March 22, 2002
This year’s mild winter produced several opportunities to play golf, with relatively warm temperatures and dry conditions.
Last Saturday’s golf in a steady light rain was a pleasant case of “one out of two ain’t bad.”
The temperature had shot up into the mid-70’s, about 20 degrees warmer than usual. The rain started as I walked up to my tee shot in the middle of the first fairway. It came down at a rate that was more than drizzle but far less than a downpour. It fell in tiny drops that lightly freckled my khaki cap. I started using my umbrella after my tee shot on the second hole.
Playing in the rain has its advantages and disadvantages. For me, the benefits usually far outweigh the burdens.
The primary risk is that the club grips will become wet and slippery. However, most golf bags now come with rain hoods that clip or slip into place.
I use a golf glove, and the risk of slippage is the same. I usually keep a few gloves in my bag and change them as necessary during a wet round.
My golf bag uses one of those Izzo double-shoulder strap contraptions. Frankly, the straps look like something an S & M crowd would enjoy, but in fact they work very nicely. They balance the load across the back and make it much less tiring for the 18 holes. The only problem is that in a warm rain, both shoulders eventually become fairly well soaked through from the inevitably wet straps.
The extra effort involved in keeping the grips and golf glove dry, toweling off the clubs, and drying off the golf ball before each putt certainly adds time to the round. On the other hand, I find myself concentrating better before each stroke. I usually have a somewhat better round than usual, if it’s just a little rain and the wind has died down.
There are additional, sensual benefits to playing golf in the rain. Usually the course is deserted during these rounds, and last Saturday was no different. In late winter, often one only hears the occasional bird call or intermittent scratching of a pair of squirrels running up and down trees, accompanied by the quiet hiss of the rain on the ground or its staccato tapping on the open umbrella.
Winter golf in these conditions frequently inspires shotmaking I would never attempt during the regular season. I pulled my drive on the twelfth hole at Shawnee, and faced a second shot from about 135 yards out. A large bare branch jutted out from a tree a few yards ahead and to my left. A second set of bare branches extended beyond the first branch, from another tree ahead and to my right.
It looked like I could make it to the green if I could somehow thread an 8-iron under the first set and over the second set of branches.
I’m not that good. My next shot was a chip to the fairway from about 15 yards behind and to the right from where I made my mistake.
Sometimes the more daring shots work. A pulled tee shot on the par 3 16th hole left the ball on an uphill lie, well below the green, with two trees standing a yard apart between the green and the ball like a pair of goal posts. I pitched the ball between the trees into the bank. It popped up and rolled to a stop four feet below the hole. The one-putt for par brought a big grin that stayed there for the rest of the round.
I know I’m not alone in my appreciation for golfing in a gentle rain. If you drive by a course and see a golfer holding an umbrella like he’s Christopher Robin in a Pooh adventure, you’re probably looking at a happy player.
Wet, but happy.