Is it essential for Junior Golfers to compete during the Winter months?
Is it essential for Juniors to travel and compete in tournaments during winter months?
My research and experience say – no!
There seems to be an overwhelming sense of ‘playing paranoia’ with juniors and junior golf families. Many I speak with are under the impression that if they don’t play tournaments year-round they will not be recruited to play college golf. This is an inherent flaw and understanding in junior golf.
However, if you live in a warmer climate and are still planning to play tournaments during the winter months, you’ll want to make sure you’re fully prepared and ready to go. It’s also important to note, everyone has a different “recipe” they execute in order to successfully prepare for tournaments. In this case, winter preparation depends on your area’s climate and your access to necessary resources.
First, let’s take a look at what is happening in college golf….
Typically, when college players arrive back on campus in January, their training and practice will depend on a few factors: climate, date of their first tournament, and budget/resources. As a generalization, most NCAA programs tend to arrive back on campus the first/second week of January. Teams will then go back “in-season” a week or two after arriving back at school and will play their first Spring tournament in the first few weeks of February. It’s important to point out, most programs will not immediately go back in-season when players arrive back on campus in January. Instead, some schools will rely on indoor facilities for off-season training and practice for a few weeks. Many elite D-1 programs have indoor performance centers which include hitting bays, artificial putting/chipping greens, and even bunkers! These same facilities often include the luxuries of Trackman, SAM Putt Lab and video analysis software.
While many of the elite schools in warm-climate regions can afford an environment to continue playing and practicing golf between the fall and spring seasons, the northern-based programs have to get creative. The NCAA’s elite cold weather programs have adopted their own winter “recipes” to tackle the cold weather each winter.
Here is what’s interesting, the NCAA now allows college golf programs to finance practice outings anywhere (even outside their home state), as long as the student-athletes do not miss class for these practices. With this new rule in place, many of the NCAA’s elite cold-climate golf programs will fly south as many as three to five times during late January, February, and even March to provide an opportunity for their players to train, play rounds of golf and, most importantly, regain their feel for playing the game outdoors under real conditions. If there is one thing I’ve learned being raised in Florida and attending James Madison University in Virginia it’s that there is no substitute to “real” golf in a warm weather climate on green grass! Hitting indoors (even on Trackman) or practicing with 5 layers of clothes on can only be so effective at helping you prepare for tournament play.
So if you are a junior golfer facing geographical and climate challenges, you should adopt a similar philosophy during the winter months. Think of it not as the “off-season” but instead as your very own “player development” training to prepare for your upcoming events. Put together a well-thought-out, written plan or short-term goal sheet so you’ll be prepared and ready to go when the cold weather passes. The winter months should be utilized as your time to expand your Golf IQ, improve your swing technique, get properly fit for golf equipment, and spend extra time in the gym gaining the strength and flexibility necessary to achieve success in the upcoming golf season.
Best of luck on the recruiting trail and please don’t hesitate to visit www.ForeCollegeGolf.com to learn more about the recruiting process or find my contact information to learn more.
Michael J. Smith