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My winter regimen for off-season improvement

Obviously, I don’t hang around the Northern states for the winter months anymore. My workouts now consist of packing my laundry and clubs, and carrying them to the car, and then from the car into my second home in Texas*.

But back when I was a young lad who couldn’t fly South every winter because of school or something else worthless, I used to grind every off-season in preparation for Spring. My private country club growing up had a personal trainer, but he was an idiot. He would spend all summer shooting in the mid-70s, losing money to me. Then come winter, he’d try to convince me to pay him money for private training sessions. Yea, right. Like I’d listen to someone about fitness who couldn’t play worth a lick. Plus, he’d probably have me doing yoga all winter knowing that my muscles would become weak for the spring so he could start beating me on the course.

I might be stupid, but I’m not dumb.

So I was forced to develop my own winter training regimen. And it has clearly worked. People always told me growing up that since I was from a wealthy town in upstate New York, and belonged to the best country club in the area, that I couldn’t compete with the Southern boys who played golf 365 days out of the year.

What no one knew is that I improved more in the winter months than I ever did during the summer. And it was because of this training program that I developed myself. Although I knew nothing about kinetic sequencing or dieting at the time, trust me you, young Swanson could put together a winter program.

Below are my exercises. I would do them every single winter, every single day from about the age of 3 until I graduated high school and began migrating for winter months.

*Before anyone chirps me in the comments, the answer is no, I don’t go to Florida for the winter. The last time I was in the state of Florida was for the PGA Show in Orlando in ’07. Sunshine State, pffft, more like State of Depression. If you like Perkins Diners, humidity and spotty lies in the rough, then enjoy! Personally, I like nice weather, burnt ends and good golf, so Texas works just fine for me. 

1) Practice your grip

The best practice is repetition. So I’d hone my golf grip on anything that resembled a golf club. I’d sit on the couch for hours at a time eating Slim Jims, pretzel rods and even licorice, making sure I had the perfect grip before and after every bite.

Jack Nicklaus used to say he’d revisit fundamentals like grip and posture every Spring. Well, jokes on Jack because I didn’t need a refresher course, since I spent the entire off-season eating Slim Jims.

2) Visualize your rounds

Before you play your last round of the year at your home club, make sure to pick up an entire stack of scorecards. Then, everyday during the winter, play your home course at least once in your mind. Make sure to keep track of fairways hit, greens in regulation, putts, sand saves and penalty strokes. It can really help when the Spring hits to have played golf all winter, and you’ll have great experience to draw back on.

For example, one winter round I played in my brain when I was 13, I hit my tee shot on the first hole out of bounds, leading to a double bogey. But due to my mental strength and fortitude, I was able to come back that round and shoot my lowest round ever at the time, a 61. That gave me the confidence going forward that even in my wildest dreams, hitting the first tee shot out of bounds didn’t mean I couldn’t set a course record. Funny thing is, my first round that next Spring, I shot 61, setting my previous course record by 2 strokes!

3) Play video games

Hand eye coordination is crucial on the golf course. And there’s no better way to build that than playing video games, plain and simple. Do yourself a favor, instead of investing in workout equipment or fancy diet programs, just buy an Xbox or Playstation. I hate Tiger Woods, but even he knows the best way to beat the short game yips is to play Call of Duty all day.

4) Do your research

Every winter, I would go through every single tournament and qualifier I was going to be in for the upcoming year, and I’d contact each pro shop to ask what the course record was. I’d then make an excel spreadsheet with the club name, yardage from the tips, par, course record, course record holder, and course in relation to par.

Try to remember the courses on which you already own the record, though. It was always embarrassing inquiring who held the course record, and hearing the pro say “Longball Swanson.” Whoops! That’s me! Sorry for bothering you on this chilly February afternoon!

5) Swing a weighted golf club

I’ve used the same weighted golf club for my entire life, and still use it to warm up with to this day. It’s made of pure hot melt. When I was 9, my father took me on the Tommy Armour tour van where all of the tour players fine tuned their equipment before the 1964 U.S. Open, and that’s where I fell in love with hot melt. There was just something about having something in your golf club that no average schmo knew about, and it had such a drastic affect on trajectory and spin rate. It changed young Swanson’s life.

So the next day, I had my dad make them make me an entire golf club made of hot melt. It has a swing weight of about Z8 or Z9. Slightly too heavy to game, but it made for the perfect weighted club.

The trick is to swing it in slow motion with a mirror right behind you the make sure you’re hitting every plane.

If you’ve ever seen my swing and wonder how I hit such perfect planes, now you know. 

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