Road to Scratch Update: Gearing up for the Off-Season

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — everyone needs an off-season. Whether it’s measured in weeks or months, we all need that physical and mental reset.

After using a productive off-season last year to start the season strong, lower back and sciatic nerve pain eventually held me back from making more progress towards my goal of reaching scratch. From the end of May through to the end of the season, days where I felt better than 70% became few and far between. I ended the season with a handicap index of 4.0, which is exactly where I started the season. I’ll actually consider that a success considering how I felt much of the time.

At the beginning of the season I felt the best I have physically since entering my 30’s (4 years ago) and I was optimistic for a healthy season. The problem with feeling good physically is I always take it for granted. How great is it that I don’t have to spend any more time stretching and rolling and exercising because my body feels great and it’s going to feel this great forever no matter what I do now.

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On top of that, summer gets busy. Work is demanding. Things and stuff need to get done. Too much time is spent sitting at a computer. Friends come out of hibernation and want to hang out and host barbecues at their houses far away. In between all that, you’re trying to squeeze as many rounds and practice sessions in as you can.  The time spent dedicated to fitness and keeping the body tuned can become depleted.

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The season in Canada is short so it’s tough to take a week or two off to get the body back where it needs to be. Eventually, things can spiral out of control.

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It’s been the same old story for the past few seasons so this may sound repetitive. A productive off-season, a strong spring, the fitness and self-care routine slips, injuries creep in, and by the late summer and fall it feels like I’ve been run over by a watermelon truck.

So how is next season going to be different?

Well, obviously I need to find a way to continue with the off-season habits that get me feeling so great and carry them through golf season.

One of the ways I’m going to do that is golf fitness classes with Shannon Heffernan at DM Golf Performance. Instead of this fitness work with Shannon being exclusive to the off-season like in the past, I’m going to continue to see her weekly throughout golf season as well. This will be a great way to keep me on track with a fitness routine and monitor how my body is doing so things don’t go completely off the rails.

We started seeing her weekly at the beginning of October and while I still have a lot of work to do, I feel like I am getting back on track. I had a chance to test out our early work by playing some vacation golf last week in Monterey and was pleased that my back held up quite well, and I even carried my bag for a couple rounds! We had a chance to play some new courses, including Pasatiempo, Poppy Hills, and Carmel Valley Ranch, so stay tuned for write-ups on those.

As far as improving my golf swing this off-season, I will be keen to start practicing and working with my instructor, Fred Teno, as soon as my body feels a bit more fit. To steal one of Tiger’s favorite lines, there is “no timetable” for that yet, but like any golf sicko, I’m always thinking about it. I may start by picking Fred’s brain over a beer or two about what we need to work on.

More practice at home is another thing I’m going to incorporate into my routine, as I often make the mistake of thinking the only place I can practice is at the course. Whether it’s working on my turn in front of a mirror, stroking some short putts on the carpet, or whispering sweet nothings to my driver, progress can still be made at home. Even 10 minutes a day adds up to a lot over time.

The path of improvement in golf is never linear. We’re going to have setbacks, surges of brilliance, times where we’re completely lost and times where it feels like we’re on cruise control. There are no constants in golf. We just have to keep plugging through it and enjoy the ride.

Oh, yeah, and we also may set aside some time to plan our next vacation!

Kananaskis Golf Course - golf is mental
Random picture of Josh enjoying the ride at Kananaskis in September

Happy golfing!




10 thoughts on “Road to Scratch Update: Gearing up for the Off-Season

  1. Josh, there is a lot of research coming out now saying maintaining a baseline of physical fitness is key to preventing injury – in shirt, stopping training all together is the worst thing you can do. So I love your plan to work hard this off-season on your fitness but also to commit to maintaining it during the season!

    I understand it can be tough with time – Golf is a skill game after all and in season especially you need as much time to practice as possible – this is why you need to prioritise big bang exercises for you as an individual and make sure your training represents an efficient use of time! The good news is maintenance is just that and doesn’t typically require the same time and effort as building and with smart training that once weekly session you mentioned and maybe 10-15 minute mobility, stability and movement pattern ‘homework’ twice a week on top of that, see’s most of my clients of similar age and with similar issues to yourself, good.

    Am sure it will pay off for you and I wish the best of luck resolving the low back/ sciatica issues.

    All the best,

    Head Coach/ Owner @ Stronger Golf

    1. Hey Nick,

      Thanks so much for the positive words and your professional insight! I definitely intend to maintain a daily mobility/maintenance routine. I am hoping the weekly class will keep me in a good routine with specific things to work on as homework, like you said. I do better when somebody tells me exactly what to do! Lol

      Thanks again

  2. I love your commitment to off-season fitness and am hoping I can take a page out of your book this winter. Of course, I will leave the stellar artwork to you…I know my limitations. Well done, and as the glow of your Monterrey trip remains bright I am sure you’re already thinking how you can keep up the energy, heal and strengthen the body and look forward to a successful 2018. Always a treat to read your posts my friend.
    Cheers, Mike

    1. Mike,

      The positive words are very much appreciated! Look forward to hearing about your off-season endeavors as well. Definitely excited to get some Monterey posts up.


  3. It may be the off-season but it sounds like you will still be pretty busy nonetheless. Hope it all pays off when the new season rolls around in due course! Cheers, Rob.

  4. Josh, ack. I hate hearing about injuries but they are a part of playing a sport. I would try and set up an exercise mini-routine with a very small time commitment but do it every day. After a while it will become second nature and you can stick with it. I’ve done the same and haven’t missed a day of core strength exercises since May 1. But I only committed to 10 minutes every morning. It’s very doable.

    Whatever you do. Stay healthy and be smart.

    Have a great off season.


    1. Brian,

      Thanks my friend. Trust me, I hated writing about it more than you hated hearing about it! Will definitely get into a doable daily routine. I anticipate the weekly classes to not only improve my fitness but then leave me with some “homework” to do the rest of the days that week. I do much better with some structure. Here’s hoping it pays dividends!

      All the best

  5. Josh

    While I read your article, I kept getting the sense that you are at a tipping point. Your attitude is fantastic and your approach very sound. Injuries are a part of an amateurs golfing season and I hope you tackle that beast next year. As a person 30 years your senior, I can unquestionably state that maintaining a physical program is important to longevity in golf. With your physical successes comes mental successes as well. Your approach is a good one and I can see you lowering your handicap next season.


    1. Hey Jim,

      You’re very right, injuries are a part of sport and it’s how you deal with them and bounce back that matters. I hope you’re right about a tipping point, it feels like it to me too. I really appreciate the insight and kind words!


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