The new year might be a couple of weeks away, but it's never too early to start solving your swing issues ahead of the new season. You don't want to regress—if you're in a cold-weather or just playing less golf over the next couple of months, make sure you're still putting in work to improve your game. We asked three top teachers—Jason Guss, Stan Utley and Brian Manzella—to give you a simple New Year's resolution you can work on no matter where you are.
Jason Guss: Smooth out your short putting
"There are lots of differences between tour players and 90 shooters, but only one of the differences has absolutely nothing to do with physical ability," says Guss, who runs his academies at Hawk Hollow and Warwick Hills in Michigan. "Anybody can get better at putting, and you can get better over the winter in less than ten minutes a day—which is probably more than you ever practice putting even during the season." Whether you have an astroturf practice green or a stretch of carpet and a fake hole, commit to hitting 15 three-footers a day, every day. "A tour player makes 99 percent of those, while a 90-shooter makes 84 percent," says Guss. "I want you to work on hitting the hole with 13 out of 15 of those putts. It'll get you improving your start direction—a skill that will improve all of your putting, not just the short ones."
Stan Utley: Get a handle on your tendencies
"If I asked you about your game, you'd probably be able to give me some general thoughts about the way you curve the ball or where your problem areas are," says Utley, a Golf Digest 50 Best Teacher based at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale. "But how is that information helping you figure out how to get better? I want you to commit to getting a much more complete picture of what your on-course tendencies are, so you can either account for them in your strategy or have a better idea of what you need to work on." An example? What are your "stats" really telling you? Maybe you're averaging 38 putts per round. But maybe you're also hitting lots of greens. "Are you taking a lot of putts because you're a bad putter, or is it because you have a lot of 30- and 40-footers?" says Utley "You might actually need to work on your putting, but know what and why instead of just sort of cruising along during the year practicing without a purpose."
Brian Manzella: Add some dynamic motion to your swing
"I don't want to hear 'bad weather' as an excuse for not getting some work in," says 50 Best Teacher Manzella, who is based at English Turn Golf & Country Club in New Orleans. "People make a resolution to get up and go to the gym, and they usually fail because they don't want to get in that car and go through the hassle. I've got something you can do right in your office or living room, and it takes five minutes." Grab a short club like a sand wedge, and spend five minutes making full swings back and through and back again, staying in motion and concentrating on making a full shift into the backswing and downswing. "Make the shift in each direction about a half a count ahead of when you swing the club in that direction," says Manzella. "And since swings don't happen in a vacuum, make sure you're also keeping in mind the things you're working on in your game. Doing it with 'dry swings' and no ball is just as good as taking real divots out at the range."