Why we love winter golf
Why I love winter golf: Nobody likes getting muddy trousers and that’s why I prefer to think of winter golf as a links and heathland-based activity. I laugh in the face of a 30mph easterly and don’t mind the greens being a bit slower or having to wear base layers and a woolly hat. Playing a links course in the winter makes me glad to be alive – who’s complaining about the bracing sea air as an alternative to the office? Afterwards, feeling first flushed and then sleepy in a cosy clubhouse with an early afternoon pint in hand is just fine too.
Favourite course to play in winter: The east coast generally is the best place to play golf in the winter as it’s dry. At Hunstanton, tees are often moved so they are adjacent to the previous green – basically, to where they were originally – so you fairly race round. Obviously there is no mud and little rough either with it being a links. On the back nine, you play towards the lights of the town in the distance as the sun goes down and that comfortable old clubhouse looms behind the 18th green. It’s the perfect place to be.
Best winter golf tip: The best additions to my golfing arsenal in the winter in many years have been a bodywarmer and a snood. The former adds warmth without restricting movement – I don’t know why I didn’t work this out years ago – while the latter may raise eyebrows but you can’t really see it when it’s underneath your jacket. And even if they do, who cares? All bets are off when it’s below zero and you’re outside for three hours.
Why I love winter golf: Where does your mind take you when people tell you to go to your happy place? Me? I’m on the first tee at Bude, it’s Boxing Day, and I’ve got my two best mates alongside me. It’s about 7.30am, there isn’t a cloud in the sky, and the air is that kind of crisp that makes your lungs double take. We are the first people on the tee, and will be for some time. We are wrapped up warm and we have one of the West Country’s finest courses to ourselves. Millionaire’s golf in my second hometown. Yes please.
Favourite course to play in winter: I generally spend the holiday season at home in the South West so Christmas jaunts round any of the Atlantic Links courses has become something of a tradition. I have to say Bude & North Cornwall for the reasons I’ve already explained.
Winter golf tip: Wear mittens. I can deal with any part of my body being cold, but if my hands are cold I may as well go home and get in front of the fire.
Why I love winter golf: Things are always better when not many others are wise to it. Growing up, my dad and I would traditionally have a game on New Year’s Day. We had made a start on trying to improve a few hours into 1986 and had a head start on everyone else at the club – much (not really) like Sebastian Coe training on Christmas Day as he knew Steve Ovett wouldn’t be. Even if it was rock-hard with frost it would likely be the best round of the year; no waiting, fresh air in the lungs and back in the clubhouse for a game of snooker by midday.
Favourite course to play in winter: Somewhere as far south as possible. Cinque Ports is always a treat and would be in cracking nick all year.
Winter golf tip: Hit three more clubs than normal; one for the cold weather, one for the lack of run out and one for the fact that you always over-estimate how far you hit it.
Why I love winter golf: When playing golf in the middle of the summer, expectation levels are raised and often they aren’t quite met. In winter it’s the opposite. Every round you get in feels like a bonus. It also feels like there’s less pressure to perform – resulting in a better performance. I have a wardrobe full of windstoppers, pullovers and thermal jackets and it’s great to have them all available to me. It’s good fun to throw a few extra layers and a bobble hat on – it’s like going to war with the elements and I enjoy that.
Favourite course to play in winter: Hillsborough is a fairly short and fun course off the back tees so even more enjoyable for me off the forward winter tees. It drains really well so isn’t muddy and the greens stay in superb condition. You might even get a bit of snow on the hills in the distance which adds to the already spectacular views.
Winter golf tip: Invest in a decent pair of waterproof golf shoes. Many models claim to keep your feet dry but don’t. The best ones are all a bit more expensive but well worth the investment. Also, make sure your practice swings are a few inches above the ground. There’s nothing more annoying than having to wipe your club face with a towel after a practice swing.
Why I love winter golf: Isn’t it nice to simply enjoy a knock, far removed from the agonies of a season spent futilely toiling for a lower handicap? The white tee markers are gone. The course seems so much more accessible. You look at holes in a totally new light. The weekend roll-ups spring back into life: down the club for 9am, spending a few glorious hours with people you’ve barely seen during the bustle of a medal campaign. Yes, you look like the Michelin man but it’s worth it. Just for that one day when you feel the fleeting sun on your face and the air has a crispness you only find in deepest January. Ask yourself, why would you want to be anywhere else?
Favourite course to play in winter: While parklands are sodden, expect crisp fairways and firmer greens by the sea – and that’s what you’ll find at Hartlepool. Like a lot of courses in the North East of England, this links is seriously under-rated and I always love sweeping shots through some magnificent dunes. A perfect view on a winter’s day.
Winter golf tip: Club up. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But I’m always amazed by the number of players who watch their flushed 7-iron fall short and exclaim ‘But I hit this club 150 yards!’ You do. In summer. For me, the heavier air and lower temperatures means I’m adding at least two clubs – and that’s before you even start to take account of wind.
Why I love winter golf: Courses are busy in the summer, so as beginner who is still consistently bad at finding the fairway, this is the worst possible time for me to be out on the course. I hate feeling like I’m holding up everyone behind me, and I don’t relish an audience when I’m having a particularly bad round. So when it’s cold, windy and a bit bleak, I love that all the sensible golfers stay indoors. Nothing is more refreshing than being outside on a frosty, sunny day, and it’s important to remember that the more golf you play, the more cheese and mulled wine you can justify afterwards.
Favourite course to play in winter: The 12-hole par-3 Oaks course at Leeds Golf Centre is quick to get round, stays in good condition through winter, and is always enjoyable.
Winter golf tip: Invest in some really warm clothes, particularly a base layer. It’s impossible to have fun when you’re freezing. Is that too obvious?
Why I love winter golf: Having played the majority of my golf in Scotland growing up I’ll be honest most rounds felt like they were being played in winter. Joking aside, links golf in the down season is the way to go and this is why winter golf is the best. There is nothing better than trawling your way to the British coastline with a brisk wind on your back, fresh air in your lungs and being layered up to your eyeballs so that it’s only your right hand exposed to the elements. Winter greens? Pah. Links golf laughs in our faces.
Favourite course to play in winter: Glorious views of the setting sun along the coastline as the winter evening draws in, what more could you want? Step forward, Lundin Links.
Winter golf tip: Just play links golf.
Why I love winter golf: I love playing golf when the course is practically empty. So a round of golf on my birthday at the very start of the New Year is something I look forward to more than any other time. A bitterly cold morning on the South Shields links at first light with the old man is exactly how I want to celebrate. Who can’t love forward tees either? No one else needs to know the tees were 40 yards further forward when I shot my personal-best round of 77. And I know I’ll be in a minority saying this, but I’m a fan of temporary greens. Because, deep down, aren’t we all looking for excuses when it comes to missed putts?
Favourite course to play in winter: I’m a January baby so a round with friends and family at South Shields for my birthday has become something of a tradition.
Winter golf tip: Forget hybrids and hit low stingers – or, as they are more commonly known to higher handicappers, “thins”.