Golfers can use the offseason to get better

Aspen Lakes director of player development, Howie Pruitt, explains ways that golfers can work on their game away from the course

GripsGolf’s offseason can be a frustrating time for those who are devoted to the game.

In Central Oregon, we can spend weeks and sometimes months away from golf. Our clubs rest untouched in the garage as our golf swings turn rustier than 100-year-old nail.

Thankfully, those chilly days have mostly stayed away this fall. In fact, with discounted rates and exceptionally mild weather that has Aspen Lakes in unusually good shape for so late in October, this is a wonderful time to play a round of golf.

But the cold, snowy days are about as inevitable as the sun rising in the east. The layoff will come. But a well thought out offseason can pay off come next golf season.

Howie Pruitt, Aspen Lakes’ director of player development, has some thoughts on ways to have us all ready to tee off next spring.

Tune up the equipment

Quick question: How long has it actually been since you last regripped your clubs? If it has been awhile, you might want to bring them in to Aspen Lakes’ pro shop for a tune-up.

Pruitt says that any golfer who plays at least 20 times in a season should probably have their clubs regripped annually. Yet, so many golfers neglect this simple, and relatively affordable, equipment fix.

“I can’t tell you the number of times I have seen people with clubs that have grips that are hard and slippery,” Pruitt says. “That creates more tension in their arms and hands because they are trying to hold on to the club so tightly.”

In addition, the offseason can be used to clean your golf shoes, including clearing out each socket of debris, and replace the soft spikes with new ones (which can also be found in the Aspen Lakes golf shop).

In addition, every golfer should take a moment to audit what is in their golf bags. Old, unusable golf balls should be donated or otherwise discarded to lighten the load for next season. More importantly you want to ensure there are no unwanted remnants of the golf season left in the bag.

“Find those old sandwiches, candy bars and nuts that you left in the bag, so you don’t have a surprise waiting for you next spring,” Pruitt jokes.

Improve fitness

Use the winter to get in better golf shape. For golf, that means focusing on improving endurance, flexibility, and most of all core strength, Pruitt says. (One should seek the advice of a professional such as a doctor, physical therapist or athletic trainer before embarking on a new exercise regimen.)

Cardio exercises that utilize the lower body, such as running or walking, can help a golfer better last through a round. A proper stretching regimen will help keep a golf swing limber without touching a golf club.

But Pruitt says that core exercises are the most essential for golfers.

“I think what becomes more important is core strength, because the core is going to hold your posture,” Pruitt says. “Your posture is going to control the path and plane of the club. I think core strength becomes more important than flexibility, particularly as we get older. Posture starts to become a bigger problem.

“If your posture is bad, you are not going to make a proper turn.”

Work on the mind

No, golfers do not have to get into some Zen-like state to succeed on a golf course. But training yourself to think positively can affect your golf game.

Pruitt is a big proponent of the power of positive thinking. He often sees golfers chastise themselves after a bad shot and hedge when they are complimented after a good shot.

“If you were to keep track of how many times you say something negative to yourself about yourself during the day you would be amazed,” Pruitt says.

This is often self-defeating.

Instead of browbeating yourself, Pruitt advises anyone to positively reinforce what they are doing, even after a mistake. For a golfer, that could mean simply changing your outlook after a bad shot.

Instead of sulking, Pruitt says, “Simply say to yourself, ‘That is so unlike me.'”

“Learn to say positive things to yourself as opposed to beating yourself up,” Pruitt adds. “It is so critical, and the winter time is a great time to practice it.”

Of course, this could be put into practice right now as the golf season still has some life yet.

Take advantage of the conditions before winter comes with the best rates of the year. Golfers who donate three canned items can play 18 holes at Aspen Lakes for just $30 and nine holes for just $20 (additional fees apply for a cart rental or the use of GolfBoard). Aspen Lakes will then donate the food it collects to a Central Oregon charity.

To book a tee time or to inquire about club tune-ups, including regripping, call the golf shop 541-549-GOLF, or book a tee time online at www.aspenlakes.com. Private, group lessons, classes and clinics with Pruitt are all available through the Aspen Lakes PGA Learning Center.

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