How To Shake Off the Winter Rust

It’s the 2nd week of February, and depending on where you live you have already endured a long winter. If you live in a cold weather climate, you likely haven’t hit the links since the end of October. Since we already deal with a shortened golf season, there is nothing worse than starting slow and hacking your way through March (if you’re lucky) and April. Aside from traveling to a warmer destination during the winter months or grinding out range sessions in a golf dome or heated range, going into a new season with plenty of rust is something you have to deal with.

Unless your name is Eldrick or you truly are a natural, you will likely start slow once the snow melts. Very few people hit the first tee in April in mid-season form. Hopefully I can provide you with some tips or suggestions to make your first few rounds of the season a little less painful, both physically and financially.

STRETCH OUT BEFORE YOU TEE IT UP. You should be doing this before every round you play anyway, but even more so when your body is not used to the rigors of a golf swing. You really should set aside some time to hit all of the major muscle groups, but if you’re running to the first tee, a quick stretch could still help. If you are short on time, make sure to loosen up your lower back, shoulders, and torso while waiting to tee off. All three of these stretches will increase your flexibility and increase the range of your rotation.

KEEP IT SIMPLE AND CUT DOWN YOUR SWING. When you aren’t locked into a routine like you are in June or July it is more likely for backswing errors to lead to errant shots. The first few weeks of the season are a good time to feel your way back and keep it simple. The golf swing is all about timing and rhythm. Unfortunately, these are usually the last things to come back to you once you get back out and playing consistently. The longer your swing is, the more it will rely on timing and rhythm. And obviously, the further you take the club back makes it that much likely for an error. Take the club back, and turn your left shoulder until it is over the ball, and then let it go. This will provide you with plenty of power to get the ball out there. At least for now, if the club gets parallel at the top of your swing, you’ve gone too far.

DON’T THINK, JUST HIT IT. Over a long winter, you can’t fault anyone for thinking about swing changes and something new they want to do with their game in the new season. But, save those thoughts for the driving range. Bringing multiple swing thoughts to the tee box, especially early on, is a bad idea. I know from experience. You think about everything other than actually hitting the ball. This usually results in non-committed or “weak” swings that result in you trying to steer the ball as opposed to striking it. SO GRIP IT AND RIP IT and bring on the new season!

2 Responses to “How To Shake Off the Winter Rust”

  1. Thanks Andy, 7/04/2009
    Your shoulder turn tip will help Me I’m sure.

    Thanks again,

    Jerry (Wisconsin)
    PS-I’m enjoying The Game like never before,Thanks to You.

  2. Dee says:

    Don’t Have a reply as such but a question.

    Lift clean and drop, and placing. L/C/D is self explanatory, so should be placing. When one places a ball I assume it is with one’s hand, is it okay to clean it as well? Is there a penalty for ‘placing’ the ball with one’s club? I thought there was however, some of the men I play with on a Sunday when placing is permitted invariably do not mark the ball, lift it clean it and place it in a preferred lie, sometimes they just move it into a preferred lie with their club. When I have questioned this I have been told that as they are not addressing the ball there is no penalty.

    Can you clarify this for me please?

    Thanks and regards,


    Barry’s Reply:

    If I understand your question correctly you are referring to circumstances where there there is a Local Rule in force permitting preferred lies. In these circumstances it depends on the wording of the Local Rule. If the Committee has adopted the specimen in Appendix l of the Rules book, the following words are included, “…Before lifting the ball, the player must mark its position. Having lifted the ball, he must place it on a spot….”, then moving the ball with a club would obviously incur a one stroke penalty. Unfortunately, many courses/clubs do not specify the Local Rule and just use words such as ‘placing on fairways’, ‘preferred lies’ or ‘winter rules’, which is not at all helpful. In these cases a player cannot be penalised for not marking their ball and moving it with their club. However, this practice should be discouraged under any circumstances.

    Rule 21 states that when a player marks and lifts his ball under the Rules he may always clean it unless it has been lifted for one of the following reasons; “a. To determine if it is unfit for play (Rule 5-3); b. For identification (Rule 12-2), in which case it may be cleaned only to the extent necessary for identification; or c. Because it is assisting or interfering with play (Rule 22).”

    By saying that they cannot be penalised because they have not addressed their ball your fellow competitors are completely misunderstanding and mixing-up different Rule situations. You can refer them to Rule 18-2 which says that if a player causes their ball in play to move they incur a one stroke penalty.


    Barry Rhodes

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