Don’t dread indoor winter practice. It’s the perfect time to make swing changes
For those of us who can’t play golf year-round, winter can be rough. If snow isn’t on the ground, the course is frozen and unplayable. The distraction of the holidays is over and we’re left putting on carpets and hitting balls into nets in our garages until the sweet sound of the Masters theme song signals the return of spring and getting to play golf on actual courses.
If you’re feeling stale hitting balls indoors, it’s time to reframe your thinking. Hitting balls into a net is the perfect time to make real swing changes, and get in some of the best practice of your year. Jason Guss, Director of Performance at the Jason Guss Golf Academy in Michigan, is here to explain.
“If you take lessons with me in the summer versus the winter, you kind of get two different teachers,” Guss told Golf Digest. “In the winter, I’m more apt to break things down, make you feel funny, get some real technical changes in. Whereas in the summer, I’m more likely to make small changes that will make your ball flight a little better without you feeling so awkward. I do big changes in the winter because you don’t have to play golf. Players are more likely to stick with the changes for two or three months. In the summer, if they go hit it bad on or two days in a row they’re more apt to say, 'I’m not doing this.'”
If you’ve ever made a big swing change, you know your ability to hit it decently gets worse before it gets better. When you hit it all over the place on the golf course, it becomes easy to ditch the swing change and go back to what you’re comfortable with. Struggling hitting into a net, however, doesn’t mess with your head the same way. It’s easier to swallow a big block compared to when you have to see it fly crooked on the range, or have to actually go find it on-course and play from under another tree.
“The winter is the perfect time to cut yourself some slack on hitting great shots,” Guss says. “If you're truly trying to make a change and get better, don’t worry about the result right now. It doesn’t matter, the ball’s only going five feet.”
Guss also says it can be easier to have more focused practice sessions while you’re hitting indoors. He recommends choosing one or two things you want to work on and set up your phone so you can take swing videos. He says two good things to work on indoors are center contact and hitting it with a square face.
Guss recommends getting clubface spray or tape so you can see where you’re hitting it on the face. To tell if you’re hitting it shut or open, Guss says to hang a ribbon or rope in the center of the net, aim at it and watch where your ball hits the net relative to that ribbon. If you’re hitting to the right of the ribbon, your clubface is open. If you’re hitting left of it, your clubface is closed.
When you’re working on something like this in the net and watching your swing videos in between shots, you’re getting more focused work in than you would otherwise.
“One of the massive benefits is, if you hit 20 balls into the net but you film every swing, and looking at your centeredness of contact, you’re getting five times the quality out of that practice session than you would on a range,” Guss said. “On the range, people tend to hit a ball, drag another one in and hit again without really processing each swing. If you look at tour pros when they practice, they’re doing their drills, they’re taking practice swings, they’re looking at their numbers, then they hit another one. Your practice session in the net can be a better session because you’re spending more time processing each swing.”