January 28, 2000
The Cape Region is experiencing snow, ice, and school closings. Seems like a good time to write about wintertime golf.
In this area most golf courses are closed when it’s this cold, at least until the greens thaw. Otherwise, in the spring the short grass would look like tundra—mangled, clumpy, and showing evidence of human contact.
Sometimes, though, players desperate for a round are in luck.
Ten years ago I drove over to Old Landing Golf Course. It was in the low 40s, but my cabin fever warmed me up to the point that I thought I should play 18 holes.
The sky was overcast and threatening. I paired up with another player and we started off.
As with most winter rounds, we didn’t keep score. What would have been the point? Besides, we soon learned we weren’t golfing in the best of conditions, and the increasingly cold weather definitely affected our play.
Few things sting cold hands more than a 7-iron hit thin and off the toe. The two middle fingers on the right hand seem to take the most punishment. Imagine jamming each fingertip into a ten-penny nail point. The shock and pain go away in about two holes, but in the meantime there is obviously a slight dip in performance.
The greens were a bit slow and furry. Actually, they were glacier-like. After watching the bumpy turf redirect tentative strokes, we started blasting the putts. Naturally, a few of these putts then shot past the holes and into the bunkers. We took advantage of their near-concrete consistency and putted out of the sand.
As we finished the seventh hole, my playing partner looked up and asked, “Is that snow?”
I said yes.
By the time we finished the ninth hole, the snow intensified to blizzard-like conditions. We discussed our options, and quickly agreed that we really had no choice in the matter.
Of course we had to play the back nine.
By the eleventh hole the snow was blowing sideways. Just the same, we couldn’t help noticing that we were actually playing a bit better than we did on the front nine.
The fact that the wind forced us to make almost nothing but punch shots may have had something to do with it.
By the time we reached the 13th tee, the course was entirely white. Finding a ball after a tee shot or approach shot became an exercise in wilderness tracking. We quickly learned to look for dark spot about 5 inches wide, with a streak of dark on the ground in the short distance beyond.
The spot was created by the initial splash of the ball hitting the turf. We found the ball itself at the end of the skid mark it formed after the first bounce.
Putting on the greens became a new experience. A half-inch or more of snow lay on the short turf, but it smoothed out the bumps. All we had to do was belt the ball and it would roll across the top of the snow.
On the other hand, once the ball started to slow down, it changed shape. The wet snow formed a large ring around the ball, much like an inner tube on a fat kid in summertime. The ball curled off into a question mark finish, if it didn’t go in the hole.
When we finished the round, there were no dry spots anywhere on our clothes. Our noses were red and running, and our ears burned as we thawed out.
I hope it snows again soon.