Fergus Bisset explains why he enjoys golfing through the winter, perhaps even more than during the summer! Is he mad? See what you think...
Every year when the clocks go back marking the end of British Summer Time, I raise a glass. I don’t relish the shorter days and I prefer warm weather to cold but, for me, the negative aspects of winter’s arrival are massively eclipsed by a single positive – the start of the golf season.
I know, I know – winter isn’t generally considered the best time to play golf and I accept it’s principally a summer sport. But, there are a number of reasons why I find golfing in the winter preferable and perhaps the main one is the fact I‘m in the significant minority when it comes to this argument.
As so few people are aware of the joys of winter golf, the courses are deserted. A typical round at my club in winter will go something like this – We’ll turn up in the empty car park, enjoy some banter with the unhurried pro before strolling onto the first tee when it suits us. We’ll then play a peaceful round that takes less than three hours with no hold-ups whatsoever. And, on that perfect sunny, crisp day when there’s not a breath of wind, it really feels like you’ve hit the jackpot. How good that post round pint tastes as you smugly consider what the summer-only golfers are missing out on.
I love the camaraderie of winter golf. As one of its exponents you’re part of an elite group of brave adventurers. In clubhouses up and down the UK, the mid-winter golfer can be heard echoing the words of Captain Lawrence Oates as he prepares to forge out into a sleet-filled gale, “I’m just going outside and may be some time.” Such men are the heroes of our sport – a dedicated and passionate band of champions with a never-say-die attitude.
When you spy another group across the fairway on a wet and windy winter’s day you’ll give a respectful wave. You may even join them for an ale in the clubhouse to compare tales of courage in the face of adversity. During the busy summer months the other groups on the course seem more like mortal enemies than fellow golfers. You’ll look across at them, scowl and say to your partner, “Ah, so it’s those scoundrels who are holding up the course.”
The fair weather player who hangs up his clubs for winter can’t consider himself a true golfer. Can you imagine Old Tom Morris refusing a game on the links because it looked a bit parky out? Certainly not. If you really love the game, how could you go for months at a time without swinging a club?
Battling through everything the winter weather can throw at you and still recording a score is one of the most rewarding achievements in golf. It’s a true test of your grit and determination and you must learn a multitude of different shots to counter the conditions – the low punch into the January wind or the runner that scampers across a frozen fairway to find an icy winter green. You must learn to pick the ball cleanly off a muddy lie and to stroke the ball across greens more reminiscent of a non-league penalty area than a putting surface. But all these strange shots will stand you in good stead when the weather turns for the better. Imagine how easy that pitch from a perfect lie will feel or how confident you can be over a six-footer knowing there are no tussocks or divots on your line.
Andy Sullivan’s punch shot masterclass:
Through the winter you’ll also be testing your equipment to its limits. What’s the point in spending hundreds of pounds on the latest waterproofs and “Gore-tex” lined shoes if you’re not going to put them through their paces?
If you want to improve your golf you simply must play during the winter. Not only because you learn to deal with so many different scenarios, but also because a five month lay-off every year will set you back. How can you expect to return to the game stronger in March when you haven’t seen a fairway since October? You often hear people say, “a break is good, it gives you a chance to forget all the mistakes that have crept in.” Yes, but you’ve also forgotten how to hit the ball.
You don’t see Butch Harmon recommending Phil Mickelson takes six months off because he might just be better when he comes back.
I, for one, am delighted the winter golf season is upon us and I’ll make the absolute most of the deserted fairways until the masses return next spring. In closing, I’ve written a little poem to the winter golfer:
Cold winds gusting from the north,
Four proud golfers setting forth;
Across the links they bravely go,
Through freezing air and drifting snow;
18 holes? No doubt. No fear,
Bloody hell, they’ve earned a beer.