Considering the situation we all find ourselves in these days, finding safe, enjoyable extracurricular activities has been almost as challenging as finding a vaccine for the virus that put us here.
Golf is one activity that has seen significant growth nationwide because it checks many of the boxes we need at the moment when searching for a reprieve from the everyday routine – outdoor participation, minimal contact, some social interaction, affordability (hear me out) and exercise.
And more and more people have realized the many advantages.
In fact, according to the National Golf Foundation, golfers (new and established) are hitting the course this year in record numbers. The number of August rounds played in the U.S. were up more than 20 percent over last year, and every state in the US saw an increase of at least two percent. Rounds in New England were up 21 percent in August and are up more than six percent for the year. Some states in the south are seeing record increases of nearly 40 percent.
Okay, enough of the numbers. Long story short, people everywhere are playing more golf (or trying it) than ever before. So why not you?
School is back, cooler temperatures, more rain, less daylight.
“Not sure if you noticed, but Fall is here. The golf season is over. I’ll wait until Spring”
All good points, but this may actually be the best time to play more golf longer into the Fall (or, dare we say, winter?) than you would normally. It may also be a great time to dip your toes in the game if you’ve never experienced the feeling of a purely struck golf ball.
Finding places to play has never been easier. Tee time reservation systems like TeeOff.com and SupremeGolf.com give you instant access to available tee times and rates in your area. Or you can go “old school” and call up the golf facilities in your immediate area. Squirrel Run, Stoneham Oaks, Village Links and Southers Marsh are a few great “entry-level” executive course options for golfers south of Boston (check out www.par3nearme.com for more options). Those comfortable with a full 18-hole round should look at Pembroke Country Club, Atlantic Country Club and CrossWinds Country Club for some great local values…and worthwhile challenges. Many courses, especially those further south like on Cape Cod, also stay open year-round, weather permitting.
Not to mention, what other activity enables you to get outside with friends for a beautiful walk around a meticulous golf course, and gets the competitive juices flowing for 2-5 hours for around $20-60? It’s actually cheaper than a night at the movies or bowling.
With all of these factors in mind, here are some tips for getting out there and making every day playable this Fall and Winter, whether you’re an avid player or a relative newcomer.
First of all, whenever and wherever you schedule a round of golf, you should start to check the weather.
Generally speaking, under 60 degrees you’ll want to wear a golf shirt and have a sweater, vest or jacket handy. Under 50 degrees you’ll likely want to add want some sort of base layer. Under 40, (congrats, you’re officially a “diehard!”) you’ll want a base layer, golf shirt, sweater a beanie/ski cap and winter golf gloves.
You should also know if you’ll be walking or riding in a cart. You’ll be warmer if walking but you won’t want to carry as much gear which will make layering in light layers important. Also determine if the ground will be wet or dry which may influence your footwear choice.
With the proper gear, you should be able to play as long as the greens are clear of snow. However, should weather eventually drive you indoors, you can still keep your game sharp with a few local resources.
“CityGolf of Boston” offers simulator golf as well as club fittings, video swing analysis and lessons from PGA Professional and owner, Gary Parker, right downtown.
“On the Tee Indoor Golf,” owned by PGA professional Russell Quigg provides a similar experience down at The Pinehills using large screen golf simulators and has been managing virtual golf simulators in the local area for several years.
If you would rather hit real balls onto a range no matter the weather, check out “The Barn” at Southers Marsh in Plymouth, MA which offers 10 indoor hitting bays with gamification options that enable you to compete against yourself or friends, or even play some of the world’s greatest courses. Using what’s called Toptracer technology, guests can receive real-time shot feedback on interactive game screens.
The Marina Bay Sports Complex in Quincy, MA “features an indoor driving range with fairway and rough surfaces to hit from and top of the line practice balls” that you can hit into nets 30 yards away giving you a good sense of ball flight and distance.
So you’ve decided to play more golf longer into the season. Good call!
Here are some equipment tips to keep you playing longer, better and more comfortably.
Actual golf shoes are worth every penny, especially now that they’re every bit as comfortable as your favorite sneakers, but waterproof and with better traction so you won’t slip on wet grass. Having 1-2 pair (or more) you rotate is ideal for keeping them in good shape and maintaining the traction on the bottom. If you have cleats, and have never changed them, it’s cheap, easy and can give you several more months of use. And simply just wiping them down with a wet towel after the round, and inserting shoe trees, will extend the life of your shoes significantly!
Also, make sure you get those that offer a 2-year waterproof warranty so your dogs will be dry no matter the turf conditions. It’s worth the extra money to be dry and comfortable in all conditions.
Lastly, take the time to do a proper shoe fitting with your local pro or the shop staff. Just because you’ve “always been a 9,” doesn’t mean you still are – and most certainly are not in different shoe brands that can vary fairly significantly – and you should also check widths. According to FootJoy, nearly 70% of golfers wear the wrong size golf shoe which can lead to loss of power on your shots and also a lot of discomfort over 18 holes.
“Okay, do I really need an actual golf rain jacket? I have a poncho from our trip to Disney. Can’t I just throw that on?”
Well, it depends on your expectations. There are very good reasons to look for an actual golf jacket. They’re more likely to have a higher waterproof rating to keep you drier longer, provide better temperature regulation as temperatures change throughout the day and be more flexible to allow you to move without restriction in your swing. If none of these things matter, then I suppose you could just take a chance on the rain jacket you’ve had for the last 10 years.
There is a massive variety of golf gloves available to you, just make sure you have a good one. Remember, it’s the only thing protecting you from losing feeling in your hands and tomahawking a 5-iron into the woods…or someone’s living room.
A glove should fit like a second skin – close to the hand, but not tight. Most will “give” a bit throughout the round so tighter is better so long as you can maintain a good grip. Having a good leather or synthetic glove is a good start. But it’s also worthwhile to have proper rain gloves and even winter gloves which provide warmth while still delivering some feel on the club.
Obviously, a baseball hat works fine and is traditionally part of the golf uniform. However, on inclement days, they can hinder your play. If raining, opt for a performance hat that doesn’t hold moisture like cotton, or a bucket hat that will reduce rain drops falling in your face. And for colder temperatures, obviously a ski cap would be worth having handy. Although, again, if you’re walking your round, you’ll feel about 10 degrees warmer than riding in a cart.
Change them! If you’re holding the club with your normal grip pressure and can pull the club out of your hand with the other hand, they need to be changed. Wear and tear will become significantly more apparent once there’s some water on them and there’s not much you can do once you’re out on the course. Every year or two depending on how much you play and practice should suffice.
With many of us working from home, this is a great year to extend your golf season. With the proper planning and equipment, you can play well and comfortably up to and maybe through The Masters.
Both of them.