Novelist Paul Theroux once said: “Winter is a season of recovery and preparation.” He could never have imagined just how true those words would ring right now.
Not that we have much choice. Most of us, the sensible ones that is, are staying home because of the pandemic and the precautions imposed to prevent its spread. Kudos to us.
So what’s a golfer to do? We’re mired in a Canadian winter with travel south of the border restricted and limited opportunities to congregate at public golf simulators, ranges or other golf-related activities.
If you don’t have the space, budget or inclination to have a home simulator, there are myriad options to pass the time … “prepare” as Theroux suggested … until, hopefully, golf courses across Canada reopen in spring. Online instruction, social media, podcasts (what?) … even, dare I say, books and magazines … all not only can improve your game but boost your spirits as well.
As an author myself, I may be biased but I enjoy turning the pages of a book or magazine. My special area of interest is course architecture so, after rereading the essentials yet again, I look for Canadian authors. Keith Cutten’s The Evolution of Golf Course Design is a fascinating deep dive into the broader question of not just how course design evolved but why. James Harris’s Stanley Thompson and Icons of Canada has no equal in its in-depth examination of Canada’s most iconic architect as a master of his craft and a man. Although not Canadian and actually intended for green committee members and club managers, many of whom (wrongly) think they are qualified for DIY projects on a multi-million-dollar course, Designs on a Better Golf Course (published by the American Society of Golf Course Architects) is a must-read for armchair architects as well as folks whose hobby is second-guessing their course’s superintendent. For pure “golf porn,” there are few better options than Catalogue 18, a luxurious magazine published in Toronto featuring awesome photography and text from around the world.
WATCH VIDEO TIPS
We were all thankful when the PGA TOUR and LPGA Tour returned to TV in January but if you need more than entertainment and climate envy, there are hundreds of videos on social media, many from PGA of Canada instructors. Derek Ingram, Team Canada’s Men’s Head Coach, posts indoor tips on Instagram. Women’s Head Coach Tristan Mullally offers helpful hints on Twitter. (Just between you and me, Ingram and Mullally are collaborating on an upcoming project that distills their extensive experience into instruction for folks like you and me. Stay tuned.
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Once you’ve looked at those videos, you’ll want to practice, so order a putting mat and/or chipping net online. My Golf Spy picked the BirdieBall 4×14 as its best putting mat but the company has a variety of customizable products. Lots of other companies make comparable mats at various price points and in a full range of sizes. A chipping net is a compact and convenient way to hone your short game at a reasonable price. My choice would be the GoSports Chipster. It’s about $60, includes three nets of various sizes and can be used indoors with foam balls or outside with real golf balls.
Find some (virtual) friends with common interests. I’m a member of the Stanley Thompson Society and the Golf Historical Society of Canada. If you’re interested in the history of the game in this country and/or being a collector of anything golf, the GHSC is a fantastic resource.
Fantasy pools, such as PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, can be a blast if you need some heated competition to warm you up during the winter. Or you can organize your own fantasy league using online resources and invite your friends and colleagues to participate.
You may not have access to that Golden Tee game down at the local pub but you can order the home edition if you’re addicted. More affordable options are video games such as the highly rated PGA TOUR 2K21. Golf nut Shawn Bell of Kelowna, B.C., has not only played the game since its first release several years ago but has actually designed a course for it. He says he enjoys the experience for many reasons including the fact that “it provides me with an outlet to spend time thinking about and playing the game I enjoy so much. There is also the ability to play with others live which is pretty cool. Played a round with an acquaintance in Ireland the other night. It was fun and a social interaction, playing golf, that would otherwise be impossible.”
If, like me, you were late to the world of podcasts, a podcast is a conversation or discussion you can download to your personal device and listen to at your leisure. Makes for great company when you’re walking the dog or when you’re just hankering for the sound of someone else’s voice. (Although I do get some odd glances when I bark back at them when they don’t share my own—indisputably correct—opinion.) There are lots of terrific golf podcasts including some with great Canadian content that I subscribe to like Flagstick.com’s TeeTalk, Golf Talk Canada and Swing Thoughts with Tim O’Connor and “Humble” Howard Glassman.
And, remember, in the words of Ernest Hemingway,
“When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be the happiest.”
That won’t be a problem for us golfers!