Wet is a state of mind

I have played in two pro-ams so far this year and on both occasions, rain has been a significant part of the golf equation. 

I played last week at a charity pro-am at the beautiful Lake of Isles private course after two days of rain had saturated the course, making the 6,600-yard test seem like 66,000 yards to this old short-knocker. Even the cleverly innovative eight-inch cup feature wasn’t enough to save me from a score that so high the computer would have exploded if I had tried to enter it.

I played two days ago in an event at Indian Hill, one of my favorite tracks in the state, largely because of the abundance of short par fours that keep me in the game.  Naturally, it rained. And rained. And rained. While we were fortunate to get a later starting time and played only nine holes in a miserable cold drizzle, we had fun speculating on what the earlier groups had faced, playing in what amounted to a driving rainstorm.

So I thought it might be fun to share what many years of competitive golf have taught me about playing in the elements, particularly rain. And make no mistake, if you are interested in competitive golf, somewhere along the line you are going to encounter on of those days where you call on experience to get you through. So here are my personal tips for playing in the rain and if you have some I haven’t considered please feel free to share:

1. Attitude. I have seen so many golfers defeated by the elements before they strike their first tee shot. So stop whining and embrace the adversity. It’s raining on everyone so be the tough guys, suck it up, and look forward to taking advantage of a positive approach. It’s going to be difficult, scores are likely to be higher, and you are going to hit bad shots. So will everybody else. Make the best of it.

2. Take your time. Slow your pace. I know fast play is important but when the elements are the biggest obstacle, don’t play a single shot until you are absolutely ready. It’s going to be slow for everybody so there is no need to try to sink a tricky five-footer when your glasses are fogged and water is running down your putter grip.

3. Keep your hands dry. That’s the single most important objective in fighting the elements. Bring an ample supply of dry towels and golf gloves. Drape a dry towel and two dry gloves over the struts that support your umbrella. Use your rain hood that comes with every bag because it will keep water from seeping or misting into your bag and leaving you with the bane of the day — wet grips. If you use a cart, take advantage of the plastic covers that come with many and if you are really serious, purchase a full cover clear plastic hood and side panels that keep you as dry while driving. 

4. Headcovers. This is my favorite personal tip I picked up somewhere along the line. When playing in wet conditions, remove ALL the headcovers from your clubs.  Headcovers are a collection point for moisture and everytime you take one off or put one on, you will transfer moisture to your hands. The downside is that  your cart will sound like a collection of wind chimes as it trundles down the fairway.

5. Rain gear.  If you want to avoid the drowned rat feeling get a decent rainsuit that includes a water-proof (not water-resistant) jacket and the accompanying rain pants.  You will look like a bloated Mickey Mouse from the Macy’s parade but you will be dry. Thin multiple layers under the rainsuit work best. The good tip here is to make sure you take some practice swings before you but the gear so that you are confident it will not restrict your swing. Buy a bucket hat for your head and turn the brim up so that the water doesn’t flow over the front, impeding your vision. If you don’t want to look like refugee from The Deadliest Catch, at least turn your baseball cap around when you putt.

6. Rain gloves. When all else fails and you can’t keep your hands dry, buy a good pair of rain gloves. They work. I know its counter-intuitive but you actually have to get them wet first. I’d explain the science but I know you don’t give a hoot.

7. The last tip may be the most critical. When your pro calls and asks you to play in a pro-am with him on a day you know its going to rain ... tell him you have a dentist appointment.

Jim O’Neill is a member at Great Neck CC.

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