January 2017 Newsletter

www.martinrathbone.co.uk – martin@martinrathbone.co.uk – 07958785326

It's a Little Cold Out There!

With the weather being a tad cooler these last couple of weeks I thought we should look at how to play golf in frosty conditions and how green keepers can alter the course, but first …..

If you look at the major sports in the world they all seem to have a season and are only played at certain times of the year with the exception that is, golf. The Tours are now pretty much 12 months long with only the highest ranked players missing the first few weeks of the year.

Golf can be a difficult game and one of the challenges we face all year is adapting to the conditions of the course and still being able to score well. Our scores can vary a lot simply on how the green keepers have set the course up on that day.  They can change the speed of the greens, the receptiveness of the greens, the firmness of fairways and the length of the rough, these are just some of the factors that can alter how a course plays and additionally the shot making required by the golfer too score well.

If you are a fan of watching golf on TV, especially the PGA Tour, then you will see the Pro’s hitting monster drives and firing shots straight at the flags, the reason they can do this is because the tour has set the course up that way, it makes a great spectacle for the viewers.  With some of the majors they set up the greens firm and fast, this make shot selection crucial and more difficult to judge. Very wet fairways make courses play longer simply because there is very little run out from the ball that golfers would normally expect to get, obviously this also makes the shot to the green longer. These are just some of the ways green keepers can have a say on how the course plays but let’s not forget Mother Nature can also make the course play how she wants it to. If you watched the last Ryder Cup then it was obvious the course had been set up to favor the USA team, basically hit it as far as you can and find it (No Rough) and fly  the ball into soft greens, it then became a putting competition.

The UK is now in the midst of winter months and the air is colder and the ground is frozen in the mornings, does this influence how we play our shots, hell yes it does! When our bodies are colder we tend to not move as much as we normally do, this means less speed in our swing resulting in shorter shots. If you’re not going to take time out to stretch and warm your body up before hitting the ball (for the record everyone should warm up correctly to avoid any injuries) then take an extra club to compensate.

If you play in these frozen conditions where the entire course is covered in ice then you need to be aware on where to land the ball.  For example when playing into the green you should try to land the ball short of the putting surface, this will avoid a big bounce by landing on the green and possibly loosing your ball.  You then have to be aware that a ball landing short will gather a frost layer and slow down in its journey onto the green.

Putting is your next challenge; the initial first few inches will see the ball just skidding across the surface before collecting some ice and slowing down. A good friend of mine believes you should putt firmer and with less break on icy greens, it’s worth a go so give it a try.

When playing in frozen conditions, make sure you carry a towel with you to clean your ball after each putt. Trying to hit a ball with ice on it will result in a poor putt. And  make sure you adjust your shot making into the greens as the ice melts. It is important to become aware of the conditions around you!

Tip: Keep your hands warm
Walking shall help keep your body warm, but it’s equally important to keep your hands warm. Put hand warmers in your pockets. Consider wearing two gloves. You’ll want to be sure your hands stay warm so you don’t lose any control or finesse over the golf club.

Tip: Keep your golf ball warm
Keep your golf ball warm! Golf balls don’t travel as far in cold weather. In fact, you’ll lose about 3-5 yards, depending on air density, for every 10 degree drop in temperature. So, keep that ball in your pocket between holes. Easier said than done, but play smart! Don’t be afraid to hit an extra club – chances are you’ll need it. (Be careful about using artificial warmers to keep the ball warm during competition rounds)

Tip: Layer your clothing
This is as important as anything – what you wear. You don’t want to bundle up so much that you can’t even make a good full swing, Consider wearing multiple lightweight layers. And if it’s windy, you may even want to wear some sort of light-weight wind breaker. Don’t’ forget to wear a hat of some sort. I prefer wearing a fleece lined hat as I don’t have much hair!! :), try keeping your ears and as much of your face as warm as possible it will make a noticeable difference.

Tip: Have realistic golf expectations in the cold weather
Lower your expectations and be realistic, the chances are your scoring average will go higher during these cold spells. The golf ball doesn’t go as far, the body is a lot stiffer and there are plenty of other excuses you can make. The important thing is you are still playing golf and enjoying it; you love the game so much that little will keep you off the course. In friendly games consider agreeing to tee the ball up everywhere, maybe work on some different types of shots as you go round, using different clubs as well. Playing and practising this time of year will do wonders for your game later on in the summer, time away from the course is a poor decision in my opinion (especially for my game) as when you do come back, its just like starting golf all over again.

It’s also a great time to work on your game and if you need any help then please do not hesitate to contact me.

Enjoy this time of year, good luck

Martin Rathbone PGA - Head Teaching Professional - Surbiton Golf Club