The golf season is here!*

(*Pretty sure, anyways. At the time of writing. Might still snow in the north. Temps could plummet. Who knows. Let’s be optimists.)

No matter where you live and play, absence from the game of any length – whether it’s induced by injury, seasonality, family/work obligations, financial issues, or other – can feel eternal.

However, I find it can also be therapeutic.

Cleanse the mind and body of shanks, missed 2-footers, a new “miss,” heartbreaking losses and bad bounces. Relish in flushed 5-irons, chip-ins, miraculous comebacks and a newfound ability to get up and down from neighboring towns.

Regardless, with the Masters on the horizon, we begin the season with a clean slate.

Maybe we’re about to embark on our best year yet? Maybe the year we reach a career milestone? Maybe the year we join the coveted hole-in-one club? Maybe the year we check off another bucket list course? Or win a club tournament?

A season full of potential.

So let’s reach that potential! Here are some tips to help you start the season strong.

1. Get Golf Ready
It’s been a long winter. And let’s be honest. Most New Year’s resolutions went out the window while you were still picking confetti off the floor. But there’s still time…and now you’re training for golf!

Work on rotational exercises. Build a solid core and base. Try some yoga. It doesn’t take much and all you need is an internet connection to search and find stretches specific to golf.

Or better yet, head out into the yard or garage and start making actual golf swings. Aim for 50-100 swings three times per week. You’ll be loose and limber in no time at all.

Here are a few stretches from Golf.com.

Here are the best golf exercises to improve your game from Golf Digest.

And the ten best exercises to improve your golf game from Men’s Journal.

2. Gear Up
While we would all love to throw a new driver in the bag and see it deliver immediate and significant results, it’s best to start with some minor modifications that could still help your game.

First of all, clean your clubs. With just a little soap and water, and a stiff brush to clean the groves, you can keep those old clubs looking like new for another season or two. Those grooves will also be able to do their job more effectively if they’re not clogged up with year old divot remnants.

Next, check your grips. If you haven’t changed them out in the last 2-3 years – or ever – that’s a quick way to improve grip, consistency and feel. You can check them by holding the grip in one hand and twisting the club with the other hand to see if it moves in your hand. There are enough moving parts in the golf swing. Make sure your grips aren’t one of them.

The more tackiness, the better off you’ll be, especially when your hands start sweating in the summer, or when standing over a nervy three foot putt for par.

Like grips, golf shoes are another low investment/high return purchase, and for a similar reason. The last thing you want to be thinking about during your swing is your feet sliding around. If it happens once, you’ll think about it often, so make sure you have some fresh spikes on your feet this year. And oft for something with waterproof protection so you’re comfy and dry no matter the conditions.

If you are ready to purchase new equipment, make sure you go see a club fitting expert! Buying one your buddy has that you hit well one time, or the one you saw on the commercials, will not compare to one that is fit to your swing and your specs. Ever. Don’t buy off the rack and hope it helps. Go see a fitter and know it helps.

3. Start Your Golf Notes
Keeping golf notes is a terrific way to measure progress in your game and to recall important lessons that occur along your golf journey. For most, your notes can be relatively broad and don’t need to be kept for every round.

Keeping track of a swing thought (“full turn in the backswing”), a minor change to your set-up (“ball forward for better bunker shots”) or even course management strategy that produced positive results (“hit 3 wood on 3rd and 4th holes”) are all useful reminders you can reference. One of my favorite reminders is from years ago but one I still use during almost every round…”a bad shot should stay with you for no more than seven seconds. Then you start planning on how to make up for it.”

Even just keeping track of highlights from your rounds can be a positive memories to refer back to when things aren’t going so positively.

For others, golf notes can be as detailed as keeping track of fairways hit, greens in regulation and putts per round. Tracking these stats by round can really help you understand your strengths and areas for improvement.

4. Take a Lesson
Whether you’ve had a lot or none, everyone can learn something from a lesson. Maybe you figure out how to hit down on your irons and up on your driver, or how to stop the deceleration with your wedges. Or maybe you learn that 10 yard draw or find a few extra yards off the tee. No matter what your level, or your goals, everyone can get better with a lesson from a PGA Professional.

5. Play More
Okay, much easier to say than to do it. Despite the fact you’re likely home more these Covid days, that doesn’t mean you have more free time to play golf. And with more businesses opening up, kids’ spring activities starting and schools and businesses eyeing a return to “normal,” committing to golf may be as difficult as ever. However, with some advanced planning, and creativity, you can make more golf a reality this year.

For starters, redefine what “more golf” consists of. While it can be difficult to fit in more full, 18-hole rounds, you can play more in other ways.

You can make just as many swings during a productive range session as you would on the golf course….maybe more. Commit to adding in 1-2 productive practice sessions per week and watch your scores drop. To be productive, go in with a plan and practice with a purpose. Pick specific targets and hit to them, as you would on the golf course. Work on your 100 yard shot or a distance you often have when you’re playing. And dedicate time to your short game and putting where you can really shave some strokes.

Think about joining a weekly 9 hole men’s/women’s league. Committing to a weekly league is a great way to have consistent golf on your calendar and it usually only takes 1-2 hours for the 9 hole round. You’re also likely to meet some new golf friends of similar ability in your flight. You can find a league at pretty much every local golf course.

“Random Rounds”
Maybe you can only play 4-5 holes. Talk to the shop and see if they’ll give you a reduced rate. Or, if they won’t, decide that the 9 hole cost is worth it for this “bonus” time out on the golf course.

Home Options
Chip into a bucket in your yard, or get a mat and hitting net. Even a putting mat for your living room or office. Anything to put a club in your hands when you can’t get to the golf course will help.

Whether you choose one or all of these tips, like finding the fairway off the first tee, they’ll start you off in a positive direction.

And no matter when you play, where you play, or how you play, I wish you nothing but split fairways and tap in birdies this golf season…whenever it begins.

Have a comment on this article or an idea for a future one? You can reach Chris at cmgarrett19@outlook.com.