3 ways to keep your game sharp while on vacation

james colgan swings 3-wood

Here's the difference a little hard-earned R&R can make for your golf game.

Welcome to the 30-Day Challenge sponsored by Medterra, where one GOLF.com staffer leaves no stone unturned in the pursuit of a simple goal — breaking 90 — with the hopes of helping you do the same. This is the fifth in a seven-part series detailing his no-holds-barred journey to the 80s — all in just one month. You can read part 1 about the program he’s using to get better here, part 2 (a swing fix from his front lawn) here, part 3 on his game-changing club-fitting here, and part 4 on the drill that turned the tide here.

A word of advice: if anyone ever challenges you to improve your golf game by 10 strokes over the span of 30 days, don’t plan a week-long vacation for the middle of those 30 days. And if, for some hedonistic reason, they challenge you to do it with the threat of public embarrassment for your failure, definitely don’t plan a week-long vacation.

true spec golf in new york city
How a club-fitting saved my golf game (and how it might save yours): 30-Day Challenge
By: James Colgan

I give this advice because I’ve lived this advice. Like the 90s-shooting dunce I am, I elected to schedule a vacation smack-dab in the middle of GOLF’s 30-Day Challenge. It was the end of summer, and the temptation of New York’s Adirondacks were too much to pass up.

I had a lovely week in Lake Placid, N.Y. (particularly as a hockey-and-beer nut), but it came at the expense of the practice routine I’d painstakingly created. The rhythm I’d built — three nights at the range, one day on the course, and countless more mental reps throughout the day — was inherently incompatible with day-long hikes and kayak trips.

This disruption was of particular importance to me. Practice reps are your lifeblood if you’re trying to shave 10 strokes off your score. A week away from the range can undo your fixes, cost you feel, or worse, return you to the bad habits that left you shooting in the 90s and 100s in the first place.

But I wasn’t ready to accept defeat on the 30-Day Challenge because I trekked into the mountains for the week. If anything, I hoped to use the time to my advantage.

As I packed into the car, I decided to adopt a course management technique as my philosophy for the week: focus on the course in front of you, not the one behind you.

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Sure, I couldn’t spent hours at the range, but the bevy of fantastic courses in the Lake Placid area would serve a unique challenge for me. I’d have fewer chances to practice, but they’d be higher quality reps. I needed to turn my attention to what I still had (virtual training capability with my Skillest swing coach, Steve Giuliano; an outdoor driving range within driving distance of the condo; at least one 18-hole round), not what I didn’t.

Seven days later, I could hardly complain. My game hadn’t fallen off an ounce, and the time I dedicated to keeping my swing in-tune hadn’t come at the expense of some hard-earned R&R.

Most importantly, a short range session on a rainy morning proved enough for my swing instructor to point out an overcorrection in my setup. Where I’d previously been crowding the ball, I’d now begun lining up too far too make clean contact.

“With regards to your distance from the ball, you need to move in a lot closer,” Giuliano told me. “The reason why you’re topping here is you’re just a long way from the ball.”

The fix Giuliano gave me was so simple, I saw a significant difference in the span of just five swings.

“Literally all we’re doing is moving our arms in at least three clubheads closer to you,” he said. “Definitely do that, that’s going to make a huge difference. When you’re so far from the ball, even if you’re making a good swing, you’re just not going to find the ground.”

30 day challenge before swing
What you can learn from one high-handicap hacker’s month-long sprint to breaking 90
By: James Colgan

I returned from vacation a better golfer than I’d left, but I left Lake Placid with a few hard learnings.

First off, it’s hard to improve your golf game as it is. To do so while away from home is assuredly more difficult, but not impossible. The key is to build time for your game. Sure, it’s tempting to go to the range every morning at 8:30, but what purpose does it really serve you if you’d rather be elsewhere? You’re much better served blocking off time to focus on your game and your issues, even if that time is insignificant.

Second, it’s incredibly helpful (if not imperative) to have a virtual swing coach. Steve’s advice allowed me to make a significant fix in hours when I otherwise would have had to wait a week (or longer) to see an instructor and make adjustments. Maybe that’s not an issue for many golfers, but for someone who wants to get better FAST, there’s simply no better way than through virtual instruction.

Third, if you’re tired, sleep. If you’re sore (from golf, hiking or otherwise), use your CBD cooling treatment. If you don’t want to play golf, don’t play golf. Ultimately, you’re on vacation, you don’t have to do anything.

And finally, like so many other things in golf, your success is mindset driven. Don’t focus on the time you’re losing, or the potential drawbacks of where you are versus what you’re used to. Accept the challenge that you’re presented, be it on the course, on the range, or elsewhere, and do your best to control the things you can control.

The biggest advantage to my week off came in my mentality. With the final week of the 30-Day Challenge looming in the distance, I realized there wasn’t a magic bullet that would carry me to scoring in the 80s. I was responsible for playing the course(s) in front of me to the best of my ability using the tools I’d been given by Steve, at True Spec and otherwise.

It was time to gear up for the final week of the 30-Day Challenge. It was time to (finally) break 90.

Follow along with the rest of James’ 30-Day Challenge on GOLF’s social media channels (@GOLF_com) and on GOLF.com, where new articles will be posted every week through the end of October.

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James Colgan

Golf.com Editor

James Colgan is a news and features editor at GOLF, writing stories for the website and magazine. He manages the Hot Mic, GOLF’s media vertical, and utilizes his on-camera experience across the brand’s platforms. Prior to joining GOLF, James graduated from Syracuse University, during which time he was a caddie scholarship recipient (and astute looper) on Long Island, where he is from. He can be reached at james.colgan@golf.com.