Many golfers like to hibernate in winter but taking an extended absence can be a big mistake. Even the greatest golfers in the world struggle to recapture form after a layoff of even a few weeks; for us handicap heroes it can take much longer. The first thing you lose is touch and feel on and around the greens, which puts pressure on your iron play as you strive to hit it closer. Then the full swing goes and before you know it, clubs feel like alien instruments in your hands and your scores go to hell in a handcart.
Reluctance to play in winter is understandable, especially a few years ago when, to retain body heat, you had to wear so many clothes that you ended up looking like Michelin Man and could barely walk, never mind swing a club.
Reasons to play golf in winter
That’s the bad news but there are several reasons why, if you usually leave the bag and trolley in the garage until April, you might want to reconsider. First, is the constant development of new synthetic materials that make winter golf clothing lighter, warmer and more flexible. It has been said before that there is no such thing as poor weather, just the wrong clothes and because of innovations in materials and manufacture, you can now venture out wearing relatively few layers but remain protected from the elements.
Second, many if not all, of the big manufacturers introduce major new bits of equipment to their portfolio at the start of a new season. We have already seen Callaway launch its Paradym range in 2023, while TaylorMade has enhanced its already successful Stealth clubs with the Stealth 2, Cobra has launched its AEROJET range and Ping have brought us their G430. Others will follow and if you want to get in on the ground floor with the latest innovations, now’s the time to buy.
Third, many clubs use temporary tees and greens during winter months to protect the layout’s regular features, which means you play a shorter course. As a consequence you hit your drives to places you normally only dream about and, although the greens will be smaller, you’re going for them with much shorter clubs in your hand, and therefore you might expect to be more accurate. The overall effect is that you can shoot significantly better scores than in summer, which can give a huge boost to your confidence, which carries over to the full course when weather improves. Golf, as we know, is 90% a mental game (with the other 10% also being mental) and feeling good about the way you’re playing is the best way to conquer the course.
Fourth, the courses are quieter and you won’t have trouble booking a tee time.
Fifth, if you play at a public course, the green fees are often reduced.
Sixth, and most important of all, you keep your swing in shape and don’t have to go through a lengthy period of play and practice to be at your best when the new season starts.
So, having digested all that, let’s look at some of the products and gear available to help you keep swinging until Spring and beyond.
What to wear for winter golf
Stromberg is a specialist company, based in West Yorkshire, proud of its tradition of innovation, and that its golf clothing range is designed and made by golfers, for golfers. This quilted gilet features a brushed fleece interior lining for essential warmth, and a water-resistant hexagon quilted body made from performance fabric that allows complete freedom of movement. It has a full-zip opening and two zip opening side pockets which feature extra long tabs on the zips so you can access them without having to take off gloves or mittens. It features a high collar to keep your neck warm while the obvious advantage of a gilet over a jacket is that the absence of sleeves allows for a full, unhindered swing while your torso remains toasty-warm. Available in sizes S-XL, it comes in black with Stromberg branding.
If you prefer a full jacket, Stromberg has that covered too, with this stylish but extremely functional model. Featuring the same high collar as the gilet to keep your neck protected, this jacket comes into its own when the weather turns nasty. No-one except the most dedicated is going to play through 18 holes of hissing winter rain but showers are a frequent feature of our winter climate and this is the bit of kit you need to keep them at bay. The fabric is both waterproof and breathable, to keep moisture out but also let it escape should you get too warm. It is lightweight and stretchable for complete movement. A detail you won’t find everywhere is that the zip is water-resistant and the seams are fully taped to make sure that no rain penetrates. It is such attention to detail that makes Stromberg clothing so practical and desirable. Available in sizes S-XXL it comes in two colour choices; navy blue or black with a grey front panel and zip highlighted in yellow.
Stromberg Men’s Weather Tech Stretch Golf Trousers £44.99 (reduced from £59.99)
Important as it is to keep your torso warm, it’s every bit as vital that your lower half is well insulated and the ‘Weather Tech’ part of this product’s name means they are waterproof, windproof and thermal; so that’s you kept dry, protected and warm. If you don’t want to have all the bother of pulling on rainsuit trousers over your regular strides (which, let’s face it, can be a bloody nuisance when the rain starts), this is the perfect solution. Featuring the same taped seams to keep water out, these trousers feature three-layer construction. The outer skin is waterproof, the middle layer features a breathable membrane to keep moisture out and the inner layer is a thermal barrier to ensure you stay warm. A rubberised waistband allows complete freedom of movement, two slant side pockets offer all the space you need for tees, pitch mark repairer and so on, while two back pockets with contrasting trim can accommodate a scorecard, whether you are left or right-handed. Available in black, grey or navy blue, these trousers come in waist sizes from 36-46.
Spikeless shoes have become the footwear of choice in recent years and it is easy to see why – they are lightweight, comfortable, proficient and require virtually no maintenance. In many instances it’s difficult to distinguish between modern golf shoes and trainers. However, in winter, when underfoot conditions are far more likely to be soft and boggy or, even worse, icy, there’s no safe substitute for spikes. It’s a matter of safety – to prevent you slipping and falling – and performance; you cannot make a good swing without a solid foundation and you won’t get that if your feet are, in the words of Paul Simon, slip-sliding away. These shoes have a microfibre in a waterproof membrane, a moulded EVA midsole and carefully positioned soft spikes that are resistant to rotation. That’s performance and function covered but Under Armour haven’t forgotten about style either, as they come in three colour choices – black, white or blue and white. Available in sizes (UK) 7-11.
Best Equipment for winter golf
If you have ever tried playing golf with wet slippery grips on your clubs you will appreciate that, now that you’re protected from the elements, it’s time to give your precious equipment the same safeguards. If you have ever used a bag that is not specifically designed to keep all manner of water out, you’ll know how important rainproofing can be, which is where this specialist bag comes into its own. Many golfers prefer to carry their clubs when the terrain gets rough but this model is also designed with trolleys in mind, so you have the best of both worlds. The bag features fully waterproof material and zips, and an integrated, automatically-released stand, along with a grab handle to make loading and unloading into the car as convenient as possible. In addition, the 14-way club divider system means your clubs won’t get entangled up in one another and the numerous pockets give all the storage space you could need. It even has a dedicated pocket for your mobile phone and dual, padded shoulder straps for comfort. Available in black with blue highlights.
MGI Zip Navigator Remote Control Lithium Electric Golf Trolley £999 (reduced from £1,100)
Not only is the trolley reduced in price, with every purchase you can buy a customised cart bag at £99 instead of £199. This premium trolley, exclusive to AmericaGolf, has more features than you can shake a stick at. It is fully remote controlled by a palm-sized control that allows you to send it forward, back, left or right, stop and it also has a button-lock. The gyroscope straight tracker technology senses when the wheels are off centre and automatically aligns to keep you on a straight course. The twin front wheels swivel, making the trolley extraordinarily flexible on all terrain and it features twin 230-watt motors. The automatic downhill speed control means it will never get away from you and will always maintain a consistent speed and the 24v lithium battery is good for 36 holes. Light and compact when folded, with quick release wheels for even greater space-saving (and to keep your car boot neat and tidy), this is a superb adjunct to any round of golf.
Stromberg Double Canopy Golf Umbrella £24.99 (reduced from £29.99)
If the worst comes to the worst and you are on the course when the rain starts, you’ll need a good umbrella and this offering from Stromberg fits the bill. Double canopy umbrellas were introduced in the late 1990s and became an instant success, especially among golfers, as they allow wind to pass through, without affecting their ability to keep the rain out. Like so many good ideas, it is startlingly simple yet extremely efficient. This model is big – 132cm in diameter (and if you need more, it’s time to go on a diet), sturdy and the canopy has an inner silver coating so you can also get protection from UV rays if needed. It’s completed by a soft grip handle and protective cover when not in use.
Let’s not beat about the bush, to get the most from these premium golf balls you need a fast swing speed and are probably a pretty decent golfer. Then again, perhaps all the recommendation you need is the knowledge that this is the ball Tiger Woods played and in December last year (2022) he said: ‘The Tour B XS is a great golf ball, it has the feel and spin I’ve preferred.’ He’s not the only one – Lexi Thompson, Matt Kuchar, Jason Day and Fred Couples all play Bridgestone. You may be more familiar with the company’s tyres but this Japanese manufacturer started producing golf balls in 1935 and the quality of its products is such that it produces the best-selling ball in its home country. This model has a patented REACTIV iQ cover, which stays on the clubface longer to give the golfer maximum velocity, which equals greater distance. This, coupled with a gradational compression core, produces lower spin, also for greater distance. Finally, the seamless cover technology produces a perfectly balanced dimple pattern every time, and gives great feel on and around the green. Distance, control and feel – a great combination. Just ask Tiger.
Titleist Pro V1 12 Golf Ball Pack £44.99 (reduced from £50)
We golfers like to keep up with the latest trends and innovations in golf equipment but there is little doubt that the greatest advances in recent decades have been in golf ball design and manufacture. The most impactful launch of modern times was that of the original Pro V1 in October 2020 and in the first tournament in which it featured, the Invensys Classic, 47 tour pros made the switch and one of them, Billy Andrade, won. Before then, we had a choice of wound-core balls which, because they were soft and spun significantly, were easier to control, and solid-core balls, which gave greater distance but much less feel. The Pro V1 married both worlds and golfers haven’t looked back since. The ball has undergone numerous upgrades and revamps since then and continues to set the benchmark. If you want the technical stuff I can tell you that it features a spherically-tiled 388 tetrahedral dimple pattern but what you really need to know is that it consistently delivers superb performance for pros and amateurs alike.
TaylorMade Tour Response Stripe 12 Golf Ball Pack £34.99 (reduced from £39.99)
Also for the experienced golfer but at a more manageable price point, is this TaylorMade offering. On occasion manufacturers can baffle us with science so let’s cut to the chase. This is a premium ball, mid-priced for decent golfers who want performance without having to take out a second mortgage. The distinctive lime green stripe or band makes an immediate visual impact and is a great alignment aid, particularly on the green – at least one independent test found it significantly easier to hole putts with this ball than non-striped ones. It feels firm and fairly jumps off the clubface so distance is not an issue. Despite this, around the green it has a lower spin rate, which offers greater control. An exceptional all-rounder.
Rife Deluxe Edition Golf Putting Mat £39.99 (reduced from £49.99)
On the days when you cannot get to the course (and there may be some), you can still hone your game either at home or in the office with this premium practice aid. It features two routes to two different holes, one of which has an alignment stripe so that you can see precisely whether or not you pull, push or roll your putts true. Once you improve enough to consistently hole the ball, the automatic retrieval system will deliver it back to your starting position. The mat is lightweight and therefore portable enough to be moved with ease to whatever location is convenient. It is often touch and feel that are the first skills to be lost in winter so this practice aid will keep that crucial part of your game razor sharp.
Rife Electric Golf Putting Cup £14.99 (reduced from £17.99)
This is another excellent training accessory from Rife but in this instance, if your house has only hardwood or parquet floors it’s not for you, because you need to provide your own carpet. That said, it is a simple, practical and efficient putting aid that rewards holed efforts by returning the ball to your feet. It has a minimum kick-back distance of 10 feet and let’s not beat about the bush, if using this means you start holing all those 10-footers on the course, it would be a superb investment. Its other great advantage is that it is small and lightweight, can be moved and relocated easily and takes up virtually no storage space.
Best Clubs for winter golf
TaylorMade Stealth 2 £299-£529 (fairway woods to driver)
If you are a fan of the Stealth family of golf clubs, chances are you will be even more enthusiastic about the Stealth 2 range because what was already good has undoubtedly been made better. The driver comes in three options – Stealth 2, Stealth 2 Plus and Stealth 2 HD and if you fight a slice, the HD is the one to get as it has a significant draw bias. TaylorMade took the decision to remove titanium from the face of its drivers, replacing it with carbon, and this offers greater distance. Visually they look gorgeous, the formerly matt clubhead now comes in a sleek, glossy finish but the red clubface remains, making this one of the most distinctive and attractive drivers on the market. These clubs do not incorporate major changes from the original Stealth range, rather they represent an evolution where refinement and modification to an excellent bit of kit make it even more desirable. They retain the movable weight in the sole plate, custom-fitting is available and if you want to see how they perform, watch Collin Morikawa and Rory McIlroy this season, as both will carry one. The Stealth 2 range is available for men and women.
Ping G430 £279 (hybrid) - £839 (graphite irons)
Time to declare an interest because I have used a Ping G400 driver for a while now and if you want me to change you will need to prise it from my cold, dead hands. However, this G430 is a temptress, trying to lure me into switching allegiance with beguiling looks and the promise of even greater pleasure. It’s tempting. Most of the major manufacturers produce excellent drivers and your choice often comes down to price and personal preference, so the G430 Max, custom-fit for £469, takes care of the first element as it’s increasingly difficult to get a top-class performer for under £500. The adjustable weight at the back of the clubhead can be set to draw, neutral and fade, while the adjustable hosel gives you eight options that allow you to customise ball trajectory, meaning you get maximum distance and consistency for your particular swing. Ping has always been at the forefront of custom-fitting, recognising that when it comes to golf clubs, one-size does not fit all. A full range of fairway woods and hybrids is also available and if you buy two woods you get £30 off. If, like me, you have a slower swing speed, the ultra-light shafts and grips, along with a lowered overall system weight, means you can swing faster and generate more ball speed for higher launching, longer carrying shots.
Cobra AEROJET £429 driver (£689-£769 irons)
Despite the manufacturer using all uppercase letters in this product’s name, I’m going with Aerojet because it doesn’t feel as if I’m being shouted at. This series of clubs is one of three major launches so far this year (mid-January) and that’s a potential problem in a crowded marketplace – getting your voice heard above that of your rivals. This is a brand new model, taking over from the Cobra LTDx and, like many other club makers, carbon is taking over as the material of choice because of the worldwide shortage of titanium. But necessity can be the mother of invention and in many instances we’re seeing carbon perform as well, and often better, than the material it replaces. The Aerojet name reflects the fact that the driver is more aerodynamic, meaning greater clubhead speed, and the face is precision forged, meaning you get a greater trampoline effect, or bounce. The centre of gravity is also further forward and lower, for lower spin rate and faster ball speed from the clubface. Like so many drivers, there are adjustable weights so you can build in a fade or draw bias. The irons have very quickly been rated by independent testers as among the longest on the market, which is the result of what Cobra calls ‘power bridge weighting’ a floating weight in the clubhead which it says offers 30% more face flexion.
Callaway Paradym Clubs £529 (driver) £999-£1,089 irons)
Rumour has it that when Toyota decided to produce a luxury car at the top end of the market, the company’s owner wanted to call it the Cedric, as he believed this represented sophisticated, upper class gentry. Luckily, he was persuaded to opt for Lexus, instead. Names are important and, while the jury has not yet returned a verdict on ‘Paradym’, ultimately golfer’s opinions will be dictated by the way the clubs perform. Like the Cobra Aerojet and TaylorMade Stealth 2, carbon has replaced titanium and in this instance, Callaway says that, as the whole driver clubhead is carbon, it’s 44% lighter allowing weight to be redistributed for greater forgiveness from off-centre hits. The result is a club that offers high launch with low spin rate (the optimum combination) for greater distance and tighter dispersion. The Paradym X irons (£999 with steel shafts, ££1,089 in graphite) like the driver are at the pricier end of the market but these clubs are for the discerning golfer who wants the latest technical innovations built-in. The Paradym range will be available from February 24 but you can pre-order now.
Titleist TSR Driver £529
As we have seen, when producing a product that’s new to the market, manufacturers can produce an entirely new name and range, or refine and upgrade an existing model – which is what Titleist has done with the TSR. It’s not difficult to see why it chose to stick with an already established favourite that already has a confirmed place in the market, and many diehard admirers. This latest edition was launched in June last year when the two Cameron’s, Smith and Young, came first and second in the Open Championship using the club – it would be difficult to imagine a more impactful launch. Unlike the other drivers here, this retains the titanium clubface with which many golfers are familiar, and with which they have enjoyed good performance. The TSR2 offers greater forgiveness, while the TSR3 is for the more accomplished ball-striker so the clubhead weight is concentrated on the sweetspot. The TSR4 is not discussed here as it for golfers with a very fast swingspeed, which is a pretty limited market. As with all clubs featured here, there’s a wide range of fairway and utility clubs and numerous custom-fit options so that you get the bit of kit that is exactly right for you.