Should you have to use a mat in winter?

The Scoop

An essential accessory or a maddening inconvenience? The NCG team look at mats in winter golf...

Steve Carroll: Strap yourselves in people, this could turn into a rant.

There are many things that irk me about winter golf – the cold being at the root of most of them – but my face goes redder than a jaunt in the Arctic when it comes to the issue of mats.

It’s so dispiriting. You’ve got a good round going and then you step onto the tee at a par 3 to be confronted with a piece of bone hard artificial turf that looks like it has been shipped over straight from a hockey field.

I know what’s going to happen before I’ve even swung the club – a stinger up the arm and a shank into some cabbage as the iron goes sideways off the rubber.

To make matters worse, at a lot of places (the venerable Old Course being one of them) you also have to take a small bit of fabric around with you lest you scar the precious turf.

They could be carpet samples for all I care. They probably are.

So as well as having to concentrate on hitting fairways, you then have to bend down on every approach and fix in a strip of material with a couple of tees.

No wonder my back is shot to hell.

Now, you can hit out of the rough. But, in winter, that’s like trying to strike your ball from a jungle.

Am I being unreasonable? Is it more important to let our fairways recover so they are sparkling in summer? Or should a year round sport mean playing it as it lies at all times?

Mark Townsend: It’s fine. Wandering 30 yards to your left to play from some rough is just odd and it’s a fine art to install a piece of astroturf that fits in with your swing plane.

And it just adds to your ready-made excuses for playing like a pillock in the winter…

If you dread chipping, particularly in the winter, when all you can picture, post impact, is a piece of turf that is stuck to your clubhead with the ball not having moved somewhere behind it, then it is an absolute blessing.

A rough issue

Dan Murphy: 30 yards – how wide are the fairways where you play and do you never miss the centre stripe?

I am more than happy to kick my ball into the semi on the rare occasions it has clung to the edge of a wet fairway. It’s much more normal than hitting off a mat at what feels like knee height. Plus I always lose it in the first three holes.

Tom Irwin: What Dan said.

SC: Would you care to elaborate Tom?

TI: JB Holmes hit 28 per cent of fairways this year on the PGA tour. So he would have had to play from some not existent rough 3.92 times per round, ergo there is no point in fairway mats.

Similarly for tee shots, just play off some nearby semi. Ergo.

MT: Most people just overlook the fact they’ve got a huge piece of greengrocer’s furniture hanging on the side of their bag and just play off the fairway anyway.

SC: By people, you mean you…

MT: No, I like mats. People that aren’t me.

TI: Have you astroturfed your garden Mark, or have I dreamt that?

MT: Yes I have and no you’re not dreaming, for the sole reason of being ready for winter golf.

TI: I am wearing tights at all times for the same reason, and absolutely not because I like the way it feels.

A new approach

James Savage: I rarely hit the fairway so playing out of the semi-rough isn’t an issue.

I’d much rather fat it off a mat than off a wet fairway but they are a hassle to carry around and then peg into the ground.

I’ve got enough to worry about without adding anymore build-up to my next pathetic approach shot.

Joe Urquhart: I despise hitting from a mat – so much so it puts me off going for a round. I just can’t do it whether it be a winter mat or at the driving range – like Mark says, most people use them when in sight of the clubhouse then ignore the fact they’re dragging along the ground behind them.

SC: In my experience, they are not that bothered about it in the shop. Bigger fish to fry.

Members, though, take it far more seriously. I have been rebuked more than once for forgetting to use a mat from the fairway, by people who got disproportionately upset about it.

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