How to Make the Most of Your Winter GolfingPublished on 03/14/2023 · 10 min readDon't let bad weather keep you from your game! Golf Expert Adam Ditcher shares his suggestions so you can keep playing and improving come winter.
Photo by Deugchul Shin
As a lifelong ameteur golfer and resident of Western New York, I am definitely familiar with winter. I have had to spend every winter trying to figure out the optimal way to spend the nearly six months a year that I cannot spend time playing golf outside. I have attempted many different methods of enjoying and maximizing my exposure to golf in the winter months, and feel that these ideas, in the correct mix, can help you to enjoy your love of golf in the winter months. Not only that, but make it easier for you to hold out until that first round or range session that you look forward to in the spring and shoot a lower score earlier in the year.
Where I live, winter involves a lot of snow. So there are months, generally December to March, where snow is on the ground and golf is far from a possibility. I have heard of people taking GPS golf balls on to a course during winter and getting some swings in, but I personally have never partook in that activity. I feel it would be incomplete without being able to putt, and I prefer some of the other ideas I will discuss with you all. November and April are also questionable for golf, as they can be cold, wet, and occasionally also bring snow. Even October and May get dicey in the worst years. So the offseason here can last longer than a lot of places, and never is as short as we’d like it to be. However, April this year was actually quite ideal for golf, and offered a lot of opportunity to play compared to an average year.
While I am currently located in Buffalo, NY, I spent much of my childhood in the more rural Southern Tier of Western New York. Some of these suggestions are more convenient or easier to do in urban areas, and some are more for rural areas. However, I feel these ideas could help anyone with the right amount of imagination and free time. They range in variation between working on your full golf swing to working on nothing involving holding a club at all. The idea is that ameteur players don’t have the access or budget to address the offseason like the best players in the world, but there are affordable and practical options for you to make it through the winter and come out ready to make solid contact anywhere from your 3-wood to your pitching wedge come spring. Make sure to stay on the right side of your budget and within your physical limitations, especially with the current pandemic.
Head Somewhere Warm
One of my favorite ideas for the winter months, which I have not been able to do as much lately due to the pandemic, is to organize some trips out of state during the winter to warmer areas where golf is possible during the winter months. One thing I’ve discovered on these trips is that it’s important to come into your golf excursions with the right mindset. When winter comes, you inevitably aren’t swinging your clubs anywhere near the amount that you were back in the summer when you were in mid-season form. However, it can be very fulfilling to get out of the snow (or whatever winter weather your area has that isn’t ideal for golf) and venture somewhere that is warm and perfect for golf.
It’s also beneficial to play rounds in different areas to experience the variety of course conditions between geographical areas. Course conditions vary greatly from place to place. There may be a variation in course layout, elevation, grass type, golf ball compression, and many other factors. Experiencing these different challenges will help you grow as a player. Nothing beats instant access to a course or practice facility, and you can sign up to get email offers from courses in the areas you’d like to visit so you can ensure your golf escape can also come in under budget.
Hit the Virtual Links
If travel is not in your budget or availability, there are other options that can help you to prepare for the upcoming season. One popular option in the winter is to utilize an indoor simulator. These simulators combine a launch monitor to capture a player’s swing statistics as a player hits a golf ball into a screen in front of them. The screen displays a golf course and players can go through a golf round virtually. Players who have gone to a fitting to get their swing specs would’ve utilized a similar setup. In the winter, some golf courses and other businesses open these types of facilities to either their membership or the general public. Some public simulators also attract PGA professionals who will utilize this technology to teach during the winter months. Generally, these facilities charge by the hour, and some commercialized ones come with bars and kitchens for people to eat and drink while they play. It’s a great weekend outing for amateur golfers and can provide a little taste of what it feels like to really stripe a fairway wood on a par 5 when there’s snow on the ground. Some simulators also offer leagues or tournaments for the winter that players can opt into that’ll provide some weekly golf even as the temperature drops outside.
Another winter option is to frequent an indoor driving range. Frequently referred to as golf domes, these indoor ranges are within an inflated structure and often are limited in the distance the ball can fly before making contact with the inflated dome structure. PGA pros also utilize these facilities to teach in the winter, so players can choose the type of practice structure they wish to utilize if they prefer hitting in the golf dome over using a similar to see more of the ball flight. These facilities also sometimes offer additional golf-related activities, such as indoor short game areas, indoor miniature golf courses, bars, restaurants, and some indoor facilities vary how their space is utilized by hosting indoor soccer or youth baseball and softball as well. They’re a great area to spend some time with your clubs outside of your basement, and you can pick up your clubs and work on that butter-smooth swing you hope for come springtime.
One all-time favorite winter golf activity for players who live in non-golf-friendly climates in the winter is the occasional heatwave that comes in January or February for enough days that the snow melts and the golf course is feasibly playable without hitting balls into mounds of snow. The course is going to be soaked, so be sure to adequately prepare for these limited opportunities. Wear some clothes that you don’t mind ruining if the mud won’t ever come out of them. Dress warm enough that you can handle being outside, but not so layered that you can’t swing the golf club. Thermal layers underneath your base clothing should help resolve this issue. I’m partial to Under Armour as a base layer myself, but many companies make similar products.
It’s also good to have a stash of lower-quality golf balls that aren’t going to cost you Pro V1 prices to replace when they inevitably get plugged into the ground and are lost until spring comes. These days are few and far between, especially here in Western New York, so be sure to be prepared with all the right gear for when your occasional winter heat wave comes around.
Definitely be sure to pack some extra towels, socks, hand warmers, mittens, a fleece, a beanie, and maybe some hot chocolate so you can stay warm and toasty out there. Don’t forget to take an extra club since your distances will decrease due to the colder temperatures and the golf ball not compressing this time of year as it does in the warmth of a mid-summer day. If you're looking for the right gear, reach out to a Golf Expert here on Curated for guidance.
At-Home Fixes & Workouts
In the interest of total honesty, these previously mentioned ideas are some of the best fixes for the golf blues in the middle of winter. Nothing beats taking some full swings with the club and having some friends meet you at the range or the simulator to kick off a little of that winter rust. Of course, if time and money were no issue, being able to travel to golf in the winter is the best of the best when it comes to beating the winter blues.
However, if these options are not in your budget, or it’s very inconvenient for you to try to access these types of facilities, you can still maximize your winter. First, take advantage of any indoor space that you have at your disposal. Even an empty garage can be used to work on your chipping with the purchase of a turf mat and a chipping net. Indoor putting mats are also fairly affordable and come in a wide variety of options. Your short game is going to be the easiest thing for you to work on within the confines of your own home, and having even a little feel in your short game coming into a new season will give you a major advantage over people coming off a golf free winter. There are a number of great drills that can be done in limited space in the winter. Indoor chipping and putting drills can be found online and can help address some common errors that may have snuck into your game.
In addition to indoor short game practice, getting into better physical shape for the upcoming season is always an option for your winter golf blues as well. There are a wide variety of golf-targeted workouts out on the internet and there’s also no shame in just using that time to improve your general physical fitness. Any type of progress you make will at least indirectly help your golf game. Cardio and stamina training will help you either while walking the course or at least not be so exhausted after playing. Core training will be extremely helpful for your upcoming golf season, as it’ll help you to get through the golf ball easier with more force behind your swing. Playing an indoor winter sport, such as hockey or basketball, can help with your hand-eye coordination and provide an outlet for feel-oriented players to work on their touch in an additional aspect. There are a number of resources online, and perhaps this could serve as an entirely different article, as there is a lot of depth to get into when discussing the multitude of winter activities that can lead to better results come springtime.
Golf Season Will Come Back
The most important part of being a golfer stuck in a winter climate is to make sure that you’re taking into account your own well-being and are doing things that help you to keep yourself in good spirits during a gloomy time to be a golfer. Taking up some suggested activities, or even things that don’t relate to golf at all, can really help you to get out of the house, go interact with others, and enjoy the portion of the year that you can’t get outside for 18 holes every weekend. When I was younger and actively working on my game improvement from one season to the next, I used to prioritize putting a better version of myself on the course in the spring than the version who had last stepped foot on a golf course in the previous fall. Mental training in the winter can be a huge asset as well, and the mental fortitude it takes to make it through cold and long winters can definitely help you when your knees are knocking over that final five-foot putt to shoot your new personal best. Regardless of how you choose to improve yourself over your winter, know that my fellow Golf Experts and I are here to help you improve your game come next spring and upgrade your gear in the meantime.