Living in the Phoenix area, I have the luxury of playing golf year-round. I realize many of you don't have 12-month access to a course, but there are some things you can do in the offseason that can be helpful to avoid a slow start next season. One thing that can deteriorate fairly quickly is your driver swing to improve accuracy. To prevent that from happening this winter, consider doing these things that I work on with my coach, Mike LaBauve.
1.) If you can find a range with heated stalls or have access to a simulator, experiment with different swing speeds until you find the one that lets you hit it your best. There's this misconception that you have to swing a driver all-out. Not true. I rarely swing as fast as I can. My tempo is smooth, but the ball is still getting out there around 250 yards—and it's landing in the fairway. That's the real key. Hit 10 balls at half speed, 10 balls at a slightly faster pace, 10 balls even faster, and finally 10 as fast as you can. Notice which swing speed produces the best blend of distance and accuracy. Once you identify the right speed for you, practice at that pace—even when making air swings in your garage—to groove it.
2.) It's time to—finally—come up with a pre-shot routine. This helps maintain consistency in your tee game, making sure things such as ball position and body alignment never vary. Try different choreography and see what you feel the most comfortable doing, such as walking in from behind the ball, waggling, making rehearsal swings, etc. You can even figure all this out in your living room. The point is, once you have a routine that you like, always follow it to reinforce consistency.
3.) Create fairways in your head. What I mean is that when you're practicing on the range, or even messing with your driver in the back yard, don't just swing. Picture a fairway and how you would play it. Then try to make a swing that matches your goal. Don't forget to use your newfound swing speed.
4.) Whether it's fear, bad mechanics or a lack of physical ability, most amateurs I see don't turn their bodies in the backswing as much as they should. I don't expect you to turn back as much as I'm doing here, but even a 10-percent increase is going to pay off next season. And now's the time to get used to that move. To improve your turn, put your arms across your chest and stand in front of a mirror. Pivot your body like you're making a backswing, and look in the mirror to see where your lead shoulder is when you've completed the turn. Now make another pretend backswing, and see if you can turn that shoulder farther. Keep working on increasing the distance that shoulder moves back, and you'll improve your mobility and be prepared to make a better swing by the Masters.
5.) Now's the time to do a grip check to see if you need to adjust. If you wait and try changing your grip during the spring, you'll be ready to quit the game by the Fourth of July. Things to check: Are you holding the club mostly in the fingers of your left hand (for righties) instead of letting the grip rest more in the palm? Are you holding the club without any tension? Are your hands in complementary positions? Is your grip strong enough, meaning is your left hand turned clockwise on the club's handle enough so you can see the back of your glove? Most of the amateurs I see, like eight out of 10, have their hands in a weak position on the handle. If you answered no to any of those questions, consider adjusting your grip now, so you can enjoy the benefits when you're back playing.
Cheyenne Woods ranked 20th on the LPGA Tour in 2017 in driving accuracy, hitting 78.7 percent of fairways.