I’ve always thought about packing up the clubs after the final competition of the season, waiting out the long dark winter nights and frozen winter greens in favour of warmth…and the certain happiness of the grass being greener on the other side.
However, since the days of getting off the school bus outside the golf clubs gates, I haven’t managed a fortnight without playing…to the point of standing on the driving range hitting balls into 2ft of snow in January before piling my car into a fence on the way out.
Expensive mistakes aside, there is something special about winter golf. When you’ve battled through hail, wind, rain and freezing temperatures for weeks there are few truer feelings of accomplishment than standing on the first tee in the final of the winter league doubles…in some circles anyway!
For the die hard players, those who’ll text you three times a week with things like ‘there is always someone out there getting better than you by training harder than you’ it’s the time to gain an advantage on the field come April – often with fantastic results.
For me, having tried all that, it’s now more about keeping the swing ticking over and having a rough idea of which end to hold come those frantic few evenings before the first competition of the season.
Then there are the mornings like my last winter league outing – those perfect storm days where you never want to play this silly, soul-eating game again…or something to that effect. You know the one – you’ve slept in, slipped in the car park rushing to get your bag out, run to the furthest point on the course for the shotgun start to see your playing partners are already halfway up the fairway while you’re deciding whether it’s worth taking off one of your four layers or to put up with it until you cool down. You know, those days where golf feels like the last place you want to be.
Watching as your opening approach bounces as if it’s trying to touch down on the runway at Newcastle Airport only increases the volume of the little voice in the back of your head pointing out how silly this all is.
But, as the golfing gods often do, you get that little ray of hope. In my case, at the last where, having hit two of the worst shots of what was already a bad day, hope in the form of a full lob wedge over trees to 8ft and a putt which found the middle of the hole to close with a par. Not one for the highlight reel – but a reminder of what winter golf is all about.
None of us drag ourselves from the warmth of bed to emulate Rory or Dustin blazing it round pristine courses. Nor do we expect to break records wearing a wardrobe’s worth of gear. We do it for those moments, for the best half hour of clubhouse banter you’ll find afterwards with tales of 20+ handicappers having the round of their life on frozen fairways or low handicappers sharing horror stories.
Winter golf isn’t about the quality of the shots you play – it’s about getting out there, staying warm, and remembering you could be dragging yourself round a supermarket or watching Sunday morning TV.