A friend of mine who has worked in the golf business for many years was once asked by a golfing friend “What kind of rainwear do you have?” The answer was simple. “I don’t have any rainwear.” The obvious follow up question was “What do you do when it rains?” This produced the most sensible answer I can imagine. “I don’t play golf.” One assumes he also had no need for an umbrella .
While most of us would probably like to follow the above plan, circumstances can sometimes intervene. A beautiful day on the first tee can be waterlogged by the seventh green. A match of some perceived importance has to be played. A golf holiday is not going to be interrupted just because it is raining.
Early golf umbrellas worked but only up to a point. Steel shafts and ribs had replaced wood. This made the umbrella stronger and more flexible but weight was an issue. The canvas or cotton cover protected from rain but absorbed water and weight again came into play. In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s nylon replaced cotton, this was a major advance as nylon was lighter and did not absorb water.
A major risk for umbrellas up to this point was lightening. If rain was accompanied by lightening a steel shaft held in the air over your head was a rod to attract serious injury or death. Lee Trevino and Retief Goosen are only two of many well known golfers who have been injured by lightening strikes. The advent of fiberglass to replace the steel shaft reduced weight and some felt reduced the lightening rod effect but this was never established. Graphite was the next significant improvement. It replaced the fiberglass shaft and the steel ribs. The benefits were twofold, first a further reduction in the weight of the umbrella and second the elimination of all metal from what has been the perfect lightening rod.
Wind which often accompanies rain has always presented a problem for umbrellas . Over the years many a good umbrella has been rendered garbage by a sudden gust of wind turning it inside out. Real progress in solving this problem was made when a method was developed to spring load the shaft. This enabled the umbrella to invert when attacked by wind. The umbrella would turn inside out but the ribs would not break and no tearing of the fabric would occur.
A further improvement has been made recently on large umbrellas by over lapping the panels. The effect is similar to overlapping of shingles on a roof. The result is that some wind will blow up through the flaps while keeping rain out.
AAlthough the prime reason for umbrellas was always to protect the player from rain, they have become a great promotion vehicle. For many years, golf club manufacturers have put their name or logo on umbrellas to identify their contract players in tournaments. More recently major tournament sponsors have used their logos on umbrellas to promote their events. Insurance companies, banks, automobile manufacturers among others have used umbrellas both on and off the golf course to promote a corporate image. Perhaps the most famous is Traveler’s Insurance, which actually uses an umbrella as its logo.
The umbrella while it was born in the rain and has lived its life in inclement weather has now found a new life in the sunshine. The modern concern about ultra violet rays and the damage that the sun can do to the skin has given the poor old wet umbrella a new role on the golf course. Increasingly aware people are using the umbrella to protect themselves not only from the discomfort of rain, but also from the dangers of the sun. This latest application could eventually far outstrip the original use and make the umbrella a full time part of your golf equipment.