Winter rounds: How cold is too cold for golf?

When it comes to golf in the winter, is there a line where fun gives way to misery?
How close to snowy conditions would you dare to play golf?

Golfers flock by the thousands to Florida every year, either as seasonal snowbirds or prospective full-timers. They come for the weather, which as someone who is now in his eighth winter as a resident of the state, I must admit is quite nice. Where I reside, the only three months of the year when the average daily high falls below 76 degrees are January (73.3), February (75.6) and December (75.4).

But like much of the rest of the country, we are coming out of a cold snap of our own here in the Sunshine State. Last Saturday morning, the weekly game I play in, which regularly tops 25 golfers, coaxed just nine out for a morning loop around Sandridge Golf Club's Dunes Course.

I know what you're thinking: Florida golfers are soft. And I'd agree, but in the interest of charity, I will say that the real factor on Saturday was the wind, which blew a steady 15 miles per hour out of the northwest. It was the rare day that felt colder as it wore on because the wind picked up.

Frankly, despite posting a higher score than I generally do, I had fun playing in such trying (by Florida standards) conditions. It became crucial to flight every iron shot into and across the wind, and every downwind situation required divining whether the wind would carry the ball an extra 10 yards or knock it out of the sky. And the fact that the cold scared so many golfers off meant my threesome played with great speed. We teed off at 7:40 and were done just after 10. It was great.

Still, many golfers judged the conditions too harsh. Were they right? When does the mercury make golf untenable?

Two out of three ain't (that) bad

With apologies to the late Meat Loaf, I have a straightforward way to determine whether I am game to play golf on a given day.

The way I see it, there are three adverse conditions in which one might play golf: cold, wind and rain. I will generally tolerate any two of them at a time. Saturday was a cold/wind day, but the sunshine made things bearable. Wind/Rain days are tolerable because my only extra layer is generally a rain jacket, and a good golf bag rain hood can do more for your clubs than an umbrella if you've got a pair of rain gloves. A cold/rain day is the most annoying to me, but an umbrella comes in handy on these days because there's no wind to speak of.

If all three adverse conditions conspire, it would take an awfully great course or tournament to get me out into the elements. I will never forget the eight holes of absolute misery I played through in a junior tournament at Newport Country Club in Rhode Island when I was 14 or 15. The players in the match in front of mine agreed to halve a couple of their holes, rather than even try and hit shots. I would need a sweet incentive to endure that evil confluence of sub-40-degree temperatures, 20 mile per hour wind and driving rain that eventually rendered the greens unputtable that early April day.

5 essential cold-weather golf products

Galvin Green's Drake pullover is as effective a piece of golf clothing as you can buy for battling cold conditions.

Your mileage may vary, but when it comes to cold weather, if the golf course is open, I'm game to play. I will also likely want to walk, because I find the more constant movement keeps me much warmer than the hit-and-sit golf cart paradigm, especially when a frigid breeze is sneaking around the windshield.

And when the temperature drops, here are five items I always have on me or in my golf bag:

Under Armour ColdGear base layer

I have had a white UA compression shirt for more than a decade and it is still as effective as when I first wore it. It's so tight that it can take a little effort to put on and take off, but it's so stretchy that it has no adverse effect on my swing. Under Armour's current ColdGear Compression Mock ($55) seems to be the current version, and it doesn't look much different than what I have. Don't fix what's not broken.

Galvin Green Drake pullover

This Swedish brand is primarily known for its best-in-class rain gear, but I sing the praises of their Drake pullover ($129, 8 colors) to any shivering golfer who'll listen. Its INSULA fabric is made from recycled plastic, adding a nice sustainability perk to the fact that its quilted interior weave helps make it feel impossibly warm for how thin it is. It's the first thing I pack on any trip where the temperatures might drop.

Galway Bay golf pants

This Michigan-based brand makes good rain jackets as well, but I'm most impressed by their pants, which they appropriately designate as "All-Weather" rather than just for rain. If temperatures are going to be below 50, I'll just wear them instead of a pair of golf khakis or chinos, especially if it's going to be breezy. They're available lined ($199) or unlined ($184); my unlined pair is undefeated in the couple of years I've had it.

HotHands

Available in big-box, sporting goods stores and online for less than $10 per pack of 10 (five packs of two each), HotHands are air-activated and will stay as warm as 135 degrees for up to 10 hours, meaning you could even squeeze in 36 holes with one pair, especially since cold weather usually means fast rounds since it tends to chase golfers away.

FootJoy RainGrip Gloves

Even if it's not wet out, these are a must for any golfer, either as a backup when your main glove fails or to provide a bit of extra comfort if it's bone-chilling cold outside. Their utility in the rain needs no introduction - they're the best ($23).

What's your tolerance for cold-weather golf? Any secrets for staying warm that you'd like to share? Let your fellow golfers know in the comments!

Tim Gavrich is a Senior Writer for GolfPass. Follow him on Twitter @TimGavrich and on Instagram @TimGavrich.
1 Comments
Commented on

Mostly it's the wind. 38 degrees and sunshine and no wind can be very agreeable. 50 degrees and cloudy and a 20 MPH wind is a no go. And generally won't play in a rain/wind combination. But here in Missouri we take what we can get in the Winter months. Played several enjoyable rounds in January. Regrettably, ground now covered in snow/ice.

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Winter rounds: How cold is too cold for golf?