Winter golf - the way it used to be
WHY do so many people decide to hang up their clubs when the winter comes along? These days, there is no need to stop playing from November-March because we see far less snow than we used to in the bad old days and it is possible to keep warm and dry without feeling like the abominable snowman.
Let me tell you how it used to be. I am, you see, a club golfer of a 'certain age', and that means that I remember the bad old days when playing golf in the winter was a thoroughly miserable experience. I was born and brought up in Glasgow, so I know all about proper winters.
We had snow, we had frosts, we had rain and we even had fog so thick that when you put your hand in front of your face you couldn't see it.
We had lots of rain. I learnt to play on a course called Kirkhill, on the outskirts of the city. I am not saying that it was a hilly course, but you could always tell Kirkhill members from a distance because they all walked with a limp on account of the requirement to have one leg that was shorter than the other. Up hill, down hill, then down another hill to a green at the bottom of a valley - we didn't use temporary greens. Temporary greens were for wimps. All well and good, you might think, except for the fact that after a few days of Scottish rain you would hit an approach to a green, arrive on the putting surface and require a spade to dig the ball out of its pitchmark.
Then there were the days Scottish people refer to as 'crisp'. Let me tell you about crisp. Crisp actually means that the temperature was somewhere in the order of minus 10, the ground was as hard as concrete. It meant that you took your life in your hands if you attempted to play an iron shot properly. Just imagine attempting to strike a golf ball off concrete - and then remember that you are meant to hit down on the ball! And should you somehow manage to get that lob wedge high into the sky, what do you think is going to happen when the ball lands on the putting surface? It is going to bounce 100 feet in the air, land, bounce 80 feet in the air, land, bounce 40 feet in the air....and eventually finish about 80 yards beyond the green.
And to keep warm you had to wear two or three jerseys, two pairs of thick socks, long johns, a woolen hat, fur-lined gloves - you get the picture. Then you had to stand on the first tee and attempt to swing a golf club when you were wearing so much clothing that you could barely move a muscle. But at least you were warm. The good old days!
Back then, there was no such thing as all-weather golf shoes. So we used to wear leather shoes in the summer and don rubber golf shoes when the mercury started to fall. There is only one positive thing to say about rubber golf shoes - they kept the water out. However, on a cold day (in other words, every day from November 1 until March 31), by the time you had reached the first green, all feeling in your toes would be lost because rubber golf shoes had no capacity for keeping the heat in.
At this juncture I should probably point out that if you were ever stupid enough to wear your rubber shoes during the summer then you would quickly find steam emerging from the gaps and your socks would be soaking with sweat. So they were useless in the cold and they were an instrument of torture in the summer.
Oh yes, and they came with metal spikes. Do you remember metal spikes? There are two things about metal spikes that nobody bothered to tell you about:
- When the ground is frozen solid, it is impossible to stay on your feet, especially on a hilly golf course, so you ended up spending most of your winter golf on your backside.
- Metal spikes rip up wet greens. It is bad enough that you have to spend so much of your time repairing other people's pitchmarks, but when the golfer in front of you has dragged his feet across the putting surface then you may as well forget about trying to line up your putt, because your golf ball would wobble about all over the place.
And don't get me started on old-style waterproofs. I said, don't get me started on old-style waterproofs. What is to be said? Well, the first thing to note is that they were NOT waterproof. They were not even close to being waterproof. And they didn't fit properly, so you found water running down the back of your neck and leaking into the back of your trousers, running down the back of your legs and onto the top of your socks.
So you started your round bone dry. By the time you walked off the third green your waterproofs were soaked, your jumper and polo shirt were soaked, and your trousers were soaked. Good news though - your rubber golf shoes at least kept your tootsies dry.
Drainage wasn't what it is now either, so you would crunch a perfect drive away, watch it soar into the cloudy sky, then see it land. And that would be the last you ever saw of your golf ball as it would be plugged somewhere in the middle of the fairway, gone forever.
Did I tell you about golf trolleys? No? Let me tell you about golf trolleys. In the 1960s, they were heavy and their wheels were narrow. So what do you think happened when you attempted to drag them along a rain-soaked golf course? Give your grey cells a rest, I will tell you - the wheels would sink into the grass and your arm would be pulled from your socket. It was like pulled a deadweight.
Oh yes, I nearly forgot to tell you about umbrellas. They did keep the rain out. But here's the thing. In Scotland, the wind tends to blow. Quite hard. And quite often. And when it rains heavily in Scotland, it also tends to be windy, so as you attempted to haul your trolley from the mud, brolly in one hand, a gust of wind would come along and blow your umbrella inside-out - or out of your hands and off down the fairway!
So don't come complaining to me about winter golf. You have lightweight trolleys fitted with wide wheels, you have waterproofs that actually keep the water out, you have all-weather golf shoes, you have all-weather golf gloves and you have rubber grips.
Have you ever tried to hit a golf ball with a club fitted with a wet leather grip? I have some advice for you. Don't. Please don't. And certainly not if there happens to be anybody standing within 50 yards of you, for the club will surely come flying out of your hands and fly off into the distance.
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