Winter Golf on an Empty Course, Plus the Best Winter Golf Gloves

Joe was out doing errands last Sunday. He drove past a public course in the town next to the one we live in, saw that there were only a few cars in the parking lot, and guessed correctly that they must belong to people he knew.

The cars belonged to Tim, Doug, Mike A., and me (plus the kid behind the desk in the golf shop). We’d already finished eighteen, but Joe borrowed a hat from me and clubs from everyone, and joined us for a few bonus holes. The course was the only one still open in our immediate area, yet nobody at all had played it the day before, and nobody but us had shown up that morning. The kid charged us half-price.

The temperature was below freezing, but there was hardly any wind, and after we’d played a couple of holes we were so hot we took stuff off. The great thing about winter golf is that your drives run forever, and if the greens are frozen you can practice the kinds of run-up shots that come in handy in Scotland and Ireland.

Mike A. had some Tommy Armour Silver Scot golf balls, which he had dug up somewhere. One cracked when he hit it—because it was frozen, we assumed:

But then a second one cracked, too:

The cracks may explain why not even Tommy Armour III plays Tommy Armour balls. (The only reviewer on Amazon complained about cracking, too, and gave them one star—maybe overly generous.) We had the course completely to ourselves until a single guy showed up and somehow got ahead of us. We waited for him on every hole!

Tim and I both wore my favorite winter gloves, Winter Xtreme, by HJ Glove. They’re thick but flexible, and they have nice grippy silicone webbing on the palms and fingers.

If the day had been ten degrees colder, I’d have worn a pair of rain gloves underneath them. But for 29 degrees they were plenty.

These Are Still the Best Winter Golf Gloves — Plus Other Apparel News

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My friends and I haven’t been able to play golf in about a month now, so I’ve been wearing my winter golf gloves mainly to walk the dog. The ones I like best are still Winter Xtreme, by HJ Glove. They’re thick but flexible, and they have nice grippy silicone webbing on the palms and fingers. And Amazon has them in stock—something that hasn’t always been true. Meanwhile, our improved-and-personalized Jägermeister sweatshirts are back from the embroiderer:

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We went to 1st and 10, our favorite sports bar, to hand them out, and also because it was 50-cent-wings night. Totally coincidentally, the owner of the bar was handing out Jägermeister jerseys with the name of the bar on them to guys on a bowling team that he sponsors:

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When he saw that we were, in effect, Jägermeister brothers, he gave us jerseys, too. So when I went to Stop & Shop on the way home, to buy milk, baked beans, corn meal, and eggs, I was wearing two Jägermeister shirts, one on top of the other. And then a couple of days later the embroiderer finished our winter hats:

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Now all we need is grass.

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Can Ski Gloves Cure the Yips? How to Dress for Sub-freezing Golf

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On New Year’s Day, fifteen of us played the Red Course at the Wheel. The temperature was 20 when I woke up and 25 when we teed off, and it never got to more than a degree or two above freezing. Our cars were virtually the only ones in the parking lot when we started, so the guy at the desk (who took the photo below) said we could play as five threesomes, three fivesomes, two seven-and-a-halfsomes, whatever. We played as three fivesomes.
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The festive cardboard glasses that everyone’s wearing in the photo above were a seasonally appropriate gift from Chic, who is the chairman of our golf club:

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The ground was so hard that getting tees into it was a problem. Shouldn’t there be a power tool for this?

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We always award two extra handicap strokes to anyone who wears shorts after December 1. Only Fritz did on New Year’s—a seemingly reckless decision, but a profitable one, because his team won:

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Fritz said later that only has face had been cold. If I’d worn shorts, I’d have gotten a handicap stroke on the Money Hole, so dressing rationally cost me ten bucks. I don’t regret that, though, because I was comfortable for the entire round. After many years of playing golf in bad weather, I’ve figured out what I need to wear to stay warm. As always, I dressed in layers, so that I could take stuff off if I got hot and put it back on if I got cold again—although on New Year’s I didn’t take anything off until we were finished.

I wore three long-sleeve shirts, the first of which was very thin and two of which were turtlenecks. All three were made of synthetic stuff. Here’s the one I wore on top, by Under Armour:

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On top of that, I wore my brand-new Sun Mountain Tour Series Rain Jacket, which I love. There was no rain in the forecast, but rainsuits are good for wind, too, and we had plenty of that: 20 miles per hour all day:

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My Sun Mountain rain jacket reminds me of my Galvin Green rain jacket, which I also love, but the Sun Mountain jacket sells for less than half as much. One of its best features is that it’s extra long, so that it can’t ride up, We’ve had a fair amount of rain so far this winter, in addition to the other stuff, and I’ve happily worn the jacket many times. I like everything about it:

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On top of the rain jacket, I wore a Uniqlo Ultra Light down vest. Wearing a down vest over three shirts and a jacket made me look like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, but the vest really is ultra light, and because it doesn’t have sleeves it doesn’t get in the way of a golf swing. I keep it in a Ziploc bag in my golf bag all winter, for emergencies. It squishes down to such a tiny package that last year I forgot to take it out when the weather got warm again:

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I own long johns in three different “weights.” On New Year’s Day, I wore the mediums. They aren’t really long johns; they’re actually running pants, or something, for men who don’t mind being seen in public in tights. They work like long johns, though:

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On top of those, I wore rain pants. One of the keys to successful rain-pants-wearing, I think, is to wear them as pants—over bare legs if it’s warm, over long johns if it’s not. Another key: suspenders. Wearing suspenders with rain pants keeps the pants from sliding down when you stuff a gloved hand into your pocket to retrieve a tee or a ball marker. In fact, rain pants should have built-in straps. My suspenders have plastic grippers, which I think are gentler on expensive waterproof fabric than metal grippers are. They also supposedly won’t set off airport security equipment, should you choose to adopt a totally suspenders-based lifestyle:

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On my neck and part of my head, I wore a Gore-Tex Buff, which may be my single favorite cold-weather accessory. A Buff is a tube of fabric. You can wear it in a million different ways, and if you get really cold you can pull it up (or down) over your face. The guy who invented it got the idea after wearing a pair of underpants on his head to keep his ears from freezing while he rode his motorcycle:

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On top of my head I wore a regular golf cap, and on top of that I wore a bright orange knit cap from Cabela’s, which sells stuff to hunters:

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On my feet, I wore two pairs of wool socks, one of which was pretty thick. The kind I like best are made by SmartWool. The great thing about wool, whether it’s smart or not, is that it keeps you warm even if it gets wet:

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I had room for both pairs of socks because I was also wearing my super-comfortable True Linkswear Chukka golf shoes — a style the company seems to have dropped, I’m sorry to say. (True Gent Chukkas, which the company does sell, are not the same.) I now own eight or ten pairs of True golf shoes. I love them all, and the Chukkas are among my favorites, except when I’m wearing shorts:

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On my hands I wore two pairs of golf gloves: a pair of FootJoy Rain Grips, which are thin, and, on top of those, my favorite winter golf gloves ever, HJ Winter Xtremes.

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You might think that wearing two pairs of gloves would reduce your so-called “touch,” especially on the greens, but if it does anything it probably has the opposite effect. Debbie Crews, who is the sports-psychology consultant for the women’s golf team at Arizona State University and the chair of the World Scientific Conference of Golf, sometimes tells golfers with the yips to try putting (in her lab) with ski gloves on. They usually putt so much better that it’s amazing,” she told me, “because they can’t manipulate.” I wrote about Crews and her research last year, in an article about the yips for The New Yorker. You can read it here.

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Afterwards, lunch, of course.

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