Playing golf in winter conditions can be difficult and frustrating, especially if you are unprepared or go in with the wrong mindset. For many regions, there are going to be times of the year when there’s a foot of snow on the ground and you might as well just learn to ski.
But every winter, it seems like there are days and even weeks when you can get some rounds in if you are willing to deal with the elements.
There are some things you can do to make sure those clubs don’t spend the winter months collecting dust.
Here are 21 tips for getting the most out of your golf game until Spring rolls around again…
1. Set The Right Expectations
The cold weather has a lot of negative effects on your game. Shorter shots, stiffer muscles, heavier clothing, and soft ground to name a few.
So before you even grab your bag to go play some winter golf, you need to temper your expectations. Chances are you will not have a career round in the middle of February.
Instead of getting hung on your score, play winter golf to have fun, work on some skills, and stay active in the colder months. I like to use the winter to work on my golf fitness as well. This winter, I’ll be working with this swing speed training system to work on improving my swing speed.
You’ll likely play less rounds over the winter. Then when the thaw comes, you’ll be ready to go after those personal bests again.
2. Just Play Inside
Some winter days are just no fun for golf no matter how much you love the cold. For these days, you want to be prepared to scratch that golf itch without leaving the warmth of your home.
The coolest way to do this is with a home golf simulator.
If you are looking to add one of these to your home for the winter, check out our guide to the Best Golf Simulators. We cover a range of options at every price level. You’ll be happy with this investment come February and your swing is in midseason form!
Remember, if you want to hit actual golf balls inside your home, you’ll need a solid golf net. We just so happen to have an in-depth guide on choosing the Best Golf Net for your home.
3. Dress Appropriately
You need more layers in winter, so choosing the right type of clothing actually becomes more important.
Have a Breathable Base Layer
The first thing you want to make sure to get right is having a breathable base layer. Gone are the days of cotton long johns. Now you can find materials that keep you warm and also wick any sweat away from your body keeping you dry when you do sweat.
Get Winter Gloves
It took me years of playing golf to learn that there were golf gloves available that were specifically designed for playing in cold weather. They are a bit of a hybrid between regular golf gloves and regular winter gloves.
When you want to play in really cold weather, they can be extremely helpful. You can find them here.
Take Care Of Your Feet
Your feet are always important and when it comes to playing in the winter…cold and moisture are two dangerous enemies to your feet.
It’s not difficult to find waterproof golf shoes. in fact, there is a good chance the ones you already own are waterproof.
However, many manufacturers are also making more “sneaker style” golf shoes in recent years with more of a mesh outside instead of the traditional leather golf show.
There’s nothing wrong with these shoes. In fact, they are great for playing in hot weather. But, most of this style of shoes are not waterproof, so be sure to check and make sure you are properly equipped before heading out for a winter round.
Bring Extra Socks
The ground always seems to be wet in the winter (if it’s not frozen). That is because the cold weather prevents the moisture in the ground from evaporating.
Even with the most waterproof shoes, you may end up stepping in a big puddle or doing something else to get some moisture in your shoes.
The last thing you want to do is let your feet stay wet for a long time.
The best way to prevent this is to simply bring an extra pair of socks. If your feet get wet, change the socks out right away and you can play on in comfort.
4. Use A Softer Golf Ball
Cold weather makes the materials in a golf ball harden.
That means a ball that has the perfect compression rating for your swing in the middle of summer is likely to be too hard for your game in the winter.
The good news is that there are plenty of lower compression golf balls that are great for winter golf. In fact, we created an entire guide on the Best Golf Balls For Cold Weather to help you make the best choice for your skill level and swing speed.
Finding the ball that works for you in cold weather can make a huge difference in terms of distance.
Keep Your Balls Warm
Sorry, I couldn’t resist. But all jokes aside…keeping your golf ball warm is going to help to counteract some of the negative effects of cold.
Just remember, it is against the rules to warm it using any artificial means (and that includes putting it in the same pocket as a hand warmer).
A good strategy here is to keep two of the same balls ready for play. The one you are using on that hole and one in your pocket. Then switch on the next hole. Then you’ll always have one warm for your drive.
Even in the strictest of tournaments, that is legal so long as they are the same make and model ball.
Remember To Track Your Ball When You Hit It
The sun doesn’t get as high in the winter as it does in the summer.
That means that shots hit into the sun are much harder to follow. So you’ll need to take some extra care to make sure you don’t lose your ball even on good strikes.
Good sunglasses are one way to keep a better visual on the ball as it crosses the sun. An even better way is to follow it in the air right up to the point before it goes in front of the sun, then look down to where you think it will land.
By never looking at the sun, your eyes can stay focused and have a better chance of picking up the ball as it lands.
It’s also good etiquette to helps others spot their ball when conditions can be visually tough.
5. Use More Club and Swing Smooth
You simply aren’t going to be as limber or swing the club as fast during the winter.
Instead, focus on a smooth swing and making solid contact. Hitting the ball on the sweet spot of the club will help to minimize any distance lost from the inevitable slower swing speeds.
Just keep in mind that this means a lower
6. Play For Carry Not Roll
The ground gets wetter in the Winter. That means that the ball won’t roll out very much.
You’ll never get as much distance on wet soft ground as you would on a dry fairway, but adjusting your driver to carry the ball farther rather than play for the rollout can help to minimize the negative effects of soft winter ground.
Most best drivers made in recent years allow you to adjust the lie and loft of your club. Winter golf is the perfect example of a time when this comes in handy beyond just fitting the club for your swing and leaving it.
Just adding 1 degree of loft in the driver can increase the carry of the driver and give you more distance in wet conditions.
Just be sure to switch it back when the ground dries up because the added loft can prevent roll out and actually lower the total drive distance.
7. Adjust For The Greens
Most courses either using “winter greens” which are just a section of fairway with a hole cut in them OR they winterize the actual green with different treatments (often including sand).
If your course doesn’t use the winter greens, don’t forget that the real greens are not going to play the same as they do during the golf season.
They will almost definitely be slower. Your normal smooth putting stroke may leave you short more often than not. Be sure to get out on the practice green and figure it out before your round.
Greens in the winter also tend to hold a lot more moisture than in the summer. This means they can be very soft if the temperature is above freezing and can get quite firm if it has been below freezing for a while.
8. Focus On Specific Parts Of Your Game
Winter is a great time to work on your game.
So instead of playing the round as you normally would, use your winter rounds to work on specific aspects of your game.
You can do things like playing without a driver and using the forward tees. This can help you get more comfortable with your irons and wedges.
Courses are often pretty empty in the winter as well. So as long as you aren’t holding anyone up, take the opportunity to try some tricky shots more than once.
I like to take three shots into the green on short approaches, each with different lofts. You might surprise yourself and find that you get better results with a club you normally don’t use for that shot. For most of you, this will mean using less loft for those 50 yard pitches into the green.
If the pin in middle to back, your odds of getting it closer go up if you use less loft and allow the ball to release back to the pin.
9. Know The Rules
There are a few rules that are often implemented that can actually make winter golf a little easier.
Be sure to remember them and check to see which of the local rules are being implemented by your course.
This rule can be implemented by the course at their discretion and means that you get to mark your ball and replace it within a club length of the original spot on any closely mown area (ie. the fairway).
This rule is usually invoked by a course when winter has left the fairways in less than ideal condition.
You are always allowed to pull your ball out of the ground if it is embedded in a closely mown area (the fairway). This happens a lot in the winter so be aware that you have this option.
Courses also have the option of extending this rule to all areas of the course (other than hazards) if the conditions are sloppy enough to warrant it. So be sure to check this before you head out.
Cleaning The Ball (a.k.a lift clean and place)
This is the little brother of the preferred lies rule. The difference is that although you are allowed to lift and clean the ball, you must replace it where it came to rest.
This rule is always in play. It says that when your ball ends up in a puddle or other water that isn’t supposed to be there normally (meaning a water hazard is NOT casual water). Then you can pick up the ball and drop it within a club length of the nearest point of relief (no nearer the hole).
Although this rule is in play all the time, it becomes especially important in the winter months when soggy ground makes it all the more likely to encounter some casual water.
10. Play At Noon
Playing at the warmest time of day is a good way to minimize the effects of the cold on your game.
I know some of you always want the 6am tee time at the club so you can be the first ones done and get to the pub early. However, when playing in the winter, you may want to rethink that strategy.
11. Don’t Skip The Warmup
Your body is naturally stiffer in the colder weather.
The best way to overcome this is to spend a little extra time stretching and warming up.
Not only will a good stretch and warmup improve your flexibility and swing…it can also go a long way to prevent muscle pulls. The cold weather makes muscles more easy to sprain and strain, so take your time and get your body ready.
12. Play With Rookies
Courses are significantly less crowded in the winter, which makes it the perfect time to introduce new players to the game.
Sure, they’ll be cold, but that’s no big deal compared to having 3 foursomes staring at them as they hit their tee shot on the first hole.
An empty course means you can take the time you need to teach them the game. Show them how a golf hole is laid out. Explain the strategy of each hole. You can even drop balls at specific points to let them practice shots.
13. Find A Course That Maintains The Course All Winter
Just because a course is open all year round doesn’t mean it’s worth playing all year round.
Just like during the golf season, some courses just take more care during the winter. you may be surprised though that it isn’t always the ones that are in great condition all summer.
Sometimes the “lesser” courses try to take advantage of the off-season by catering to winter golfers.
14. Walk The Course
Winter is a great time to walk the course.
It will keep you warm allow you to get some good exercise that you might not normally get in the winter.
Just be sure to have a pull cart with wide wheels if you use one. Wet ground means narrow bag cart wheels can dig into the ground and get stuck.
Related: Best Golf Bags For Push Cart Users
15. Stay Hydrated (Drink Water)
A lot of golfers forget to drink enough during a round in the cold because they don’t need the water to cool off.
However, you can still get dehydrated in the cold. In fact, drinking things like coffee or hot chocolate might keep you warm, but they can accelerate dehydration and cause you to lose energy if you don’t drink water also.
Additionally, drinking alcohol may feel like it warms you up, but the effect it has on your body actually causes you to lose body heat more rapidly.
Be sure to bring some water with you too. Some courses don’t even put out their typical water coolers in the winter.
16. Find A Winter League
Joining a league is a great way to find that motivation to go and play even in the cold weather.
Often, we choose not to play in sub-optimal weather because it isn’t as fun as a beautiful summer day. You also might be reluctant to go out there and card a score that can hurt your average.
(remember…many states don’t even allow posting scores for handicap purposes in the winter)
Aside from the handicap implications, joining a winter league adds to the enjoyment of playing in the cold and it puts everyone on the same playing field. So instead of comparing your winter rounds to summer scores, you can see how you match up against your peers in the same bad weather.
17. Learn Something
If you’re stuck inside, use that time productively.
Find a good book on golf or, better yet, find a good video instruction course. You can improve a lot by just educating yourself on the swing and on golf strategy.
I am a big fan of these video courses by Adam Young. Check them out.
Bonus Tip: Travel Somewhere Warmer
Finally, the best way to combat winter golf is to avoid it altogether!
If you haven’t tried traveling to golf courses around the country and the world, then you are missing out on a big aspect of enjoying the game.
And what better time to head to warmer climates then in the middle of winter. If you are thinking of gathering your buddies and heading to a golf destination, check out our list of the Best Golf Trips For Guys.