Courses might be closed across much of the country, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stow away the clubs for the winter. With modern technology — launch monitors, simulators, etc. — it’s possible to keep your game in shape inside as we wait for a break in the weather.
However, if you are going to spend your winter practicing inside, you need to make sure you are doing so in a productive manner. If you’re not careful, you can build up bad habits hitting inside off mats that will hurt your game when you get back to the course in the spring.
“The reality is, hitting off mats can give you the false sense of security that you’re a decent ball striker,” says GOLF Top 100 Teacher Martin Chuck. “It’s like skiing on a groomed trail — you can either handle the nature snow, or the groomers make you look like a hero.”
There are some ways to make sure you get the most out of your winter practice on mats, however. Check out below for two keys that Chuck shared.
1. Approach the shot with purpose
It can be easy to get lulled into a robotic rhythm hitting one shot after another when you practice — especially so when you’re hitting into a simulator or a net. But you need to treat every shot like you would on the course.
Before each shot, stand behind the ball and visualize what you want the ball to do. Even though you won’t be able to see the ball soar off into the distance like normal, you still need to train yourself to step into the shot with purpose like you would on the course.
“Set a ball in place; walk out and look down your line like you’re playing a golf course,” Chuck says. “Then walk in and do your routine, even if you’re just knocking golf balls in your basement.”
2. Try the towel drill
As Chuck noted above, hitting off a mat can give you a false sense of confidence that you’re hitting the ball cleanly, when in reality you’re striking behind the ball and skipping the clubhead into it. To make absolute certain that you aren’t skipping the club, place a towel a few inches behind the ball and try not to hit the towel on the downswing. If you do it correctly, you will promote ball-first contact, which will be beneficial when you get back on natural turf.
“If you disturb the towel then you know you’re hitting the ground too early, which is no bueno” Chuck says. “Ball-first contact is imperative.”
This article originally appeared on Golf.com.