So you’re stuck at home and you’ve already binge-watched “The Office” for the third time — in the last week. It’s safe to assume everyone is going a little stir-crazy as we continue to embrace social distancing. And with some courses hitting pause on daily play, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get your outdoor golf fix — unless your name is Padraig Harrington — which leads to a lot of time milling around the house trying trick shots, all in the name of #PlayingThrough. We get it.
Other than your wedges and putter, the rest of your golf clubs (and bag) aren’t getting a lot of love these days, but that doesn’t mean you have to forget about them entirely. It’s about this time every year when much of the country is counting down the hours until the Masters, that you likely get your bag out and start doing an inventory check as the days get longer, and opportunities to play become more frequent.
You could wait until coronavirus retreats to do the inventory check, or you could just go ahead and do it now. Let’s be honest, what else are you going to do? Hop on another video conference call? No thanks.
Instead, consider taking a few minutes out to follow these five simple gear tips to ensure everything in your bag is in good working order before you hit the course.
1. Check your grips
Want to know what isn’t fun? Taking a huge rip at the ball and watching the club twist or even fly out of your hands at impact. Could it have something to do with how you hold the club? Sure. But you might also want to check out your handles to see if they’re still in playing condition.
The golf grip is constantly overlooked during the early season tune-up. Golf Pride data shows the average usage for a set of grips is roughly 40-60 rounds — and, yes, practice sessions count as one round — which means you should be replacing your grips every year or two if playing regularly. On average, it’ll run you somewhere between $70-$140 depending on the grip you choose.
If your grips are starting to look slick or rip at the base, it’s probably time to change them out. Or you could consider the idea of using sandpaper to temporarily bring your grips back to life.
Another tip? If you don’t want to buy grips on the regular, wash them every so often with a scrub brush and mild detergent to remove the oils and sweat from your hands that break down the rubber. After giving them a good scrub, dry off the grip with a clean towel.
2. Clean the grooves
I was taught from an early age to always keep the grooves on your irons and wedges clean. (Thanks, Dad!) It’s a simple task that requires you to have a wet towel on hand during the round to clean off the face after each shot. It takes a couple seconds.
But chances are you aren’t cleaning off the grooves after each shot. All that dirt and grass currently caked in the grooves of your lob wedge is a problem. Unless you like hitting a flier, go ahead and check the grooves on all your clubs. (Yes, that includes the 3-iron.)
Studies have shown you can lose roughly 1,300 rpm’s of spin when the grooves can’t grip the cover of the ball properly, which is fairly significant when we’re talking about a wedge shot that needs to drop and stop.
Grab a bucket with warm water, a scrub brush (or even a toothbrush) with plastic bristles and go to work. It shouldn’t take you long to dislodge the dirt and reveal clean grooves. And if you don’t have a brush, a golf tee with a sharp tip will work in a pinch. Just make sure you have several handy if you plan on cleaning your whole set, as the tip of the tee will get worn out in a hurry.
As for the metal brushes you see hanging from golf bags? I’m not a huge fan of taking something with wire bristles to the face of an iron or wedge, especially if it’s of the soft carbon steel variety. But that’s your call if you want to go the metal brush route.
3. Spike check
I’ll be the first to admit I don’t check the spikes on my golf shoes as often as I should. Save for Tiger Woods and a few of his colleagues in the professional ranks, everyone is wearing soft spikes on the course. Soft spikes keep your golf sanctuary happy, but they can be somewhat frustrating to remove if you don’t keep tabs on the number of rounds they’ve logged.
A set of soft spikes will last between 20-30 rounds before they need to be replaced. For those playing on firmer courses in dry desert climates, it’s probably closer to 20. If you catch them before they completely wear out, it’s easy enough to buy a replacement set online — the wrench needed to remove the spikes costs $5-$10 — to keep from having to break in a new pair of shoes.
How can you tell if your spikes need to be replaced? If the rubber spikes have been worn down to nubs, it’s time to make a change. And what happens if you can’t see the two little holes in the soft spike where the wrench attaches to remove said spike? It means they’ve likely been worn to the point where getting new shoes makes the most sense for your sanity. Trust me.
4. Do an inventory check
Now is the time to empty out the golf bag and see what you’re missing. Are you all stocked up on tees, ball markers, sunscreen (make sure it hasn’t expired), permanent markers (we’ll get to this one in a moment) and koozies? If you’re missing one of the above, now is a great time to make sure it’s in the bag for the new season.
What about golf gloves? If you’re anything like me, you have a few fresh options in a Ziploc bag. Also, consider throwing a pair of rain gloves in the mix if you play in the elements, or want to do your best Phil Mickelson impression.
Something else to consider? It wouldn’t be a bad idea to air out your gain gear if it’s regularly stored in the side pocket of your bag. Also, most bags have a small side zipper that allows you to access the bottom in the event something falls between the club dividers. I’ve found an old peanut butter and jelly sandwich and $20 by simply doing a semi-regular check. You never know what you’re going to find.
5. Mark your golf balls
Please don’t be the guy in your foursome who continually asks, “Is it you or me who’s playing the Titleist red 3?” That guy is the worst. Just mark your golf ball and save everyone the headache. If you’ve never marked your ball before, you could always go “Justin Thomas style” and add four red dots around the play number. There’s also “Castaway style,” if you have a bit more time.
If you mark your balls now, you won’t have to worry about doing it right before you tee off. Simple stuff.
And if you’re looking for a specific marker, I’d recommend the Milwaukee Inkzall. Did you know it’s Tiger Woods’ marker of choice? Yes, that’s really a thing. It works great for not only marking the ball but the scorecard as well with pinpoint precision.
By Jonathan Wall
This article originally appeared on Golf.com.