The Virtues of Winter Golf

Winter is the best thing to happen to golf since sliced bread and the best kept secret in the game. I’m letting the cat out of the bag and my subtropical friends will soon be green with envy.

st titleWinter is in full force here in the U.S. Like every golfer in the colder climes, I find myself checking the weather forecast every day looking for a good opportunity to get out and enjoy our favorite pastime. The elusive beast that is the perfect winter golf day can be hard to find, but with some luck and some patience (let’s face it, it’s winter and I love golf, so I have nothing but time on my hands), the trifecta of perfect conditions can be found: sunny, no snow on the ground, and below 32°F. Yes! Time to go out and enjoy the best conditions the game can offer: Frozen Golf!

By now, my Southern California friends are scratching their heads and wondering “what is frozen golf?” Well my friend, while you were busy posting pictures of yourself on a golf course wearing shorts on a brisk 70° January morning, you’re missing out on one of the greatest experiences the game can offer. Golf on frozen ground is truly unique and I would argue, is better than golf in standard conditions.

Fashion is the first reason I’m going to present on the side of winter golf, because playing golf in the cold is the perfect way to channel your inner fashionista. During warmer weather, a golfer’s wardrobe choices are limited to small variations in polo shirts, whether they want to wear pajama pants, and some minor accessories like a colored belt and unique buckle. The best one can hope for is the ability to match your wardrobe color from head to toe.

In the cold, the fashion options are endless. Do you want the athletic look of a modern skier, or go classic with a wool suit ala Old Tom Morris? How about fur? You can always just piece together different layers and shed them as you get bored, as I do, so you look like you’re wearing a different outfit every few holes.

Accessories are much better in cold weather, too. There are lots of different options people can choose from for headwear, for example, so if wearing a black skullcap hat and a skull facemask is your thing, you’re in luck. Oh, and you can still wear the same color from head to toe.

Advantage: Winter.

Ok, so you’re thinking, “Big deal, Bill, I don’t care about what I’m wearing.” Trust me, I can tell. I bet you do care about how far you hit the ball, right? Well there’s a reason you should be out playing frozen golf right now. So what if the ball carries farther during hot and humid summer days? The fairways are like a frozen tundra. Remember that scene in Tin Cup when Don Johnson’s character out-witted Kevin Costner’s character and won his car by hitting his ball down the road? It’s like that, except the road leads to a green. My longest “career” drive is over 400 yards. Pow.

Advantage: Winter.

Winter golf also gets preferred lies. I can’t think of a single situation where I’d rather play the ball as it lies instead of being able to lift, clean, and place it. You’re setting up a perfect lie on practically every shot. You really can’t get this advantage in the summer where you can set up some nice low rounds to lower your handicap unless you’re already playing high level tournament golf in South Florida. I’m just kidding with that last sentence, of course. You can’t post out of season scores to your handicap.

Advantage: None. This one’s a wash, since you can’t post your low rounds on your handicap. After all, the whole point of a handicap is so you can show all your friends how cool you are because you’re good at golf.

By now, you should be booking a golf vacation to Alberta. If you are still hesitant to pull the trigger on playing frozen golf, consider the fact that your short game will greatly benefit. You can’t dig a wedge into frozen ground, which means no fat chips. Either you learn very quickly how to properly engage the “glide” in your pitch shots, or you’re going to spend the rest of your golf vacation lying face down on a masseuse’s table. That’s a win-win right there. If Tiger Woods had been playing golf in Edmonton instead of Phoenix, nobody would be talking about his chipping.

Putting is a different animal, too. Temporary and winter greens are the great equalizer. Got a friend that beats you soundly on the putting greens? Have him putt on a shaggy, frost-covered green. It will drive him nuts.

Advantage: Winter, unless you are a good putter, in which case, I hate you.

It’s obvious at this point that frozen golf is vastly superior to any other form of golf, but there is one negative about it that I feel obligated to mention, lest you guys accuse me of manipulating this article to suit my point of view: there are no cute cart attendants out when it’s freezing. Playing golf in freezing conditions is like a fine delicacy: not everybody appreciates the nuances that make it great. Unfortunately for you, that means the economics of running a golf course trump their obligation to provide you eye candy. If they spent all their money on cart attendantss in the winter, the course would soon go bankrupt and close. Sorry, I can’t argue with economics.

This will all change once people read this article and realize what they’re missing. Northern golf courses will be inundated with golfers from all over the Southern United States looking for decent golf conditions in the winter. Think of what that will do for the local economy. We can make it happen, people. We can change the (golf) world.

Advantage: Summer, for now.

The winner, earning three out of five possible points, is winter. Even my shorts-clad friend has to realize that. As an aside, I feel bad for the guy. The cost of living is so high out there, he can’t even afford a full-length pair of pants. I’ll be starting a relief fund on his behalf soon. Anyway, winter golf is great, so go out and play already.

One final caveat: none of this applies if there is snow on the ground. That stuff eats your golf balls for lunch. It doesn’t matter if your balls are orange if they’re buried in snow. The only thing you can do on a golf course with some fresh powder on it is to go sledding or cross-country skiing, which you should probably do more of anyway, because the U.S. needs better cross-country skiers. Go out there and bring home the gold for America.

10 thoughts on “The Virtues of Winter Golf”

  1. Great article Bill! I would add that I like winter golf because there are only a few of us who brave the cold. Rounds can be very fast. I’ve played nine in 55 minutes and 18 in under 2 hours taking my time.

    But one thing dampens my enthusiasm. We’ve got literally six feet of snow on the ground right now.

  2. That is… a course sporting a lake with a bare ice surface… It’s annoying though when just the edges melt and the ball slides all the way across the hazard only to slip below the surface on the far side.

  3. Unfortunately, the window between frozen and snow covered in often very narrow. We played here in SE Michigan on 12/28/2014 with near perfect conditions. Since that date we have had complete snow cover.

  4. snow on the ground doesn’t have to end the fun. In fresh snow, the colored ball shines like a neon bulb up the hole it punched in the snow, and snow cones make fine tees (but 400-yard drives are out of the picture; no bounce and no roll). I’ve given up snow golf, but i occasionally walk the course, following the pullcart tracks in snow of the true diehards.

  5. LOL This is April 2nd 2015 and here there is still winter golf. With a potential for a fresh snowfall which we traditionally get for Easter, we are looking at May to get out on the courses MAYBE. The worst winter ever.

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