Thursday, 15 March 2012

Swinging In The Rain

The weather forecast for Saturday is abysmal. Persistent rain, heavy at times. Unfortunately it's the Jack Jarrett Trophy at Royal Ascot, a pairs stableford event, with both scores counting. I'm playing with my regular partner Mike Stannard and so irrespective of the conditions we're out in them. I have a confession. I dislike playing in the rain.

My main bone of contention is that I wear glasses and irrespective of whether I wear a cap, visor or even one of those bucket type hats, the lenses still get covered in large blobs of precipitation making it hard to see, especially if I manage to send one into the distance. A bigger problem still if I send it out there and it's directionally challenged and not frightening the middle of the fairway. The lenses get fogged up, and if I keep wiping them they smear until it feels I'm looking out on a pea souper and it's permanently foggy.

The problems don't stop there. Try as I might, and even with the offer of a lucrative bribe including a pair of shoes or a new handbag I can't persuade my wife to venture out and caddie for me in the wet. To be fair though she refuses to caddie in the dry too. Unlike these pampered pros who have it easy with a caddie to carry the bag, ensure the grips are kept dry and everything is protected from the elements I'm left with two unappetising choices. I can use a carry bag which leaks like an old tea bag and everything inside is wet by the end of the first hole. Alternatively I can use my trolley which has a nice umbrella holder attachment and does keep the heaviest of the rain off the clubs.

No matter how positive my mindset - golf in the rain is a pain.

If I go with option A, I have always put a dry towel under the umbrella to dry my hands and my grip. However this involves taking the umbrella down between shots. Experience has shown that leaving it up as I take the shot will leave it at the mercy of any breeze. Inevitably as my swing reaches the top with the club in a textbook position it will bowl away or hurtle towards me as I bring the club down onto the ball. All this mucking about with the brolly, drying of grips and hands becomes a real bind after a few holes and to be honest makes it really hard to get any flow to the round and to concentrate properly.

The option of using the trolley seems the better plan then surely? It does have its merits. One of which is that if the rain stops and the waterproofs come off I'm not left with soggy shoulders where the carry bag straps have soaked up all the rain. It also means any spare gloves, towels etc can be transported without me feeling like some kind of Himalayan Sherpa. The biggest flaw with the trolley plan is that with the umbrella attached I can't see underneath it and my vision is restricted to a few paces in front of me. This makes navigating a safe passage particularly tricky and bunkers, ditches and other hazards tend to loom up unannounced. Of course I could take the umbrella out of the holder but that means I'm still having to put it in and out of the cradle or put it up and down on each shot. Another palaver.

Of course, modern bags come with a rain hood and that brings me to my next issue. These tend to be made of a nylon type material and so the water repelling aptitude is nil at best. It is also extremely hard to get clubs in and out of the bag, especially woods and their head covers, and any efforts made to keep the grips dry are negated. It doesn't matter if you carry or trolley if the umbrella isn't covering the top of the bag then the club heads are going to get wet. Recently I've invested in some rain gloves. These are great and the wetter they get the better they seem to grip. Bizarre but true. I even have a pair, one for each hand. It does take some getting use to having two gloves on at one time but it certainly improves the grip. However even these have a limit on how much water they can absorb and if I'm out for four hours in biblical rainfall then I will need another pair at some time. This of course means packing extra supplies and trying to ensure these don't become saturated before they are called upon. I do have a solution for that particular problem and sandwich bags are the answer. Easy to open even when damp they keep the gloves nice and dry.

I have to be honest and say playing in the rain usually involves a selfish mindset and it's about keeping me warm and dry first. Fortunately I've something of a golf shoe fetish and with sixteen pairs of Footjoys to choose from I know that my feet are going to be warm and dry even in the soggiest conditions. I've invested in decent set of waterproofs so I've no concerns about getting wet. The problem I  have is actually wearing them, particularly the top and trying to make a passing acquaintance with a proper swing. The jacket fits properly so it isn't as though it is too tight and I'm swinging in a straight jacket, or it's too big and feels like I've a circus big top flapping around. They still feel restrictive and I don't know if it's a negative mindset attached to having them on and playing in the wet but I never, ever stand over any shot and feel as though I can make a free and easy swing. It is particularly noticeable on the drives and long shots but even on a simple pitch shot there is the rustle of the jacket and an uneasy nagging doubt at the back of the mind that this could go spectacularly wrong.

Perhaps that's it and I've hit the nail on the head. Perhaps despite my best endeavours at trying to keep myself and my gear dry, the constant battle and the sodden course affects my mindset and even at a sub-conscious level I've already set myself up to fail. I always try and go out with a positive spin. It's the same for everyone and if I swing easy, play conservatively looking for fairways and greens and trust my game then the rain won't make a difference. Others seem to cope. What is their coping strategy? There has to be a way of becoming a golfing rain god and defeating the elements. I can't hold the rain back in a King Canute style but I can embrace the challenge. I'll be there as wing man for my single figure partner come Saturday and doing my utmost, irrespective of what mother nature can throw at us, to grind out as good a score as I can. Surely it's a case of mind over matter. The power of positive thinking and all that. We'll see.

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