Are you finally getting back into golf after a long break?
Maybe you had a child, made it through a snowy winter or had a long break after injury. Anytime you return to golf from an extended break, you are probably feeling two things -- excitement and anxiety. Both emotions are justified as the game never seems to get easier.
When you take a long break from golf there are no guarantees to what your game will be like upon return. Before your break, you might have been playing great and think it will be the same as before. Or, you might have been struggling with your game and think a long break might have made it worse.
Either way, playing golf after a long break doesn’t have to be intimidating or scary.
Golf is still a game and should be a fun experience, no matter the result. Here are some tips for playing golf after a long break to ensure you have fun and play your best.
Preparation Starts at Home
When you’re returning to golf after a layoff you can actually start the process by preparing at home.
When most people think of golf they only think of the swing, short game, chipping, and putting. But in reality, your golf score is not nearly as dependent on your swing as it is your mind. As Bobby Jones said, “Golf is a game that is played on a five-inch course -- the distance between your ears.”
Your mental game and attitude have the ability to change your game more than new swing tip in Golf Digest. Put down the golf tips magazines and start reading about the mental side of the game during your break from golf.
Think about it, all the guys on the PGA tour hit it far, flush irons, and make putts. The winners though are the ones who persevere physically and mentally during the week.
The winners are mentally strong so they don’t crumble on Sunday afternoon. The same goes for your game after taking a long break from golf.
Instead of reading another golf magazine that promises six ways to stop your slice, pick up a golf book on the mental side of the game. Some of the best I’ve read have been from world-renowned, sports psychologist Dr. Bob Rotella:
If you’re not a big reader even watching golf can help your game after taking a long break.
What You Can Learn from Watching Golf
Understand Pre-Shot Routine
Your pre-shot routine is your best friend on the course. A good pre-shot routine can help calm your nerves and hit better shots under pressure. The problem is that most players don’t have a pre-shot routine.
The next time you watch the best players in the world you will notice how consistent they are with their routine. Watch them and think about your pre-shot routine. Figure out how you can take their routine and implement into yours when you return to golf.
Learn to Manage Emotions
Golf is hard, just ask the reigning Masters champ, Sergio Garcia, who made a 13 at the Masters this year. Yet, he didn’t show an ounce of anger and aggression, which is the typical Sergio response. Yes, sometimes he and other players do get upset with a shot. It could be a casual club toss or a few choice words. But what separates them from average players is the ability to bounce back after a bad shot.
If you dwell on a bad shot you’re only hurting your chances on the next shot. You are cursing the rest of your round. Watch how the majority of PGA tour players manage their emotions. Whether it’s an eagle or a double bogey you often can’t tell the difference. The more even keel you can become the lower your scores will be.
Practice Your Swing Indoors
Another reason PGA Tour players are so consistent is because they have learned to trust their swing. Rarely, do you see elite players thinking about the mechanics during a tournament. They have learned to train their swing so they can trust it. Build trust in your swing by practicing sound mechanics on your off time with these easy drill.
1) Perfect Your Grip
As Ben Hogan said, “Good golf begins with a good grip.” While watching golf, have a club near you to constantly work on perfecting your grip. When you see a player hit a specific shot, try to match the grip pressure they have for the specific shot.
For example, if a player is short-sided from the bunker imagine having an ultra-light grip on the club. If a player has a lie in the deep rough imagine gripping the club much firmer to not have the hossle close and shut the face at impact.
We have a great primer on the grip if you want to refresh the fundamentals.
2) Practice Addressing the Golf Ball
While it’s easy to assume your swing is the reason the ball didn’t do what you want, often times it’s your alignment. Your setup determines the outcome of the shot much more than people realize.
With the perfect grip, imagine addressing the ball so it won’t feel foreign when you get back to golf. Start by placing the club head square to your target, then shoulders, then hips, and finally feet. Do so in that order as well.
3) Rehearse Two Important Swing Positions
The first position to focus on is your takeaway. (Your next read should be our article about the Takeaway.)
Your swing path is often determined by the first part of the swing. After working on your grip and stance, imagine taking the club back on plane. Try to get to the perfect spot and hold the position for 5-10 seconds. Do this 5-10x to ingrain the feeling.
Take a few slow motion practice swings and also rehearse the impact position. Your hands should be ahead of the golf ball and compressing it for maximum power. Imagine swinging through the ball with perfect speed and precision. And of course, sticking the finish.
How To Get Your Golf Game Back After a Break
After a long break from golf, a few things will happen when you return to the course:
How To Get Your Short Game Back After a Break
The Basic Chip Shot
While every player wants to hit the epic flop shots like Phil Mickelson you might need the shot once per round. Instead of practicing something that doesn’t happen often, spend your time working on the basic chip shot.
The most consistent and easy to hit shot is a basic, standard chip shot. If you can land a ball 3-4 paces on the green and let it roll out to the hole your scores will instantly improve.
Use several clubs, maybe a P-Wedge and an 8 iron, and see how both react to the greens. Try to get as many as you can inside a three-foot circle.
Stop Fearing the Sand
Amateurs fear the sand and pros love the chance to pounce on a good lie in the bunker. Why do pros and amateurs feel so different? The majority of players are scared of the sand because they never practice it! Get over your fear of the sand by spending time in it.
In a great video by Phil Mickelson, he talks about how the average bunker shot is 10 yards. Spend your time on this distance with this drill.
With your sand wedge practice with 10 balls and see how many you can get within 10 feet. Then, try to beat yourself until you get 6 out of 10 balls. If this is too easy, try to get the balls within a five-foot circle.
Okay, don't fear. Your not going to catch a case of the "shanks" just by reading the word. However, you need to know that it is not uncommon to shank a few little wedge shots when you first come back. It almost happens to me every time after a break. Don't lose your cool, just step away, do something else for a few minutes and it will usually go away on its own. If not, better head over to our article on curing the shanks.
How To Get Your Golf Swing Back After a Break
Once you’ve worked on your short game, now you can head to the range. If it’s been a long break from golf ease your way into it, there is no need to be a hero on the first day. Start by grabbing a small bucket and work on hitting quality shots instead of rifling through an extra large bucket. You may want a refresher on the most efficient way to practice golf.
Begin your warm up by stretching and taking controlled practice swings. Getting back into golf will use some muscle you probably haven’t used in a while. Your number one thought should be getting loose, not crushing the ball. Begin your range session with wedges and slowly work your way up to the driver.
Assuming you've worked on the at-home drills for your swing, spend time working on these two checkpoints at the range when getting back to golf after a long break:
Get Square at the Target
Whether you are a 30 handicap or professional, alignment sticks are crucial in making sure you are aimed at your intended target. If your aim is off it’s hard to tell if it’s your swing or alignment that makes the ball go off course. Use alignment sticks, or clubs, to ensure your feet, hips, and shoulders are square at the target.
Focus on Smooth Tempo
When getting back to golf after a long break your tempo will take time to adjust. Focus on taking the club back smooth, setting the club at the top of the swing, and accelerating through the golf ball.
Focus on swinging smooth, having a good tempo, and being okay with any results. Remember, when you are getting back into golf it takes time. Have fun and enjoy being back out on the course. The fewer expectations the more fun you will have getting back into golf.
Getting Back to Golf: Your First Round Back
The day has finally arrived, it’s time to return to the links!
While it is exciting to return after a long break, it might be a little nerve-racking as well. Your mind will go crazy thinking what if I hit a bad first tee shot, what will my buddies think, and tons of other thoughts. Quiet your mind with these golf tips after a long break.
If you haven’t played for an extended period of time you need to get to the course early -- don’t be rushed! There is nothing worse than parking, checking in, and having to tee off cold after a long break. Aim to get there an hour early to give yourself plenty of time to check in, warm-up, and calm yourself for the opening tee shot.
Focus on the Short Game
Again, the first part of the game to leave you after a long break is your short game. Start your warm-up session by going to the putting green and getting a feel for the greens. Focus on holing at least 20 short putts to build your confidence from the start. Work your way to longer putts by putting 30-50 footers. See how close you can get three or four balls from longer distances.
After putting hit some basic chips and pitches around the green. If they have a bunker spend some time on those shots as well. Get a feel for the type of sand in case you end up in a bunker early in the round.
Warm Up on the Range
Once you’ve worked on your short game it’s time to head to the range. Make sure you adequately stretch and start with some short wedges with 50% swing speed. Warm up to more full wedges, irons, woods, and driver. Have your final shot be the club you will use on the first tee to give yourself confidence.
Most Important.... Have Fun
Hopefully, you found these tips for returning to golf easy to apply to your game.
Spend time on your short game, focus on swinging smooth, and enjoy being back out there. Getting back into golf is all about having fun!
Try not have any expectations for your first few rounds after a long break from golf. Remember, the game is hard even for guys who play every single day. Don’t expect yourself to go out on the first round and shoot a career round.
Focus on having fun and enjoy being back on the course. You never know, with a relaxed attitude you might just hit some of your best shots yet.