Winter is half over. Great! But I haven’t changed my swing yet

Dear Golf Coach Guy:

I hope you are wintering well.  Wow. It’s February already. We’re halfway to spring!

But … I heard a guy say on a golf podcast that if you’re going to improve your swing, you have to do it over winter—once spring comes it’s too late! I’m running out of time. And I have issues!

Should I go to a simulator place? All these simulator places have sprung up like Tim Horton’s. Call it a Covid silver lining.

Obviously, they’re not cheap. What’s your advice on going to these sim places to do my winter work? Or is it too late?

Fussed Fred

Dear Fusspot, er Fred

Gee, these podcasts cause trouble. Before it was just Golf Digest and Peter Kostis with his slow-motion camera thing that screwed people up, but now everyone and their dog has a podcast and you hear that Milli Vanilli got a bad rap, and you gotta change your swing by New Year’s Eve or you’re stuck with that push slice for another year.

Relax. You’re fine. That’s not a rule, or even a guideline.

Before Trackmans and Foresight, most folks parked their clubs behind the furnace at the end of October. A few diehards hit into nets or swung in their bedrooms—to the chagrin of light fixtures and drywall—and putted in the living room, but I don’t think they ‘worked’ on their swings.

Most everyone, including tour players, took the winter off, except for maybe a week or two south. It’s like they put their games on ice. In spring, they’d shake the rust off and their games would be fine.

Among them are the golfers you find at every course with weird swings that never change year to year; yes, the perennial contenders in your club events. They developed swings that work for them. Sure they mis-hit shots and they have to make adjustments here and there, but overall, they seem more content and they play better than the grinders who are always working on their games.

The best example is Bruce Lietzke, winner of 13 events on the PGA Tour.

Leaky, as he was known for his faithful fade, had an amazing attitude toward golf and life. I was fortunate to interview him in the 1990s, and thought, ‘Here’s a guy who has it figured out.’ He didn’t play for glory. He played golf so he could be around his family, coach his kids in baseball, refurbish muscle cars, and fish.

Lietzke had one shot. He swung slightly over the top and a hit a powerful fade that he could count on like the sun comes up every morning. He said, “I don’t want to be better. I want to be exactly like I was yesterday.”

He said he watched many players try to develop an A-game only to lose their games.

One of golf’s classic stories exemplifies Lietzke’s what-me-worry approach. At the end of the 1984 season in late October, he told his caddie Al Hansen to take everything out of his bag except his clubs because he wouldn’t need them until the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic three months away.

Hansen didn’t believe Lietzke, so he put a banana in the head cover of his driver. The clubs went into a travel bag which went into a corner of his garage in Texas.

At the Hope in January, Hansen unzipped the bag and nearly keeled over from the putrid aroma. The driver was ruined, and the legend of Leaky was sealed.

Sadly, Lietzke passed away in 2018 at age 67 from brain cancer. He also won seven times on the Champions Tour, including the U.S. Senior Open in 2003.

Back to your quandry: if you feel like whacking balls this winter into a screen that looks like a Palm Springs driving range, have fun! My only advice is: rather than work on a perfect swing, hit shots—low, high, hooks, slices, everything in between. Maybe you can’t hit them all, but it’s more fun and it’s great preparation for actual golf in spring.

If you want to dive into ball speed, smash factor, club path and so on, you can learn a lot, especially with a coach. But it’s easy to start chasing numbers, which poses a similar risk to chasing an A-game.

Have a great February, and may you think of Leaky Lietzke and smile the next time you pass the produce section at the grocery store.

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Tim O'Connor
Tim O'Connor is a golf coach, an award-winning writer, and speaker. Tim takes a holistic approach, coaching golfers in the physical and mental aspects of golf. He co-hosts the Swing Thoughts podcast, and is the author of The Feeling of Greatness: The Moe Norman Story. He plays bass in CID — a Guelph punk band!

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