It can be a little grim when the curtain closes on another golf season but the dreaded off-season is one of the harsh realities of golf. Playing all year round is the dream for most amateur golfers, but in many regions it just isn't possible.
At the risk of sounding a little smug, we're exceptionally fortunate to have our HQ situated in the heart of sunny Lisbon, which means around 300 days of sunshine and perfect golfing conditions each year. Unfortunately though, many of our Hole19 members live in parts of the world where harsh winters or blistering summers can make rounds hard to come by.
How do you use your downtime away from the golf course? Watch more golf? Read more golf? Dream more golf?
If you're a golf nut just like us, it's a safe bet you end up doing all three, but we could all make better use of the off-season and hit the ground running when the new season begins.
We have a few suggestions to help you keep your golf game sharp over the coming months.
Review your Hole19 data
Now that your golf season has ended, you will have many saved rounds of data within your Hole19 app to reflect on your 2022 performance and shape your off-season practice. The Performance section holds a wealth of valuable information and will highlight particular areas of weakness in your game.
The Overall Statistics section will show your Driving Accuracy (and where your miss is), GIR %, Average Putts Per Hole, Recovery Performance, and much more. You can also delve deeper into your Rounds overview to better understand your recent performance and where you've been losing shots.
Hit the range
Many golf courses can be far too cold and/or covered in snow at this time of year, so getting a round in can be pretty tricky. It might feel like you're in golfing hibernation, but allowing your golf swing to lie dormant for a couple of months can be a risky play.
Practising and maintaining your golf swing is vital, so visiting the driving range can keep you ticking over. Your local range and short game area can help keep your swing sharp while shielding you from the harsh off-season weather.
With all the data you will have reviewed on your Hole19 app, now's the perfect time to work on your problem areas, and maintaining your strengths. Perhaps you'll work on eradicating your slice with the big stick, improving your ability to shape the ball, or building confidence in hitting any club that's been gathering metaphorical (and literal) dust for as long as you can remember.
Avoid the rabbit hole
It's so tempting to watch endless videos of swing fixes and golf tips promising to add x yards off the tee, but often this can do more harm than good. You can often find yourself going down the instructional rabbit hole if you watch too many videos in a short period. Of course, if you have ended the season with an obvious golf swing flaw, then spend time finding a video that resonates.
It's likely that you could get many more benefits from speaking to a local golf pro who can assess your game up close and personal, but we know lessons aren't for everyone, and they can be expensive.
If you enjoy watching YouTube videos and that's the route you want to go, pick one golf coach's channel and stick to their teachings. It should minimise any confusion from differing thinkings and presentation styles.
Improve your flexibility
The golf swing is an athletic move requiring some degree of flexibility to play well. As your flexibility improves - all other things remaining equal - you should hit better and more powerful golf shots.
Find some time during your day to stretch and undertake exercises targeted at maximising your range of motion. Not only will you be able to make a fuller backswing, but you should find you will gain more yards off the tee and become less susceptible to injury.
Work on your swing at home
There are many ways you can work on your golf game at home when rounds of golf are in short supply and getting to the range is proving difficult.
As far as the short game goes, get a chipping net and some foam balls, or try chipping into the laundry basket. Whatever works! If you can eliminate those chunks and skulls, you could drop some serious strokes when competitive golf restarts in the next few months.
The same goes for your putting. It's perfectly plausible to get real benefits from practising indoors. Spend 10-15 minutes per day, a few times a week, working on your putting stroke. It will help maintain and improve muscle memory and create good putting habits.
The full swing might be a little harder to train at home, but it's possible. If you have a net in your backyard - or a simulator in your garage or spare room - that's perfect for smashing balls to your heart's content. The rest of us need to be more creative.
Improve your swing speed
Most golfers can increase their swing speed through a combination of improved strength and conditioning and a better understanding of how to correctly use the body and rotational forces of the golf swing.
The off-season is the perfect time to work on jacking up those numbers and gaining more yards off the tee without compromising too much on dispersion.
The only reliable way to accurately measure your swing speed and keep track of your progress is by using a launch monitor. Thankfully, many driving ranges have Top Tracer-style bays nowadays where you will get plenty of golf swing data to mull over.
Don't neglect your mental game
You'll have heard it many times: your mind can become the 15th club in your bag. It's true. When harnessed correctly, your mental game can work wonders to keep you scoring well and separate you from your competition.
Your round can just as quickly spiral out of control if you struggle to manage your emotions, so developing mental toughness and resilience on the golf course is important. Along with the golf swing improvements you will be working on, learning to stay positive and optimistic in the face of adversity will stand you in good stead for an impressive 2023.
Dr Bob Rotella has many mental game tips which will make you a better golfer. One mainly centres around finding peace at the golf course and turning it into your sanctuary. Too often, we all arrive at the first tee riddled with nerves. Even before we get to the first tee, we can become consumed with thoughts of worst-case scenarios and self-fulfilling prophecies.
So, take time over the off-season to think of the golf course as your happy place, and try to remove negative thinking from your game. You'll shoot lower scores almost immediately.