As Canadians, we have a spring checklist: clean up the garden, switch over to summer tires, clean the barbecue, get out the patio furniture … Who am I kidding? All that stuff is a distant second to our top priority: Getting back on the course after an interminable winter.
So here are my top 10 items for that real spring checklist.
1. Are my clubs clean?
The answer is obvious. If you cleaned them at the end of last season and stored them inside, yes. If you tucked them away after the last muddy round, no. Fill the laundry sink with warm, soapy water and, using a stiff brush, thoroughly clean the grooves. Scrub the grips, too. That segues nicely into Item 2.
2. Do I need new grips?
Maybe. If you play a lot, you might need to replace them annually. If you clean them as mentioned above and they still feel slick, time for a change. Most golf retail stores and even some pro shops have spring specials. There are many varieties so, if possible, try a few options to make sure you get the right one. If you’re a DIY person, you can change them yourself but it’s hardly worth the effort.
3. Should I get the lofts and lies on my irons checked? ?
I had to hand this one over to Tony Covey, Managing Editor of MyGolfSpy, the online encyclopedia of golf equipment. “If you’re serious about your game, loft and lie angles should be checked annually (though I have friends who have me check their irons after a couple of bad shots). If you play a softer forging, checking loft and lie is essential (they’re going to move on their own). Some of the harder casting materials don’t move much and at all, which is why many now have a notch for easier adjustment.”
4. Am I playing the right clubs?
Unless you’ve recently been professional fitted, that’s almost impossible to answer. Are you still playing the blade irons and persimmon woods you inherited from your grandpa? Are you hitting hand-me-downs? Are you a senior whose swing speed and strength have decreased over the years? The basic answer is: Do you think your clubs are preventing you from reaching your potential? If you don’t want to go through an in-person fitting, all major club manufacturers have excellent free online fitting apps. (My wife ordered her new sticks using an online fitting app. We were impressed.)
5. Can I get a tee time? ⛳️
Yes, but with demand for golf going through the roof, you have to be smart and persistent. Check the tee-time reservation requirements at the course you want to play and get online or on the phone at the earliest opportunity. Golf Canada’s course lookup tool is a great place to start.
6. What will the course conditions be like? ?
Look at your front yard. Early in the season, there’s no new turf growth, the underlying soil is saturated … you get what you get. Keep in mind the course is fragile in the spring so divots and ball marks must be repaired immediately. Temporary greens are commonplace. The course isn’t in mid-season form but neither is your swing. Which brings us to the next item.
7. What if I forget how to swing?
Don’t laugh. There are few things worse for a golfer than stepping onto the tee for the first round of the season and looking at your driver like it’s a writhing reptile. If a local range has opened, hit it. If not, there’s lots of online instruction. I spent hours over the winter working on my short game using the videos on Gareth Rafleski’s website. Some golf-related stretching and strength-building exercises wouldn’t hurt. If you’re keen on tracking your progress, consider checking out Golf Canada’s free mobile app to go digital with your game and enhance the course experience.
8. What should I wear?
Whatever you wore at the end of last season should be appropriate. Waterproof footwear, rain pants and layers up top. Temperatures can vary wildly this time of year. Better to err on the side of too much than too little. That extra sweater, jacket, towel … all can be packed away in your bag. As my dear old mom used to say, “Better to have it and not need it than …”
9. What kind of balls should I use?
As long as they’re round and findable, any ball will do this time of year. In summary: Use the kind of balls you can afford to lose and then break out the Pro V1s.
10. What about COVID-19?
Without doubt, we in Canada will have to endure a season very similar to 2020. Adhere to all health protocols on and off the course and we will get through this. Respect your course’s regulations and its employees. You can keep up to date on the latest using Golf Canada’s resource guide.