Clubmaker’s Classroom – Take Advantage Of The “Off-Season”

Off-season club maintenance is important
Off-season club maintenance is important
Off-season club maintenance is important

by Don Irving, Artisan Golf, 2015 ICG Clubmaker of The Year

Well another season is behind us and the long dark winter awaits. For some they are able to head south, but for most they must wait for warmer weather to return or at best head to an indoor facility to prevent the rust from forming.

There is a certain sadness about the end of the season, but at the same time, for me, there is a silver lining. It is the time of year for reflection and maintenance. Without the playing pressures to contend with, it is a great opportunity to look back on the year and do a bit of an analysis on my game and my equipment.

From a playing perspective, I take this time to think about what I feel I did well and what I did not do well. Then I can make the adjustments necessary to improve my game. For example, if you examine your game and you determine that for the most part you struggled with your driver, now is the time to exhale and figure out why. There are really only two reasons to struggle with a driver. One is bad swing dynamics, the other is an ill-fitting piece of equipment. You may need to go to your favorite swing coach and have him examine your swing to determine if there are any glaring errors in how you swing the club. Perhaps your swing path is too out-to-in or you are casting too much, or you are leaving the face of your club too open at impact.  Whatever the issues with your swing, now is a good time to identify them and to work on them in winter school or be ready to work on them in the spring.

The other half of the equation is your equipment. Again, using the driver as an example, perhaps the driver is not the best fit for your swing. It could be that you do not have enough loft, or the face angle of the driver is not closed enough. It could be something as simple as your driver being too long and you simply are not able to square the clubface.

Think about all the clubs in your bag and think about the ones that may be giving you some trouble.  Perhaps that 3 wood that misbehaved throughout the year could be replaced by a hybrid for more consistency. Perhaps you need an extra wedge to improve your short game and your score. Whatever your equipment issues are this is a great time to spend some time thinking about your set of clubs.

This is also a great time to do a little maintenance on your clubs. I must confess that I am a bit lax when it comes to cleaning my clubs on a regular basis. I will often be playing, pull out an iron and realize how dirty the face is. A dirty club face is like having a club with no grooves, so spinning the ball is very difficult. It is about the same thing as hitting a flyer, where controlling the distance is next to impossible. With the season behind us, there is lots of time to take the clubs to the laundry sink and with a good nylon household brush give the heads a good scrubbing with soap and water. Get all the grime off the face, the sole and especially the grooves and then dry them well before putting them away.

And what about your grips? What kind of shape are they in? The grip is one of the most important parts of the club.  You absolutely need a grip that allows you to swing the club with very little grip pressure. If your grips are worn it forces you to exert more pressure to keep the club from flying out of your hands.  When you have too much grip pressure, it has a couple of very bad consequences. Too much grip pressure causes a lot of tension in the hands and forearms. This can lead to an early release of the golf club as well as a decrease in club head speed. I can tell you from personal experience, that when I maintain a light grip pressure with a 6 iron, my club head speed increases by an average of 3 mph. That’s a distance increase of about 7-8 yards. So take a close look at your grips. If they are worn out replace them. It is not a huge expense, but it is a great investment. If you are not sure, have a professional look at them.  He or she would be happy to asses them for you.

If your grips are not worn out, take the time to give them a good cleaning. Over the course of the golf season, grips can accumulate a lot of sweat and dirt. I like to use a soft nylon brush with warm to hot soapy water and give them a good scrubbing. Once you have done that, rinse them well with clean water and then wipe off all excess moisture. Let them sit out for a couple days until they are dry and then you can put them away, ready for the start of the next season or for that winter vacation you have booked.

So don’t despair, winter will eventually lead to spring and a new golf season. Take advantage of this down time to reflect on your swing and maintain your clubs and consult with your golf professional for any advice you may need. Have a great winter and an even better year in 2016.