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Your Complete Guide To Playing Golf In Chilly Conditions

Playing golf in the winter can be a very special thing. The days can be crisp and cold without the hint of a cloud in the sky. Coupled with no...

Playing golf in the winter can be a very special thing. The days can be crisp and cold without the hint of a cloud in the sky. Coupled with no wind, you would fancy your chances of shooting a reasonable score.

Winter golf can keep our competitive juices flowing with a mix of tournaments or winning the money from your usual Saturday morning four-ball. Winter golf can also present an opportunity to work on our golf game and take improved swing mechanics out on the course ahead of what we hope is a successful summer campaign where the handicap drops significantly. If you want to play golf over the winter months, our guide will help you make all the right decisions and make the most of winter fun on the links.

In doing so, we'll cover the following key areas:

  • Dress For Success
  • The Importance of Warming Up
  • Club Selection Considerations
  • Course Management
  • What To Keep In Your Golf Bag

Dress For Success

There's no escaping from the fact that playing golf in the winter requires some extra layers to keep us warm. Some golfers feel that adding layers inhibits their ability to swing the club freely. Still, new lightweight materials keep us warm and dry today and allow us to swing as freely as we want.

Taking this on board, you can adopt a layering effect for the upper body, which allows you to swing the golf club with freedom while keeping warm at the same time.

Trading your polo shirt for a long-sleeved roll-neck top can act as an effective base layer. The base layer is closest to your skin, allowing it to trap body heat and keep you warm but not feeling restrictive for swinging the club.

The next layer could be a jumper or Gilet; the outer layer is a good-quality waterproof jacket.

Waterproof trousers can help keep your legs dry and provide additional warmth in cold conditions. Opting for a more robust pair of golf shoes can add extra grip and stability underfoot.

Lastly, it could be time to ditch your cap or visor for a beanie or woolly hat. You can still be trendy, but these hats keep your ears and the top of your head warm.

Srixon Golf

The Importance of Warming Up

Turning up in the car park five minutes before you tee off is never ideal preparation at any time of the year. Still, in winter, we can face more problems and increase the risk of injury if we don't have time to warm up before we play.

Carrying out some basic stretches while standing on the first tee waiting to hit can be helpful. You can also continue to do stretches while other players in your group hit their shots on the course. Continuing to do some stretches can be useful if the pace of play is slow and prevents your muscles from cooling down.

There are a number of different stretches you can perform to get your body warmed up, but if you have any mobility issues, it's worth checking with an expert about what stretches would work best for you.

Tommy Fleetwood TaylorMade

Club Selection Considerations

The courses we play change character between the summer and winter, which can alter our approach to how we play the course and the clubs we use. If you play hard and fast running courses in the summertime, you may use wedges with lower bounce settings to aid ball and turf interaction.

Continuing with wedges, you might also put an extra wedge in play that may feature more loft. The added loft can create more spin around the greens or be more beneficial for recovery shots from heavy summer rough. You might employ a driving iron at the other end of the bag to keep the ball under the wind and take advantage of faster-running fairways in the summer months.

But winter golf presents a different set of challenges, meaning we may need to look for alternative clubs that will be more effective for the conditions we face. Those wedges with lower bounce can dig more into the softer, wetter turf we often see in winter, hampering our ball-striking abilities. Using wedges with more bounce gives us more room for error, and won't dig into the turf as much.

Wetter fairways lead to less run out of the golf ball, so replacing the driving iron with the equivalent lofted fairway wood or hybrid will help us optimise carry to achieve the same distance the driving iron would generally go.

For wedges and the distances covered by driving irons, fairway woods or hybrids, the critical factor is keeping loft gapping consistent regardless of whether summer or winter.

With adjustable drivers, the temptation might be to increase the loft to get more carry out the ball, but this can cause issues. Adding more loft might add too much spin and launch, ultimately losing overall distance.

If you have been custom fitted for your driver, the loft will have been set to optimise launch and spin conditions, which should work all year round. If you do notice a distinct difference in how your driver performs between winter and summer, it's worth going to see a fitter for help.

Titleist Jordan Speith

Golf Course Management

We've already mentioned that the nature of the course can change between summer and winter, so we may also need to adapt our course management to the conditions we face.

If the courses you usually play are prone to getting a little wet and heavy in the winter, we can't expect any run out of the ball from tee shots, so carry becomes essential to maintain average distances.

You will also need to adapt your strategy with approach shots, primarily if pins are located towards the back of the green. This means we may need to take one or maybe even two clubs more to ensure we can fly our shot all the way back to the pin.

For chips and pitch shots, the same rule applies. In the summertime, if we were faced with a shot where we needed to carry the ball fifty per cent of the total distance, in winter, we may need to carry the same shot seventy per cent.

What happens if we play a course that has been subject to a hard frost?

We can't correctly judge how the golf ball will react when it lands on frozen ground. Still, for approach shots, we need to expect that landing the ball short of the putting surface will take into account the big first bounce and maybe help hold the green.

If it is frosty, consider using your lower bounce wedges and the driving iron, as the course conditions could play similar to that after a prolonged period of warm and dry weather in the summer.

Winter Greens

Winter greens are never the most enjoyable, but they are necessary to protect the regular greens if the weather is particularly harsh or the greenskeepers want to perform major maintenance.

For those not familiar with winter greens, they are a designated area on the fairway with a hole cut in it close to where the regular green is situated. Because this area usually is fairway, the grass isn't cut the same way as regular greens, and you generally won't face any hazards such as bunkers protecting winter greens.

The main consideration is not taking putting or chipping stats too seriously on these temporary surfaces. Don't get hung up on how many up and downs you make or the number of three puts you have.

Snowy golf course

Local Rules

Winter golf doesn't see significant changes to the rules, but most courses will adopt a preferred lie rule if your golf ball is on the fairway. Use this rule, especially if your ball has mud on it. You can mark where the ball is, lift it and clean it before replacing it on the fairway.

Also, pay attention to areas marked "Ground Under Repair" or GUR, as it is more commonly referred to. GUR can be on any point of the course and typically coincides with where greenskeepers are carrying out winter maintenance or construction.

If your golf ball ends up in a designated GUR area, remove it from it and play your next shot from the nearest point of relief, no closer to the hole. If you are playing a course unfamiliar to you, check in the pro shop or at the first tee to see if there are any other specific local rules to pay attention to when playing.

One final point: if the course is soft and you are playing to regular greens, please ensure you repair any pitch marks you make, and if you see another pitch mark that hasn't been fixed, take a moment to sort it. This is something that greenskeepers will love you for.

What To Keep In Your Golf Bag

Winter golf requires a few alterations to what you carry in your golf bag. For starters, you might have to carry your golf bag as some courses prohibit trolleys or buggies in winter to protect the ground.

That being the case, you first need to go through what's currently inside your golf bag so you aren't carrying anything other than the necessities. Beyond the essentials like golf balls, tees and pitch mark repairers, you'll need a decent storage pocket for waterproofs, a beanie or a woolly hat to keep your head warm, and winter mitts to keep your hands warm between shots.

On the subject of gloves, you may want to invest in winter/wet weather gloves that can help keep your hands dry and warm if the weather turns while you're on the course.

Storing snacks that help keep your energy levels up is just as valuable for the winter. Plenty of healthy snack options exist, but if you opt for a Mars bar instead, we won't judge you!

There are plenty of thermal bottles available for purchase, so you could even take your favourite hot drink out on the course to enjoy between shots. If you are playing in frosty conditions, you should also carry a few brightly-covered golf balls in your bag, as a white golf ball could be difficult to find on white, frozen ground.

If you get wet during your round, when you have finished and you have a warm, safe place you can use, take all your clubs out of your bag and lay them out to dry. Likewise, with any waterproof clothing, golf shoes, towels, and gloves.

Winter golf can be just as enjoyable as playing in the summer.

If you don't have them already, invest in some decent clothing that allows you to swing freely while keeping you warm. Ensure your body is suitably ready for winter golf by performing basic stretches to get warmth and elasticity into your muscles.

You don't need to make wholesale changes to your clubs, but pay attention to wedges if they are low bounce and a suitable alternative if you favour a driving iron in the summer months.

Getting some golf in over the winter can help when the weather improves in spring, so don't miss the opportunity.

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