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How to keep warm on the course in cold weather

Bill Henzler of St. Petersburg makes a chip shot while playing at Mangrove Bay Golf Course. According to weather.com, temperatures in St. Petersburg reached the mid-40s, though wind gusts made it feel closer to the mid-30s. [CHRIS ZUPPA, Times]

CHRIS ZUPPA | Times

Bill Henzler of St. Petersburg makes a chip shot while playing at Mangrove Bay Golf Course. According to weather.com, temperatures in St. Petersburg reached the mid-40s, though wind gusts made it feel closer to the mid-30s. [CHRIS ZUPPA, Times]

It hasn't felt like it this week, but it's golf season in Florida. Tee times are at a prime, and a little cold weather isn't a reason to cancel a round. The best thing is to be prepared and adjust. The game is different when temperatures are in the 40s and 50s and the wind is strong. We asked local professionals for advice on how to play in cold weather. Here are their tips.

Take time to stretch

Stretching should be part of a preround routine no matter the weather, but especially when it's cold. Loosen the muscles and take extra warmup swings. Tight muscles will cause bulky, awkward swings.

"The most important tip is to make sure you stretch,'' said Jason Blanchard, president of Summerfield Crossings Golf Club in Riverview. "As the weather drops, your muscles tighten. If you don't warm up, your swing will be drastically different than playing on those warm-weather days."

Dress the part

The key to dressing warmly is tight-fitting nylon shirts and long johns. It also doesn't hurt to wear a beanie and gloves between shots.

"It is preferred to have long-sleeve, mock-neck shirts that are snug to the skin,'' said Scott Wycoff, PGA professional at World Woods Golf Club in Brooksville. "This helps keep the body heat next to the skin and allows for more layers. The goal is to not have a lot of bulky clothing. Bulky clothing promotes a poor posture (less bend at the hips) and a more rounded swing, which creates more shots to the right side of the golf course (for right-handed golfers)."

Ron Moxom, assistant pro at Cypress Run Golf Club in Tarpon Springs, said he keeps warm by wearing fleece clothing from performance apparel-maker Under Armour, a stocking cap and HotHands, packets placed in jacket pockets to keep hands warm.

"Another little secret," he said. "I'll cup my hands and blow into them before each shot.''

Several other pros suggested charcoal fueled hand warmers, which use charcoal sticks in gloves that fit into jacket pockets, or air activated disposable hand warmers.

Cold weather means less distance

Golf balls do not like cold weather. The ball does not compress as it should when it's cold outside, which turns them into rocks. That means a 150 yard shot is going to take more club than you're used to hitting.

"When playing golf in cold weather you must understand that the golf ball will not travel as far in the air with your normal swing,'' Wycoff said. "In cold weather, the golf ball does not compress as it would in warm weather, causing your shots to travel a shorter distance. It is recommended to use one more club when playing in cold weather."

Another trick is to bring in your clubs from the garage or trunk the night before playing. And play more than one ball during a round.

"Rotate golf balls every hole,'' said Kennie Sims, Director of Golf Operations for the Tampa Sports Authority. "Keep one in your pocket so that your body temperature can keep the rotated golf ball warm."

Cold means hard greens

Do not send your approach shots right at the flag when it's cold. Most greens are like parking lots when the weather is like this, so it's best to hit a little short and allow the ball to run.

"Make sure when hitting your approach shots to play for the "bounce factor,'' Blanchard said. "The ball will definitely not stop as quickly as it does on lush moist greens.''

Cold also means greens will be faster, so remember that when lining up a 20-footer.

Don't go changing

Yes, it is more difficult to make a full swing with so many layers of clothes. But the worst thing to do is make a swing change due to the weather. You should hit an extra club or two, but use the same swing.

"The tendency when it is cold is to want to shorten your backswing and speed up your tempo, almost trying to hurry up and get the shot over with,'' said Richard Veghte, head professional at Westchase Golf Club in Tampa. "Also, many layers of clothing can restrict your shoulder turn, thus shortening your backswing. It is important to keep a consistent tempo and make your same shoulder turn to get the club in the proper backswing position.''

Protect the skin

While dressing right, stretching and taking care of the equipment is important, also think about taking care of yourself. St. Petersburg Country Club head professional Terry Decker has a few tricks of the trade for playing in frigid conditions.

"Before I tee off I like to run my hands under some hot water to get them nice and loose,'' Decker said. "That gives me more feel on the club. Also, take some vaseline and rub it on your face before you go out. That will help keep the skin from drying out.''

Take a walk

If the course you're playing allows walkers, this is a good time to exercise that option. If courses insist golfers use carts, then try to walk to as many shots as possible.

"Walk when you can,'' Sims said. "Let your cart buddy freeze.''

. fast facts

84th annual New Year's Invitational

When/Where: Today-Sunday, St. Petersburg Country Club.

Field: 136. (97 college students, three graduates, seven mid amateurs, 29 seniors).

Divisions: Championship (97 college students, three graduates). Mid Amateur (Seven). Senior (29).

Course: Par 72, 6,912 yards.

Tee Times: Shot gun start at 11 a.m. today-Saturday. 9:30 a.m. start on Sunday.

Admission: Free.

Contact: (727) 867-2111. www.stpetecountryclub.com.

Notable: This is one of the largest fields in the tournament's 84 years, according to tournament director Richard Hope. Last year there were 123 golfers entered…Last year's winner, Peter Uihlien of Bradenton and Oklahoma State is not entered in the tournament. He is representing the U.S. at the Copa de las Americas in Argentina…Tyson Alexander, son of six-time winner Buddy Alexander, is a University of Florida senior and entered in the tournament. There are four Gators in the tournament. There are six players entered from the University of California.

Rodney Page, Times staff writer

How to keep warm on the course in cold weather 01/06/10 [Last modified: Thursday, January 7, 2010 11:22am]

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