Are you getting to the point in your golf passion that you’re ready to brave the elements and ready to learn how to start playing winter golf? For most non-golfers, playing in brutal elements just doesn’t make any sense. It’s cold, it’s wet and it makes the game even harder.
But for avid golfers, winter golf shows just how much players love this game. Whether they are playing golf in the rain, playing in the wind, or playing golf in the snow, serious golfers are still trying to get their fix. Still trying to make birdies, save pars, and hang out with friends.
If you can play great in these condition it can increase your confidence and belief within yourself. But things are very different when you’re playing winter golf.
The ball doesn’t travel as far, the conditions are wet, and you might not get as loose as quickly when you’re warming up. If you’re wondering how do you play golf in the cold I’ve got the answers for you.
I’ve personally been there and played in some awful elements like 25-degree freezing temperatures, 30 mph wind, sleet, hail, and even a slushy snow at times. Depending on where you live in the world, you’ll have to learn how to make it through some bad weather to hit the links.
Here’s everything you’ll need to learn about playing winter golf.
When it comes to winter golf, it’s all about managing what you can and accepting the rest. You can’t control the weather so there’s no reason to fight it once you’re committed to playing golf in it. Stay patient, keep your cool and use these tips before you head out to the course.
The biggest thing you can do to get ready for winter golf is to stay prepared. You want to always be ready for anything. There’s nothing worse than having it pour down rain mid-round only to not have an umbrella or rain gear. Or have it get windy and cold and you only have your polo and no jacket to keep you warm.
To play your best golf in the winter your top priority is to stay warm. When you’re cold, you’re stiff. And when you’re stiff you’re not swinging with 100% power or flexibility as you do on a warm sunny day. This leads to high scores and higher chance of injury as well.
The key to winter golf is to wear layers and not big jackets or coats. Playing in a hoodie or big coat won’t work. It’s awkward and nearly impossible to swing a driver when you’re wearing something big and loose fitting.
Instead, you want to layer up so you can easily remove or add clothing as the conditions change throughout the day. For your pants, you can add long john thermals under slacks if it’s super cold or opt to have a pair of rain pants to go over your pants.
For your upper body, you want to have a good set of Under Armour or tight fitting clothing underneath your polo. Then you can add on a vest, sweater, raincoat or windbreaker depending on the conditions. Again, you want to always have more gear than not enough when you’re playing winter golf.
You also want to keep your feet, hands, and neck warm as well. When your neck gets cold you get shivers that run down your entire body, making it really hard to swing the club. Wear a turtleneck or get a coat that will help. Another good idea is thick socks, a beanie, FootJoy rain gloves, and hand warmers. It goes without saying, make sure you have waterproof golf shoes.
And don’t forget, always bring stuff for the rain if there is even a slight chance of it happening. Make sure to always bring an umbrella if you’re playing in a location where the weather can change quickly. Otherwise, it seems like when you don’t bring it inevitably rains.
Also, always carry your rain hood so your grips stay dry or else you’re in for a long, tough round of golf. Lastly, have more than one glove. You want to be able to rotate them and let them dry by hanging from your umbrella if your walking or dry out in your golf cart.
Make sure you head over to our recommendations on the best cold weather golf gear next. We deep dive into the exact gear you need to have a better round of golf in colder conditions.
Getting the right gear is step one of learning how to play winter golf. The next part is about spending enough time warming up. Like I mentioned, you’re going to have to spend more time getting loose before you hit the first tee.
If you can get away with not hitting range when it’s hot in the summer, you probably can’t in the winter. I always recommend spending time at the range when it’s cold to avoid injury and not hit your 1st tee shot cold.
Prior to getting to the course, I recommend spending time at home doing stretches and doing light exercise to get the blood flowing. Once you arrive, spend time slowly warming up at the range. As always, start with your wedges and work your way up to your driver.
Again, don’t be surprised if the ball is going a fraction of the “normal” distance and it takes you a few more balls to get loose.
Once you’re warmed up and ready to tee off, it’s important to know the difference in winter vs. summer rules. Winter golf is typically more wet and sloppy conditions that have some rules to make it easier for players. Make sure you know these winter rules for your next round:
Preferred lies, commonly known as golf winter rules, allows you to lift, clean, and place your ball. Often times there is so much mud on the golf ball it’d be nearly impossible to play without cleaning your ball.
Make sure you know the specifics to the rule before you play in any tournament or event as well. Usually, after you clean the ball, you can move it within six inches, no closer to the hole and not taking it from the rough to the fairway. Or moving the ball from the fringe to the green.
Some events will allow you one full club length as long it’s no closer to the hole so make sure that you know the rules before teeing off.
If you can’t remove mud from the ball for some reason remember this rule. If mud is on the left side of the ball, it’ll tend to drift right. If it’s on the left side, it’ll tend to go right. Plan ahead for this!
Depending on where you play, some courses will have much better drainage systems than others. After a rainy day or even during the round, you’re bound to run into some casual water. If your ball lands in a puddle or your stance are affected by casual water (when water comes out of the ground and surrounds your feet) here’s what to do:
- Mark the ball with a tee and find the closest point of relief as long as it’s no closer to the hole.
- Once you establish the point, drop the ball.
- Then, you can go through the normal lift, clean, and place procedures.
If you’re ever having doubt of what’s casual water and what’s a bad break of a lie, make sure you confirm with your playing partners before taking relief.
For more info on the rules of golf, head over to our Dead Simple Guide to the Rules of Golf.
The embedded ball rule isn’t specific just to winter rules and can happen any time of the year. When the conditions are wet, the ball is more likely to plug into the turf sometimes making it hard to even find. If this happens, you do get free relief unless the ball is in a hazard.
When you notice the ball is embedded make sure that you clean the ball and take relief one club length no closer to the hole.
Now that you have the basics of winter golf, here are some other helpful tips to help you shoot your best scores in the blustery conditions.
When it’s cold or raining, the ball just isn’t going to go as far. If it’s cold the air is heavier and wont allow the ball to travel as far. If it’s raining, the ball will get beat up by the rain and also not travel as far. And if there’s wind good luck!
The biggest thing you do to play great during winter golf is to put your ego aside and take the club that’s needed. Don’t try to hit it hard and act like inclimate weather won’t affect your game. Swinging hard when it’s wet almost always leads to fat shots that are going to end up way short.
For irons and wedges, it’s good idea to club up at least one club and plan for roughly 5-10 yards less per club.
For woods and driver, expect an even bigger drop in distance of roughly 10-20 yards as you won’t get any roll out once it lands. It’s even more important in these conditions to hit your driver properly. That means hitting up on the driver, not down.
To non-golfers, this is going to sound like crazy advice but you’ll understand. To stay warm in winter golf a good idea is to ditch the golf cart and switch to walking the course. You’ll stay warmer and looser than freezing in the cart between shots.
Plus, most courses are cart path only so walking should save you time instead of driving to your ball. Walking will make it easier to find your ball. But if you are riding and walking to your ball, make sure to have a towel and always take enough clubs. When you’re riding it’s easy to grab a few clubs and not have enough time to head back to the cart if you find you have a different lie.
Most public courses in the winter make players hit off of mats to save the turf from too much wear and tear. If this is the case at courses near you, then it’s probably easier to practice indoors if possible. It might cost more money but you won’t have to deal with the elements of practicing outside.
Golf simulators are a great way to help your game even if it’s subzero temperatures outsides. Find a complex or golf store near you with a simulator and the prices available. Often times they will offer a monthly membership or some sort of discount if you plan on going more than once. Check on Yelp or Google to find an indoor practice facility near you.
If you are really into golf, check out our article on golf simulators for your home. Having one of these at your house is the best way to play winter golf!
If you want to save money and have space, another great idea to buy your own practice golf net. If you have a big garage or space outside, this is an awesome way to keep your game sharp. Convert your garage into a golfers paradise by adding a TV to watch highlights of Tiger in 2000 to really step your practice facility up.
If you don’t feel like braving the elements and don’t have a simulator near you, another way to practice in the winter is to work on your pre-shot routine at home. This will help you stay focused and ready to have a great pre-shot routine once spring hits.
Remember as top golf psychologist Dr. Bob Rotella said, “Your pre-shot routine should be your best friend, it should be your wing-man on the course.” Plus, having a top-notch pre-shot routine will help reduce tension in your swing when you are back on the course.
If you can’t play I always recommend that you try to keep swinging even if it’s for a few minutes in your garage or backyard. You want to keep the flow feeling familiar so it’s easy to replicate once you get back out on the course.
If you’re want to give your body a rest when it’s cold and rainy, you should train your mind. The majority of amateur golfers struggle with the mental game as much as the swing and short game.
Check out these amazing books to sharpen your skills between your ears when it’s too cold to get outside. Changing your mindset, routine, and way of thinking on the golf course can positively affect your game as much as new driver or swing tip.
When it’s cold the golf ball isn’t going to fly as far or roll as far. Say goodbye to your 10-20 yards of roll you get in the firmer, spring and summer conditions.
To help you offset some of this lost distance you should adjust your woods and driver by increasing loft. Adding loft will give yourself more carry and also make it easy to hit it slightly straighter than normal.
Just because it’s snowing where you are doesn’t mean it’s like that all over the world. Check out some of the top golf destinations and plan a trip for your buddies:
If flying with golf clubs scares you from taking a golf trip. Read this article next.
Yes, this is simple but it’s effective. Depending on how harsh the conditions are, switching to a firmer ball is a great way to help. Otherwise, soft balls will spin more and not travel as far.
If you’re already playing a Pro V1 try out a Pro V1X to see the results. Or, make a switch one of these other golf balls. And if you’re having visibility problems, switch to a yellow ball to make it easier to find your golf ball.
12. Keep Your Golf Balls Warm
While this sounds silly it’s true. A warm golf ball flies much farther than a cold one. Keep the ball you’re playing with, in your pocket at all times. Throw another ball in your pocket and rub them together to keep them warm.
13. Have Fun
The last tip of winter golf is to make sure you’re having fun. Don’t take it too seriously out there, golf’s hard enough and inter golf usually only makes it more difficult. Expect to shoot a few shots worse when it’s cold and windy, even the pros don’t play as well in tough conditions.
Hopefully these winter golf tips will make it easy for you to enjoy the winter even if conditions aren’t that great. Remember, the biggest key is being prepared.
Be prepared for the conditions, the new rules, and the way the ball reacts when it’s cold and wet outside. If you use these 13 tips I’m confident you’ll play some of your best golf yet and be prepared once it gets warm again.