By Nick Heidelberger, New England PGA
Champions are made in the offseason. For decades, some version of the mantra has etched itself onto the walls of gyms around the world. The idea that the outcome of the next game, match, or season can and will be determined before it even begins fuels athletes to build an edge to carry to the next starting line.
Now more than ever, that mantra applies to golf. These days, no golfer is ever far from an indoor hitting room where year-round golf is available. Whether it’s a standalone facility, permanent part of an existing golf facility, or a converted pro shop or grill room at a nearby course, you can take your game indoors this offseason, and start playing your best golf in 2021.
Brian Diamond, PGA, teaches at the Willowcreek Academy at Atkinson Resort in Atkinson, New Hampshire, where students take advantage of the year-round golf offerings to improve throughout the offseason.
“We are fortunate to have a facility where our students can practice and work on their games year round,” Diamond said. “The winter provides for opportunities to focus on a lot of different aspects of the game and swing. Depending on the level of each individual student, winter can be a time to address basic fundamentals and a perfect time of the year to potentially introduce and develop new swing mechanics.”
The Willowcreek Academy offers a covered, lit and heated outdoor driving range to eliminate the elements during a cold, dark and snowy New Hampshire winter. The indoor practice facility features a garage door style opening to give students the option to hit into a net, or open the door and watch their ball fly onto an often snow-covered driving range. The facility is complete with Trackman launch monitor technology, allowing Brian’s students to gawk at their numbers as they improve throughout winter. The radar technology captures 27 different measurements per swing, but most students focus on a key few, including the fan favorite, Smash Factor.
“TrackMan is a phenomenal technology for golfers of all skill levels to understand why their ball is doing what it is doing relative to their swing,” Diamond said. “Most of my students come in not knowing why their ball is curving one way or the other or why they struggle with other ball-striking issues. Educating them on ball flight and having them see their ball flight and understand the differences between their good and bad shots is huge in increasing their personal golf IQ. Once we know which swing characteristics provide the most desirable results, we can train to make these characteristics more consistent throughout the offseason and into the golf season.”
The Willowcreek Academy is not just a place for avid golfers to tune up over the winter and stay sharp throughout the summer. It also serves to grow the game, welcoming new or returning golfers, and a robust junior golf program. Junior camps, clinics and private lessons attract 50-100 junior golfers ages 5-18 each year. The junior program put its success on display to a national audience recently, when Atkinson’s PGA Junior League team was one of eight nationally to advance to the National Championship in Scottsdale, Arizona in 2017.
Of course, honing your swing is just one dimension of your off-season improvement plan. Golf fitness should be part of the equation as well. TB12 has curated a golf-specific program for all players, from those looking for more flexibility to increase their swing speed and driving distance, to those just looking to play 18 holes pain-free. The eight-week program, offered at both the TB12 Boston and Foxboro locations, emphasises hip and spine mobility, balance and core stability, rotational power, and conditioning.
“We take them through a movement screen and we’re really going to look at any postural and movement dysfunctions that they might have,” said Matt Leeds, TB12 Body Coach of the golf program. “Over the course of eight weeks we’re going to improve their mobility and we’re going to improve their stability so when they go back and work with their golf pro they’re able to move better, and they’re not only feeling better but they’re going to perform better.”
With a long offseason for golfers in the Northeast setting in, some golfers may pack the clubs away for months, as they always do, and put their golf game on the back burner until April. Others, however, will seize the opportunity to become the best golfer they can be. The difference will be clear at the starting line of the 2021 golf season.