It’s the most wonderful time of the year. With the kids jingle belling and everyone telling you be of good cheer, but the golf course is closed and I’ve no excuse for a beer. Silly season can be a frustrating time for Irish golfers as winter frost delays and course closures starve us of precious time on the fairways. Different grades of golfer come to terms with the arctic conditions in different ways. Those fortunate enough to be in a position to chase the sun can pack their clubs and jet off to Portugal unaffected. Those left behind can either channel their inner Tom Crean to brave the harsh elements head on, or do the unthinkable and leave the clubs to hibernate in the shed until spring. If you’re like me, the latter isn’t an option.
For anyone serious about their golf, winter is the ideal opportunity to fine tune your game. Course conditions force lift, clean and place rules nationwide meaning club competitions have no bearing on your handicap. With a nothing to lose attitude, players can work on the shots they’d normally cautiously avoid, take on the carries that always pushed their limits and knock that three footer in without fearing the one back. It’s a time to experiment, but also a chance to build confidence going into the New Year and with most clubs introducing nine-hole competitions to accommodate late starts and reduced light, there is little excuse to lock the clubs away.
This being the season of goodwill, it’s also the ideal chance for clubs to dedicate more attention to their newer members. With reduced pressure on timesheets, focus could be shifted to beginners, introducing basic golf etiquette to help them grasp the fundamentals of the game before they’re thrown in at the deep end come the Captain’s Drive. It’s unfair for a fledgling golfer to feel obliged to tip toe around the course out of fear of putting a foot wrong. Players need to be educated on matters like playing in turn, where to stand when a partner is over the ball and when to actually assume their own pre shot routine. What’s blindingly obvious to some could be alien to others and off season tutorials can only benefit the collective in terms of round times come March.
Yet no matter what level we’re at, we can all use this time to improve on aspects of the game that remain within our control. As a perished starter, I was often bemused as to the lengths a player would go to further handicap themselves before ever hitting a ball. Turning up dressed like a Sherpa might keep you warm but donning a self-imposed straight jacket is no good for a flowing swing. Performance enhancing base layers like Under Armour have been designed to retain heat and flexibility, and are well worth sticking on the Christmas wish list.
Cleaning your clubs, not just between rounds but between shots is a must. Technology is rendered redundant if hidden behind two inches of mud. Regardless of ability, clear grooves meeting a clean golf ball at least gives yourself a fighting chance of a crisp strike. And if you’re physically capable, consider carrying your clubs in a pencil bag. They cut out the need to follow strict winter cart paths and the bit of increased exercise is a timely bonus – not to mention there’s still enough room to squeeze in a hip flask of the devil’s juice for medicinal purposes.
If your course survives the weather, go out with that precious handicap you’ve protected all year and secure the prized ham on offer for the whole family. If a victim to nature, don’t fret. Many teaching professionals advertise exceptional offers at this time of year and driving ranges remain open. Start chipping out the back garden, get that putter working on the living room carpet and pop that Bob Rotella audio book on surround sound. People talk to me about the Barry’s tea advert but nothing quite says Christmas like the motivational wisdom of Bob. Plus, he translates to just about anything at this time of year. Don’t be Self Critical. Visualise and Feel. Recall Past Success. Believe in Yourself. Cook the Turkey.