Why I Don't Love Winter Golf
I WAS born and raised in Glasgow. I spent the first 18 years of my life in Scotland and it is where I learnt to play golf - my first faltering steps as a golfer happened at Lundin Links, not far from St Andrews, when I was about four years old.
My grandfather was a keen and passionate golfer who possessed the best short game I have ever seen. He was a low single-figure handicap golfer and would spend hours perfecting his chipping and putting technique. And it was him who taught me the basics and would drag me round the course in all weathers. If you have ever visited Scotland you will know that it rains a lot and that the winters are pretty severe.
And on the east coast of Scotland the wind coming in from the North Sea can cut you in two. I am told that I never complained about being forced to play in the wind and rain. All that I was interested in was hitting the golf ball, going after it and hitting it again. There was even a time when I thought that I might want to become a professional golfer.
But through it all, the one thing that I always hated was playing golf in the cold. And so it was with some interest that I read my colleague Kieran Clark’s article entitled “Golf in Bad Weather - How Much Can You Take?” Throughout my life I have played golf 12 months a year but, as I am getting older and beginning to struggle with various niggling ailments, I have to hold my hands up and admit that I am not a huge fan of winter golf.
And here are some of the reasons:
You have made the effort to load your clubs, shoes, waterproofs, warm-weather clothing, flask of piping hot coffee or soup into your car. You head off to the course, arrive in the car park and immediately become aware that there are only two or three other cars. You clamber out of the car, get your clubs out the boot and head towards the clubhouse. There are a few people milling about. Somebody recognises you. “You can take those back to the car Derek. The course is closed.” You ask why. During the winter it will be for one of the following reasons: frost, snow, flooding.
So the head greenkeeper has decided that the course is playable. You hit your approach to the first. It lands on the green. Instead of gripping and spinning, your ball thuds into the putting surface, bounces 80 feet into the air, lands, bounces again, and again, and again. And ends up in the rough behind the green. You arrive at the putting surface and realise it is as hard as concrete. You eventually get the ball onto the green and then hit your first putt and as the ball travels towards the hole it picks up frost and ice. A golf ball has a diameter of 1.68inches - at this time of year, it is closer to 2 inches by the time it comes to rest.
My absolute pet hate. There is worse feeling in the world than trying to take a divot on a frozen fairway. Actually, on second thoughts, there is a worse feeling - hitting it thin on a frozen fairway and feeling the vibration travelling through your fingers, up your arms and down your spine.
We all know that to get a golf ball out of a greenside bunker you need to take sand - plenty of sand. It is the only shot in golf during which you don’t make contact with the ball. It is all about the sand. Oh yeah? Just try splashing a golf ball out of a bunker filled with frozen, compacted sand. And be sure to have your phone handy in order that you can call 999 and tell the operator that you have just broken both your wrists.
Children love snow. Golfers hate snow. And it has happened to us all. You set off on a crisp winter morning and, after a few holes, the white stuff starts to fall. At first it is simply a minor inconvenience. But it persists. Soon you can’t see your golf ball, even though you know it finished in the middle of the fairway. And after a few holes your ball doubles in size when you putt on what just a couple of hours earlier was a perfect putting surface but is now a couple of inches deep in snow. The worst thing is that when you finally give up and come off the course, with the snow still falling steadily, you know that your course is going to be closed for days, maybe even for weeks. And that when the snow melts you will be up to your ankles in mud.
Don’t get me started on winter greens. I said, don’t get me started…. Unless you are very, very lucky, at some point during the winter you know that you are going to be playing on temporary greens. I get it. I understand that there are going to be times when we can’t use our normal greens. But here’s the thing. Everybody knows it, and that includes our greenkeepers. So why on earth can’t they prepare a decent temporary surface for us?
Playing in the rain during spring and summer is one thing. Doing so in December, January and February is an altogether different proposition. For a start, it will be cold. And there will probably also be some wind. Cold wind. No matter - you have spent a fortune on state-of-the-art waterproofs, golf shoes and gloves that are specifically designed for use in the rain. You put up your umbrella, you zip up the cover on your golf bag to keep your clubs dry. You have a towel ready. But no matter how hard you try; no matter how good your waterproofs are…water will always find its way down your neck, your grips will always get wet.
You arrive at the course and visibility is no more than 100 yards. Obviously, the course is closed. It would be seriously dangerous to play in such conditions. You sit in the clubhouse and enjoy a bacon roll and hot drink with your mates. An hour passes and the fog shows no sign of lifting, so you climb back into the car and head home. And just as you pull into your driveway, the fog clears. Completely!
This is another one of my pet hates. Yes, it is winter, but the course is open. You have completed 18 holes and are looking forward to the sanctuary of the clubhouse. You can almost taste that cup of hot tea and feel the warmth of the bar. But what’s this? It is in complete darkness, the door is locked and there is nobody to be seen. Never mind, you can always pop in to the pro’s shop and get a hit drink from the vending machine. No you can’t, because it is also closed.
Changing Rooms Locked
OK, so it’s 4pm, darkness is coming in and you know that the bar is closed. It’s an inconvenience but at least you know that you can head to the changing rooms, take off your wet clothes and change into some nice warm clothing. Well you could do if the changing rooms weren’t locked!
You have survived 18 holes in freezing conditions. You return to the clubhouse unable to feel the ends of your fingers or your toes. You head for the locker-room, get your towel and shower gel, lay out your change of clothing and head to the shower. You strip off, switch on the water - and it is stone cold!
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