It’s January… but March is coming.

It’s January.  For about 60% of the country or more, that means it’s not golf season.  Sure, I got out on a sunny day last week to walk nine, but it was 37 degrees with a wind chill below freezing.  It’s not golf season.

But just because it’s not time for golf, that doesn’t mean you can’t start preparing for when it is.  March is just around the corner, and with March comes a few nice days here and there.  With April, for most of us, comes actual spring.  Even the northernmost courses in Michigan are open by April 1.

So, with our eyes set squarely on sometime between 45 and 70 days from now, here’s a list of the top five things you can do to get ready for when golf season actually shows up; whenever that may be.

1.  Get your stuff ready.  If you’re like most bad golfers, your clubs are sitting in the trunk of your car or your basement, glazed in dirt, grass, and sand.  It’s time to clean that stuff up.  Get your grooves clean, take off the green stuff from the driving range pad, and make sure everything’s in order.  If you have worn or torn grips, it’s time to get that taken care of, too.  Trust me, the guys at the shop would love to have your business right about now.  Starting around $5 per club at most shops, it’s well worth it.

2.  Go shopping.  Last year, I snapped my sand wedge in half at the end of the season.  Don’t ask why, because I really don’t want to talk about it.  Now is the time to take care of that.  In fact, it’s a great time to stock up on a lot of stuff you’ll use this year.

For clubs, I always recommend RockBottomGolf.com to anyone interested.  While you won’t necessarily be buying the latest model, you’ll have a huge selection of great new clubs, balls, and apparel from which to choose.  An example?  You can buy a 2007 model, Cleveland HiBore XL Tour driver brand new for $99.  That price for a club that retailed close to $400 just a few years ago.  There are still folks out there trying to sell this club for $200 or more, so you can’t beat RBG’s value.  And no, nobody paid me to say that, it’s just true.

Also, you’re going to go through balls.  Probably more than most people.  Head to eBay, and search for “100 AAA golf balls,” or “100 AAAA golf balls” if you want even better quality.  Both AAA and AAAA quality used balls are going to be pretty darn close to perfect, and you’ll get them for a great price.  Last year, I bought 100 assorted Maxfli balls, AAAA quality, for less than $25 plus shipping.  Unfortunately, me being me, they’re almost gone.

3.  Look for greens fee deals.  You can save a lot of money by prepaying for your rounds, particularly during the winter months.  Last year, I found a deal for a two-year, weekday membership at a local course for just $180.  Catch was, you had to buy it before March 1st.  Even though the course is almost an hour away, it was too good of a deal to pass up.  While your deal may not be that good, you’re likely to find discounts, 2008 prices, or better if you’re looking now.

4.  Hit the heated range.  There are going to be nice days, or at least manageable days, between now and the first time you hit the course in 2009.  Chances are, there’s a heated-stall driving range somewhere near you, so even cooler temperatures shouldn’t keep you from getting your swing in shape.  It’s likely that, whatever progress you may have made last year, it isn’t going to carry 100% across a 4 or 5 month layoff.  Plus, you need to get those muscles acclimated to the twists and turns of a golf swing.  You’ll prevent some aches and pains by going out, stretching, and easing into the season.

5.  Look for help.  Finally, you’ll benefit from a lesson or two this year.  Schedule them now, and you may get a deal.  A lot of golf professionals are offering third or fourth lesson free deals.  If money is tight, and it tends to be, a group clinic may be a better option.  It’s amazing how a few small things can take you from shooting 110 to shooting 100 or better.

Winter is also a great time to have an instructor do video work with your swing.  There are indoor training facilities in your area.  If you don’t know where they are, just call a local pga professional.  They likely can point you in the right direction.

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