Walking - even with a pull- or push-cart - is crucial to making a cold day on the course feel a little warmer. (Getty Images) This competitor in the historic Oxford & Cambridge Golfing Society's Presidents Putter event is dressed perfectly for the chilly conditions at Rye Golf Club. (Getty Images)

How to survive – and actually enjoy – cold-weather golf



Having lived in South Carolina and Florida for the last few years, I’ve met a number of golfers who cleave to the 50 Degree Rule. If it is not at least 50 degrees Fahrenheit outside, they simply refuse to tee it up.

But having grown up in Connecticut playing late-fall junior golf tournaments and early-spring high school matches, there seemed to be a different "50 Degree Rule": The temperature on competition days seldom reached much above 50 degrees.

That being the case, I learned not just to tolerate playing golf in the biting cold and chilly winds, but to embrace it. In fact, I spent this past Thanksgiving week in Connecticut and managed to tee it up two days after Turkey Day, at Wintonbury Hills Golf Course for a blustery round that started with temperatures in the low 40s, with a high barely cracking 50.

I had a great time, and would encourage normally fair-weather golfers to try and expand their temperature tolerances – both during home rounds and on golf vacations – for three big reasons:

Why you should play cold-weather golf:

Price

The shoulder- and off-seasons at golf courses usually mean drastically reduced green fees. For example, rates at Wintonbury Hills Golf Course in Bloomfield, Connecticut, normally top out around $80 on weekends in the prime summer and early-autumn seasons. November knocks about $30 off that rate on weekends and $40 on weekdays, encouraging hardy golfers to ball on a budget at a Connecticut super-muni.

Pace of Play

Since the cold tends to keep fair-weather golfers away, no matter the price break, you can usually expect to have the course practically to yourself. A three-hour round in chilly temperatures beats a five-and-a-half-hour marathon just about every day, no matter how perfect the weather.

Conditions

For the most part, a chilly turn of the weather doesn’t necessarily mean a drastic reduction in course conditions, with one caveat: many courses will aerify their greens at the end of the season, so if bumpy and sandy putting surfaces are a deal-breaker, be sure and call ahead to get the skinny from the course you’re looking to play. If they’ve not been punched, greens might be a tad slower than normal. Tee to green, though, expect firm, fast and fun conditions, especially on a course coming out of a frost delay.

Video: Cold-weather golf tips from Chris DiMarco


How to thrive while playing cold-weather golf:

Walk the golf course

Golf carts are pretty much everywhere nowadays (unfortunately), but if you do want to venture out on a cold day, sitting in a cart is the best way to guarantee you’ll be miserable from start to finish. The physical exertion of walking nine or 18 holes will get your blood flowing and help you feel a few degrees warmer. Carry your bag or use a trolley of some kind if you like, but working your legs is the key to actually enjoying a cold-weather round of golf.

Bundle up completely

This is obvious, but while this used to mean packing on so much thick clothing that it became impossible to swing properly, modern layers are thin, warm and built to move with you. My cold-weather go-to is a long-sleeved Under Armour ColdGear base layer, a normal golf shirt and an Under Armour quarter-zip pullover. If it’s windy, I might substitute out the UA pullover for something more specifically wind- or even rain-resistant. Corduroy or flannel-lined pants usually do the trick from the waist down, but they’re not absolutely necessary because walking warms my legs no matter what.

The most important piece of any cold-weather golf ensemble, though, is the hat. My advice: ditch the baseball cap and opt for something woolen (pom-pom optional) or with a performance layer. Just make sure the hat covers at least the tops of your ears and you’ll be comfortable.

For your hands, you can go one of two ways. Activated-charcoal hand-warmers like HotHands are usually my preference, and I usually bring one for each hand. They carry the added benefit of warming my upper legs while sitting in my pants pockets, too. In their absence, though, you might prefer donning a pair of rain gloves, which will be particularly helpful if your grips get slick in the cold.

Adjust your playing strategy

In general, the cold is going to make shots play about a club longer through the air. You’ll gain some of this back in the form of extra roll off the tee and a bigger first bounce than normal on approaches, but taking an extra club should serve you well more often than not.

Since these rounds are played out-of-season as far as your handicap is concerned, don’t be afraid to stretch the rules. Preferred lies in the fairway are a given, and the Leaf Rule – a free drop if you can’t find your ball amongst the fallen foliage – is a good one to take up. Finally, if you’ve convinced your normal group to convene for one of these rounds, throw out the scorecards and play match play – best-ball, alternate-shot or a scramble. The more fun you’re having, the warmer it will feel.

Bring beverages

Golfers everywhere are toting insulated bottles these days, meaning your coffee, tea or hot chocolate will retain its heat longer than it did in the past. And if you prefer a tipple, a nip of whiskey or some other spirit has been known to warm the bones in a pinch. If you want to imbibe old-school, find some kummel, a sweet, spiced spirit beloved of golfers in Scotland.

Got any cold-weather golf tips or stories? Please feel free to share them with us and your fellow Golf Advisor readers below!

Dec 12, 2017



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Ron's avatar
Ron wrote at 2017-12-22 22:28:05+00:00:

When bundling up, I also like to put on a puffy, down filled vest or even my UA Cold Weather vest. When worn together you get twice the warmth. These don't hinder or bind on the shoulders. A turtle neck or mock turtle also provide additional warmth for the neck.

Sandy Taylor's avatar
Sandy Taylor wrote at 2017-12-22 22:14:33+00:00:

From October-March, we walk our hilly home course outside Phila (PA) which keeps us comfortable down to the high 30s/about 40 degree mark. We also use hot hands to keep the golf ball warm. Good quality 3-wheeled push carts do the job.

Keith Arnold's avatar
Keith Arnold wrote at 2017-12-20 15:18:58+00:00:

Something I tried that seems to work in colder months in Tennessee. I have a pair of the over-sized mittens. I put a HotHands packet in each one (plenty of room). Keep my hands in there until ready to take a shot. After my shot, hands go back in and it is nice and toasty.

Todd DeVito's avatar
Todd DeVito wrote at 2017-12-20 02:21:06+00:00:

Watch out for extra bounce on frozen greens. On the other hand, on really cold days, you can use the now frozen water hazards to bounce the ball up onto the green.

curtis hildebrandt's avatar
curtis hildebrandt wrote at 2017-12-20 00:35:32+00:00:

play a very soft or womans golf ball cold weather seem to make these golf ball somewhat harder, more control less roll on your short game also insluated vest over your main torso = gives you more freedom to swing, play more of your 3 wood off tees winters here in w,v, can get a little windy, hope this helps some of you guys out there!

The Pater's avatar
The Pater wrote at 2017-12-20 00:03:39+00:00:

Merina wool sweaters or vests. Old school but FAR more comfortable and way warmer than anything artificial. if you don't believe me ask anyone from Scotland where they play in the snow. Also you could ask a Ryder Cup player from the US as they freeze their KNOTS off when playing Europe who all wear merino.

Jeff's avatar
Jeff wrote at 2017-12-19 21:55:50+00:00:

I love In Northwest Indiana, and we have a group that will play year round WP. I liked your comment about the golf carts, I walk 99% of my rounds. When your walking even mid 30’s don’t seem that bad.

Gary Stauffenberg's avatar
Gary Stauffenberg wrote at 2017-12-19 21:51:56+00:00:

Cashmere sweaters are warm, warm, warm ! ...and generally can supplant one or two of the extra layers. A long sleeve T-shirt, cashmere, and a light wind or rain jacket outer and your unencumbered and ready to roll.

Deb's avatar
Deb wrote at 2017-12-19 20:22:13+00:00:

Love this! I am a newer golfer (Obsessed!). Just returned from my first full week golf trip in Arizona!! I am a convert from long time rackets player, now spending much more time on the “ other side of the street”. Longtime platform tennis player in New England, an outdoor Winter, paddle sport, where we play no matter the temp. The key is dressing in layers to throw on and off. Try to avoid over heating and having a layer next to your skin that is not wicking. Getting wet makes ya cold. I scrunch a riomy down vest in my bag to throw on when the sun hides or starts to fall. Trying to match last year and play at least once a month at my Rhody Home course. November and December... check. Jan Feb March to go.

TimGavrichGA's avatar
TimGavrichGA wrote at 2017-12-19 20:34:02+00:00:

Deb--

Welcome to the ranks of the golf-obsessed - great to hear about your passion for playing in the cooler weather! I'm love platform tennis, too - incredibly fun game, and similar in terms of pre-play prep to wintertime golf.

Thanks for your comment!

--Tim

lydell's avatar
lydell wrote at 2017-12-19 19:56:24+00:00:

I'll play pretty much any time that my schedule allows it. It happens to be 30 degrees or 20 degrees and there is not snow on the ground I'll play. So my trick when it's getting that cold is to wear one of those thermacare back heaters. Get them at any pharmacy, you just activate the wrap around your waist/back, and you have your core keeping you warm. That way you don't have to bundle up, if you do you may actually end up perspiring. I still go with the stocking hat and Away you go for great round of golf.

Alan E's avatar
Alan E wrote at 2017-12-19 19:50:26+00:00:

As we know in the Northwest, winter golf boots are a must to slog through wet, muddy fairways!

Noah Boddi's avatar
Noah Boddi wrote at 2017-12-19 19:43:22+00:00:

Wool, Long sleeve 100% wool undershirt, and wool socks

TimGavrichGA's avatar
TimGavrichGA wrote at 2017-12-19 20:35:14+00:00:

Noah--

Great call on the importance of wool. Companies like Kentwool and Smartwool make great socks for cold-weather golf.

--Tim

Alan Perron's avatar
Alan Perron wrote at 2017-12-19 19:39:04+00:00:

Rain gloves can work, but I prefer actual winter golf gloves.....can be found at Dick's and other places that sell golf apparel /equipment.

T. Szalay's avatar
T. Szalay wrote at 2017-12-19 19:35:50+00:00:

Turtleneck, toque and mitts get it done. A windshirt with good wind cutting technology helps dramatically. Many winter rounds played in Michigan and Toledo in less that 40 degree weather. Enjoy!

Greg's avatar
Greg wrote at 2017-12-19 21:30:52+00:00:

Were there any wild turkeys in upper Michigan.......lol

Elmwine's avatar
Elmwine wrote at 2017-12-19 19:11:11+00:00:

Keep your neck warm; also, wear wrist warmers. Use two golf balls: one in your pocket to warm up while you use the other - and alternate.

TimGavrichGA's avatar
TimGavrichGA wrote at 2017-12-19 20:43:51+00:00:

Elmwine--

Great tip about the spare golf ball. I've never considered it but it makes great sense - will try it during my next chilly-weather round; thanks!

--Tim

Keith's avatar
Keith wrote at 2017-12-19 19:01:05+00:00:

I have a pair of over mitts fleece lined which attach to my trolley handle to keep hands warm when pushing trolley and fit easily over my golf glove

buster.'s avatar
buster. wrote at 2017-12-19 18:49:12+00:00:

RESEARCH SHOWS THAT EVAN THOUGH ALCOHOL APPEARS TO MAKE ONE “FEEL WARMER”, IT ACTUALLY LOWERS BODY TEMP . I LIVE IN MAINE AND LOVE A BEER WHILE PLAYING IN THE SUMMER BUT NOT IN NOVEMBER AND APRIL

David's avatar
David wrote at 2017-12-19 18:30:29+00:00:

Love the Kummel reference !! For some of the best, visit Rye Golf Club in East Sussex, England.


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Tim Gavrich

Senior Writer

Tim Gavrich is a Senior Writer for Golf Advisor and the Managing Editor of the Golf Vacation Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @TimGavrich and on Instagram @TimGavrich.