Moving to California three years ago has made me softer than a pillow.
I check the forecast constantly before any round of golf and freak out if the temperature will be less than 60 degrees. I bought more than a dozen hand warmers for my first trip to Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Oregon in March because the forecast never inched above 50 degrees. I got rained on, hailed on and wind blown all week and still had a great time.
My Michigan self would have embraced the Bandon weather. I once had an Irishman tell me during a wickedly wet round at Ballyliffin Golf Club I was an excellent “mudder”, the term given to Tom Watson, who won five Open Championships in the cold, wind and rain. But that was years ago when I was younger, tougher. Now I wince at the softest of weather, taking every precaution I can to survive the round as dry and comfortable as I can. Here are my best tips to survive playing golf in the rain:
HOW TO PACK
You can’t play golf if you can’t grip your clubs. Buy a pair of rain gloves and keep them in your bag at all times. The wetter they get, the better your grip. They work. A rain-proof bucket hat is also a great addition.
2. Don’t forget your umbrella
There is a time and place for using that oversized golf umbrella. When it’s windy or you’re in a cart, it’s useless. But if you’re walking and there’s a pouring cloudburst, it’s a life saver. There's a great debate within the golf industry: I swear by taking an umbrella to Scotland or Ireland. Others say they are useless and only add bulk and weight to your bag. You decide what's right.
3. Spend big on the rain suit
Other than the driver, there’s probably no other golf accessory that will cost as much as a rain suit. Don’t go to the sale rack. The best rain suits – I’ve got both a Gavin Green and a Footjoy – never go on sale. Pony up the money for a good one with Gortex. They last a lifetime, and you’ll be laughing at your soaked buddy wearing the discount brand.
4. Waterproof your everyday gear
Not every golf bag or pair of golf shoes is water-proof. When you're shopping for new ones, make sure you buy ones that repel water. Soggy socks are one of the big drawbacks of playing in the rain. A rainproof golf bag is a must for me, as I'm always carrying an expensive camera that I keep wrapped in an extra plastic grocery bag and hidden in my golf bag when bad weather attacks.
5. Bring extra
I stuff an extra towel in my golf bag for later in the round when my original is soaked and useless. I also take a few extra golf balls just in case my game gets as sloppy as the weather. A backup scorecard is another great idea just in case the first one starts to disintegrate.
6. Dry clothes for the 19th hole
Even with a great rain suit and shoes, chances are your pants and socks will still get wet. I always make sure I have an extra pair of dry socks and pants in my car or locker, so I can enjoy a pint at the 19th hole without feeling like a drowned cat.
HOW TO PLAY
Rain tips from The Golf Channel Academy
1. Cover your clubs
Whether you’re riding in a cart or walking, be sure to cover your clubs, either with the rain fly on the golf cart or the rain hood that came with your golf bag. You have a fighting chance to score well with dry grips and a dry clubface.
2. Take a free drop
Casual water will eventually pool up around the course. Unless you're playing in the U.S. Open, feel free to move the ball to dry turf. Don't get greedy, though, and drop balls sitting in the rough back into the fairway. Nobody wants to be labeled a cheater by their buddies.
3. Avoid taking a divot
Water on your clubface and from the surface of the grass will affect whether you hit a shot with crisp contact. After wiping off your clubface, try to make a shallow swing that doesn't take much, if any, divot. That should help minimize the water's effect on the ball.
4. Adjust to wet sand and greens
Obviously, wet greens will roll slower than normal, so hit your putts a little firmer. I haven't met a single golfer who doesn't dread wet bunker sand. Michael Breed, host of ‘The Golf Fix’ on The Golf Channel, says to "create some dig" by closing the face and slow the tempo down, so the ball doesn't fly as far. Shots from wet sand tend to jump off the face and fly a little farther than normal.
5. Change your attitude
Ultimately, how your day goes depends entirely upon your attitude. Cranky and dreading the remaining holes? There's no chance you'll score well. Once you realize you need to grind out every shot, embrace the challenge and lower your expectations, you've got a fighting chance.