March 10, 2006
Playing golf in the late winter in the Cape Region can be pretty relaxing.
I think that it has something to do with accepting diminished levels of performance under less than perfect playing conditions.
We’ve been fortunate this winter to have several days when golf was an actual recreational option, and not simply something to wish we could play if the snow would melt and temperatures would reach the 40s. There have been quite a few relatively pleasant weekends, and not a lot of frost or inches of wet stuff that closed the courses.
Whether or not there’s anything to the notion of global warming, however, no one would mistake the Cape Region for south Florida during the last few months. Winter golf in this area requires extra layers of clothing, whose bulkiness can wreak havoc on maintaining a free and easy swing. In addition, the winds that roar through the open fairways in March are rarely equaled from May through September, the prime golf months.
The Bermuda grass fairways at Shawnee Country Club are khaki-colored right now, with the turf lying dormant until the first heat wave in about two months. Golf balls don’t notice that the grass isn’t green, of course, and the fairway grass is still a great playing surface even while dormant.
On the other hand, there’s a reason why they call the other parts of the golf course “the rough,” especially in winter. Anyone who plays the ball where it lies is asking for some truly dicey spots in the rough from which to attempt an approach shot to the greens.
As with other aspects of winter golf, however, nasty turf provides a great opportunity to practice. Golf scores don’t count toward handicaps during the off-season, so there’s no reason to take offense at a squirfed second or third shot off a bad lie. Think of it instead as a learning opportunity.
Recently I thought I had a good drive on the 424-yard par four 11th hole at Shawnee. That is, the drive looked good until it rolled into the right rough.
The ball was sitting down between two tufts of grass, and a good three-wood shot away from the green. If this had happened in mid-summer, I would have hit a wedge or 8-iron out to the fairway, and pitched into the green for a shot at par or two-putt bogey. Because it’s wintertime, however, I swung the three-wood.
The ball dribbled about 40 yards closer to the green, and stayed in the rough–lesson re-learned.
The strong March winds can add to the fun. In the same round not long ago, I had a 100-yard approach shot to the 14th green. With the stiff wind directly in my face, I used my 9-iron, usually good for 125-130 yards. The ball shot up high into the air, with a hang time that would have made an NFL punter very, very happy. It finally dropped nearly straight down, and stopped dead six feet past the hole.
For a second there it felt like I knew what I was doing.
Your golfing buddies won’t change what they say about your game, no matter what the season.
I drove so far right on the par-four 18th hole that I had to hit a low shot through some trees just to reach the fairway. Naturally, the ball hit a tree and skidded into the right side fairway bunker. The third shot out of the sand was fine, but the fourth shot landed in the left greenside bunker.
It being winter, I tried a slightly different bunker shot than normal. The ball popped out, rolled quickly across the green, and dropped into the right greenside bunker.
The sixth shot out of that trap stopped dead in the greenside rough, about 15 feet from the hole.
Then I chipped in for a smooth seven.
My playing partner looked at me and said, “That was whipped cream on s***.” (This is a family-friendly newspaper column, but you understand.)
He was right, but I didn’t care.