In certain parts of the world, winter golf means wearing a sweater and long pants! If you’re not fortunate enough to live in one of those places this article will give you some tips on how to better enjoy the delights of winter golf.
Fail to prepare and prepare to fail! The key to enjoying your golf game in winter is preparation. You need the right equipment, the right mindset and probably a warmup routine!
Let’s take a look at the equipment you may need to make the most of those short winter days.
Obviously, the biggest problem with winter golf is keeping warm. The best way to achieve this is to use multiple layers that allow you to add or remove clothing as the temperature changes. The other downside to winter golf is probably an increased risk of rain.
There is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.Sir Ranulph Fiennes
If you are too hot or too cold then you are unlikely to play your best golf or to enjoy the experience.
A number of ideas transferred their way across from winter sports clothing into golf. Today you have many more choices of what to wear to the course. If you look at pictures of golfers from the early part of the 20th-century men will be wearing tweed jackets and shirts with ties! How they actually managed to make a golf swing is beyond me.
One of the best ideas to hit the market is the compression layer which you can wear under your golf shirt to help keep you warm. You can then add a normal sweater and a windproof or waterproof top as well depending on the conditions.
I find windproof tops very useful even when the temperature is not that low since the wind chill factor makes it appear much much colder.
Try to wear clothing that is thin and lightweight while still able to keep you warm. Don’t forget that you need to be able to move freely in order to make a decent swing at the golf ball. If you’re bundled up like the Michelin man then it’s unlikely you produce your best golf.
Unless you’re very hardy, like a postman, you’ll need to ditch the shorts you may wear during the summer and opt for some long pants. You might even consider some lined trousers to keep out the wind.
As the temperature drops to 0°C (32°F) or even below you might find you need an extra layer to keep warm. This could be as simple as a pair of ordinary longjohns or as complicated as a pair of modern golf-specific leggings from the likes of Galvin Green. Some people opt for their waterproof trousers, this gives the added benefit of some protection from the elements should it start to rain.
Because of the way the body reacts to the cold you will probably feel it in your extremities first. Try to keep your head as warm as possible By swapping your normal summer headwear for a nice winter hat. If it’s particularly cold then it might mean two hats (which I have done on a few occasions). Make sure you keep your feet warm as well either with a couple of pairs of socks or some specific winter socks.
Keeping your hands warm is going to be very important in terms of playing good golf so make sure you have a pair of quality mittens to wear between shots. You can also purchase pairs of gloves for winter use which might help.
If you’re using a manual or electric cart (trolley) then you can get mittens that attach to the handles to help keep your hands warm.
Another option when particularly cold or windy might be to add a snood. This will help keep your upper chest, neck and face warm.
As someone who needs glasses, I find it difficult to play golf in the rain and try and avoid it whenever possible. However, you should be ready for any possibility and in the winter, let’s face it, it’s likely to rain a fair bit.
Get yourself a decent pair of waterproofs but make sure they don’t restrict your swing. A double canopy umbrella can also be a useful ally.
During the colder months, it’s important to have a decent pair of waterproof shoes as the last thing you want to do is spend four hours with wet feet. Even if it’s not raining the ground is likely to still be damp assuming it’s not frosty.
During the winter, you may find professional shops that have stocked up on hand warmers. These are usually chemical-based and single-use only. You can get ones that are rechargeable though.
These are probably particularly useful for people with poor circulation or if you need to ride a cart.
The data thermos flask with you with your favorite hot beverage or maybe even some soup. This should help warm you up during your round.
Many golf courses will insist on you fitting winter wheels to your hand or electric cart. Sometimes known as hedgehog wheels they will reduce the amount of damage done to the grass during the winter period.
Winter golf requires a completely different mindset. It is you against the elements.
Golf is rarely a fair game winter golf even less so. You are going to have to put up with all sorts of bad bounces particularly if you’re playing on a frosty morning. Course conditions, in general, will probably be much lower than the summer.
You may be faced with temporary greens which may be little more than a hole cut in the fairway. Putting temporary greens can at times be a trying experience particularly if you are a low handicapper. You need to manage your level of expectation when playing in cold weather or you will never enjoy it.
Before setting off on your winter odyssey you should take a few minutes to stretch and warm your golfing muscles. It’s a fact that your body will not work as well at lower temperatures you need to give it as much help as possible.
During the round try to keep moving as much as possible as this will help you to stay warm.
Unfortunately, both you and your equipment are more effective in warmer weather so you will need to club up. In addition, you’re unlikely to get much run out so you need to factor that in as well.
If you’re playing on a frosty morning then it can become something of a lottery trying to judge just how far the ball will run out!
When playing golf in the winter you may find it prudent to save your highest quality golf balls for better conditions. A good tip for the winter as well is to always have a spare ball in your pocket to swap out on a regular basis. This way you will be playing with a slightly warmer ball that should react more normally.
If you’re playing on a frosty morning it can be devilishly difficult to find your ball. Think about changing to a yellow ball which will be much easier to spot against the frosty background.
Walk Don’t Ride
If at all possible try to walk the course as this will help you stay warm. Although in cold and frosty weather you may find that buggies are banned anyway to prevent damage to the course. Walking is a great form of exercise during the winter you are likely to be doing precious little of it so you should take every chance you get.
Clean Your Spikes
Spikeless shoes are a real boon during summer months when fairways can be quite firm. In the winter you may find yourself reverting back to spiked shoes for better grip. Especially if you play a course that tends to get muddy.
One thing I always noticed when playing on frosty days was how quickly you get a build-up of frost on the bottom of your shoes. You should make regular efforts to get rid of any buildup especially if you’re about to play a shot.
In order to keep your game moving why not consider a different format. Instead of paying individual stroke-play, this might be the ideal time to play foursomes since it will keep you on the move. Obviously, if there are slower players in front of you for the course is busy then there’s less point but is it quiet then give it a try.
On really cold days maybe you could consider playing only nine holes. This might be more fun than being out for a whole 18.
Sometimes the rules of golf can be your friend. During the winter many clubs will introduce preferred lies which allow you to move your ball up to 6 inches and clean it as well.
You can also get relief from an embedded ball. During wetter winter months you’re likely to find your ball will embed more often. In order to avoid excessive damage to the course, you can take relief from an embedded ball.
Casual water It is also more likely during wetter winter months so make sure you know how to take relief. Always inform the person marking your card before taking relief.
How Cold is Too Cold?
On occasion, I’ve played in temperatures down to around -5°C (23°F) and with windchill, it was probably nearer -10°C (14°F). Fortunately, winter temperatures in the UK tend to hover around zero more often than not. While I’d much rather be playing in a polo shirt, cold is definitely a better option than rain!
Winter Golf: Conclusion
While winter golf can be a frustrating experience due to course conditions it can still be a fun and rewarding experience. You need to prepare correctly and have the right mental attitude. If you spend a lot of time stuck indoors at work then it can be a great way to get some fresh air and exercise.
Just look at winter golf as a way of keeping your swing loose, don’t concentrate too much on your scores as you will almost certainly be disappointed.
Check out this article if you need some tips on playing in the heat.