Ask the Top 100: How can I practice in the winter?

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Dear T.J.,

I live in the Midwest and
winter is coming. What is the best way to keep my game on track when I can’t play
or practice due to bad weather? Putting is not a problem, but a vacation is out
of the question and I don’t know any indoor ranges in the area.

Steven, Jacksonville, Ill.

Dear Wintertime Blues,

I'm not crazy about hitting
indoors off mats unless you have a teacher with you or your own video camera. Unless
you have a high-quality mat you can hurt your hands or your back--too many bad vibes.
Also, the face of the club tends to bounce off the mat when you hit it fat so
it skids into the ball, resulting in a decent feel. The worst thing in practice is to get
good feedback from a bad shot

. Most importantly, without feedback
from your ball flight, you can groove an error into your swing without realizing it, and getting rid of that
error may take months of your already short summer.

Here’s my advice: Use a full-length
mirror and some sequenced photographs of a Tour player who has the same build
as you do. For me, that's Camilo Villegas. Study the photos and pose at each
step, matching everything you can see (hands, feet, elbows, shoulders).
Then make slow-motion swings and stop at each position to make sure you match
the photos. It helps to alternate doing this with your eyes shut. Then make normal
swings with a weighted club.

Brain research explains why this
works. If you fully imagine doing something--and by "fully" I mean using all your senses (see, hear, feel)--your central nervous system can’t tell the difference
between a real experience and a perfectly imagined one. Brain scans show that
when you perfectly imagine doing something like swinging a golf club, you use 95
percent of the neuro-pathways you'd use if you were actually hitting a ball.

Practice all winter like this and
you will have "been there, done that" without really being there or
doing that.

Gratuitous plug alert! Order my
book The 30 Second Swing for a more detailed explanation of how
this method works and how it can fix your swing.

Dear T.J.,

I have difficulty in making a smooth transition from the
top of my backswing to impact. My positions at address and at the top are
pretty solid: square to the target and balanced with about 60 percent of my
weight on my right side. But in my transition I am coming over the top and moving
my head in front of the ball at impact. My hands at impact are much farther
from my body than at address. The result of my faulty swing is often a duck
hook  -- I rarely slice which is the usual result of an over-the-top move. I have
taken several lessons and tried various swing keys, but nothing has helped. Any
suggestions?
Ken L.
Brookline, Mass.

Dear Ken,

Thanks for a very well-written query.
Although there are many varieties, most over-the-toppers think the club should
start down to the ball when actually it must move away from the target. This is what makes golf so counterintuitive --
to hit to the target you must swing away from the target -- not down and not
around, but away. The Down and Around come as a result of the Away.

With this concept in mind, wrap up
a towel and lay it down parallel to the target line [see photo below]. After you've hit
a few shots, try to hit some with your eyes closed, feeling the
clubhead moving away from the target until it naturally makes its way back to
the target line. The towel will tell you if the clubhead swings along the
target line as it should.
Start with the towel about two inches from the ball then gradually move it closer. I'm swinging with my eyes closed in this picture, but I
don't have to worry about hitting anyone -- I have really good insurance. Tj_towel Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher T.J. Tomasi, Ph.D., a Class A PGA
professional, teaches at the Nantucket Golf Club in Massachusetts. You
can learn more about TJ at www.tjtomasi.com

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