Advice for High Handicappers in Winter Golf Conditions

I am delighted to feature a guest post from Rob Green of “Hitting the Green”, who has some very practical tips for high handicap players as the weather starts to deteriorate and Winter draws in. Take it away Rob…

Fairweather golfer? I don’t blame you. When the greens are bumpy and its windy, cold and raining, and your towel and glove are wringing wet. In these conditions, it is unlikely you’re going to go out with a smile and shoot under your handicap.

Here’s a thought. 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.

However, the winter months are a good time to do some useful practice – high handicappers are not so good at practising, especially your short game.

The winter months are good for practice

It’s snowing so Instead of that Sunday morning round, get yourself down to the golf range. But, when you get there, don’t do what nearly all people do, which is smack 100 balls into the 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, this is a great tip for the average golfer!

Next, try the 7-iron. Your only purpose is to hit 10 shots as close to the 150-yard flag as possible. Focus on that, nothing else. Give yourself a clap on the back each time you get close.

Give your 3-iron a go and try and get 10 balls as close as possible to the 200-yard flag.

You get the idea. Always hit balls with purpose and focus. Don’t waste them.

Ok, I’ll allow 5 smacks with the driver. Got to keep warm!

Winter rules

I’m not sure high handicappers fully understand what winter rules are all about.

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 committee, 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 because of the inclement conditions. Also, you should find out what distance you can move your ball; 6 inches or a club length, maybe, and never 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 your ball if it lands on a closely-mown area. You are not allowed 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.

Stay warm and dry

Before you play any round of golf but especially in winter time, you should always warm up before the round. Try and arrive an hour early to do some stretching and practice short game shots.

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 taking a buggy, you’ll stay warmer and looser.

Playing shots in the wind

You need to learn a few simple tips for when it’s windy.

Don’t fight the wind, don’t try and hit the cover off the ball. With the wind behind you, 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 a little for more control
  • 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
  • Your weight should be more on your forward foot

What about the ball

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.

  • A harder compression golf ball will fly further, with less backspin and go further on hitting the ground.
  • Use a yellow ball. Why? You can work that one out yourself!
  • 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.

Things to do at home

Putting practice in the warmth of your home can be very enjoyable and useful. There are no humps and bumps to contend with but getting the speed or pace right is hugely important.

You could buy a small artificial turf mat for practising full swings in your garden. Don’t go hitting balls over the fence though!

Winter is also a good time to catch up on reading those golfing magazines and tips.

Do regular exercising and stretching during the winter months to get ready for your first Spring round.

And finally

Enjoy yourself, keep warm and use the time to practice. Get that handicap down.

Good luck out there!!

Rob Green

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