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What’s to Like about Cold Weather Golf?

Oct. 31, 2008     By     Comments (20)

Swinging into winter.

Trap Five LogoWell, once again, November is breathing its chilly breath on all golfers in the northern latitudes. I'm not happy about it, but what can you do?

Now, those of you with true four-season golf weather will have trouble relating to this one. But for all my fellow northern golfers who have either already put up the clubs for the season or are contemplating doing so in the near future. To them, I say, don't do it.

Yes, the best golf of 2008 is probably behind us, but we can still get out there and win a few bucks from our friends, or, at the very least, chase a few Canada Geese around the fairway. I say, if you can get out there without icing up, why not tee it up. Throw on a few, or several, layers. Start with a warm, thin mockneck and build from there.

Not convinced that cold weather golf can be fun? Here are five reasons to play golf all year long.

Number Five: Prove You're a Man (or an Idiot)
OK, so this one is a little like the scene in Tin Cup where Cup is bragging that he just shot par on the back nine with a 7-iron. When Cup asks Simms if he's ever parred the backside with a 7-iron, Simms replies, "Well shoot, Cup, it never occurred to me to try."

Bare trees mean wider fairways.

There's a certain cachet to playing cold weather golf - and I'm talking the 30-40° here or less - but just don't expect everyone (or most people) to understand. If you can shoot a decent score on a frozen course in February when the holes haven't been moved since late November and your nose has been running since you stepped out of your car, that's definitely something to proud of.

Number Four: Tempo, Tempo, Tempo
Perhaps the most important factor in a golf swing is tempo, but most of us struggle to keep a our swings in tempo, even in warm weather. So what can cold weather do for you and your tempo? Very simply, if you can swing with a reasonable tempo as the wind chill hits something in the 20s, that should only help you when summer finally comes around.

Cold air throws off your tempo by making your transitions quicker. Swinging your arms away from your body exposes your torso and underarms to more cold air, making you want to get done with the swing as quickly as possible. Keeping your body under control in these kinds of conditions will pay dividends when the mercury rises.

Number Three: Boing… Boing…
Do you struggle to hit the ball over water? Are you one of those people who routinely dig out an old ball on par threes with a pond fronting the green? Winter might just be the time of your golfing life.

There's nothing like the relief - and humor - that results from getting a good bounce off a frozen creek or pond. Balls that dribble out onto the ice can slide forever. If the ice is thick enough, you might even be able to save par, but it's generally not worth chancing the dunk in ice cold water.

Number Two: Getting Ready for Next Summer
There are a few ways that you can actually improve your golf game, even when you're wearing too much thick clothing to make a truly free and proper swing. The first, tempo, we've already covered.

The second reason to play cold weather golf: it's good for you. As the mercury drops, your body burns more calories just maintaining it's own normal temperature than in it would in warm weather. It's a minor workout just being out in the cold. Make it even better and keep yourself warmer, by shunning the cart (even if you have a cart heater and one of those cart covers) and walking. If you dress in layers, you'll find that you'll probably have to shed a layer after walking a few holes. You may find that temperatures that you'd never considered golfable are actually fairly comfortable, provided the precipitation stays away and the wind isn't too strong.

Number One: More Room to Hit It
The best thing about cold weather golf is that you'll have plenty of room to play. Courses are virtually empty when the temperature drops below 50°. You'll find yourself playing in close to three hours easily (that cold air makes you walk a little quicker).

Wind = coldThere are three factors to take into account on top of the obvious (is the course covered with snow?): sun, wind, and precipitation. If the sun is out and the wind is low, you may that temperatures as low as the 20s are cold but playable. As the wind increases and the amount of sun decreases, your comfort factor will drop appreciably. Playing golf as it snows is a pretty cool experience, and can be reasonably comfortable to do. But playing in the rain, especially if it's windy as well, can be a miserable experience.

There's one more way that the golf course provides more room in the winter than it does in the summer. If you believe that trees are 90% air in the summer, what must they be in winter? 99%? If your experiences parallell mine, you'll find that hitting that one little twig that sticks out slightly into the path of your otherwise perfect shot is an incredibly easy thing to do.

Good luck, and keep warm out there!

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Discussion

  1. Kevin says:

    Value is another. Prices really drop to rock bottom. Many nice courses are running $25 around here (MI).

  2. headtilt says:

    Once the weather reaches 45F I hang up my clubs!! WSome love the struggle on the cold weather where you look more like Michilin man than Tiger woods. Fine carry on but this hot house plant finds NO pleasure in that kind of weather at all.

  3. ovidiov says:

    Sorry about what I am going to tell you!! I live in the Canary Island, so I can play golf all "winter" long....
    No idea what is to play golf with bad weather

  4. Eric says:

    I live in texas, so its golf all year round. We do get the 20's believe it or not, but its really not bad.

    I agree completely with the walking. When you have a cart heater and the cover, you get really warm in the cart, step out to freeze, then back in. Ive done it, it sucked.
    Walking keeps you unbelievably warm. Non-walkers, try it. It's a better game walking, and it does make these freezing months very enjoyable.

  5. rudygu says:

    Temperatures in the mid 30's and up don't bother me, but anything under freezing and I start getting pretty uncomfortable. Last January, my brother-in-law and I played on a windy, mid-20's day. It was 26 when we teed off and dropped down to about 21 before we finished - wind chill was in the low-mid teens. Driving home that day I swore I would never tee off with the temperature less than 30 degrees again and I don't see me breaking that vow any time soon ;)

  6. Steve says:

    Cost, plus tee times are open. 30*? That's tough. 50*, maybe 45*, assuming nary a wind, is my threshold. Once you have problems feeling your fingers, that is a problem. If you're a skier, those hand warmers come in handy.

  7. buckeyegolfer says:

    Not to mention that some courses are completely closed during winter months here in central ohio. I have walked onto very nice courses and played for free during December and January.

    Might as well play golf on Saturdays now, it's probably more exciting than our dear Buckeyes.

  8. Uthinkso says:

    Here is Michigan we're still in the 40's and 50's. I'll get out a couple more times then its indoors for me. Kudos to you warriors that play in the 20's and 30's though. I love the game, but man thats scary.

  9. Scott_G says:

    Fall/winter is my favorite time to play. You just have to dress for it. And with all of the new "performance" clothing available these days, it's pretty easy and very comfortable. I also agree that walking is the way to go. A pair of cart mitts with handwarmers tucked inside work wonders.

  10. I just played 9 holes yesterday with temps in the low 50s. This is a great time to play as was stated above as long as you realized you need to dress appropriately, course conditions are not ideal, and you will get some bad breaks.

  11. Tonyy says:

    This is true in so many ways. I have actually enjoyed playing in the fall more than I thought. The courses are empty, the prices are ridiculously low, and the game is still great.

  12. Adam A. Carbarundum says:

    I wish I could say the same about prices in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). The prices are at or near mid-season levels and the conditions are deteriorating with many courses greens aerated with larger holes making them virtually unplayable at the best of times. Sorry, but as much as I love to play in all kinds of conditions, and I do, I have to see something as a return on my investment (fair value for fair dollar). Sadly, my season is done. Let's see what next spring brings us in terms of green fees at the courses. Many courses here complained about low attendence as a result of above average precipitation. That usually translates to higher green fees the next year. With this economy, let's see. Should be interesting.

  13. Ernest Reed says:

    One thing that I absolutely love regarding playing in the colder season is that the fairways have become dormant and ball runs down the proverbial runway. The gain in distances are, to me, a fantastic way to wind down the season with positive feelings for the next season. The other thing that I love? Fewer golfers out there and that wonderful feeling of absolute solitude...You know, that feeling you get when your wife tends to ignore you! All in all, as sad as the end of season is, I tend to look at the positives that it brings towards hopes for the next season.

  14. George says:

    Sorry about what I am going to tell you!! I live in the Canary Island, so I can play golf all "winter" long....
    No idea what is to play golf with bad weather

    No bragging! Or you have to host the rest of us this winter.

  15. George says:

    I wish I could say the same about prices in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). The prices are at or near mid-season levels and the conditions are deteriorating with many courses greens aerated with larger holes making them virtually unplayable at the best of times. Sorry, but as much as I love to play in all kinds of conditions, and I do, I have to see something as a return on my investment (fair value for fair dollar). Sadly, my season is done.

    I can't believe the prices are still that high. In Central Ohio, the greens have mostly recovered from Fall aeration and prices are down to about 40-60 percent of Summer rates. I even saw an election day rate of $5 at a very nice public course. Well, hang in there, just five months until Spring!

  16. Patrick says:

    I live (and play golf) in England.

    Believe me, if I never played in cold weather I'd probably only play three rounds per year!

    I love playing in the cold and the wind and it makes the game easy when you finally get a warm and windless day.

  17. Mitch says:

    Ah, fall/winter golf in the Pacific Northwest, us hearty souls pay homage to the 'dry' courses like monks on pilgrimage to holy sites. Where one 'must' create a low ball flight so as not have the ball 'plug' on every shot. Where one competes with spawning Salmon for elbow room on the water logged greens. Where on can play in the shadow of powder white Cascades, where most summer golfers are frolicking in various nordic sports while you look down at your mud encased ball and wonder why aren't among them.

    Because you have the deep satisfaction of knowing this game you love was born out of similar wet, cold, wind swept converted cow pasture's much to the delight of it's hardy wool capped and oil skinned creators.

    I theorize it is not only tolerating but revealing the game in this challenging weather that breeds easy going, affable pro's from the Northwest, Fred Couples, Kirk Triplet, Peter Jacobson, Ben Crane must remove his attention from the good book between shots so as to be included in this esteemed group.

    Have to get back to working on my garage project for Northwest golfers, a golf bag/kayak hybrid.

  18. Parsnates says:

    Love cold weather golf. I have played with snow on the course and when you couldn't get a full size tee in the ground far enough to tee it up on the par threes. I have also hit a 300 yard drive with 200 yards of carry and 100 yards of roll and gotten home in two on a par 5 by bouncing it off the frozen pond. Three hundred yard drives and two putt birdies are not part of my summer game.

    I played yesterday on a cloudy, windy 42 degree day then came home and told my wife that it was too cold to rake leaves.

  19. Andy says:

    I live in England and never used to be a fan of winter golf...I've now changed my opinion! Even though we play off matts and to winter greens it is still good.

    There is no such thing as bad weather; just bad clothing!

    The really cold crisp sunny days are the best. However, we tend to get wet windy ones more often so good waterproofs are a must.

    Carts are for lazy people...carry your bag and use a half set. More exercise and better shot making come the summer

    My top winter tips are:

    - Galvin Green waterproofs...awesome!
    - Winter mittens
    - Flask full of soup
    - UnderArmour base layers
    - Wool beanie hats

  20. JDough MO says:

    Cold weather golf is definitely an acquired taste. In KC we get a very interesting mix of weather once the leaves start falling. Several courses in my area have fantastic tournaments including the Turkey Trot, Santa Shootout, Polar Bear Open, and my personal favorite - The Idiot's Classic (last year's version was 20* with 20mph winds and a windchill of 5*).

    Dress appropriately, walk, and have fun.

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