You don’t have to actually be on the golf course to improve your game. Here are eight ways to sharpen your golf game at home…
- Improve your grip. It is said that the legendary golfer Ben Hogan, who early in his career fought a pronounced hook shot, once spent an entire winter just learning how to affix his hands to the club properly, doing nothing more than holding the club. This makes sense because the only connection a player’s body has to the club is through the hands. You can purchase a form-fitting grip, or training grip, at any golf shop and attach it to any golf club. Let your hands get familiar with the proper positioning on the club, and it will be comfortable to replicate when you’re on the course. Hold the club for five to 10 minutes a day, four to five times a week.
- Strengthen your hand muscles. Strengthen your wrists and the dozens of tiny muscles in your hands and fingers by laying a dishrag flat on a hard surface, then crumpling it into a tight ball, letting it go and repeating a dozen times with each hand. Do this three or four times weekly. You also can use one of those spring-loaded grip-strengthener devices, although it won’t use all the tiny muscles as effectively as the dishrag.
- Use an exercise ball. Oversized exercise balls (Swiss Ball is a well-known brand) assist with balance, stability, flexibility and core strength. Beginners simply can sit on the ball with their feet on the floor for a few minutes a day. This helps with balance and core strength, both key components of the golf swing. Lying back on the ball puts the spine into extension, as opposed to the flexion we experience all day long sitting at desks, driving, etc. This helps to lengthen and stretch the spine, making it much more comfortable to get into the forward-bending posture required for a golf swing. For more exercises, go to www.SwissBallExercises.org.
- Increase clubhead speed. The faster you swing the club, the more you also compress the golf ball and, assuming a solid (as opposed to off-center) strike, the straighter and longer that ball will fly. A great new product that helps to increase clubhead speed is called the Speed Whoosh (about $80, www.MomentusGolf.com, click on “Speed Whoosh”). It is a long, skinny, flexible antennae-like apparatus that can be swung much faster than a conventional club. Swing it a dozen times a day when you can’t play golf, and then when you pick up a club on the course, you will be swinging it several miles per hour faster than before.
- Use therapeutic bands. These stretchy bands are good for stretching and strengthening shoulder and chest muscles in ways that expensive and cumbersome gym equipment does not. Shoulder muscles, particularly rotator cuffs, are easily injured and will keep you off the golf course for extended periods if they become injured. A strong chest is needed for an effective golf swing. Hold the band overhead with both hands so that you feel some tension in the band. You can increase or decrease tension in the band as needed by gripping it widely or narrowly. Slowly bring the band behind your back, then back up over your head and down to your belt line. You can even tie a band securely to a doorknob and practice your golf swing. Hold the position at both backswing and follow-through for a beat or two to build strength.
- Work on flexibility. A more flexible body allows a golfer to make a bigger, more powerful turn from the hips and torso to generate the tension in the body to hit the ball a long way. There are any number of effective ways to increase flexibility, but one of the best is the program devised by Roger Fredericks. A former PGA professional turned flexibility guru, Fredericks offers beginner, intermediate and advanced stretching programs on DVD that help golfers learn to get their bodies into positions that will allow them to play the game more effectively, with less stress on the body and a reduced chance of injury (www.FredericksGolf.com).
- Sharpen your mental focus. It’s long been said that the most important six inches in golf are between the ears. To that end, there are a number of relevant books that help the golfer sharpen his/her mental focus and perform better under pressure. These books include the best-selling Golf Is Not a Game of Perfect by Bob Rotella, PhD, which offers some excellent visualization techniques. Easier Said Than Done by Rick Jensen, PhD, emphasizes how to move your effectiveness on the driving range right to the course itself. Every Shot Must Have a Purpose and The Game Before the Game by Pia Nilsson and coauthor Lynn Marriott also offer valuable information on effective practice techniques and how to use mental focus to play your best.
- Daydream about golf. Daydreaming about the game has been proved to have a positive effect on performance. Recent scientific studies have shown that while physical practice is the most beneficial technique, mentally practicing your swing and desired ball flight and outcome is more beneficial than doing nothing at all. Picture the sound and feel of solid contact from the tee, the flight of the drive, the club you choose for your approach shot, the contour of the green, the speed of the putt, etc. Play the first several holes in your mind until you start to lose focus. Then try again the next day.