You don’t have to go into hibernation during the chilly winter months – in fact, because many people do just that when the weather is less than appealing, it’s a great time to play on less populated golf courses. Plus, it’s often cheaper.
Damp, soggy, frosty, chilly golf is not everyone’s cup of tea. Many people will choose not to play in unpleasant weather, but if you do, here are a few tips to make the experience much more enjoyable.
It can be a challenge keeping warm on freezing cold, windy days that never seem to really warm up. A cold and stiff body will cost you both distance and feel – not what you want when you’ve made the effort to get out and play. Wearing layers is the way to go, not least because they’re easy to take off and put on again when you need to.
However, wearing a lot of layers can make you feel restricted when trying to swing, which can affect your score. Try smart layering rather than putting on three bulky jumpers, as this will allow for more movement. Invest in good quality thin, thermal, heat-locking layers for your top half that will efficiently keep you warm without the bulk. And try wearing a layer of ‘skins’ or long johns under your trousers to help keep your lower body warm without restricting movement too much.
A windbreaker jacket that will buffer the wind is a must – you can always take it off before you take your shot. You’ll play better if you’re warmer, plus you won’t spend the round dwelling on how cold and miserable you are – not an enjoyable experience. Staying warm will help you focus better on your game, and help prevent cold muscles from sustaining injuries.
Always take an umbrella and some waterproof gear just in case, as you never know when the weather can turn nasty. Dew ad frost can wreak havoc with your footing, so take along a few towels to keep the soles of your shoes clean so that you don’t slip. You can also use these towels to keep your clubs and grips dry and mud-free.
Keep your extremities warm
We have two words for you – hand warmers. They’re cheap, and effective. Put them in your pockets and then keep your hands in your pockets between shots. This will improve your touch, feel and grip. At the very least, invest in a good pair of warm gloves to keep your hands toasty warm in between shots.
Wear two pairs of socks, because there’s nothing worse than spending hours with icy cold feet. Keeping your extremities warm seems to help the rest of your body stay warm as well. It’s a great idea to wear a pair of thermal socks over a pair of normal socks, as this helps trap the heat between the layers.
And we all know that we lose a lot of heat through our heads. Wear a beanie under your cap or golf hat to prevent losing a lot of unnecessary heat.
You might be tempted to skip that warm-up and just get out there and play – but don’t give in to that temptation in winter. It’s even more important to get warm and loosened up before you play. Not only will you feel more prepared and play better, but stiff, cold, unresponsive muscles have more of a chance of sustaining an injury.
A proper warm-up will include exercises to increase your heart rate, stretching, and some practice shots to get the feel for your swing. In winter, prioritise the portion of your warm-up that raises your heart rate – which might be a walk or a light jog, or some other cardio-based type of exercise. Make sure you’re really starting to feel warm before progressing onto your stretches and practice shots – your body will thank you for it later.
Read more about how a proper warm-up can help you become a lifelong golfer here.
Adjust your expectations
Don’t head out to the course expecting to play at your normal level on a freezing cold day. You’re not likely to set any personal best records when the temperatures dip, so accepting this fact will mean you won’t get so frustrated when the conditions affect your game. Your round will be far more enjoyable if you accept that winter golf is different to summer golf and allow yourself some leeway.
Even the pros don’t play as well in tough, cold and windy conditions. Don’t take it too seriously and make sure you’re having fun, even if the conditions are rough. What’s important is that you’re still playing the game you love. As Brian McAvoy says, “Maintain perspective: whether it is 34 degrees outside or 78, be grateful that our lives, good fortune and our health permit us to play the greatest game on earth. Have fun, go low, shake hands and meet me at the bar.”
Adjust your game
There are some significant differences between winter and summer golf that you’ll have to account for. Your ball won’t travel as far in the air in cold weather, the greens will be slower plus your ball will have less roll when it hits the green, and the rough will be soggy, deep and overgrown. You’ll likely need more club on many of your shots, and will have to adjust your game accordingly.
To read more about the differences between summer and winter golf, and how you can adjust your game to accommodate the colder weather, click here.
Don’t leave your clubs in the car
If you’re prone to storing your golf clubs in your car so they’re always ready to go, it’s wise to reconsider this in winter. Leaving your clubs in your car can affect the material they are made of, as materials contract and expand depending on the temperature. Not only will your club feel like an ice cube when you try to use it, your clubs can also get cracked if the temperatures are extreme. Better to store your clubs in a warmer, dry place so that they will play much better.
Take a warm drink
Carrying around an insulated thermos containing a toasty beverage can be just the thing to warm you up from the inside out. Sip it in between shots to give you a bit of a pick-me-up. You could even consider filling your thermos with a drinkable soup to really warm you up.
Play 9 holes
If it’s extremely unpleasant and icy cold, but you still want to play, consider just playing a 9-hole round. It’s enough to get your golf fix and keep yourself in practice, without exposing yourself to the elements for too long.
For the avid golfer, winter is no reason to stop playing. If you really love the game, you’ll be happy to play in rain, wind, frost or chill. And the more you play the more accustomed you’ll become to the conditions, thus increasing your confidence. Manage the factors that you can manage and accept the rest – then get out there and enjoy your game.