You might still be digesting (and detoxing) from your holiday celebrations, but while they were off your TV screens, tour players spent those weeks grinding away. After all, the stretch between the last "fall series" event, the RSM Classic in late November, and the next regular field event in Hawaii this week is the only off-season players get. Which means if a player wants to make a change—either to his technique or his gear—this is the window.
Some of the stuff they do, like Bryson DeChambeau working on his body, is pretty obvious. But you might be surprised by some of what makes up an off-season day.
Golf Digest 50 Best Teacher Tony Ruggiero works with Lucas Glover, Robby Shelton and reigning U.S. Amateur champion Andy Ogletree, among others. He shared some insider information on the processes those players used over the last six weeks to prepare for Hawaii and beyond.
1. Recovery is the most important element.
"The way the schedule runs now with the wraparound and all the world travel, players are run down by the end of November," says Ruggiero. "It's a lot of golf and a lot of stress. My advice is always to take the beginning of the break and do nothing—or do the stuff that lets you recharge, like go out on the boat or go off into the woods."
It's not carte blanche to stop working out and get sloppy, Ruggiero says, but getting the mental batteries recharged and the general aches and pains calmed down is job one. "It's especially important for veterans and guys with families, because they've basically been away for the whole year," he says. "You might think of these players as just golfers, and how hard could it be? But let me take you out on the road for three or four weeks in a row, and then you can get back to me on how easy it is on your body, your mind and your diet."
2. Get back to the (very) few basics.
"After a long season, it's tempting to dive into all the stats and go crazy trying to figure out exactly how to build up your weaknesses for the next season," says Ruggiero, who is based at Frederica Golf Club on St. Simons Island, Ga and the Country Club of Mobile (Ala.). "I definitely go over the stats, but it's my job to help focus what we do first on the one or two 'constants' that most influence them seeing the shots they want to see."
It might be posture, ball position, aim or a basic swing fundamental—"stuff the average guy tends to blow off as being boring," says Ruggiero with a laugh.
Once you've made sure the fundamentals are back to your peak season form, then it's the time to build upon the foundation, Ruggiero says.
3. Find the next challenge.
"It will not surprise you to hear that tour players are some of the most competitive people you'll ever meet," says Ruggiero. "They're wired to compete. What they're not always wired for is absorbing a bunch of information. It obviously depends on the player, but in general, I err on the side of less vs. more, and I go for creating specific challenges that correlate the strongest to making more money instead."
One current example for one of Ruggiero's players? Up-and-down percentage.
"But instead of grinding away on a laundry list of technical improvements to pitching and chipping, we came up with a simple set of games we play where he has to pay me if he doesn't reach a certain percentage during a practice session. The downside is that I have to go in my pocket if he gets to the goal. I'm just hoping to make it back when that next big tournament check clears!"