Golf Lab Training facility in Toronto, Canada. 26,000 Square feet of effective training space
My foremost point about training in the winter is to search for a facility where you can get reliable and accurate feedback about what you are doing. While good advice at any time of the year, it is especially important when making some swing changes during the winter.
Folks, let me get on my soap box for a call out. Starting now, demand more of your training facility. In my opinion, way too many golf training centers are getting by with antiquated equipment and techniques. If your facility and coaching doesn’t utilize video, gross motor pattern movement training and accurate ball, club and swing feedback you need to tell them they are behind the curve.
The Four Pillars of Effective Winter Training: Movement, Stretching, Strength and Feedback
- Precision Movement Based on Facts: Understand precisely what changes you are seeking to make and train precisely. During the winter when you are seeking to make some changes, I recommend slow motion training as an excellent way to learn new and more effective motor patterns. The research shows there is no better way. Having said that, all changes you undertake should be based on solid information and data. Work with your coach and have a clear understanding of what and why before you undertake any change for change sake.
- Stretch Yourself: I mean this in every way possible. Stretch your body first and work continually on increasing your flexibility. Rigidity (of mind and body) will NEVER produce more speed or accuracy. Recently, a long drive champion I am working with established that he lost about 15% of his flexibility over just five weeks of injury induced inactivity. You must work the body to keep it supple and agile. Recent research in brain neuroplasticity has established that the same principles apply to your mind.
- 3. Strength Training: Use the winter to make your body a better version of yourself. Be stronger and fitter. The surge in driving distances on the PGA Tour is as much driven by enhanced fitness as equipment. Look in the fitness trailer at any event and you will see it is at capacity all day long. One of my favorite competitive quotes is from the legendary football coach Vince Lombardi. He said. “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” Coach Lombardi knew that the dedication to training built a sustainable winner. It is difficult in any task to reach optimum when one is out of steam and energy.
- 4. High Quality Feedback: This pillar of winter training is perhaps the one you need to be the most dedicated to. You can’t underestimate the importance of getting high quality feedback on what you are doing. When making a change in your swing it is very difficult to only rely on your feelings. Your feelings when making a change are notoriously undependable! Check yourself constantly in the mirror, with a trusted eye of someone that knows your swing, with video and devices like Trackman or Flight Scope.
At Graves Golf we have spent over a decade focused on helping you to increase your enjoyment and pleasure in the game of golf. The recipe for getting better is not arcane or mysterious. Rather, it just requires a clear intention and dedication on your part to making the incremental improvements.
About the Author: Ron Cruickshank PhD, is a GGA Master Instructor and Mental Coach in Toronto, Canada. Check out Ron’s winter schools at the world class Golf Lab facility. He can be reached directly via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org