While all golfers dream of living in a golf paradise where the forecast is 80 degrees and sunny every day, most of us aren’t so lucky. There’s an always-too-short golf season and a way-too-long offseason where we’re stuck inside putting on our living room carpets.
But every once in a while, we’ll get snowmelt and a few 50-degree January days where the courses open up, and you’ll realize that the golf gods have smiled upon you. Don’t get caught with your clubs in long term storage when this happens! We often have no more than a few days’ warning, so make sure you have your gear and your body ready to go.
Keep your grips fresh
When it’s cold out, grips tend to be a little more slippery than normal. That’s why I always recommend that players change their grips at the end of the golf season. You’ll have fresh grips waiting for you during those one-off winter rounds, or if you’re one of the lucky ones who makes a winter pilgrimage to Florida or Arizona.
Whether you’re a DIY-er or you take them into the golf shop, the wintertime is the best time to do it. Golf stores often offer free installation to spur winter business. But I always prefer to change them myself. Once you get the hang of it, it hardly takes any time at all, and you can easily experiment with customization via extra tape wraps. It gives you that extra little bit of connection with your golf clubs.
Either way, you should be changing your grips either once-a-year or every 40 rounds, whichever comes sooner. Your grips are one piece of equipment you use on every single shot, and you may not realize just how much having a good, tacky grip can free up your golf swing.
Storing your gear
Make sure your equipment is stored in a place that doesn’t get too cold. If you’ve got it stashed away in an outdoor shed or an unheated garage, your golf balls can become permanently impaired from the extended freeze. They just won’t fly quite as far as they should, and it’s possible that they can go out of round during the defrosting process.
If your balls are already out in your freezing cold garage, bring them inside the night before you go play. They should be allowed to slowly warm back up to room temperature for the best chance at regaining full performance. And definitely don’t try to play with still-frozen golf balls: they’ll crack your razor-thin driver face and wear down your iron grooves.
Your shoes will also benefit from a nice warm winter storage place. Keeping them at freezing temperatures will cause them to stiffen up, requiring a new break-in period and resulting in shoes that will probably never be as comfortable as they were before a long, cold winter.
Keep your body limber
It’s all too easy to injure yourself after a long winter layoff, so try to stay limber. Get up off the couch during the football game and do a little yoga or calisthenics. Hit the gym and get your heart rate up on an elliptical. Even the slow, thoughtful movements of tai chi can help keep your ligaments loose and tone your golf muscles in the offseason. You may find that stretching and meditation exercises like yoga and tai chi also help your mental game on the golf course: a real win-win!
Maintaining flexibility is the number-one goal in offseason golf training. Number two should be building core strength, so don’t be afraid of the gym. Yoga is also an amazing provider of core strength -- you may be surprised at just how hard it is to achieve and hold those poses.
There are also many driving ranges and indoor golf simulator options that provide the opportunity to keep your swing fresh year-round. If you have tall ceilings and a few thousand dollars lying around, there are many consumer-level simulators with incredible technology at surprisingly reasonable prices.
For the rest of us, TopGolf offers heated hitting bays and a fun, target-based approach to scoring. They’ve also got food and booze, so you can keep your golf swing tuned up and make a whole day of it. Indoor golf simulators give you the chance to play some of the best courses in the world with remarkably realistic visuals.
The last thing that you need to focus on is cleaning your equipment. This shouldn’t just be an end-of-the-year thing: you should keep your equipment clean after every round and every practice session. Use a tee to get the dirt out of your grooves. Wipe all your clubs down with a damp towel. Clean your shoes and your bag with a Magic Eraser. Keep your push-cart’s wheels clean and lubricated.
Ensuring that your equipment is free of grime will prolong its life and improve its functionality -- and it looks good too. It’ll be way more photogenic for those “What’s in the bag?” threads on the golf blogs you’ll inevitably find yourself browsing while it’s too cold for you to get a proper golf fix.
Staying warm on the course
When you do get that one day of 50-degree weather, you’ll need to make sure you’re dressed properly. Wear a thin thermal undershirt and one or two lightweight, flexible pullovers. Layers are the key to staying warm while still being able to properly swing a golf club.
Cycling gear is surprisingly helpful: grab some wool socks from a cycling shop, and a thin headband that’ll keep your ears warm under your golf hat. It’s about staying warm-but-not-too-warm. You want to be comfortable, not sweating under heavy winter gear.
Golf glove manufacturers make winter golf gloves, but I find that FootJoy’s rain gloves work the best. They keep your hands warm but aren’t overly thick. If you need something between shots, there are several options for golf mittens that slip on easily over your golf glove.
Finally, I suggest walking instead of taking a cart. The motion will keep you warm and you won’t have the cool breeze drying your eyes out and biting at your cheeks like you would in a golf cart. And you can use all the exercise you can get during a long, cold winter! 18 holes of walking will make that hot toddy after the round taste all the sweeter.