winter golf

4 Strategies for Practicing Golf During Winter

If you’re not fortunate enough to live in Florida or California where the golfing season is year round, you probably struggle to keep the game in shape during the winter months.

Although it’s easier to put the clubs up while the snow is on the ground, your golf game won’t be thanking you when the spring season starts.  In this post, you’ll learn five ways that you can keep the momentum going, and make the most of your winters!

I grew up playing golf in Missouri, so the winters were harsh enough to keep the majority of golfers indoors.  When I was in high school, preparing for the spring season, I would often be forced to take an “off day” due freezing temperatures.  Although I tried hitting golf balls in 28 degrees, I quickly realized that when your hands turn purple, golf practice isn’t very effective.

As an avid golfer, you probably know that “off days” don’t take a literal meaning.  You surely think about golf during your off days.  Although there is benefit to taking a few true “off days,” I wasn’t interested in spending my winters complaining about the weather, and getting worse at golf.

After a little bit of online shopping, I was able to set up an entirely DIY practice area in my basement and garage, which helped me keep the game sharp going into the spring.

As we all know, if you put the clubs up for an extended period of time, it takes a while to get back into the rhythm of good golf.  The last thing that we want is to have to start all over when spring time hits.

Obviously, there are limited things that you can do inside, but if you focus on the correct types of practice, you can keep your game ready to go for the spring season!

I’m going to show you four ways to do this:

Strategy 1 – Setup Your Practice Area

Although you don’t need all of the following tools to practice your game during the winter, I wanted to cover everything that you could possibly need, so you know the possibilities.

If you’ve already got a practice area setup, or don’t care to spend any more money than you’ve already spent on golf, just skip to the second strategy in this post.

For those of you who enjoy spending money on golf products (like me), keep on reading!

The Net

If you are serious about keeping your game in shape during the winter, and you can’t get to the driving range, it is important to have a large net to hit into.

There are several options to choose from.  On the high end, you can’t go wrong with The Net Return.

I don’t have the spare cash to afford something like this, so I use a net more of likes of this Rukket “Haack Golf Net”.  This net can be put up anywhere, but you might have to get creative in order to secure it to the ground.   Whatever you do, make sure the net sits securely attached to whatever surface you’re resting it on.  Otherwise, it will move every time you hit a ball into it.

The Mat

Along with your net, you’ll need something to hit off of.  The standard golf mat that many websites and golf stores promote looks like this.  I usually recommend the cheapest option between two alternatives here at The DIY Golfer, but from personal experience, I can honestly say that a full-sized mat is well worth the investment.

The reason purchasing a small mat is not worth your money is because you want to be standing on level ground with the ball.  If you purchase a small little piece of turf to hit off, the ball will be slightly above your feet.  Why practice so unrealistically all winter?

Also, the smaller mats tend to move around after each shot, which can get frustrating after a while.

The Mirror

If you’re lazy, and aren’t interested in saving money, you could purchase a pre-made golf training mirror like this one.

If you want a cheaper option (I personally would never pay close to what they are charging for that mirror!), you can do one of three things:

  1. Buy a cheaper alternative
  2. Find somewhere in your house that reflects (at night, you can often see yourself in a sliding glass door)
  3. Build a mirror with PVC pipes as shown in this photo.
  4. Purchase or find a large mirror, and position it somewhere in your house where you can use it to analyze your setup (I have an old bathroom mirror that sits against a wall in the basement… doesn’t have to be fancy!)

Whatever you do, you MUST have a mirror for the winter.  It’s one of the most essential indoor practice aids that I know of.

Chipping Net

Although you could chip into your full-sized golf net, I would recommend picking up a specialized chipping target.  This is the one that I personally use, but you could easily make your own if you get creative.

The entire purpose of the net is to get your mind focusing on picking a landing spot and chipping to it.  If you don’t want something fancy like this, just find an object that isn’t breakable and chip to it!

Putting Surface

Once again, you don’t need anything too fancy here.  For the drills that I’m going to introduce later in this post, all you need is a flat surface that you can roll a putt on.  Scrap carpet works fine for most people, but if you’re really going all out, Birdie Ball greens are very high quality, and affordable for most people.

Since the drills I will be going through only require short putts, the 3’x12′ is adequate.  As I will talk about later, it isn’t that important to work on long putts during the winter, so you don’t need a huge area to putt from.

Summary

As I said before, it is by no means necessary to go out and purchase every single thing that I’ve listed above.  Effective indoor practice is not about who has the coolest setup.

Despite this, here is a video of Ben Crane’s indoor practice area.  If you are going all out with this, I would take some notes 🙂 (skip to 3:30 in the video):

Strategy 2 – Take some time off

This second point might raise a few eyebrows because isn’t this post all about how to avoid time off?

In a sense…

The reason that taking some time off from golf is important is to give you time to reflect on your game, and what types of things you are practicing.  By taking a week, two weeks, or even a month off from golf, you’re giving your subconscious brain time to work out problems that you’ve had with your golf game.

Say that you’ve been struggling with your putting, and for the life of you, no solution seems to come to you!  By taking some time off from golf, your conscious brain will take a break from working out this putting problem, but your subconscious keeps plugging away to solve your putting woes.  Chances are, before your allotted “off period” ends, you will have a few quality solutions to your putting problem, without any conscious effort!

So often in golf, just as in life, we get so busy working on our games, that we don’t take the time to reflect on what we are doing.

Have you ever found yourself working on the wrong thing for multiple weeks in a row?  You thought that changing your grip would fix your driving problems, but in reality, it was more of an alignment issue?

Taking time off gives you the chance to recuperate, and figure out where you should actually be putting your time and effort into.

Strategy 3 – Hone Your Technique

1.  Fundamentals – Use a Mirror

No, it’s not so you can look at yourself and admire all the hard work you’ve been doing in the gym.

The reason that we need a mirror is to work on arguably the most important part of a golf swing…

FUNDAMENTALS!!!

I like to talk about fundamentals because they truly are one of the most important parts of a golf game.  I define fundamentals as your grip, your stance width, your alignment, your posture, and your ball position.

The mirror that I’m talking about needs to be set up somewhere in your house where you’ve got about 15 feet of open space.  You don’t even need to be able to swing the club!  You just need a space where you can check your setup.  If you do happen to have a net to hit into, it would be advantageous to place the mirror in the same area as your net.

Here are two ways that you can use a mirror to practice indoors:

Practicing posture- Even during the season, using a mirror is a great way to make sure that your posture is in a good position.  The method for doing this isn’t difficult.  First, look at a picture of a proper setup (Ben Hogan’s Five Fundamentals pages 24 & 36, or YouTube videos of professional golfers like Jason Dufner, Adam Scott, Jason Day, etc.).

Once you’ve seen what a proper setup looks like face-on AND down the line (don’t know what FO and DTL mean? click here), you just copy it!  Modeling/imitation is a great way to develop a proper setup.

If you do happen to need further instruction, as always, you should purchase Ben Hogan’s book here.  It’s a must have for any serious golfer.

Lastly, I thought I would bring up a great way to get into the proper posture every time.  You can use a sharpie or dry erase marker, and mark where different parts of your body should line up to.  Have a friend draw the lines for you while you get into the correct setup position.

Before drawing these lines, make sure that your posture looks good on video.  You wouldn’t want to draw these lines in the wrong spots and practice the wrong posture!

Practicing the takeaway- Although I wouldn’t recommend checking too many positions of your swing in the mirror (because when you look at the mirror, your whole body moves), the takeaway is something that might be worth looking at.  Just make sure that when you look back to check your takeaway (P2 as mentioned in this post about swing analysis), you don’t move your whole body while doing so.

2.  Full Swing and Pitching – Use a practice net with training aids

If you coughed up that spare change you’ve had hiding in the closet, and bought yourself a full swing hitting net, you absolutely need to learn the correct way to use it.

There is no better way to ruin a game than hitting into a net without a clear focus, and without feedback!

Since we are so close to the net when hitting, it is difficult to see where the ball is starting, and where the ball is curving.  Knowing what swing produces what ball flight is critical to improving a golf game!

But inside, there is no way to see your ball-flight (unless you have $20,000 to spend on a TrackMan launch monitor)!

That is why we must use LOTS OF FEEDBACK.

Whenever hitting into the net, it is important to use some sort of visual cue, a training aid, or use video analysis to check positions frequently.  Like I said, the last thing we want is to make ourselves worse during the winter!

Although everyone has a different swing, there are a few indoor full swing training aids that I tend to think just about everyone would benefit from:

  1. Callaway Connect Easy Swing Training Aid– This is a cheap an effective aid that will make sure you are keeping your body (particularly your right elbow/arm) connected throughout the swing.  The key is to avoid hitting full shots with this training aid.  I primarily practice my 30-50 yard pitches with a sand wedge, trying to feel a good rhythm.  If you don’t want to purchase this, just stick a headcover under your armpits, and hit those short pitch shots, making sure that the headcovers don’t fall out.
  2. Alignment Sticks- Not for alignment, but for swing plane!  If you place an alignment stick along the target line (just behind the ball), you can trace this line with your club to find the correct plane.  Just imagine that there is a laser beam coming out of both ends of your golf club, and the goal is to point this laser beam at that alignment stick during all parts of the swing (except p2 and p9- see swing analysis post for illustration of all positions).  At p2 and p9, the shaft/laser will actually be parallel to the alignment stick.  If you want a visual explanation of this alignment stick concept, click here.  (Note: I have not used the product in the previous link, but the video does a great job of explaining the concept)
  3. Heavy Club/Resistance Trainer- One of the biggest struggles we face during the winter is a degradation of the golfing muscles that we worked so hard to develop all year.  A great way to keep the muscles in shape is to swing a weighted golf club, or something like this resistance club.  Yes, you could go to the gym and lift weights, but unless you have a highly knowledgeable golf fitness instructor, you probably won’t keep all your golf muscles in shape.  The only way to really keep those muscles activated all winter is by either hitting a lot of golf balls, or swinging a heavy/resistance club for 20-100 reps a day.

3.  Putting and Chipping – Use Visual Cues and Training Aids

Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to simulate realistic short game situations that you would face on a golf course.

Around and on the greens, you will face different lengths of rough, slopes in the greens, chipping uphill or downhill (elevation change), and several other variations.  Indoors, unless you have a world-class facility, you can’t simulate these situations.

That is why we must focus on the things that we CAN work on while indoors.

Putting

Our MAIN focus with putting indoors is to get our putter face alignment, routine, and eye position correct.  No matter what type of greens you play, the slope of the greens, or the speed of the greens, these three elements ALWAYS stay constant.

Being indoors, we wouldn’t want to try and practice speed control, or making putts.  Instead, we need to practice the things that lead to good speed control and made putts.  This is why it is NOT necessary to have a fancy indoor putting green.

Putter Face Alignment

For putter face alignment, I use the Putting Tutor, developed by Dave Pelz.  I have written an entire post on how to use this here.

Routine

Developing a good putting routine is mostly personal, but remember to keep that head down!  I once heard Gary Player say that keeping the head down seems simple, but is the hardest thing to do under pressure!  The winter is a great time to develop a habit of keeping the head down.

Eye Position

By “eye position,” I mean the relationship between the ball and your non-dominant eye.  If you don’t understand this concept, I suggest watching this video.

In order to get the eye position correct (or at least in a consistent position), I use the Putting Tutor.

If you want more feedback than the Putting Tutor provides, a popular tool is called the EyeLine Golf Putting Alignment Mirror.  Rickie Fowler (and several other tour pros) uses this.  Rickie talks about his method for using it in this video.

Chipping

Our MAIN focus while chipping indoors is to hit our landing spot with different trajectories, and develop a solid routine.

Once again, these two elements are going to be constant regardless of what golf course you are playing, or what situation you are in.

Hitting the Landing Spot With Different Trajectories

This isn’t rocket science.  All you need to practice this is a few different chipping clubs (lob wedge, sand wedge, gap wedge, pw, 9-iron, etc.), and a target.  Get a pile of balls, and chip with different clubs to the same target.  As I mentioned, I use a chipping net (makes it easier to cleanup after chipping), but you can use any target.  Chip off some shag carpet, or a mat, and you’re good to go!

Chipping Routine

As with the putting routine, everyone will be different here.  Just make sure it’s repeatable, and you center your routine around your landing spot and trajectory!  I take some practice strokes while looking at ONLY my landing spot, envisioning the trajectory that I want the ball to fly to the target at.

Strategy 4 – Read some Golf Books!

Since reading doesn’t require the weather to be 70 degrees and sunny, it is a great way to improve your golf game during the winter!  Of course, you can’t solely rely on reading, but by learning new things about the game, you will develop new strategies that can be implemented when spring comes around!

Unlike the previous three strategies, I’m not going to spend a whole lot of time on it, because I have written a post on my favorite golf books for those of you that like to sit down, drink some coffee, and read about golf!  Just click on the link, and you will surely find a book that interests you there!

Summary

I’ve talked about a lot of things throughout this post, and I’m sure you’re a bit overwhelmed by the number of resources that I have provided.  As I said, you don’t need to purchase all of the training aids or equipment that I mentioned throughout the post, but I wanted to include everything so that you have a full understanding of the opportunities available to you indoors.

If there is anything that I want to accomplish with this post, it is to open your mind to the possibilities of winter game improvement.  There are lots of reasons to put the clubs away all winter, and that is surely the easiest way to go.

I created this guide for those of you who no longer want to see your game degrade every winter.  This guide is for those that want to keep the momentum going, and see continuous golf improvement.