The snow is finally (hopefully) gone, the ground is starting to thaw out, and temperatures are starting to creep above the mid-40s.
While ~15 years ago this would’ve signaled the first chance I’d get to toss a baseball outside, it now represents the beginning of golf season here in the Northeast. And while you should’ve been doing something in the off-season to stay fresh, such as working out, hitting the simulator, or seeing a coach, there really isn’t much that can replicate how excited you are when you book that first round to kick-off your 2018 golf season.
But before you go all-in and start making tee times, here are a few things I’d suggest as a final pre-first round “check up.”
1. Clean Out Your Golf Bag
There’s a good chance that you’ve got golf ball boxes, random scorecards, a moldy windbreaker, and maybe even some rancid food sitting in your golf bag. Clean that shit out.
It’s gross, and there’s no reason to be carrying that around another year. In addition to doing some much needed spring cleaning, this will also allow you to take an inventory on what you do and don’t have.
Getting to the first tee and finding out that you have only 2 spare balls, 3 tees, and a glove with a huge tear in the palm will be a buzzkill. Furthermore, this is particularly important for anyone who, like myself, chooses to use non-mainstream brands like Vice Golf, OnCore, Cut Golf, and Asher Golf, which all require that you place an order more than an hour in advance of that next round.
While you’re at it, you should probably take the opportunity to clean your bag towels that haven’t been washed since last year and give your clubs a quick scrub with a soft bristle brush before you get out there. I’d highly recommend anyone using anything more abrasive (e.g., a wire bristle) to quickly get rid of it because it’s likely doing more damage—premature groove wear—than good.
2. Rent a Trackman/Foresight Simulator
Renting a Trackman or Foresight simulator will provide you with the best, most accurate information concerning your carry distance, total distance, average distance, accuracy, distance offline, spin rates, etc. This is particularly important if you’ve spent the off-season working with a coach or working on your fitness. But regardless of skill level, this is the kind of information that can help every golfer pick apart a course and develop a strategy. Just ask DJ:
Taking the time to do this can save you a few strokes, and even help you avoid losing a few balls. For example, if you know that your driver normally carries 265 and has a tendency to fade, you’ll be conscious of the fact that you should favor the left side of a fairway when the right side is lined with bunkers or a water hazard about 250 yards from the tee box.
Likewise, if you’re 105 yards out from the fairway and need to hit over a water hazard to a green surrounded by bunkers, you’ll know that even though you can hit a 56* wedge that far, you’re much more accurate taking a 75% swing with a 52* wedge.
3. Get Your Lofts & Lie Angles Checked
If you want to go one step further than confirming your distances on a Trackman/Foresight, I’d highly recommend going to a fitter and having your lofts and lie angles checked out.
Unlike grass, simulator or driving range mats don’t have a lot of give and, as a result, can alter your club’s lofts and lie angles. This is particularly an issue if you’re playing with forged clubs, which tend to be more susceptible to being thrown off-spec. And while this might sound like nitpicking, it might turn out to be the explanation behind why you’re constantly slicing your 4 iron or why your 9 iron and pitching wedge are basically carrying the same distance.
If you want to go the extra mile, this is also a great opportunity to get a gap analysis. For anyone unfamiliar with this process, a fitter will have you hit every club in your bag, from your driver to your most lofted wedge. From there, you’ll evaluate your average distance for each club and, more importantly, your distance gaping between each club.
Usually, a gap analysis is priced much less than a full bag fitting and, with the fitter’s help, you might be able to identify some shortcomings in your game. For example, maybe you’d be better off ditching the 4 iron and swapping in a fairway wood or hybrid or perhaps you’d benefit from having your wedges bent from 56º and 60º wedges to 54º and 58º.
Moral of the story, these are the kinds of changes you want to make before the season starts instead of finding out in July that you’ve been wasting a spot in your bag with that 3 iron you never hit.
4. New Grips
The Golf Podcast already discussed in Episode 189 and in this article how important it is to replace your grips. At the end of the day, your only connection with the club is through your hands. And there’s a good chance that most of us haven’t replaced our grips ever.
Ironically, grips aren’t really that expensive (~$6 for Golf Pride Tour Velvets, ~$7 for Lamkin UTx’s or Winn DriTac’s), but they’re always overlooked. Do yourself a favor and take the time to swing by your local golf store and checkout all the different grip options just to see if you’re missing out on something.
Maybe you’d like to switch from cord to non-cord, something with more padding or grip in adverse conditions, or even just something different, like the Golf Pride Aligns or Lamkin Z5s. And if you happen to just be a more eccentric person, maybe it’s time to finally swap over those boring black grips to a neon orange (in this case, check out No1 Grips).
The same goes for putters, too. Lots of people rave about the SuperStroke grips, but even they have lots of different versions and weight options. For the ultimate customization, check out the CounterCore counterbalanced putter grips.
Cover Image via Flickr
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