Here in Florida, we have a lot of fair golf weather and fair-weather golfers. Having grown up in New England, I have to laugh when people proclaim themselves followers of the 70-Degree Rule. In other words, if the forecast high is supposed to be below 70, they won't go play.
Granted, these same golfers have little problem playing on summer days where the mercury and humidity both top 90. Go figure. The aversion to cooler temperatures has always seemed a little silly to me because of how easy it is to bundle up well for not-quite-perfect golf weather, especially nowadays.
The notion that cold- and wet-weather golf course gear has improved markedly in recent years crystallized for me on a recent trip to Scotland. The age-old piece of advice - Layer up! - has never been easier to follow, or more comfortable.
In general, outerwear is as protective as it used to be, but it's thinner, lighter and stretchier nowadays. I got years of use out of a rain suit my father received at an outing circa 1998. But it was ugly - mostly black but with dated white accents such that it looked like something Tony Soprano and his cronies might lounge around in, on or off the course. It had several constituent layers, too, so it was bulky over any kind of sweater and, of course, made a distracting amount of noise during a swing.
Fast-forward a couple decades. Our partners at OGIO sent me their latest rain suit well ahead of my early-October trip to Scotland, and I was pleased that it was a more than capable replacement for the older, mediocre stuff I've used in recent years.
The suit is from their All Elements collection, and has some Spandex mixed into the polyester interior to help it stretch and give in the right ways. The smart all-black jacket runs true to size and didn't feel uncomfortably snug even when I had a warming layer beneath it. My favorite part of its design was the skinnier-than-usual sleeves, which kept me from the usual worry of jacket material around my wrists.
The pants worked well, too. They fit nicely and seemed slightly less baggy around the feet and ankles than I am used to. Their zippered pockets conferred a waterproof seal where I usually keep a scorecard. They also sport seat zippers, which kept me from having to reach down a layer to access my wallet when necessary.
Though cut and fabric have evolved, waterproofs have been around a long time. What impresses me even more is how the overall layering concept has improved. OGIO includes their All Elements pieces in a layering scheme of their own, but I was happy to mix their jacket with some other brands' apparel I had at home, and I stayed both warm and dry, even during a couple rounds where temperatures dipped into the mid-40s, winds picked up and rain started spitting.
Key to my comfort at these times were two items. The first was a Galvin Green pullover of superior stretch, warmth and thinness to anything I'd had before I was given one at an event at January's PGA Show. It's their Drake ($130) pullover, and it has almost completely replaced all other quarter-zips and sweaters for me, at least on the golf course. My favorite thing about it, again, is the snugness of the sleeves, which cut my pre-shot fidgeting down to almost nothing. Galvin Green use a fabric they call INSULA to provide warmth despite being relatively thin. I'm a big fan, and while Galvin Green is definitely high-end, it's as clear an example of paying for quality as I can identify in the world of golf stuff.
But my absolute favorite cool-weather golf apparel item - so good it sometimes removes any need for any pullover, is an Under Armour base layer I've had for more than a decade. It is a white compression layer that is extremely snug, but so stretchy that I feel absolutely no constriction of my golf swing when it's on. Any golf shirt goes over it with zero issue. The ColdGear material is not much thicker than that of a cotton twill polo, but the warmth is fantastic. The cut of the bottom of the shirt, plus a little rubbery strip of material, ensures it never comes untucked. I assume the latest version ($50) is no less effective and perhaps even thinner, but I don't anticipate needing another one until mine (hopefully never) disintegrates.
When all three of these layers work together, I feel like there's no even marginally playable combination of temperature, wind and precipitation I couldn't brave. 42 degrees, 25 mile per hour winds and some (light) rain? Bring it on.
For golfers nervous about potential pitfalls of off- and shoulder-season travel, spending a bit up front to make sure you have the apparel to withstand mediocre weather can help unlock the hundreds of dollars you can save with off-peak trips. Pretty smart investment, in my opinion.