T.J. Auclair is a Senior Interactive Producer for PGA.com and has covered professional golf since 1998, traveling to over 60 major championships. You can follow him on Twitter, @tjauclair.
Golf tips: Get your fall checklist in order
Series: Golf Buzz
Published: Wednesday, October 19, 2016 | 9:02 a.m.
For golfers in certain parts of the country, the sad reality is beginning to set in: the golf season is winding down.
In the northeast, the leaves are changing color, the temperatures are dropping and we're trying to sneak in any golf that's left to be had before the white stuff hits the ground.
It's right around this time of year, so says PGA Professional Rob Labritz, that you should start putting together a golfer's checklist for the fall and winter months.
"In fall golf, I'd spend the most time on the stuff you struggled with the most through the season," said Labritz, who recently won the OMEGA PGA Met Section Player of the Year Award for the second time in four years and the third time since 2008. "Grind on something you don't want to grind on. It might not be fun to do, but dedicating time to parts of your game that have proven to be weaknesses all season will help to make them strengths going forward and get you prepared going into the spring time."
If you're lucky enough to still be playing a lot of golf in the fall, Labritz said it's important not to get discouraged.
Why? Well, because of the conditions, you might be hitting the ball well, but not getting everything you expect out of your score.
Factors outside of your control -- colder air, which makes the ball travel a shorter distance; aerated greens that are bumpy and sandy; and leaves everywhere -- don't exactly make for the most ideal scoring conditions.
"Don't let yourself get hung up on all the stuff you're not doing out there because of the conditions," Labritz said. "You usually hit a 7-iron 160 but it's only going 145-150 right now? It's OK. Keep repeating your motion and in the spring when it warms up, you might be surprised to see that it's traveling 165-170."
With all the outside factors you can't control in the fall, Labritz says it's the perfect time for practice -- especially on the short game.
"You don't have a lot of time left before it gets too cold or starts snowing, so work double time on the short game," he said. "When you're hitting shots around the greens with wedges, you can't be weak enough with your left hand (right-handed golfers). That counter-rotates your hands and implements bounce at impact. Hit the ball a little fat and the bounce will make it feel like you hit it pretty solid."
Also in the fall, Labritz told us, you should be seeking out a place where you can hit balls 1-2 times per week in the winter months -- a place where you can take full swings and hold your finish whether you hit a good shot or a bad shot.
"If you have a chance to get into a heated bay outside, that's even better," he said. "If you do that, work on your wedges more than anything. The sharper you are with the wedges, the more it'll translate to the rest of your bag."
Labritz also recommends investing in a 10-12 foot putting mat since, "the short game and touch is the first thing to go after a long layoff."
There are two more suggestions Labritz has for keeping your game sharp in the winter months:
1. Focus on your fitness.
2. Keep an eye on new equipment coming out at the start of the year.
"The winter months are a great time to get into your golf fitness," he said. "Even 1-2 hours a week goes a long way. Think about all the extra time you have since you're not able to play. Just 1-2 hours a week in fitness is less than a 9-hole round. You have the time for it.
"As far as equipment goes, have your eye on any key purchases you might want to make when the new season rolls around," he said. "Do your research. Learn about any new technology for wedges, drivers and fairway woods. Ask your PGA Professional about what those new technologies bring to the table for your game."
Rob Labritz, who has played in four PGA Championships (he was low-Club Professional in 2010 at Whistling Straits), is currently the Director of Golf at GlenArbor Golf Club in BedFord Hills, N.Y. He was also the PGA Met Section Player of the Year in 2008, 2013 and 2016, as well as the Westchester Golf Association's Player of the Year in 2002, 2003, 2008, 2013 and 2015. You can learn more about Labritz at www.RobLabritz.com and you can follow him on Twitter, @Rlabritz.