A few years ago, the Montana high school state golf championship was played through a snowstorm. The athletes worked their way around a snow filled course, while parents and spectators helped them follow and locate their golf balls. Golfing in the winter definitely presents many challenges, and those of us who are avid golfers can certainly appreciate the dedication of these student athletes from Montana. For the dedicated winter golfers out there, this blog will highlight some things related to playing in the cold!
One thing to consider in regard to winter golf is that the ball will not travel as far. The cold conditions and wind can make it difficult to hit the ball as far as you usually would in warmer conditions, and 5-20 yards of distance can easily be lost. Because of that, sometimes it can be necessary to hit a longer club than you would normally hit for a particular shot. Cold golf balls will be even harder to hit with great distance, and that will also limit your distance in the winter. Last winter, I was playing with an experienced winter golfer and he gave me a great tip on how to keep your golf balls warm during your round. He said he keeps hand warmers in his pockets during his round, and keeps an extra ball in his pocket sitting on top of the hand warmer. Doing this has great benefits for winter golfers, as it can warm your golf ball up while also keeping your hands warm. I also like to take a few golf balls out of my bag before I leave for the course, so I can warm them up in my car before playing; this helps with the ball’s compression rating. Distance will certainly be lost in the winter, but hitting a longer club and avoiding the use of cold golf balls can help improve your chances of success in the winter!
The conditions featured on the golf course in the winter are typically much different than the conditions seen in the summer. Typically, courses are muddier and wetter than usual, resulting in muddy golf balls and less roll on the fairways. Because of the tough conditions, many courses and golf groups will play by the “winter rules,” which help golfers play through the conditions, and also aim to protect the course from excessive damage. The main rule seen throughout the winter is the lift, clean, and place rule, where players are allowed to clean their golf ball and place it within 6 inches of its original resting place. This rule can be used to avoid hitting a muddy golf ball and is an accepted rule within most winter golf outings. The softer ground also leads to more embedded golf balls, so the lift, clean, and place rule can also be used to avoid excessively tearing up the course by whacking at an embedded golf ball in an effort to get the ball out of the ground and moving forward. In addition to that, it is important to be aware of potential delays in early morning tee times due to frost. Frost delays take place when frost covers the greens and the course. Playing on greens full of frost can severely damage them, so frost delays are common in the winter on colder mornings.
Obviously, the cold weather is a huge factor when golfing in the winter. I prefer to wear multiple warm layers as opposed to one large and bulky coat to keep me warm. It can sometimes be difficult to achieve a full swing while wearing a bulky coat, so wearing long sleeved layers can be beneficial. Also, consider walking in the winter instead of taking a cart! Driving in a golf cart can make it feel extra cold, as the wind and cooler air will constantly hit you in between shots. You will likely warm up quicker while walking, so it is a great option for the winter.
Playing golf in cold winter conditions definitely requires a strong passion for the game, and can be very rewarding for your game. For those of you who do not like to play during the winter (who can blame you), this can be a great time to regrip your clubs or get fitted for new ones. Regripping clubs is an essential task and is important in maintaining your clubs, so the winter can be a great time to do that.
-Sam Cresta, Assistant Golf Professional at American Classic Golf Club