Categories: Golf

Your Essential Guide to Winter Golf (and How to Stay Warm!)

If you’ve been out on the course recently, you will probably have figured out that we’re now in the realms of the plugging fairways and softer greens, oh and trickier than usual roughs! Obviously, playing in the winter affects people in different ways and depends on a few factors, such as the course you play at, your handicap and your technique/ability.

I’m a high handicapper, and I know that I tend to hit behind the ball a bit more than I should so I used to dread the winter months, but thanks to some of these tips, along with a summer of fairly decent swinging, I’m going into the winter season feeling more confident.

Take a look and see the answers to two of the biggest questions on lots of golfers’ lips, “how do I survive winter golf?” and “how do I stay warm on the golf course?”

Know your winter club distances

To be ready for the winter, you should head on up to the practice ground or the indoor simulator to accurately measure your distances for each club in your bag. You will find that your distances are notably less when you’re out in cold winter weather and there will be little ground run on the fairways. If you’re new to the sport, don’t panic, this is just how it is, but it’s worth knowing how much shorter your distances are so you can adjust appropriately.

Know your approach and expectation

The card may have par-5 on it, and you know you’d normally bang it on the green in three in summer, but that’s not necessarily the case during the winter. If you are not going to make it in three, then approach it as such and prepare yourself for a par six. Look to play the hole like a four-shotter and aim to lay up at a distance you know you can fly one in and hone on the flag with. You’ll find that you’re able to swing within yourself, instead of pushing your limits and ending up having to recover from water hazards, behind trees or opposite fairways, etc.

Know your ‘winter wedge distance’, then take into account the soft greens and you’ll stand a decent chance of seeing a satisfyingly accurate approach to put you in good stead for a par/’winter birdie’.

Winter rough can be tough!

Wet grass is really good at grabbing hold of the hosel of your club – and that means you’re in for lots of potential snap hooks if you’re in the rough a lot. If it’s a longer shot from the wet rough you need, think about whipping your rescue/hybrid club out; this bad boy will cut through the grass more effectively than an iron. When it’s the shorter shots, cock the wrists earlier than normal to create a steeper angle of approach which will help to get to the back of the ball without getting caught up in the grass before contact.

If you’re not keen on this, or you’re just starting out and don’t really know how to play these shots, then play safe, and just knock it onto the closest area of fairway you can (we’ve all been there!)…

Green approaches aren’t what they were

Get set for very little, if any, run on green approaches so factor this into your club choice. Having said that, if you’re out on the frosty mornings, then you could get a quicker approach than usual, so bear that in mind.

Warm hands are happy hands

If you’ve played golf in the cold, then you’ll know exactly how unbearable it can get when it comes to trying to hold the club and get a good feel. Avoid the stinging hands and keep your hands warm using these top tips:

  • Attach some winter mitts to your trolley so you can pop your hands straight in as you push. You’d be surprised what a difference that makes between shots and holes.
  • US PGA Tour player Tommy Gainey always wears a glove on each hand regardless of the weather, earning himself the name “Two Gloves”. Follow suit and feel the difference.
  • Carry some hand warmers in your pocket and have them ready for when you need them most.

Winter mat prep

If there are winter mats out on the tee boxes at your local club, then go ahead and widen your stance a little. By doing this, you’ll be able to form a more solid base on if they’re slightly slippery. Also, don’t just assume that the mat is correctly lined up with the hole either. Place the ball down and then pick the line you want and address accordingly. Don’t follow the line of the mat as you may end up spraying it over to the hazard, unintentionally.

Keep your balls clean!

This is your chance to make use of winter rules and preferred lies. Don’t get to your ball and think, ‘ah yeah, I’ll hit that, it’ll be fine’ because you’re likely to not get the right/enough contact on the ball which will inevitably end up with you not being happy with the outcome.

Also, these rules are in place “to protect the course or to promote fair and pleasant play”. So, make sure you take advantage when this lift, clean and place rule is in play. Lift and clean your ball even if you look down and it appears clean, and it looks like it’s lying well. If there’s any mud on the bottom of the ball you’ve not picked up on, it’ll affect how your next shot travels so keep your balls clean, and you’ll notice a difference.

Pro tip:  careful you don’t wipe your ball on the green when you get there because this can be deemed as “testing the surface”. The penalties for this are; Match play – Loss of hole; Stroke play – Two strokes. Ouch!

Hopefully, these tips will have helped you in some way or another. If you’ve got any useful tips that I’ve missed off, leave your comments on Facebook and Twitter for other people to see and here’s to a good winter season on the course!

Jonny D :The Sport Fort. Stay tuned for regular sport-related posts.