Winter Golf: The opportunities and challenges

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Updated: December 30, 2023

How lucky we are to be able to play golf all year round in the Pacific Northwest, when other states on our latitude are freezing and snowed in. If the weather does allow for golf during the winter months, it will not resemble the warmer season conditions, which is why the USGA discontinues handicaps this time of year.

Playing golf in winter is vary different from warm weather golf, but it’s still golf. While many golfers hang up their clubs and remain indoors throughout the winter the core golfer embraces the challenge and is not detoured. 

Playing this time of year comes with its own challenges and requires several adjustments. To play golf in the Pacific Northwest winter is to learn a whole new game.

The most obvious challenge when playing winter golf is more clothes and less freedom to move, thus, you must learn to adjust your swing. The ball, being cold, doesn’t travel as far (stock up on softer balls), we must adjust our club distances. The greens will be softer, so putts are slower, we must learn to adapt. The fairways will be soft, drives will stop quickly with little or no run out, the smart thing to do is to move forward a tee to compensate. This will give you an entirely different look from playing the same course in warmer weather.

We must learn the rules for plugged or embedded balls, casual water, and winter rules–ask the club pro how the rules apply to their course.

It is these obstacles that make winter golf such a challenge. but it’s still golf and it beats sitting around indoors watching TV.

Another adjustment for winter golf is the shorter daylight in a day, we must take into account the tee times that allow us to complete a round in daylight.

It’s the perfect time to play courses that are shorter than we might play in the summer, providing a fun new experience. Courses like The Nile in Mountlake Terrace, Lake Wilderness in Maple Valley, and Lynnwood Golf Course are great choices, or some of the nine hole courses like Highlands in Tacoma whose motto is “Half the Time, Twice the Fun”.

For those who want a change of scenery and to get out of town and play a well manicured and maintained course, Loomis Trails in Linden (ranked in top 15 courses in Wash. by Golf Digest, is a great destination, plus you can stay at the Silver Reef Resort Casino and enjoy all of their amenities they offer.

Playing in the winter has other advantages: The popular city courses like Jefferson, Jackson, West Seattle, Bellevue, Glendoveer, or Heron Lakes have less competition for tee times making it easier to get the times you want to play.

With the golf season only a couple months away it is the perfect time to take lessons and prepare your game for the warmer golf season. Be sure to check out Inside Golf’s February issue about Golf Teachers in the Northwest.