By Mark Harman, USGTF Course Director
Ah, winter golf. Here in the southern part of South Carolina, where I live, golf is a 12-month season. Sure, it gets cold at times from mid-November through mid-March, but there are often days where the average high is in the 60s (F) or even 70s. That’s in contrast to the state of Indiana where I grew up. We had to put the clubs totally away by mid-November through mid-March.
Winter golf up north isn’t like winter golf when I was a kid, though. Today there are golf domes and indoor simulators to keep one’s game sharp until spring arrives. Although in the early 1980s, I do have to give our coach at Franklin College, Dr. Richard Park, credit for trying to find a way to keep our games in shape through the winter months. One year he installed a hitting net in the gym, and I used it religiously. I got real good at hitting the elevated bullseye about four feet off the ground and 10 feet away with my driver. On the first day we could play that spring, we headed out to the course. Often, we didn’t use the range to warm up because, well, we had to buy range balls in order to do so! (Thankfully, things are different for today’s college golfers.) I proceeded to take a mighty swipe at ball #1 for the year. It went dead straight – for all of about 100 yards. It then took a sharp right-hand turn and veered 50 yards into the trees. Yes, I had spent the entire winter unknowingly grooving a slice.
Today’s northern golfers have that all-important feedback from the simulators and being able to watch the ball travel around 90 yards in a dome. It’s a perfect time of year to make those desperately-needed swing changes, and USGTF professionals who have a facility from which they can teach can be just as busy, if not busier, in the winter as compared to summer. By contrast, southern golfers have to deal with dormant Bermudagrass fairways and greens, as overseeding has fallen out of favor in most places. Come springtime, the greens can be a little rough from no growth and heavy foot traffic, but soon all is well. And our northern friends? Time to see if those swing changes work! If the instruction was imparted by a USGTF professional, they are sure to do so.