Playing in Adverse Conditions
I have recently written about playing the wind and controlling trajectory – high or low – by making adjustments in your ball position and set up. So that triggered an inquiry from Robert, who is planning a golf trip to Bandon Dunes and asked:
“What are some additional considerations and strategies for playing in the rain and cold?”Well, first of all, I envy you as you head to Bandon Dunes. I haven’t had the pleasure yet, but have talked to a few who have, and they say it is a wonderful golf experience. It’s on my list of places to play for sure. And yes, you very well might run into some wind, rain and cold while you are there. That makes me recall the trip to Scotland my brother and I took some time back. The old Scottish saying is that, “if there be nae wind, there be nae golf”. And when we were at Turnberry, a local told us that you could predict the weather by the Ailsa Craig (the very large rock/island out in the bay). He said, “If you wake up and can see the Ailsa Craig, it’s going to rain; if you can’t see it, it’s raining.”
So, back to Robert’s inquiry about dealing with rain and cold on the golf course. Let’s start with the latter.
The key is to keep warm without bulk. I prefer a layer of silk next to my skin. Silk is extremely warm and very thin – you barely know you have it on. Some of the new synthetic fabrics claim that, but I like the natural silk. From there, corduroy pants are warm, or you can opt for the flannel-lined chinos sold by Orvis, LL Bean, etc. They are really nice. For the upper body, I like to layer so that I can peel off if it gets too warm. Over the silk goes a mock turtle neck or long sleeve polo, then a vest and a lined windshirt. (If it’s any colder than that, I’m probably not playing!!!) But if I really needed to be out in more cold than that, I’ve opted for a blanket around me between shots, so that I’m not looking like the Michelin Man.
The key is to avoid bulk, particular under your arms and around your shoulders. The top layer should be a good windbreaking outer garment. And wear a warm cap of some kind, and even an ear wrap – most body heat is lost through the head.
The other key is to keep your hands warm or you’ll have no feel whatsoever. An outer garment with hand warmer pockets is good, or mittens that can be taken off and put on quickly and easily are another solution.
With all this gear on, realize that your swing is going to be restricted in length, so adjust your expectations accordingly. The ball also doesn’t go as far when it’s cold. I just accept that every shot is one club longer than normal, maybe two. And go play.
As for rain, that’s a tough condition when you don’t have a caddy and are probably riding a cart. Keeping your gear and hands dry is always a challenge. A quality rainsuit made for golf is a good investment, and one you’ll only make once. Pro Quip and Zero Restriction pioneered good golf rainwear, but all the major brands now have them. Keep a supply of towels somewhere where a new dry one can be broken out when needed. A great way to keep a dry towel is to hang it under your umbrella.
So, there you have my tips for staying warm and dry. I’m sure we have readers who deal with inclement weather much more than I do. [One of my golf buddies, who is a Nebraska transplant, says, “I don’t play golf in bad weather, because I live in South Texas and I don’t have to. He’s right most of the time.]
Send in your ideas for dry and warm, guys. Robert is about to take a great golf trip and we need to help him spend his money before he goes!!!
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Bryan K says:
I play a LOT of wet and cold weather. I consider 35 degrees to be cool, not cold, unless the wind is whipping around. Invest in some Under Armour ColdGear. The stuff is amazing. It wicks the sweat away (as well as rainwater). I usually wear the 1.0 leggings with a standard pair of golf slacks over top. I will wear a ColdGear crew underneath a mock turtle neck wind shirt with an actual windbreaker jacket (that also happens to be water proof) if it's extra cold and windy. Also, I've invested in a pair of cloth rain gloves for golfing that actually work quite well in cool weather as well. They are actually the only golf gloves I can wear without breaking out, so I have several backup pairs. On my head, I wear just my 49ers baseball cap. Finally, the most important part about golfing in cold and wet environment is keeping your feet warm and dry. I hear Oregon Mudders makes some outstanding golf boots, but I have yet to give them a try. I'm still struggling to find a way to keep my feet dry.
I just played last weekend and when i teed off it was about 30 degees out. Well there was only me and like two other people on the course. All I had was some long johns, under some carpenter kaikes on my legs, my upper was jsut a under armor and a long sleeve polo that in kiinda fleece lined. I also had a free wind breaker that i had acuired. Had my under armour bennie on too. I have to say I was pretty warm.
On a side note do any of you take "liberties" when you hit your approach shot and it bounches 25 feet up off the green and lands like 15 feet past? I could not even find a divit from where it hit on any of the holes. I was having a very hard time on the front nine since all the ground was frozen. Like playing on concret for every shot. I also put it in a bunker and saw it bounce up and out 30 feet. When i got the the bunker i saw a spider web crack in a 6 inch thick pond formed in the bunker. haha. I think it was to cold to play. I did slide around some of the bunkers for fun though haha. Maybe thats my cue to stop playing for the season.
Bryan K says:
The courses around here won't let you play if the ground is frozen. Therefore, the coldest temp I've ever played in is about 35 degrees. That said, once the ground has had one or two good cold frosts, winter rules begin. I take all kinds of liberties, but my score still looks atrocious.
To add from my experiences...
In the cold: hand warmers are a must (the little packets, hold them in your hands between shots or put them in mittens that you are wearing), keep your head and ears warm (why do people not wear hats in the cold?! It helps tremendously), in the wind a wind breaker can make a huge difference.
In the wet: along with extra towels under your umbrella attach extra gloves, waterproof golf shoes are a must (I don't understand why they make non waterproof golf shoes), also to keep your feet dry don't get your socks wet (make sure your rain pants cover down to your shoes), and remember the dry part of your clothes is your crotch so dry your grips there if you don't have anything else.
Bryan K says:
Do people really consider 35 degrees cold?
When it gets below zero, that's when the hat and mittens come out. Thirty five and sunny is perfect golfing weather!
Not trying to displace the conversation into a different direction, but yes, 35 degrees fahrenheit is cold. Even if you don't feel cold at that temperature your body stiffens and you lose feel with your hands. Or maybe I'm just getting old! :-/
i played last fri (i live in blacksburg va) and it was 27 deggrees when i started. warmed up to 34
ground was completely frozen. no cheating with me and my friends, played it down and putted out. I see it as a new challenge
what ive found is in conditions like that, the greens freeze first (since the grass is shortest on the green, the ground below has the smallest amount of insulation). However, the fairways were not completely frozen. So the strategy of taking 1 less club and bouncing it on wont work (since if it hits the green it bounces over, but if it lands short, it wont bounce up). What works best is hitting a low punch shot that will skip through the fairway and roll onto the green. The hardest shots are ones where its hard to judge the roll. (like if you have to hit over a bunker, gotta roll it through the bunker instead since landing on the green doesn't work)
Bryan K says:
I also thought I'd add a bit about stretching in cool weather. It is a lot more important than stretching in warm weather for the reasons that eventHorizon stated. I always go through a quick stretching routine before playing. The most important muscle groups are my calves, back, and shoulders. I also spend some time on my wrists, legs, and the rest of my arms. I've had quite a few nagging problems over the course of the summer, mostly resulting from improper stretching in cooler playing conditions. I pulled a calf muscle in my front foot early in the summer, and I pulled a back muscle late in the summer. Both could have been avoided with proper stretching.
Tim Horan says:
I play a lot in the frost down to 11C under. I have found that playing for the humps and bumps around the green rather than the green itself pays dividends and often leaves only a bump and run or putt on; much easier to control on hard greens. Best round in frost 78 gross with only 24 putts (on the green). I have adoted this in good weather also (not worrying whether I hit the green that is) relying on chip and one putt to real in the scores.
Bryan K says:
I have to ask...those of you who play in frozen conditions...
All of the local courses, and all of those I have ever played, will not let anyone on the courses when the greens are frozen. They won't even let anyone walk on them. They say it kills the grass. Waiting out frost delays, for instance, is a regular part of golfing in this area. Is this not true?
The wind is the killer, Also a must is pack extra sets (sets as in one for each hand) extra sets of gloves. Dry hands and dry feet will do wonders for comfort when cold and wet.
I agree, when there is frost, ive never been allowed to play. But what i am talking about is frozen turf. 2 different things. Frost is when the grass blades are frozen. You can have freezing weather without the grass blades being frozen (the ground underneath is frozen instead). I've done some research on this, and walking on it under either condition is bad (frost is the worst), but if the course lets me play, I'm going to play.
Here is a source where i found about playing in frozen conditions (as far as how it affects the turf itself): www.usga.org/course_care/articles/other/winter_p
Quoted from that USGA site:
Another dangerous situation exists when the soil is completely frozen to the surface but the grass blades have thawed. Provided there is no frost or ice on the grass under this condition, then limited foot traffic creates little damage, if any.
At these times, heavy traffic or golf carts should be restricted from greens, tees and even fairways. This is the most favorable winter conditions, because when the soil is frozen it does not allow as much penetration of compaction and spikes, thus preventing damage to the grass roots. Since the blades are not frozen, they retain the resiliency needed to withstand light foot traffic.
(this perfect describes the situation i played in on December 11)
guess the guy in the pro shop didnt know this, because the cart's for the day were allowed off the path (i walked ,but my friend took a cart)
Bryan K says:
Thank you for the link, Scott. We actually have some pretty nice public courses in this area, and I guess there is a good reason why. Now...if only we could get everyone to start fixing their ball marks.
I golf in the cold here in chicagoland. went on december 5th it was about 35* and wasn't too bad. The tough thing about playing when the ground is frozen is cleaning your clubs. on iron shots the dirt is going to freeze to the club face and you have to scrub to get off. that is the worst part for me. I agree i usually take atleast 1-2 clubs longer in the cold.
Frozen is frozen and courses let you play. You couldn't make a divot with a hammer. Freezing temps in the fall when the ground hasn't frozen yields frost delays, and that's related more to the dew point.
Rules for cold and very cold play:
1. Walk, walk fast. Keeps feet and whole body warmest.
2. Carry the bag on your back - it provides insulation and the weight warms you up from the extra work. Your hand can be free to play with the thermos.
3. Cotton is rotten. Thin polypropelene with minimal outer gear is best. A thin fleece works good. Outer layer wind-seal is best. I use those very thin rain shirts/ or the short sleeve rain shirt for wind seal. I've played w/o golves all the way below 0*F with warm pockets - again because of carrying the bag you can get your hands warm. Wool can work, but is necessarily thick.
4. Hat. It keeps your hand and feet warm. If your head or core gets cold your body will restrict circulation to the extremeties.
5. Play with intincts - it will serve you the rest of the year.
yea, the grass will freeze to the club. all part of winter golf
Joining in late here, but have two-bits+ to throw in. (Bjohn and I already caught up on a different thread about golfing on the banks of the Red River north.)
I play in wet/cool or frozen conditions on the w coast. We have a long growing season so I expect that's why they let us play on frozen grounds. Back in Manitoba, we too were prohibited from going out early on frosty mornings or late in the year. Here they don't care, at least at my usual spot.
Most winter regulars here use Oregon Mudders or FootJoy boots or hightop style golf shoes. I got some Mudders but they are darn heavy! Good for exercise but hard on the knees and they tire me out! Gaters (gaiters?) seem a good idea.
con'td - (it's windy out today, long-windy)
I don't bother with umbrella - too much fuss. I find the FJ wet play gloves are excellent - they really work. Warm too. To stay dry - a good hat (waterproof Callaway ball cap or an old tweed cabby hat that sheds water pretty good.) Toques (OK, watch-caps, beanies, whatever) are too hot n itchy for me. Ditto long johns (!!), altho the underarmor stuff sounds good - maybe pricey tho? onedollarwed has some good comments - esp "cotton is rotten." I'll add bamboo is taboo. I have waterPROOF jacket with big side vents (an important feature) to expel moisture just like snowboarders. Love it.
I always carry but pullcart guys say that it's too bouncy when frozen and too sloppy when wet.
see next . . .
Low punch shots are FUN to play on hard ground and greens. You sometimes aim for the rough to stop the ball. Divots are shallow - u have no choice. Putting is weird cuz you *think* it's gonna be fast cuz it's frozen. But it ain't. Dribble hot coffee on the tee box to insert tees or use short tees that you can press in 1/2" or so - that's all you can do. Low draws run forever - like a Jim Rice homerun bouncing down Brookline Ave. High drives may (will) bounce sideways, ditto approach shots - punchy is the way to go.
It's interesting to go from frozen ground on a Sat to sludge-fest on a Sun. Overnight rain and sunshine can change things and suddenly u r playing plugged balls and get no carry on drives that the day b4 were running an extra 35-50!
just one more:
Sunglasses help cuz low angle sunshine causes hellish glare - it's like early/late in summer all day long.
Attitude adjustment: it is what it is. Expect some bad breaks and flubbed shots. It friggin winter! Laugh them off. I play lift clean and place in slop and bump my ball onto a tuft when frozen cuz I do NOT want to bust a club (or an already-arthritic elbow) hitting into ice. (Remember the Titantic.)
Winter golf is a treat! I believe it sharpens your touch, even though the game can be quite different than in warm weather. No mosquitoes and for me - a prairie boy built for outdoor skating rinks and bumper-shining on frozen streets - nice and cooooool.
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