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With golf season starting anew, it won't be long 'till you're searching for lost balls.
With golf season starting anew, it won't be long 'till you're searching for lost balls. (Chris Baldwin/WorldGolf.com)

Getting the rust out: Getting your golf swing back after winter is never easy

By Allen Coren,

It's been four long months since you last hit the links. Your golf clubs have enough dust on them to kill an asthmatic. The only balls you have left in your bag are the ones you swiped from the driving range and the Pink Lady you "found" on the course. This weekend it will be a balmy 50 degrees and you get the "itch." You call your usual golf buddies and convince them it's time to get a jump on the season. With a nonexistent twisting of arms, you're on for Saturday. After you book a tee time you suddenly forget the work piled up on your desk and begin fantasizing about your impending day on the links.

Sound familiar? It happens to every one of us when that first round of the season is upon us. What we tend to forget, however, are the consequences and unpleasant reminders of just how bad we are that go along with round number one.

The few days prior to getting out there usually include air golf. This is the practicing of the swing without a club in hand. This activity can assist in getting the swing motion familiar once again but can cause slight embarrassment when a co-worker catches you. You can always pretend you were scratching your back but they know what you were up to. The only thing that can actually intensify this moment of unease is if you were making the "whoosh" sound while you were swinging and then yelled, "It's in da hole!"

The night before, you get your stuff ready. The golf clubs are exhumed from the pile in the corner of the closet or garage and after you make a count to see if they're all there, it's time to get them nice and shiny. You scrub and try your damnedest to get the earth out of the grooves but a even sand blaster would have a difficult time at this. Three hours later, you unbox the brand new balls you just bought and stock your bag kissing each one because, most likely, it will be one of the last times you see them. Your golf attire is nicely laid out so you don't have to think about it in the morning. Who needs another thing to cloud their concentration? You're now as ready as you'll ever be for the disaster you will encounter tomorrow.

Opening day: The first golf of the season

The day has arrived! After you get to the golf course and pay the off-season greens fee of $15 you approach the first tee with a glint of hesitation. Your buddies and you gather around the tee box, each praying not to have to tee off first. Once the line up has been determined, you begin your actual practice swings. Every swing is followed by an "ugh" because it has been a long time since you attempted this maneuver.

Your turn arrives. You step up to the teeing area and with your tee in hand, set your ball in place. The only problem is that the ground is so hard you need a sledge hammer to sink the tee. Once you finally get the third one in after the first two snapped, you step back to survey the fairway, address the ball, and take your first shot of the year. You hit a beautiful duck-hook into the trees 125 yards away. You still suck!

When you stop doing something for an extended period of time that requires some form of athletic ability you tend to forget how to do it. Golf is no different. Especially if you had no ability to begin with. Getting the feel of the swing back again seems to be an impossibility your first time out. Nothing feels quite right. Hey, there's something to blame your awful play on. What you find out is that your timing and feel do not return until the 18th hole. By then it's way too late to salvage a respectable round.

Another aspect of the initial round of the season that can hamper your play is the condition of the course on which you're playing. If it is late March, especially in the northeast part of the country, chances are that the ground has yet to thaw. Taking divots become hazardous to your clubs and your hands. Remember what it was like to hit a baseball in cold weather? If you don't break your club taking a shot, you get that pain in your hands that shoots right to your sphincter. Bunker condition is no better. They tend to look like the coastal beach erosion you see the Weather Channel reporters on during a hurricane with the only exception being is that it's you trying to save your life.

Later that night, when you're home slapping Ben-Gay all over your body like cake icing to ease the muscles you totally forgot you had, thoughts of your game today race through your head. "If I had only not four-putted six holes. . ."

"If it didn't take me three to get out of those bunkers. . ."

"If I didn't hit that cart on my approach shot. . ."

It's at that point it becomes as clear to you as John Daly's vodka on the rocks, every aspect of your game still needs plenty of work.

And it's only a month and a half until golf season really begins!

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