It snowed here last night–as it’s entitled to. Nevertheless, unless we get a big melt my friends will have to change our Sunday golf plans. One possibility would be to play in the snow, at home. I own a pair of L. L. Bean snowshoes that I’ve never used for anything but golf, and I have a cache of orange balls.
It’s actually been a while since I played snow golf. I used to do it all winter long, with four old guys at my club who called themselves the Fuckheads, after their favorite term of endearment. They’re all dead now: John, who carried his golf bag by the handle, like a suitcase; Dick, who seldom took a waking breath that wasn’t filtered through a Tiparillo; Ed, who caddied for Titanic Thompson on our course the weekend of the wedding of Horton Smith, who won the first and third Masters tournaments and married a local girl; and Doug, who lived well into his nineties and whose house was up the street from mine. When they were younger, before I came along, they used to end their winter rounds by lighting a fire in the unheated cabin that serves as our clubhouse and drinking scotch while frost formed on the insides of the windows. One bitterly cold January morning long ago, they told me, the liquor froze in a glass that one of them had left on a table a few paces from the fire.
Playing golf in the snow is good for a golf swing. Snow dissipates energy even more than sand or dirt does, so you have to keep still and swing smoothly. Each of us carried only a single club, a limitation that inspired inventiveness in shot-making. It was while playing winter golf that I learned what must be the first principle of the golf swing: that the key to achieving power is not effort but ease. Facing a hundred-yard shot and having only a seven-iron with which to hit it, I swung easily and gracefully and launched my ball on a high, gorgeous, left-bending arc that ended deep within the woods behind the green.