Tips for High Handicappers in Winter Golf Conditions
Be realistic. When the greens are not in their best shape and the weather is bad, underfoot is squelchy and your towel and glove are soaking wet and cold… in these conditions, it is unlikely you’re going to go out and shoot under your handicap.
I like this one. Before you start, check your ego, the ball won’t fly as far in the winter and anyway most high handicappers think they hit the ball farther than it actually travels.
If you really insist on playing in the snow, at least use a yellow ball.
Winter time is a good time for practice
Instead of that Sunday morning round, get down to the golf range. However, when you get there, don’t do what nearly all people do, which is smack 100 balls into the misty distance, especially the last one, because they want to end on a high.
No, the best way to practice at the range is to hit every ball with focus and with a purpose.
Start with a pitching wedge. It doesn’t matter what distance you get with a normal swing; your aim is to hit 10 shots as close to the 100-yard flag as possible. Choke down a little if you feel it will help.
Now, it’s the turn of the 7-iron. Your only purpose is to hit 10 shots as close to the 150-yard flag as possible. Give yourself a clap on the back each time you get close.
Give your 3-iron some air and try and get 10 balls as close as possible to the 200-yard flag.
You get the idea. You must hit balls with purpose and focus.
Ok, I’ll allow 5 smacks with the driver. Got to keep warm!
Take advantage of winter rules
The main thing you need to understand about winter rules, is that they are nothing to do with the USGA or PGA, they are local rules applied by your golf club, and they only apply while there is a notice up somewhere saying “Winter rules apply”.
So, preferred lies, is not some rule that automatically comes into effect in November. It is a local rule that the club committee has decided to apply. Also, you should find out what distance you can move your ball; 6 inches or a club length, maybe, not nearer the hole. Don’t forget to mark your ball before you pick it up, and remember you are only allowed one pick up per stroke, and you can only mark, lift, clean and replace if your ball lands on a closely-mown area. You cannot take a preferred lie from the rough.
If you don’t follow these rules when making a preferred lie, you will incur a penalty of one stroke for moving the ball in play and the ball must be replaced.
So, be aware of and use the local rules but don’t break them.
Keep warm and moving
To prepare for any round of golf but especially in winter time, you should always warm up before a round.
During the round, wear a warm woolly hat and weather-proof or water-proof clothing. Carry a spare glove, your first one will get wet. Take an umbrella in case it rains and keep your towel dry under the umbrella. Buy some winter mittens, it’s very important to keep your hands warm.
Walk rather than take a buggy, you’ll stay warmer and looser.
Playing in the wind
You should learn a few tricks and pointers for when it’s windy.
Don’t fight the wind. Playing with the wind, make an easier golf swing because the wind will help the ball flight.
Playing into the wind needs more attention.
- Keep the ball low, use a club with less loft, choke down
- Swing at 75% of normal to reduce backspin, backspin will make the ball rise steeply
- Play the ball a little further back in your stance, weight forward
As a high handicapper, you probably don’t think about the right sort of ball to use in bad weather, however there are some things to consider.
- It’s a fact that a harder compression golf ball will fly further, with less backspin and go further on hitting the ground.
- Use a yellow ball. Why? Oh, come on!
- Use two balls and alternate them on each hole. Keep the spare in your pocket, a warm ball flies further.
- Keep your ball clean
Your ball won’t run as far in winter conditions so it is important to take the right club and to know the right distance to your target using a golf rangefinder.
Putting practice in the warmth of your home can be very enjoyable and useful. There are no humps and bumps to content with but getting the speed right is hugely important.
You could a small artificial turf mat for practicing full swings in your garden. Don’t go hitting balls over the fence!
Winter is also a good time to catch up on reading those golfing magazines and tips.
Do regular exercising and stretching during the winter to get ready for your first Spring round.
Enjoy yourself, keep warm and use the time to practice.
Rob Green, hittingthegreeen.com