In the last few weeks I’ve learned to love winter golf. It’s been a great opportunity to keep fit, gather data and force myself to try different shots that help reduce my scores.
I’m usually a ‘fair-weather golfer’. For me, warm and sunny conditions are a joy to play in. Winter not so much. The very thought of cold, wet, windy golf used to put me off completely. But not these days. Times and seasons have changed. Just being outside, getting some exercise and playing the game I love has become a welcome blessing after repeated long periods of indoor COVID lockdowns. I now can’t wait to get out and play. And by playing more winter golf, I’ve learned a lot about my game – new shots, distance measurement and smarter course management.
Down the middle
In the past few weeks it’s been very wet and windy. Fallen leaves are everywhere, particular in the rough. I lost a few balls with the odd risky/heroic shot that landed under a blanket of clumpy wet leaves, never to be seen again. When you lose four balls in a round, it forces a rethink. Economics and common sense prevailed so I swapped distance for control to help keep it on the fairway. More strategic placement off the tee and the occasional sensible layup have saved some shots.
Plugged ball – buried treasure
Even with a drive down the middle, the soft ground has increased the chances of a plugged ball, making it much harder to find. I play with a yellow ball, which stands out even when conditions are muddy. But those plug marks are data-gathering gold that you don’t get in summer or on a driving range.
Plug into data
I started to measure my carry distances from tee to the plug hole or fairway iron to green pitch mark by using my GPS watch in odometer mode. The results were surprising. My carry distance was longer than I thought. I never really had this insight into my carry distances before. And with a little maths I can use this data for warmer, drier, less dense air in spring and summer.
Up and down
Soft wet greens provide the opportunity for target golf, stopping the ball quick where it lands without big variances of bounce and roll. The problem is I usually prefer to chip and run from just off the green, often using an 8 or even 7 iron to lift the ball over the rough stuff while maintaining some of the feel and judgement of a putt. That just doesn’t work with soft wet greens. So I’ve learned to be brave and get it high up in the air with a sand iron, aiming to land on a spot a yard or so from the flag allowing for a short hop and roll. It’s a bit scary at first but I’m getting closer to the bullseye all the time and who doesn’t like a short putt?
I’m learning to love winter golf because I’m learning more about my game. And like Billy Connolly wisely observed, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes.”
Enjoy your winter game
Are you a winter golfer? Send us your thoughts on your winter game in an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll mention some of the best in our monthly newsletter.
Paul Hart is a founding director of PuttBANDIT Ltd, co-inventor of the PuttBANDIT Ball Marker and enthusiastic improver. Paul currently plays of a handicap index of 10.7 and always repairs his divots and pitch marks.