On my journey from hacker to avid amateur golfer, conquering the weather and various environmental factors encountered on a golf course was nearly as big a hurdle as poor alignment, a bad path on the takeaway, and coming over the top on the downswing.
Along the way I have cast out most of the old demons of the weather gods, but . Alas, one last bugaboo remains.
I used to hate playing in the cold weather. I was bad at golf, so my frequent poorly struck mis-hit shots sent pain reverberating up from the club to my hands and beyond. It hurt. Badly. If if was cold enough, I’d swear that mis-hitting a golf ball could crack my cuticle and make my fingers bleed. The worst was when it hurt all the way up to the elbow.
Today I have no problem playing in the cold. I wear layers that I can in which I can make a golf swing. I am quick to pull winter or rain gloves if necessary to keep playing. Most importantly I became a better golfer and stopped hitting the ball thin, which did more to stop the painful repercussions than all of the other remedial measures combined.
I also used to hate playing golf in the rain. Consciously worrying about hanging on to the club is not a swing thought at all, and my grips, which I had never changed prior to 2018, did not handle moisture well, as one might imagine.I have never been a bomber of the golf ball, so a soggy course became an extra long course in my mind, causing me to, of course, swing too hard, exacerbating any swing flaws and making the game harder on myself.
Much like the cold, today I enjoy playing golf in the rain. I have some light rain gear that holds up well for a while (I hope to invest in serious rain gear before heading to Scotland in the fall). I buy new waterproof shoes ever year, alternating traditional plastic spikes and comfortable spike-less cleat purchases each year, and I now change my grips once a season. And, again, I got better at golf, and learned to take an extra club and not swing so hard in wet conditions.
Finally, I used to truly hate playing golf in the wind. I was mentally defeated by a breezy day on the golf course before I ever made a swing. I would consistently swing too hard, tense up, try to force the ball against or even with the wind, many times without considering the alternatives.
Over the past few years, I learned a little mental discipline on the course and now look forward to playing with the wind. I remember specific moments and shots where, with my ego removed, I looked forward to and enjoyed hitting a 6-iron only 135 yards into a stiff breeze. More than the other meteorological obstacles, the wind required much more of a mental solution and a physical fix.
All of which brings me to my final meteorological or environmental hurdle, my final Crusade, my white whale: the sun.Hitting golf shots when looking directly toward the sun hovering low on the horizon is my last big mental bugaboo from which I have found no relief.
I play a ton of twilight golf, chasing those last few holes against the dying light of a setting sun at my home course. The problem is that on consecutive par four holes (numbers 5 and 6), the tee shots in the late afternoon or evening play directly into the sun. It’s no better should I try to sneak in 9 holes on the back, as the tee shot on number 10 flies directly into the sun.
For whatever reason, I cannot make myself stay down thru the shot when my natural swing movement will bring my eyes directly into or near the sun. I get quick in my transition or my posture will break down trying to protect my eyes from a direct blast of sunlight, or both. The inevitable poorly struck shot is soul crushing. It must be how Charlie Brown felt as he flew through the air after Lucy had pulled the football away.
Trying to find the ball is sometimes laughable. I can usually guess which direction I missed the fairway by the swing that I made and how contact felt, but often finding the ball proves a futile enterprise.
Moreover, my struggles with hitting into the sun are not limited to the specific holes at Gay Brewer Jr. at Picadome. It happens wherever I’m playing facing eastward in the morning or westward in the evening if there’s no cloud cover.
I don’t know what to do about it. I’ve tried to think “smooth” to take the club back and through nice and easy. I have tried make a shorter swing, though that ends with a lack of shoulder turn and disaster at contact. Sunglasses don’t really help, instead creating their own set of problems.
With more opportunities for trial and error coming this summer, I’m to the point that I might try closing my eyes at address and let the club rip. It really couldn’t produce that much worse of a result.
The irony that my most frustrating golf problem occurs at my absolute favorite time to play is so cruel that it could only occur in the crazy game of golf.