A World With The Pro - Seamus McMonagle
Christmas is just around the corner and the opportunities to get out on the course are going to be limited over the coming weeks. For us golfers however, the thought of putting the clubs into hibernation for the winter does nor bear thinking about! We sat down with our local professional Seamus McMonagle to have a chat about how amateur golfers can make the best of the winter months. Here are his top 5 tips for winter work to ensure your handicap plummets in the summer months.
Have a Plan
So I am in my studio in mid April and a client arrives for a lesson. ‘OK Seamus, golf season started this week. I have some massive events coming up in the next few weeks so lets get working on changing my swing. I would like to get cut at least 3 or 4 shots this year!’.
Cue my head in hands moment! We have had 5 months of inactivity, during which major swing changes could be implemented and practiced but now the client wants a major overhaul a few days before the season starts. Can you see why this might be frustrating?!
So here is the right way to do it. Visit your pro in November, December or even January. Tell him you are willing to work but want to improve your game. He will assess your swing and can give you a 3 or 4 month plan to improve your game dramatically. Major swing improvements are going to mean poor golf in the short term. But during the time of year when you are playing for a turkey or winter league, short term pain is not the end of the world. Especially if it means the winners circle in some of the major summer events.
So here is the tip, visit your pro in Winter, tell him you are ready to work and want a plan and then get practicing during the off season. The driving range, the practice putting green and in front of your mirror at home should all become very familiar locations. Think long term for long term benefits.
On the Course
During the winter, when you find your ball around the green you will often find your ball in a lie that has a lot more give under the ball than you would like.
If you play on a parkland course, you may notice that all of a sudden you start to duff chip shots in the heavy conditions. This is not due to a decrease in your ability but just down to the fact that you are using the same chipping technique in winter as you do in summer.
For my clients that play parkland in winter, I will give you a winter chipping technique that allows for improved contact and avoids the dreaded chunk shot leaving you just a foot or two from where you started. Chipping can be simple in the winter but only if you have the tools to adapt your game to the changed conditions which I will relay in a lesson. You will then have this knowledge for every wet winter moving forward!
In the cold winter winds, adapting your ball flight is imperative. Hitting into a strong wind with your average swing and usual club will just not work.
So here is an example of what to do in this situation. You have your usual 7 iron distance into a stiff wind. Take out your 5 iron, put it back in your stance the width of one golf ball and also out the width of one golf ball. The reason for going back in the stance is to keep the flight low and you move the ball out to avoid coming into contact too steep and creating unwanted spin.
You then take a ¾ swing and watch the ball fly low under the wind without huge amounts of spin which would cause it to veer offline. Playing in the wind becomes much more manageable when you have the tools to adapt but as with winter chipping, if you do not adapt your game you will find these conditions very topugh.
This one might come a bit from left field! From the tip of your toes to the top of your neck, the full body is involved in the movement of the golf swing. On a Saturday morning in winter, you can be guaranteed that the temperature will be low and you may not have swung a golf club in a week or two. Try unleashing a full-blooded drive in these conditions and poor shot or injury is always a risk.
Many golfers may already participate in a yoga class and can see the benefits that this has around flexibility, fitness and breathing. Over the course of the coming months, I will be setting up a golf yoga class with specific attention given to the movements that relate to the golf swing and how they can help your game.
We mentioned previously the importance of having a plan around your game and this is equally important for your body. A golf yoga class will help improve your flexibility, which will translate onto the golf course. A free body can lead to a free golf swing and the removal of tight muscles and joints over a period of time, will not only will you swing better but your chance of injury can also be greatly reduced.
Not only will golf yoga help the body but it can also improve your game from the mental side.
Imagine the scene, you are standing on the 17th tee on captains day with 37 points already in the bag off the back tees. Suddenly the winning line is in sight. Standing over your tee shot you are writing your speech, imagining the pictures in the paper and the praise from your playing partners. All of a sudden, your drive is sliced out of bounds and your dreams have just come crashing to the ground! What just happened?
In this situation, your projection to the future has caused your breathing to speed up, your heart rate has increased and the connection between your mind and body has caused all the good work you had done to here to go out the window. Golf yoga will focus on breathing techniques in these situations as well as giving you the tools to stay in the moment. By building up a knowledge of how to calm the body and mind, your performance in these pressure situations will improve dramatically.
Nutrition and Fitness
Winter is a time when a few extra pounds can begin to appear on the weighing scales. This is not the end of the world and if you look at the like of Shane Lowry and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, it is clear that you don’t need to be an elite athlete to be a great golfer.
Having said this, there is no doubting that keeping an eye on your fitness over the winter months can help your golf game. One of the major issues that amateur golfers suffer from in an 18-hole round can be fatigue. By tiring out toward the end of the round both your mind and body suffer and of course this is reflected in your score.
Keep yourself active in the winter months. Depending on your level of fitness, this can range from taking a daily walk to participating in a fitness class. Many golfers get involved in running during the off season or cycling can also be a popular pastime. Whatever the activity, keeping your body active will reflect on the golf course.
The same can also be said for your diet. The food you eat on the week of an important competition can have a direct impact on your performance. The right type of food will keep you energised and sharp until the final putt on the 18th green. On the flip side, poor diet choices can leave you lethargic coming off the second tee.
As someone who has a keen interest in nutrition, I am happy to advice clients during winter months on what types of food will keep them trim in the off season and feeling fit for the start of the 2018 golfing calendar.