The Big Chill: Properly attired, you really can play Scottish golf all year-round
Holiday greetings from sunny California! No white or even wet Christmas here. But I’m perfectly OK with that, surrounded by family, food, frivolity and a fine selection of single malt whisky—including two bottles hand-carried from our home in Kelso. Pretty safe bet this season is going to be a merry one.
But before I indulge indiscriminately in all of the above, I’d like to once again dip into my memory banks and recall a round I played recently at the James Braid-designed Goswick Golf Club, my new home course. Its distinction? I completed the full 18-hole loop while the temperature never rose above 35 degrees Fahrenheit (aka less than 2 degrees Celsius).
Now, way back when, I was a member of my high school golf team in Ohio, where the run up to the season took place in March, allegedly the end of winter and the start of spring. So I know a thing or two about playing golf in inclement weather. But I’m pretty sure this particular outing set a new personal mark for coldest on record—an accomplishment I shared proudly with my playing partners as we walked off the final green.
Much to my surprise, they weren’t the least bit impressed.
“Oh this? It’s nothing,” they said. “We go out in much colder weather.”
Really!? Brrrrrr. Apparently they forgot that I spent the past 32 years in and about Los Angeles. Back there, if the mercury ever dropped near freezing, those folks wouldn’t risk venturing out of their homes—let alone attempt to grasp a club and hit a ball.
Fortunately, it appears my thinned blood is re-thickening quickly. I didn’t just survive the seemingly frigid conditions, I thrived in them. We played a match so I wasn’t keeping a medal score. But if I had, I’m fairly certain it would have been one of my lowest since my wife and I made the move to Scotland in May.
How is that possible? Two words: proper attire. Back in SoCal, when sweltering in 100-plus-degree heat, there’s only so much you can do—within the constraints of indecent exposure—to adjust. But when it’s cold, the dedicated golfer does have options.
First and foremost is layering. Beyond the obligatory briefs, I started with trousers on my lower half and a mock turtleneck on my upper. To that I added my waterproof pants below and a wool sweater and waterproof jacket above. Though this round was played under clear skies, the rain gear played a crucial role in helping to block the wind and contain the warmth. I shod my feet with extra thick socks and these ECCO shoes. And I covered my head with a hat that would look more at home on a ski slope.
Oh, and then I did one more thing: I encased my hands in Turtle Fur!
Turtle Fur is a company that specializes in making products from a fleece-like material that’s low in weight yet high in insulation. Among the many products they make with this fabric are mittens purpose-built for golf. The key innovation is a flap through which you can easily push your hands out when playing a shot, then slip back in until you need to play another. I purchased their ingenious product at a golf club in Dallas in February several years ago, when Barney Adams (founder of Adams Golf) invited my golf-writing partner at the time and me to take a personal tour of his club-making facility and a play round or two of golf. So glad I found them back then. And equally grateful that I still had them in bag in Scotland all this time after. If you want to learn more about Turtle Fur, just click here.
Thus equipped for battle, I was more than able to make my way around that 125-year-old links. In fact, once I got walking, being too warm was more of a problem than being too cold.
That said, golf balls—even today’s multi-layered designs—don’t fly as far at 35 degrees as they do at 70. But, like your apparel, that’s simply a matter of adjusting accordingly. So set aside your ego and take an extra club or two. Or three. The point is that golf in these conditions is entirely doable. And it’s thoroughly enjoyable!
Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m certainly enjoying balmy California during this holiday break. But I’m also anxious to return home and reengage with golf during the Scottish winter. After all, records (even if they’re only of the personal variety) are made to be broken.