Winter is still here, with icy ground covering much of the nation. And chances are, your short game has turned to slush since the autumn. For those of you lucky enough to live in golf-friendly year-round climes, go easy on the gloating. The rest of you? Don't let Old Man Winter get you down. There are plenty of ways to keep your short game sharp until the snow thaws.
For starters, you may live closer to an indoor practice facility than you realize. These sheltered havens are popping up all over, and I'm a big fan—so much so that I helped design one at Blessings G.C. in Fayetteville, Ark., home of the University of Arkansas men's and women's golf teams. It's one of my proudest achievements.
Basically, it's a massive, climate-controlled, perfectly lit short-game paradise. The greens accept shots like real grass greens do (our SynLawn synthetic turf features a patented shot-stopping underlayer; balls bite and stop when they have ample backspin and roll out when they don't). There are tight, plush fairway lies, which provide realistic ball-clubface contact, and the greens feature the contours, slopes and elevation changes found at championship courses.
I've been making the trip to Blessings more and more recently. There are things you can do indoors that you can't do outside.
First, we've made sure to re-create all the short-game lies you face during the course of normal play: uphill, downhill, sidehill, and lags up to 80 feet.
Second, you can dial in and work on your sense of feel, which is sometimes more important than actual technique. When I'm alone at the facility, I turn off all the lights except for the spots directly above my lie and my target (photo, bottom right). Why? This minimizes the visual information flowing to my brain, letting me concentrate on the feel of a given shot while it's airborne; the darkness cloaks the ball until it lands. It's a great learning experience and a lot of fun.
So now you know what I've been doing all winter. Between-season improvement is possible. Indoor practice, however, isn't only for cold-weather months. Over the next several issues, I'll show you more of what the Blessings practice facility offers, and how you can build a world-class short game without ever hitting a traditional range.