Winter Golf in Florida?
I was thinking today about how each season provides unique challenges to a good game of golf. It’s winter now over most of the upper half of the globe, but what the professionals are doing is not what I would call winter golf. In the LPGA, they’re playing for all the marbles down in Naples, Florida, and no one is worried about marauding polar bears or cracking ice flows. The co-leader is Ha Na Jang, who seems to be having some problems with the almost tropical climate during her excellent week of play. Twice in the last round, she has had to stop and deal with sudden nosebleeds. She believes that this condition is exacerbated by hot, humid conditions.
My inner medical student (there is no outer one) says “balderdash!” That’s not winter golf, and if hot, humid conditions cause nosebleeds, how did Ha Na Jang ever make it out of Asia during the first few weeks of the tour? She should be down about a quart of blood if such is the case. Another reason for my skepticism is my memory of frequent nosebleeds on the course – because it was so cold!
My idea of winter golf comes from my direct experiences in Lethbridge, Alberta. There, on those straight fairways, I learned about the different kinds of frost, and how to play it when it got close to being ice. The semi-visible sort does one thing to a golf ball, and the bright white sort does another. The former stops anything dead in its tracks, making a timid player all the more desperate. The white stuff was fun, though, in a perverse sort of way. In the November of Alberta, we could all be George Bayer for a day, winging out drives that exceeded our usual distance by thirty or forty yards. Three-irons became sevens, and my imagination saw me trading blows with the famous big hitters of the day.
On a frosty green, wet or solid, the game of winter golf accentuates the character of the player. I was continually doomed on the wet greens, as my putting timidity was exacerbated to the point of despair. My brother, who is braver than I am, challenged the conditions. However, when it all turned white, the tables were turned. He has never lagged a putt in his life. It’s either sink it or take a long walk to the next shot. In the worst case, his confident putting landed him back in one fairway, bunker or other, while my reticent golf personality was provided with unintentional distance to the hole.
Nosebleeds in Florida have none of the drama one experiences in the far north. Walking along the edge of the rough, and hitting out of both white frost and snow patches, the 20 degrees and dropping Fahrenheit was murder on the poor old schnoz. I would occasionally reach the green with a trail of red dots following me all the back to the tee. Bags seemed harder to carry, and trudging along on par 5s more resembled trekking through the set of Dr. Zhivago. But, the game of winter golf has its joys that no tropical setting can render. You realize, of course, that I’m not talking about snow golf. That game, played so avidly in Sweden, is a completely different undertaking. When the big snows come, you’ll find me on the sofa with a tray full of food watching the Golf Channel.
No, the joys of winter golf (late leaf-falling time and pre-blizzard) are clear. If you reach 18 without falling asleep in a snowbank, you can smell the coffee from the pro shop, and know that you’ve found Shangrila. The air of Lethbridge, and the town in which I live now, are perfect – crisp, cold, and clean. You just had to make sure that you teed off at 11, and were done by 4, not 10:30 and 4:30.
If you don’t want to give up the game for several months, risk looking crazy, and get out there. It’s only a little frost, for crying out loud. But play a serious game of winter rules when it comes to sheets of ice and hardened snowbanks. You’ll need your arms for spring.