Friday, June 11, 2010

Golf - Winter play in the rain, wind and mud

Play Your Best Golf - Break 90 Vol 1
When the winter season begins golf takes on a new set of variables. As much as I enjoy playing in sunshine with the fairways dry and the ball rolling further on when hitting the ground after a driver or iron shot, winter golf is a new set of challenges. I will even go on record and admit to looking forward to the winter golf as it brings players closer together in competition with the increase in errors caused by weather conditions. The golfers who do not practise as much are at a definite disadvantage in winter with playing conditions more likely to impede rather than assist shots. The following is an article written by, Patrick Keegan a college graduate who competed on the NCAA collegiate level in golf for four years in the United States, and also served as a golf professional for two years.

My home course is on the Southern Coast of South Australia and winter is stormy and wet. It is not unusual to be on the course hitting into a 20 + gale force wind with rain coming sideways into your  face. So the preparation to play in this weather has been a part of why I persisted this past week playing in conditions that were not all that pleasant at times.  There is a scene in the 1980's film Caddyshack where the priest is playing his best round ever in lousy weather. His playing partners leave him to finish the round. On dropping the final shot into the hole his dance of elation is cut short when lightning strikes his putter waving above his head. I had a moment the same this week without the lightning strike, on the twelfth hole I hit the green in regulation and made an easy par setting me up for a good run home on the final six holes and a chance to break my handicap. The sky was black the rain was falling and I kept going and this was a two part bonus, made a gross 91 and played well in lousy weather.

Playing in Inclement Weather by Patrick Keegan on February 24, 2009

"We’ve all been there. You have a great round going, you are feeling it…then the clouds get dark and the skies open up. You go from stringing pars and birdies together, to barely being able to hang on to the club. The temperature drops in the blink of an eye, and before you know it, you are cold, playing poorly, and completely out of it. There really is nothing worse than having a great morning or afternoon ruined by poor weather. But, since you likely do not play on the PGA Tour, you will actually have to play through some bad stuff over the course of a season.

The bottom line is that no one is on top of their game during a stretch of poor weather. The key is to let it have as minimal an effect on you as possible. Because, even a 15 minute stretch of rain can ruin a round of golf, if you are not prepared to handle it, mentally and physically.

Half the battle with the elements is a mental one. In my competitive days I much preferred playing in terrible weather when I knew I was going to have to. Seeing an awful forecast for a big round of golf didn’t really phase me much. I would go into the round with the mindset that ‘it’s going to be a grind’ and ‘everyone else has to play in the same weather that I do’. This was always much better than having a beautiful day unexpectedly ruined by a downpour. But, when it does rain, you can’t let it bother you or get into your head. You will likely get frustrated, but half the battle is keeping your composure and playing through it.

If mentally preparing yourself is half the battle, the other half is preparing yourself physically. It is essential that you bring proper attire for whatever might come your way. My philosophy with rain gear has always been “light and tight”. Too much clothing will hold you back and make swinging the club difficult. Avoid sweatshirts, sweaters, and anything with cotton. Cotton will only soak up water and make your task even more difficult. It’s best to wear a tight top made from either spandex or polyester. I usually wear a GORE-TEX rain vest or jacket depending on the temperature and amount of precipitation. GORE-TEX rain pants are an absolute must for me too. They keep the entire bottom half of my body dry, I can’t recommend them highly enough.

Lastly, and most importantly, your hands. The only part of you that is actually attached to the golf club. If you can’t hold on to the club comfortably and confidently, you are done. You need to find yourself a really good pair of rain gloves, or an alternative. I personally have never found a pair of rain gloves that I like or can rely on. I tend to grip the club tighter than most players, so when the rain comes, I go with my bare hands. Everyone has habits or rituals they go to when the weather turns. Find a combination that works for you, and rely on it. Keeping your head focused on your game as opposed to the elements is all that you can hope for while playing inclement weather. The rest is out of your hands."

This was an interesting piece that described to me why I look forward to winter golfing, the harsher playing environment and influences are in my favour. Mentally I have a positive outlook in the worst conditions and have won some of my best competition rounds in the most trying of weather conditions.
Thank you for your time and attention, Geoff