Winter Golf In Michigan

Winter Golf At Fox Hills-1010519
The eighth at Fox Hills’ Woodlands Course in January

It was a balmy 45 degrees today in Michigan, so I decided to head out for a rare January round. Ironically, Mrs. GolfBlogger and the boys are Up North skiing at Boyne. There’s plenty of snow there, but none here in the Ann Arbor area.

Winter golf is a very different sort of experience. Scoring well is not an expectation. Layers of clothing restrict your swing. The balls are hard; the ground is hard. Hitting the irons stings the hand. Distance suffers greatly: at 45 degrees, I find I need to add two clubs on every shot. The putting, too, is difficult. I find that cold balls react unpredictably to cold putters. The greens, which likely have not been mowed since November, are randomly slow or—on frozen patches—literally slick as ice. Sometimes you hit both on the same stroke.

My advice is to embrace the moment and not keep score. Some of my friends refer to winter golf as “stealing a round.” In fact, don’t even think about practice. You won’t learn anything useful hitting balls off fairways that are hard as bad driving range astroturf. Just enjoy the fact that you’re in the out-of-doors and enjoy the sight of balls arcing through the fresh chilly air.

Dangers of Winter Golf-1010518
A winter lie

Winter golf offers quite a bit of humor. You don’t see this sort of lie in the picture above on the PGA Tour. I’m reasonably certain that this counts as “standing water” under USGA rules.

One of the most vexing problems of winter golf is teeing it up. Today, as on so many winter days, the ground was frozen solid, and the tees just wouldn’t go in without breaking. After the second hole, I gave up and hit three wood off the deck. Before my next round of winter golf, I’m going to stash an ice pick in my bag. That’ll have the strength and sharpness to drive a pilot hole for my tees.

Winter sand traps also are a source of amusement. Frozen sand is very difficult to get out of. I generally just try to putt out with a fairway wood.

My winter golf clothing consists of a pair of REI Riverstone lined pants, knee length Smartwool socks, a long sleeve mock turtle compression shirt, long sleeve wool polo, and a Nike golf Thermafit pullover. For the head, I’ve got a wool ivy cap and earmuffs. I actually got too warm today, so the pullover and earmuffs came off.

I generally play without gloves, and even on winter rounds see no need to don a pair. I have a pair of Ultimittens on my push cart that warm my hands between shots. Inside those I keep a couple of those chemical handwarmer packs. Two more handwarmers are stashed in my pants pockets. The Ultimitten also is a good place to stash the balls so they don’t get too cold.

Because I find balls react unpredictably in cold weather, I generally play with cheap Pinnacles. I don’t mind if I lose a bunch of those. On this round, however, I alternated with the Cold Fusion ball. The more I play these in cold weather, the more I like them. Whatever magic the company works on the Cold Fusion orbs, they just seem to perform better than other balls at lower temperatures.

Today was a good day. I managed to play a round in Michigan every month of 2012, and I’m off to a good start for 2013.

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4 thoughts on “Winter Golf In Michigan”

  1. Unfortunately, my local course still had some snow drifts on Saturday (Flint area).  However, I should have tried it anyway!  I golfed all the way until Dec 19, so I need to get my January round in!

  2. Got my round in at Hilltop on January 12.  I thought long and hard about venturing out last Saturday.  Finally decided the frozen ground and greens would make the exercise vary too much from golf to ultimately satisfy my golf jones.

    Last golf-less month in Michigan dates back to February, 2011.  As much as I would like to extend the streak, my hope is we have a more normal winter with cold & snow.


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