5 ways to guarantee you don’t embarrass yourself on that first round back

Our Top 100 Teachers have some simple, early season tips for you.

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Golf courses across the nation are slowly starting to open up, and collectively, golfers will emerge from their home after an extra long, extra housebound offseason. There will be some inevitable rust on all our games when we do return to the course, so we asked a group of our Top 100 Teachers for advice on what we should be doing so we can hit the ground running and play well when we do make our comebacks…

1. Rhythm And Balance

“On your first round back, focus on rhythm in your swing, which leads to good balance. You do not have to ‘reinvent the wheel’ with mechanics, your brain will remember how to swing but your swing motion will likely be rusty.

Begin with a rhythm or order to your pre-shot routine, so you can re-establish your set up, especially grip and posture. From there, swing the weight of your club head and get a sense of rhythm (2 counts back, 1 count forward) and balance will kick in. Commit to it on each shot for the entire round.” — Carol Preisinger, Kiawah Island Club

2. Find The Rust

For your first round back after this long layoff, I’d focus on two things.

  1. Having a great time with a thankful attitude about the game and all that it has to offer.
  2. Evaluating the state of your game. What key skills made it through the lay-off and what skills didn’t.

At the end of that first round after you have evaluated where your game is. Meet with your coach to develop a plan for the coming months that includes practice strategies and regular follow-up sessions. — Jason Baile, Jupiter Hills Club

3. Check Your Expectations

Golf will feel a little different with the flagsticks always being in the hole and there won’t be any rakes in the bunkers. Many courses won’t have drinks available so be sure to pack something to help you stay hydrated as well as a few snacks for the round to keep your energy up.

Keep your expectations in check for the first round back. Your ball control will likely be a little inconsistent so pick smart targets avoiding all hazards. Be a little more defensive rather than aggressive to keep the ball in play. Be glad that you are back on the golf course! — Cheryl Anderson, Mike Bender Academy

4. Make A Mental Reset

The first round back after this long layoff provides many players an opportunity to hit the reset button on their mental game. If you are your own worst enemy on the golf course this is the chance to change your ways! The first step towards the new you is to manage your expectations; you haven’t played for months so expect to hit some poor shots, flub a chip or two and miss the occasional three-footer. While this might have lit your fuse in the past, don’t go there!

Make a concerted effort to have good body language, talk to yourself like a good coach would and take a few deep breaths. We are all incredibly thankful to be playing. This reset could be the start of a brand new you on the course. — Brady Riggs, Woodley Lakes G.C

5. Ease Into It

The most important thing when coming back is to ease into things slowly, don’t let your enthusiasm override the physical needs of your body! Most of us have been unusually sedentary during the pandemic and our body is not ready for lashing a driver at 110 mph immediately! A measured approach is required. Find some good all-body stretching exercises you can do before starting to warm up is a primary thing.

Next, get some feel back in those hands and start your opening practice session at the putting green, followed closely by some chipping.

Then move onto the driving range, stretch again and then ease into some wedges before running through the bag. Keep the expectations low, as it’ll take some time to get your eye back in. When you get out there, enjoy and appreciate the beauty of the environment we play our game in.

It’ll feel so good after being inside so much. If you hit a couple decent shots, that’s great! Don’t play for score, play match play and have fun! — Jonathan Yarwood, International Junior Golf Academy.

Luke Kerr-Dineen

Golf.com Contributor

Luke Kerr-Dineen is the Game Improvement Editor at GOLF Magazine and GOLF.com. In his role he oversees the brand’s game improvement content spanning instruction, equipment, health and fitness, across all of GOLF’s multimedia platforms.

An alumni of the International Junior Golf Academy and the University of South Carolina–Beaufort golf team, where he helped them to No. 1 in the national NAIA rankings, Luke moved to New York in 2012 to pursue his Masters degree in Journalism from Columbia University. His work has also appeared in USA Today, Golf Digest, Newsweek and The Daily Beast.