Winter golf brings many challenges and it can also deliver unexpected moments of excitement and adventure, like this one!
Winter golf is a special category of our game. You have to be extra tough to play a round when the temperature dips down into the 40s.
Enjoying golf played in cold weather starts with some sartorial adjustments.
We pull on our base layers – I’m partial to a SmartWool undershirt – and wrap ourselves in mufflers. We wear watch caps instead of visored golf caps and, in the most frigid conditions, we dig out those winter golf gloves that are buried deep down in the side pocket of our bags.
The trick, of course, is to pull on enough layers to stay warm but not so many that we feel like Michelin men when we step up to the tee.
Most of us know about those wonderful little hand warmer packets, which sometimes find their way into the toes of shoes as well as pockets. And we learn quickly that golf balls don’t perform as well when they’re cold, so we store them inside rather than in our cars or golf carts, and keep them cozy and toasty in our pockets during our round.
Then there are the strategies we devise to actually play golf on physically difficult ground – frozen muddy bogs, torn up fairways, dormant grass, and bare earth.
My LGA follows USGA winter rules that give us a bit more latitude in navigating the golf course. We adopt preferred lies through the green, move out of those bare areas where the grass has disappeared – one club length usually takes me to something that resembles dormant grass, even if it’s thin. (I’ve found it very useful to put in bit of extra practice hitting chips and flop shots from tight lies, just in case that club length isn’t quite enough.) And we lift, clean, and place through the green when that’s justified by soggy conditions.
Just for the record, my LGA doesn’t extend ‘winter rules’ beyond the fairway, to include preferred lies in bunkers and the rough. And as soon as conditions allow, my by-the-book LGA returns to business-as-usual. (I’m always amazed when I run into people who invoke ‘winter rules’ in July!)
Golf carts & accessories
Then there are the golf carts, and the various cart accessories designed to “enhance” the winter golf experience, or at least make it survivable.
Golf carts are open to the elements and unless you’re one of those millionaire golfers who owns an enclosed cart equipped with climate control, even when the cart has been rigged up with those side curtains it’s going to be cold. This brings me to my latest adventure in winter golf.
With the ambient temperature hovering around 45º my favorite golf partner, Betty, and I decided to take on the golf course this week. Betty got a propane-fueled golf cart heater for Christmas – you know what I’m talking about – the kind that sits in one of the cup holders and generates a wonderfully warm little circle of heat – and we decided to test it out. Betty’s son assembled it and fired it up for us.
We were two of five people out on the course, but it didn’t matter. The sun was shining and there was no wind to speak of, so we teed off with the little heater blasting out its warmth. Things moved right along until about mid-way through the second hole, when the heater started emitting a new sound, sort of a buzzing rattle. It wasn’t loud, but it was a change from the gentle, nearly inaudible whirring.
By the time we’d finished the second hole and moved on to the third tee the buzzing rattle had gotten louder and was distracting. We shrugged it off, hit our tee shots, and moved up the fairway to our balls. Even though conditions were cart path only, I confess that we cheated a little bit and pulled our cart into the rough, alongside one of the fairway bunkers, before we got out and walked to our balls.
That turned out to be a fortuitous violation.
My ball was a bit further right than Betty’s, so I walked across the fairway and was getting set up to take my shot when Betty yelled at me. I looked back at her and saw black smoke billowing from the golf cart!
As I was contemplating the smoke and trying to make sense of it Betty yelled again: “It’s on fire! The heater’s shooting flames!”
We were essentially alone, confronting a flaming propane canister. There wasn’t another golfer in sight.
I yelled at Betty, “Get that thing out of the cart!”
Betty yelled at me, “Call the pro shop!”
So while she grabbed the flaming heater and tossed it in the bunker I called the pro shop and told them we were abandoning a flaming propane canister in the fairway bunker on the third hole.
That done, we returned to our game and, predictably, although we were both close enough to make the green in regulation, missed our approach shots. It was a little distracting to have that flaming propane canister no more than 20 yards away, in the middle of the bunker, steadily belching black smoke as the plastic cup surrounding the canister melted.
Still, we played on, made the green, and both two-putted for bogey just as the head of grounds maintenance pulled up beside the bunker, grabbed a rake, and smothered the fire with sand. So much for fire-fighting technical know-how and equipment.
With our blood pressures elevated and adrenalin coursing through our systems, Betty and I finished our round in an unheated but intact golf cart.
Paid Contributor, ForeGals
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