How to (Quickly) Knock Off the Rust

It's about this time of year where cabin fever becomes hope-filled anxiousness because the end of winter is within sight. Many of us have been caught inside for about five months and we're ready to get out and play some golf. The problem is, most of us haven't really swung a golf club in that same amount of time.

If you're like me, the first few rounds of golf are largely spent trying to figure out how to play this game. Then, if I don't play often enough to get over these frustrations, I'm back to square one the very next time I play. Unless you're one of the lucky few who can "trunk-slam" their way to even par, it probably takes you some time to get started each year too.

In this first post, I'm going to share with you some simple tips for shortening that early-season learning curve. My hope is that you're playing to your ability before you make the first turn.

First, the biggest reason why we struggle to perform at a decent level early in the year is flexibility. The good news here is that, even though it might feel like you forgot how to swing, you probably didn't. You know exactly how to swing a golf club, but your body isn't physically able to do what your mind wants it to do. The answer is to stretch. Start stretching at least a week before you first play. Spend 10-15 minutes doing this every morning and night. Focus on your core rotation and shoulder movement the most. As you know, those are the two most important areas to keep flexible when playing golf.

The second tip, swing all of your clubs at about 80-85% intensity. This means that you may have to club up on some shots because you won't be hitting things as far as you were last fall. That's ok. Focus on making a good swing and solid contact. It's much easier to club up than try to hit your clubs as far as you were last year. Doing that is a good way to develop bad habits that will plague you throughout the rest of the golf season.

Finally, play a couple rounds without keeping score. We can easily get frustrated when we don't play well because our scores don't match our expectations. If you don't keep score, you can't get frustrated by the numbers you post. Now, just because we don't write down a score doesn't mean we're not keeping score...we can all count in our head! Fight the urge to do that.

Ultimately, the goal of an early season round of golf is not to qualify for the U.S. Open. Instead, the goal is to create positive habits. I think you'll see that good habits will lead to an entire season of good scores.