Summer's here and the time is right to make sure you stay cool on the golf course. Chances are if you're reading this, you have a pretty good working knowledge of the basics, but it's always good to refresh your knowledge. I've got some tips for you, and then some product recommendations based on my own experience and colleagues' suggestions.
How to stay cool on the golf course
I live in Florida, and don't let the searing heat and oppressive humidity keep me from playing plenty of golf. Based on my own protocols, here's what you should keep in mind whether you're playing golf during a heat wave up north or venturing south in the summer to play some deeply discounted golf.
Don't forget a(nother) towel. I don't wear a golf glove, so I'm more diligent - obsessive, maybe - than most about keeping my hands dry, which in Florida summer conditions is a tall task. In addition to the microfiber towel that hangs on my bag for cleaning my clubs, I bring a separate large, fresh one to the course, keeping one wet side and one dry side. I refresh the wet side every chance I get because water-wet hands dry out while sweaty hands slip. I've noticed that even higher-end public and resort courses don't supply hand towels as often as they used to, making it even more important to bring one along. Bigger is better, especially if you're taking a cart. I'm not above bringing a straight-up bath towel or beach towel with me if it's going to keep my hands dry.
Have a hydration plan. I always keep a six-pack or more of Gatorade or something similar in the trunk of my car, just in case. Golfers generally aren't allowed to bring their own provisions to a course, but as COVID-19 has forced many facilities to remove even water fountains and jugs and beverage carts and snack bar availability has gotten more sporadic, it is not as easy to stay hydrated as it was before the pandemic. If I'm going to be using a cart, I fill my YETI tumbler ($35) with ice before I set out so I can keep my beverages cold. If I'm walking, I usually use a slim Corkcicle hybrid canteen ($40)
Choose the right materials for golf. The golf apparel business seems to be in a constant state of expansion, with more brands popping up seemingly every few months. Whatever brand you choose, keep a couple points in mind when it comes to selecting clothes - especially golf shirts - to keep you cool.
"Moisture wicking" is a key phrase and fabric trait to look for. Such fibers, often synthetic, are treated to enhance capillary action, which moves sweat from your skin to the outer layer of the shirt, then letting it evaporate so the material doesn't get sopping wet. Cotton doesn't work this way, so on a hot day, you're going to get sweat stains and that clammy, wet feeling. Wool, though, is actually naturally moisture-wicking, which is why wool golf socks are a great investment in your comfort.
"It’s important for golfers to be discerning about their warm-weather golf wear, as the right clothing will keep them feeling breezy and cool," said Christopher Da Costa, a style advisor in popular online fashion company Stitch Fix's men's division, including a growing golf apparel selection.
Take care of your clothes (better than I have). I've noticed over the years that my warm-weather golf shirts have tend to stop doing what they were designed to do after a few washes. I'd chalked it up to over-marketing and under-design, but I might be to blame as well. I learned recently that fabric softener has chemicals in it that strip away the moisture-wicking treatments from fabrics, and dryer sheets lend a waxy sheen to clothing that has the same negative effect. Whoops! From now on, I'm going to leave the Downy aside, and I've bought wool dryer balls to replace the synthetic, waxy dryer sheets, in the hopes of making my golf shirts last a little longer.
Best summer stay-cool golf products
Summer golf apparel
The list of sweat-wicking golf shirts goes on and on, but Under Armour sent me one of their new Iso-Chill golf shirts ($75) recently, and I have to say that it's the coolest-feeling golf shirt I've owned. They use titanium dioxide in the fabric, which makes it feel noticeably cooler to the touch. It feels about the same as its competitors when I'm standing indoors or the air is calm, but its cooling properties really shine when there's any breeze. Under Armour also makes Iso-Chill shorts ($75). PUMA's lightweight Cloudspun line of apparel (which also appeared in this year's Father's Day gift guide) is another good option in a similar performance-oriented brand.
The perfect pair of golf pants or shorts should be ones you want to wear all the time - look for high-stretch fabrics that aren’t noisy or ‘crunchy.’
More traditional-style golf brands also feature moisture-wicking materials prominently. Greg Norman's PlayDry and ML75 2BELOW fabrics emphasize stretchability and mobility in addition to moisture management. Their ML75 Microlux Pincord Hybrid shorts ($80) are UPF 50+ rated and have a water-repellent finish in addition to their combination polyester/spandex construction. With mesh pockets, they're actually meant to double as swim trunks.
Equally as important as the right golf shirt or pair of shorts, in my opinion, is a breathable pair of golf socks, and I've sworn by wool as the main material for several years. While wool has traditionally been associated with warm sweaters, its natural moisture-wicking abilities make it a perfect golf sock material. Kentwool made a big splash several years ago when Bubba Watson and other PGA Tour pros started wearing their socks, and now other wool sock companies have their own offerings for golfers. I've been liking Swiftwick's Merino wool socks lately, but my best pair might just be a Pamelamas 'Surino' sock ($23), which in addition to wool incorporates alpaca fleece. They are never wet when I take them off after a round, even in blistering heat.
You may not think of golf shoes as a potentially important source of cooling on the course, but several companies have introduced lightweight, breathable pairs to their offerings recently. Adidas' CodeChaos Primeblue golf shoe ($150) is lightweight and sneaker-like for a casual look while delivering solid stability. It is also made using Parley Ocean Plastic, which has been diverted from being otherwise dumped into the world's oceans. True Linkswear, the Pacific Northwest-casual brand, has a new line of Lux Knit golf shoes ($169) coming out in mid-August that promise to be both waterproof and breathable.
Golf hats provide the same levels of comfort and sun protection. The wider, 360-degree brims of bucket hats, while still odd-looking to some, tend to help protect the neck and eyes from intense, direct light. And materials matter here, too - the old cotton-based caps collecting dust in your closet are just going to get heavy with sweat. Lightweight, moisture-wicking performance fabrics are becoming ubiquitous in hats, too. Imperial Headwear even makes a hat, called The Kaldur ($35), which is supposed to be soaked in water prior to wearing, in order to keep your head up to 30% cooler.
Other summer golf essentials
The coronavirus pandemic has made face-covering a smart move for more than just sun protection, which makes the CoolNES combination neck/face mask ($18) perhaps more relevant than ever. Available in several configurations, the basic mask uses a breathable, UV-protective fabric that attaches to a hat and hangs down either in front of your face or over your neck, depending on how you choose to wear it. Many of the Miami-based company's customers buy multiple coverings and wear them in both directions.
I tend to sweat through hats in a hurry in the summer, which makes the NoSweat disposable hat liner ($7 for 3 liners) an intriguing product. Golf is just one of six sports for which the company makes liners; their clientele includes all 31 NHL teams and several other professional athletes. The liners come with a peel-off sticky side and attach to the interior of your hat where your forehead hits, absorbing the sweat instead of letting it stain through the hat fabric.
Cooling towels are available from several manufacturers and can give a quick icy jolt when you're feeling overheated. The back of the neck is the best spot to concentrate on for fast relief. Devant Sports' Arctic Blast cooling towel is a worthwhile investment at just under $15.
Sunscreen is a must on most sunny golf days, even when it's not terribly hot. I personally favor spray-on sunscreens because it avoids having to get my hands slippery from rubbing it on my skin. Keep in mind that sunscreen remains effective for only a couple hours or so, so it's wise to reapply at the turn.
Sun sleeves are becoming increasingly popular as a partial alternative to sunscreen, because they're reusable and don't need to be reapplied. They're very popular on the LPGA Tour, and PGA Tour players like 2019 John Deere Classic winner Dylan Frittelli use them as well. Being sponsored by Nike, Frittelli sports Nike's sun sleeves ($28) on the course, though many companies produce them nowadays.
In terms of on-course beverages, I generally like to alternate between water and something like Gatorade, though of late I've returned to drinking Propel (made by Gatorade) because it's a bit lighter in flavor.
I'm not an alcohol-on-the-course guy, but I know plenty of golfers like a cold beer or two. There are all kinds of coolers out there, including some heavy-duty ones by YETI and the like. On the more modest but still functional side, OGIO's Chill Cooler ($28) holds up to a dozen 12-ounce cans. On the other end of the budget spectrum, ClubGlove's spare-no-expense approach also applies to their Ballistic Ice Box ($249), which holds up to 10 cans or bottles and whose zippered closure system creates a watertight seal. That will take care of your group at courses that allow you to bring your own.