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Scottish advice

Eben Harrell

Last year, quite simply the greatest year of my life, I lived in St. Andrews, Scotland, the birthplace of golf.

I spent a good deal of my time earning a master’s degree in English from the town’s university, but I forsook sleep and any hope of good grades to play the Old Course just about every day of the year, even through the winter.

It’s a great myth that Scottish winters are cold and unforgiving. This is not so – it is Scottish summers that are such. The climate is the same year round – let us say, “bracing” – which makes the winter relatively easy to bear.

April golfing conditions in Aspen are identical to Scottish conditions. It’s the weather in which the game was conceived, so there’s no reason not to relish in the challenges of cold climate conditions.

Here are some tips I learned from my time overseas about how to golf in cold, windy conditions:

If you walk briskly, it’s shouldn’t be difficult to stay warm, even in the harshest conditions. Thermal underwear, a turtleneck, a windproof jacket, and woolly cap should be enough.

When hitting balls on a windy day, never practice downwind or with the wind at your back (right to left for a right-handed golfer). Hitting balls downwind won’t give you any feedback (the wind straightens shots), and practicing with the wind at your back encourages a slice swing. Practice into the wind or with the wind blowing into your face as you address the ball.

Warm golf balls travel up to 15 yards farther than cold balls. On cold spring mornings, tape three golf balls to the dash of your car and blast your defroster on high heat on the way to the course. You’ll gain at least a club distance off your competitor.

In the wind and cold, think slow and smooth. Take extra club and focus only on rhythm. You can’t out-muscle nature, that’s hubris, so swallow your pride and don’t be embarrassed pulling a lower club (I once lost a match to a Scot who regularly hit a 3-iron from 145 yards).

Don’t get frustrated by bad bounces or bumpy greens – believe me, it’s an integral part of the Royal and Ancient game.

Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is eharrell@aspentimes.com


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