Summer starts today. While you're daydreaming about all the barbecues, beaches and birdies you'll be enjoying in the next few months, your local golf course superintendent is smiling for another reason.
This is prime rough-growing season for much of the country.
If you haven't experienced it already, it won't be long before advancing anything longer than an 8-iron from off the fairway becomes a real challenge. Superintendents love to see you take three hacks from deep grass before getting the ball out. It's payback for all the times they've heard complaints about that brown spot on the back of No. 3 green.
Knowing this, what you really need now is hand and arm strength. There is no other way to control a golf club.
Sam Snead used to say that your grip on a club should be no tighter than if you were holding a baby bird. But that's a classic "feel-vs.-real" statement. Trust me, no matter who is swinging the club, grip pressure when the club makes contact with the ball is roughly the same as holding on to the steering wheel in turn three at Talladega. And when you factor in the resistance dense grass can have on your swing, there is no substitute for really strong hands, arms and shoulders.
Do you have what it takes? Start with a simple test: Find a spot on your golf course, or in an empty field that has some thick grass. Grab a pitching wedge, drop a ball deep into the grass, and see if you can advance it at least 85 percent of your normal pitching-wedge distance. If the ball flight looks relatively normal and you hit the ball the minimum 85-percent distance, you've passed the test for minimum grip strength. But now comes the hard part. Do the same test but with a 6-iron. I'm guessing this is where most of you will come up short.
You need above-average grip strength, forearm strength and shoulder strength to get a medium-to-long iron through deep grass. But even if your golf course doesn't have thick rough, you still need to work on grip and shoulder strength to control the clubface in bunkers, off the tee, etc.
So while it's important to work on your core, leg and back muscles when you workout, spend a little time improving your grip strength and also work on your shoulders and forearms, too. To see me demonstrate an exercise that can really help you with those shots from deep rough--a bottoms up kettlebell press--click on the link below.
Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor for Golf Digest.
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(Photos by Charles Laberge)