April 15, 2020
Stay Golf Ready–How to Practice at Home
No Course, No Range, No Problem
At-home instruction with Pebble Beach’s Laird Small
In the Fall 2019 issue of NCGA Golf Magazine, Pebble Beach Golf Academy Director Laird Small gave us some tips on how to work on your game at home. We’re re-running this content with the hope that it helps you Stay Golf Ready as we all await our return to the course!
By Judd Spicer
Photography by Robert Kaufman
More often than not, this little thing called life can get in the way of refining your golf game, and getting away from home and office duties for a round or some range time rarely finds its way atop the time totem.
But, for the driven player, know that one need not don spikes to get in some needed practice or prep time. Rather, a few daily minutes at the home or office spent working on everything from short game to flexibility can go a long way toward keeping your game sharp and body loose.
Take the lead from Laird Small, Director of the Pebble Beach Golf Academy and 2003 National PGA Teacher of the Year. Small has plenty of experience working with folks who are known to spend just a little extra time in the workplace. Along with teaching top touring pros and luminary athletes over the years, Small’s student roster has included the likes of Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Oprah Winfrey.
Struggling to escape the daily grind to find opportunities to work on your game? Here are Small’s five tips, drills and devices to keep you sharp while at the home or workplace.
If the flatstick has gone frosty due to lack of trips to the practice green, Small suggests pairing some technology with your putting.
He believes using a putting mat can be an effective trainer at home. For real-time data and feedback, Small recommends connecting to the BioMech Putting Sensor, which weighs less than an ounce and clips on to your putter just below the grip. Information is available immediately on your IOS device to let you know how long the putter head remains square through impact.
“It gives all the proper feedback a player needs for putting, from stroke to aim to path to clubface and also a grading curve,” Small says. “It’s something a golfer can use at home, say, every-other-day, to improve the skill-set. Really, it’s just five or 10 minutes of practice to do at home while watching TV, or while the kids are doing homework.”
If you need a break from yard work, put down the hedge clippers for a few minutes and take some cuts. Just be sure you’re not simply swinging for swing’s sake.
“It really is important to have purpose and intention behind taking swings in the back yard,” Small says. “One of the things you can use is a Speed Stik Golf Swing Trainer, which helps with both swing velocity and swing speed; a weighted club is also a good tool for this, helping with stretching on both sides of the swing, especially if you’re trying to add length or arc to the back-swing, and also helpful with speed.”
If neither the Speed Stik nor weighted club is at-the-ready, Small presents an alternate option.
“Swing bands are also a wonderful tool, building that resistance strength and getting your hands in the right place,” he says. “And, with all of these tools, it’s important to swing in both directions, to build that bi-lateral motion.”
3. The Divot Mat
Too much time away from the range can really start to affect consistency of contact. To ensure continued control of clubface at impact, Small is a big proponent of The Divot Mat training device.
“It’s a great at-home tool, which has nine images of golf balls printed on a sheet of reusable (and replaceable) paper that serves as a focal point for your swing,” Small says. “When your club hits the mat, it leaves a trail and produces the image of where the club bottomed-out on the Divot Mat.”
The feedback is instantaneous and easy to understand. The mark on the board highlights where the club first hit the mat, the length of the divot, and its direction. Armed with this information, you can tell whether you are hitting the ball thin, fat or flush, and whether you have an inside-out swing, outside-in, or straight swing path.
4. Stretching Back and Hip Flexors
A day crouched in front of a desktop screen and spreadsheets aren’t a recipe for a limber frame.
Golf is a rotational game, but’s it’s also a stability game. The more stability you can generate, the more consistent a player will be, Small explains. “Many people who sit in a chair all day, their hip flexors get tight,” he says, “and these are the strongest muscles in your body.”
To keep your golf body flexible during a long work day, find a few minutes to stretch key golf muscles, which are subject to atrophy due to prolonged time in a chair.
“To maintain flexibility for your golf turn, a great stretch at home is a chair stretch, working the spine with rotation or extension,” Small says. “If somebody is slouched in the shoulders – which happens a lot in the golf swing – they’re not going to be able to make a very good turn.”
5. Controlling and Repeating Impact / Stretching in a Door Frame
There’s no need to stay loose behind closed doors. Rather, keep your game ajar with two of Small’s most unique drills for both impact and flexibility while at home.
“A great drill for at-home is grabbing a club, putting it against one side of a door jam or door frame, with the other side of the club, the handle on the other side – so, the clubhead is behind the door and the handle is in front of the door,” Small says. “You put your hands in a neutral position right in line with the door jam, and then the hands at impact are forward of the door jam, while the clubhead still stays behind.”
But you’re not done yet. Use that same frame for an excellent extension of your golf muscles (see top photo).
“And to practice a great stretch and the radius of a swing with this same drill, start the drill from the middle of the door jam,” Small adds. “At the top of the backswing, the right hand should reach to the top, right-hand side of the door jam, which will really give the opportunity to feel that stretch.”
Laird Small is Director of the Pebble Beach Golf Academy, which he helped found in 1996, and is the author of “Play Golf the Pebble Beach Way.” A graduate of San Jose State University, Small has been recognized by Golf Digest as one of the nation’s top-50 teachers on an annual basis since 2007.
Judd Spicer is a freelance writer based in Palm Desert.