I know, I know. This next column was supposed to be about the joys of playing indoor golf with the help of the OptiShot. Rest assured, I’ll get to it next week. But regardless of the results of that review, one thing is self-evident: It will never be as good as playing actual golf. So with that in mind, when I saw that the sun was going to peak out from behind the clouds for a couple days (and melt the majority of the snow), there was absolutely no chance I was going to pound a worn-out B330 into net.
I was going to steal an actual round of golf.
Back in my competitive golf days, I used to be an expert at stealing winter rounds from Mother Nature. We all were — any time the sun peaked out and you were told it was OK to walk on the greens, you played like it might be months before you’d get the chance again (which it often was). But a lot like drinking warm Milwaukee’s Best Light, listening to the Lightning Seeds or making out with 16 year-olds, I assumed playing golf while there was snow on the ground was something left for high school Dan. Not anymore. As George Costanza (to keep with the early 90s theme) once said, “I’m back, baby.”
Here are the five greatest things I’d forgotten about playing golf in the winter, and a couple new things that make it even better than I’d remembered:
1. Low Expectations.
Yesterday I had to drive 30 miles south to a links course, as my home course still had snow on the greens. I only played 16 holes (as only Nos. 1 though 6 and 15 through 18 were open), and I couldn’t get a tee into the ground on most holes as the tee boxes were still frozen about a quarter-inch below the surface. The fairways were dormant and brown, there was coyote crap everywhere and a couple of the holes looked like they had been last cut to coincide with the VHS release of Caddyshack II. Now I’m a demanding golfer, but unless you’re an unreasonable perfectionist, it’s tough to get too upset about blocking the ball when you’ve just had a mental debate between hitting your driver off the deck or having it teed up two inches higher than normal. You should be happy because:
2. You’re not inside.
You’re not at the office. You’re not in your car. You’re not at the gym. And you’re not on the couch. You’re playing golf in January and it feels great to be outside.
3. The course is empty.
Other than my playing partner, there were three other people out there yesterday. I’m not a math wizard, but that’s about 25 acres a dude. Awesome.
4. When you hit a bad shot, you drop another ball.
I don’t play new balls in the winter. To my eyes, winter golf gives you a perfect chance to use all those balls that you took out of play during the season because they had a little scuff on them. If you hit a loose shot, drop another and leave it — that old ball was just taking up space in your garage anyways. Here in Kansas City, it’s all but impossible to play the ball down this time of year, and even if you could, the USGA doesn’t allow you to turn in scores from Nov. 15 to March 1. Therefore, just write off the random loose shot to rust and play the good one.
5. The random birdie.
I had a couple birdies yesterday. One was on a majestic 4 iron that carried 209 up a hill in gnarly cross wind and stuck 1.5 feet from the pin for a kick-in. The other was on a chunked 8 iron that landed 25 yards short of the green, bounced off a frozen lake and ended up a few feet from the fringe (I chipped it in). I’m not sure which one was cooler.
Things that make winter golf better than I remember
How much better is winter golf clothing now than before? I’m sure for most of the folks on this site, the transition from cotton and wool (with a bit of gore-tex) to the amazing clothes we have now was so gradual it was unnoticeable. But as someone who was outside the game for a while, I can tell you that the clothes I played golf in yesterday were every bit as warm, technical and functional than some of my high-end ski clothing.
I had four light layers at my disposal: a Puma quarter-zip long sleeve dry cell shirt, a Callaway taped seam long-sleeve polo, a Callaway pullover and a Mizuno ImpermaLite jacket. On top of it all, I had a pair of the Footjoy WinterSof gloves. We were on top of a hill on a 40-degree day in 20-plus mph wind and my biggest concern was being too warm — that’s super cool.
The other thing that blew me away was the way the modern golf ball performs in the cold. The old liquid center balata balls we used to play were so erratic in the winter that I prepped for the worst, grabbing a bunch of the random low compression balls I had found over the year out of my shag bag. Just for the heck of it, I pulled out a Pro V1X off the first tee (my normal gamer) expecting it to feel like a rock. I was wrong. I played the same distances I would have played on a 60-degree day in October.
Honestly, I’m so excited about my round yesterday that I could probably go on for another 2000 words. However, it’s looking like it might snow Sunday, so I’m getting out of here for one more round. It might be mid-March until I can play outside again.