Cold Weather Golf

It’s the beginning of February and I recently returned from my annual winter golf trip down South for some warm weather. This year, I went to Tucson, AZ with extremely high hopes of having a break from 6 months of cold and wet living where I do in Seattle.

Arizona Golf

It was going to be the usual competition between my younger brother and I vs. my older brother and my son. We have a friendly, but high-stakes thing going between us over the years. I was pumped! I was ready to go. I had used my visualization techniques for weeks prior to the trip…imagining sinking 10 foot putts like I was during my last outing when the season closed for us here in October.

Back then, I had that “knowing” and feeling that I could just putt the ball exactly down the line that I chose. The only reason I could miss back then was if I mis-read the green. I had done what teach others and emblazoned those thoughts and images in a certain corner of my mind where I store all of my successes for later retrieval.

I was mentally practicing “square and point” over and over each night as I went to bed the same way I did 15 years ago to break 80.

I was ready!

3 days before our trip, I check the weather…and there’s a cold front hitting California and Arizona. I panic! What if the weatherman is right? Should we cancel? Postpone? The day before we are to fly to Arizona, my brother calls trying to talk me into putting the trip off a week. I frantically check my schedule and see that I have clients lined up. (Yes I work on weekends but I also take days off mid-week.) I call my son who takes the peer pressure off me by saying he can’t change his work schedule and so we are going no matter the weather!

Cold Weather Golf

We get down there and at least it’s sunny! We are excited about that as we step out to the curb at the airport and it feels pretty nice with the radiant heat of the suns rays….but as it turned out, we went down for 3 days that were the coldest Tucson has ever been since 1988! We woke up to temperatures in the high teens and each day had a frost delay which delayed our start times til 11am to noon. The highs each day were no higher than 45 degrees (7 celsius) What rotten luck!

Well, at least we were prepared with our cold weather golf clothes. I even brought some of those chemical hand warmers you shake and put in your pocket that cost a buck or so. I ended up not even using them all weekend.

We all dressed in layers starting with something against the skin that was synthetic so as to wick away the sweat moisture from the skin and onto the next layer so you don’t get the chills when you sweat. I remember constantly putting on and taking off layers throughout the weekend as the sun would come out and then go away again or when the wind came up.

It turned out to not be that big of a deal golfing in the cold weather and we had a lot of fun. Often, when there was no wind at mid-day, we would shed clothes down to just 2 layers. On the other hand, there were times when we could barely hold our clubs, usually at the end of the day.

Here’s my big learning from this weekend:

20 Foot Putt For Eagle

My first round I came out of the gate playing pretty well for not having played for 4 months. I was very pleased with my game scoring an 83 at El Conquistador.  Everyone else in our group had horrible scores as it wasn’t exactly an easy course.  Given the weather and all the bulky clothes, it was a good day and I looked forward to improving on that the next day.

The next day didn’t go so well and I got worse the following day and we ended up losing the bets for the weekend. Day 2 we played at Arizona National and day 3 we played Tucson National.

What happened? What caused my meltdown?

I’m always teaching golfers to go over their round in their mind afterward and get your learnings! Take what you do well and implant it in your mind adding to your storehouses of success and then see if you can find a bigger pattern that will help you improve from your mistakes that you let go of.

I kept going back to the old excuse that “It must be the cold weather and having to wear the bulky clothes and the wind and the blah blah blah…”  That’s the story I kept telling myself to feel better about the situation…”shoot Craig, you’re the mental golf guy here, figure this out.”

But it wasn’t to be.  Yes, it was cold. Yes, I was wearing bulky clothes that affected my swing. Yes, the wind tests your patience.  But here was the real problem….

I did not play (as they say) “Within myself” after my first round.

My first round I played conservatively. I didn’t swing for the fences. I hit straight shots, kept it in play and focused on that knowing that I had no idea what my swing was going to be like wearing those clothes.  Believe me, bulky clothes affects your game.

The 2nd and 3rd rounds I had gotten warmed up and felt cocky. I got drunk on watching my driver roll 30 yards after hitting the ground…something that doesn’t happen up in Seattle’s wet courses.

I allowed one missed 8-iron to a par 3 that went in the bunker to get to me. We kept saying that we were glad that we still decided to come out even with the cold weather and that it wasn’t so bad and we WERE having fun! But I lost that consistency mind-set I had the first day.

18th hole. Drove the strip next to lake

In fact, I would say, in hindsight, that hitting a monster drive off a cliff on #18, a par 5, to within 150 yards was the beginning of my downfall. I fell into the “show-off” mindset and that sunk me.

I didn’t even realize this until on the way home in the airplane.

Oh well…that’s golf right? We absolutely did have a blast just hanging out together and messing with each other as golf buddies do.  I learned a lot and I hope you did too.  It may not be because of just cold weather that you need to play “within yourself.”

I’d love to hear your thoughts below on playing in cold weather.

Greens and fairways,