Is Golf Harder To Play In The Winter – Complete Guide To Golf In The Cold
Winter golf is one of those things that divides the golfing world. Many pack their clubs away to gather dust whilst many intrepid golfers battle on. The problem is that in many countries, if you don’t play winter golf, you have a pretty short season.
Whether we like to admit it or not, the cold and adverse weather that goes hand in hand with winter makes golf a different challenge to be overcome. The cold weather can make the conditions on the course wet, baron and dry and the cold can actually make our ball travel a shorter distance. One thing is for sure and that is that we need to admit our gear, apparel and approach to match the winter handicap or plan a golfing vacation to an area that never has a cold winter.
In this article we will talk more about playing through the winter cold and what to consider. Is it actually harder or are we just thinking it is because the weather is often bad? This is the complete guide to golf in the cold.
I’ll never forget the first winter green at the club I played my junior golf, Gleddoch Golf Club. In a winter medal, with a lot of people watching from the first tee, I ran a beautiful wedge a few feet away from the bucket of a hole. Then the frozen green decided that today wasn’t my day.
Twelve, yes twelve putts later, I walked off with a fourteen. I looked back to the tee and it was nice to know I had helped entertain my club mates with the display. They were in stitches, winter golf can be unpleasant and you have to laugh.
What is different about winter golf?
Depending on where you are from, we can all face bad weather even during the summer on the course. In the winter it is more changeable though and the cold conditions mean that the course won’t be in such good shape. This is a time to take your golf less seriously and just enjoy playing.
Winter greens with huge holes make for plenty of holed chips, but wet conditions mean soggy clothes and plugged balls. Call me weird, but there really is something special about the damp smell you get in clubhouses. The frosty winter ground can make for some huge drives and weird bounces.
Does cold weather affect your clubs?
Golf equipment works better in warmer conditions that goes for your clubs as well as balls. The cold reduces the elasticity of the metal in your clubs, this results in less efficient energy transfer to the ball. The biggest difference you will see is a huge lack of distance with every club.
The cold weather, especially if it is frosty, can affect wedge too as the bounce won’t be able to work properly. As you come into impact the club may literally bounce off the turf and cause a lot of thin shots.
Do I need to use more club in the winter?
Yes, as I said above, the ball will be going shorter distances because of the cold and if it is wet you won’t be getting much roll, if any. Both of these factors mean that you will need to use extra club. The need for extra club doesn’t just come from the conditions though.
As you wrap up to face the cool winter climate, you reduce your flexibility because of the layers you’re wearing. This will have an effect on your swing speed, which will also mean that you need to club up. Drop the ego, just take the club you need, no one cares if you hit a six iron instead of your usual seven iron.
Do cold golf balls travel less distance?
Yes it will and there are a couple of reasons for it, we have touched on the reduced energy transfer from the club to the ball. This is relevant to the ball too, it will be less energy efficient and premium balls will tend to be more affected. Try keeping your ball in a hot hand from green to tee to help.
Also, cold air is denser so that means it’s effectively thicker for your ball to move through. This increases the resistance during flight and reduces the distance it travels. Play the correct club for the conditions and you’ll be fine.
Should I adapt my game? Do I need different shots?
The winter tends to be defined by wet and windy conditions. We have already established a need to play extra club, or clubs, in the cold, but what else can help you score in the winter? Firstly, being able to control the height of your shots is a skill that will be useful year round.
The punch shot is a great way to beat the wind and play strong. You’ll also need to master the muddy lie shot, this requires very tidy ball striking and the ability to really nick the ball off the turf. Start with these skills as they can both be hugely helpful to your game as a whole.
Dealing with the wind and rain
Both wind and rain make golf more difficult and more complicated. They are factors that need to be compensated for in your shotmaking and with experience it becomes easier. The wind demands good ball striking, weak or poorly struck shots will be punished by gusts.
Rain also vastly reduces the spin on your ball and will limit the control you have on approach shots. The water gets in between the ball and the grooves, this decreases the friction on the ball at impact and so the spin. This will make for slower ball speed too as spin is vital to ball stability in the air.
Top 10 tips for playing through the winter
1. Layer up
Thick woolly jumpers have been replaced by modern materials that are light, flexible and warm. To perform best on the course in the winter you need to stay warm and layering yourself up is the best way. Many lighter layers will insulate and warm you without restricting you swing.
2. Carry your bag
Golf trollies aren’t good for the turf, they are often banned from courses through the winter period. Even if they’re not banned, consider carrying your clubs anyway, it is better for the course. Carrying will also help you keep a little fitter over the off-season.
3. Play ready golf
Let’s be honest, golf in the winter should be more relaxed in terms of etiquette. Being out there is a bonus but the often bad weather means you’ll want to play quickly. If you’re ready, just play, don’t leave people standing around as you play by the perfect rules.
4. Keep your balls warm
I mentioned above the idea of keeping your ball in your warm hand from the green to the tee, however, there could be an even better way. By having two balls in play and alternating them between holes, you can keep your balls nice and warm. This will help limit some of the lack of performance from the tee.
5. Capitalise on this time
Use your winter as a chance to improve your skills and come back for the next season even better. This is your chance to get lessons, work on swing mechanics and really ingrain changes on the range. The range is your friend at this time as you can hide from the elements more and it’s easier to stay warm.
6. Escape to the sun
If you just can’t be bothered with the cold any longer and you need some vitamin D, grab a trip somewhere hot to play. Florida, Spain and Dubai are three excellent winter golf destinations that are all good value and perfectly warm. This is also a great way of getting competition-ready toward the end of winter so you can start the season strong.
7. Warm-up properly
It’s always important to warm-up before a round, but in the winter this is even more important. Your body is starting colder and it will take even longer to be fully golf-ready. Show up early and make sure your body is ready to go, this also helps get your mind right. One trick I use is to take a really hot bath before I put my layers on, this helps make me more warm before I even start.
8. Speaking of warming-up
Winter mittens and woolly hats are great for keeping you extra warm during your round. Cold hands make controlling the club more difficult, mittens help keep the blood flowing. A good hat can reduce your exposure and really help you out there.
9. Stay on your feet
It’s happened to anyone who has played winter golf, you are walking down a fairway or off a tee and then your rolling in the mud. It’s so easy to lose your footing in the winter and when you do, you’ll end up nice and muddy. Take your time, don’t get hurt and if you do fall, laugh it off.
10. Enjoy yourself
A game of golf in the winter feels like a bonus, it means that the weather is good enough for you to play. In this case, just enjoy yourself and being out in the fresh air, your score is irrelevant. The bad weather can make it grim so, if you just smile, it will always be better.
Should I use different balls in the winter?
Well you certainly don’t want to use anything expensive, there really is no need as the benefit of premium balls will be limited. I play Titleist AVX balls through the summer, in the winter, I save myself some money and just use Titleist TourSoft. This is much cheaper and works well in the conditions.
Another thing you can do is keep a bunch of balls that you’ve used through the year so that you’re using balls that are a little tired. I use older balls for shortgame practice through the summer and then often use them as winter balls to save money.
Can you play golf in the snow?
I truly believe that everyone should play snow golf at least once in their life. Obviously you’ll need to grab a coloured ball, the white ball may be a bit of a challenge. It is just so much fun, every shot feels like a bunker shot.
The Drambuie World Ice Golf Championship used to take place every year and was an incredibly fun event. It no longer runs but watching footage of the event will make you want to give snow golf a try. If the snow has come down, get wrapped up and give it a shot, you’ll love it.
Golf is a social game, the conditions you play in are just part of the story. There is something brilliant about getting into the clubhouse for a cup of hot tea after playing a few holes in the snow. It will be a round that you will never forget, you could even bring a sledge instead of a golf trolley.
Learn from the experience
When we play in the winter, we tend to play with more freedom. This happens because the poor conditions make us take the game less seriously and we don’t really care so much how we play. There is a lesson in this and it is something you should really pay attention to.
As you progress out of winter toward spring, you will start ramping-up for some competition golf. Please remember the freedom that you played with during this winter period, it is a feeling you should hold on to. It will really help you during the season if you can play loose and relaxed.
Winter golf is about the people you play with and the experiences you gain through the cold months. You may get soaked, frozen to the bone and blown sideways by gales, but you can enjoy it with the right people and you will be known as a proper golfer. You see, it is easy to be a fair-weather golfer, they are the glory-hunters who don’t love the sport the way you do.
Winter golf toughens your mind and hardens your game, it undoubtedly has the ability to make you a better golfer. Find a good group of people to play with and take advantage of cheaper rates at famous links courses. The winter is long enough, you need to get yourself onto the course and play some proper golf, just make sure that you enjoy it and bring a change of clothes.
Hi, I am Matthew, a mid handicap golfer who likes to play as much as possible. I love trying out new gear and this blog is where you can find all the gear I have tested over the years!