How much do you want to win that turkey in the Christmas Fayre? True, conditions are tough; the tees may be forward, but when it’s cold and wet, the ball just doesn’t travel. Factor in the wet sand, soft fairways and bumpy greens, and it’s hard going no matter what your level.
So, RSNG quizzed PGA Professional Alistair Davies for some advice. These top five winter tips will help separate you from the competition in the winter months…
1. Be More Aggressive Off The Tee This might not be a piece of advice that you’re used to hearing. Lots of golfers opt for the conservative play – often with good reason – but come winter it makes more sense to lose the shackles a little bit.
‘The ball’s not going to run like it does in the summer. Most fairways are going to play like they’re a lot wider,’ explains Davies. ‘Even if you stray off line, most courses will be more forgiving at this time of year, so you can be aggressive off the tee.’
The advice is to go for the big stick and ‘bomb it’. To help do so, you want to feel like you’re getting the biggest launch as you possibly can. ‘Tee it up high so you’re hitting on the up, with the ball towards your left foot,’ adds Davies. ‘It’s hard to hit up on the ball if you tee it up too low.’
You need to approach these greenside bunker shots much more like a pitch shot, so get the face much squarer
2. Get Punchy With Your Mid Irons When the fairways are soft and wet, it can be especially difficult to produce consistently good strikes. Heavy contacts are exacerbated in such conditions. However, with a few simple adjustments there’s no reason to fear the dreaded ‘fat’; a shot that leaves you red in the face.
As Davies explains, you want to develop a more punchy style with your mid irons. ‘Try and feel like the swing length is more shoulder height. If anything, you want to feel like your weight is 55% on the lead foot.’
‘With this shorter, punchy swing it’s easier to get that ball first contact. Although this tip is mainly about improving your ball striking, you will notice a lower ball flight, which helps in the wind.’
3. Wet Sand Technique Is More ‘Pitch’ Style It’s no reflection on the greenkeeping staff, but, in general, the traps don’t look their best at this time of year; it’s the rain, and instead of that lovely fluffy sand, it’s hard and compact.
Escaping wet sand requires some adjustments. ‘In such conditions, you need to approach these greenside bunker shots much more like a pitch shot, so get the face much squarer, just fractionally open,’ explains Davies.
‘Adopt a slightly narrower stance than you normally would in the bunker, like shoulder width, or slightly under, depending on how far you’re hitting it. You want your weight on the lead foot, about 60/40, and the ball more in the centre of your stance, maybe half a ball forward of centre.’
Give this a go and you should find you execute more of a pitch out, taking less sand. It might not look as heroic as the splash shot, but with wet sand you shouldn’t be looking to power the ball out.
The wind can be your friend, even if it always feels like you’re driving into it on every hole
4. Use The Wind The wind can be your friend, even if it always feels like you’re driving into it on every hole. For Davies, the key is to know when to use it and when to fight it.
‘With a long club, I’d recommend using the wind, unless it’s really severe, because that won’t hurt your distance,’ he says. ‘For example, off the tee, if it’s a left to right wind try and aim down the left and let it drift back. If you try and draw it into the wind, or fight it, you’re going to lose a lot of distance.’
It sounds simple, but the thinking can become a little scrambled when the wind starts to howl and you lose your game plan. ‘The general rule of thumb is to use the wind when you’ve got a wider area and you’re not going at a precise target, like the green. Use the wind to get the ball down the fairway to make sure you can still get on the green in regulation.’
‘When you’ve got a short club, you need to be more precise – try to not use the wind as much. The aim is to hit a lower flight to reduce the amount the wind will affect it, so you’re controlling the ball into the green.’
Remember this advice the next time you’re thinking about trying to pump a sand wedge into the wind from 120 yards.
5. Stare At The Front Of The Ball When Putting Again, no pointing fingers at the greenkeepers, but our putting surfaces can become a little bit bumpy during the winter months. The secret to good putting, when the dance floor does start to bobble, is to maintain a solid strike to get the ball up the hole.
‘I’d advise getting the handle ahead of the ball and to make sure you stare at the front of the ball with your weight on the lead foot,’ says Davies. ‘This will help you get that club travelling through the ball correctly.
‘We want to hit slightly up, but too many golfers overdo this and hit the ball too high up or too low down in the face, and the ball bobbles too much and skids.’
There you have it. No more leaving your putts short and blaming the greens…
WHAT NEXT? Suffering with a slice? Davies is your man. Watch this to learn the slice-proof swing.