Historically in the winter, when the phone rings and those words ‘Fancy a round of golf today’ emanate from someone’s lips, my usual response would always have been ‘I’m busy’.
It’s cold and the air’s damp, the course is wet and muddy, the bunkers are hard, the wind is straight across every fairway, and it could rain at any time. What’s not to like about winter golf?
The joy of winter golf
But over the years, my mindset has changed somewhat. I still hate teeing off on the first if it’s raining, but as it turns out, winter golf can be a bit of a joy. Just getting out in the fresh air, seeing the trees in their autumn colours and getting a bit of a sweat up can’t be a bad thing.
Firstly, in my experience if you choose the right weather, it very rarely rains as much or for as long as you might imagine. Yes, occasionally we’re soaked through by the 12th and walk in, but not as often as you might think. A set of well-fitting waterproofs, a proper brolly, and truly waterproof shoes and bag take care of most situations.
Forget the score and go experiment
But for me winter golf becomes really enjoyable when you ignore the scorecard. Ignore whether you shoot an 8 at the 2nd or 7 at the 17th. Winter is a great time to shake things up a bit, play golf for golf’s sake and do some things differently.
Soft courses give us a great opportunity to see how far we really hit our clubs. Yes, it’s colder so the ball doesn’t fly as far (c.2 yards for every 10 degrees change in temperature) but with no real roll, it’s easier to check that your wedge really does fly 100 yards or 6 iron does carry 150 yards. Knowing your distances gives you a much better chance to score better. Sometimes it’s even worth playing without a driver or 3 wood to ensure you use longer irons off the tee as a great way to check longer iron distances.
Strike it right
Another thing I do more often in the winter is practice my strike. By placing a tee peg in line with ball, it is easy to see at what point I am hitting the ground: before, at, or after the ball. When I first started doing this I was amazed at the difference between what I thought I was doing and reality.
Preferred lies provide the perfect opportunity to hit most shots off a great lie. We don’t play on PGA tour-quality courses, so even in the summer we don’t get good lies as often as we would like. And with driving range mats having very little give, winter is an ideal time to do this. Not having to worry about the lie so much can deliver some fantastic shots and boost confidence.
Get a grips on equipment
If it’s not a comp and you’re not worried about the score, why not test out some of those strange-looking grips that the pros use for putting. You may just find the one. Even better, try some of your partner’s putters or irons on a few shots and see how they perform. When else do we get the chance to try a different manufacturers club’s without the pressure to buy?
Try different formats. I usually only play medal or stableford in the summer, but to get round quicker when courses are less busy, play alternate shots or play the best ball on every shot, take a limited number of clubs, or just play 9 holes.
Get out there
The thing about golf in the winter is to get out there, have some fun and try some new things. The bowl of soup in the clubhouse always tastes so much better when it’s wintry outside and you’ve earned it.
Play well and wrap up warm
Tell us about your approach to winter golf in an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Neil Hart is a founding director of PuttBANDIT Ltd, co-inventor of the PuttBANDIT Ball Marker. Neil is currently credited with a handicap index of 13.3.
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