T.S. Eliot had it wrong. April is not the cruelest month. At least not here in Wisconsin.
No, the cruelest months for me are January and February, months when I can most certainly guarantee I won’t be playing golf outside.
I’m not afraid of the cold. Extra layers, hand and toe warmers and a thermos of coffee will get me through a round in late November and even December. In fact, in 2019, we had a warm spell and I was out on the course the day after Christmas. Got interviewed on the news and everything.
Plus, when the ground is so hard, I take delight in the extra roll, or the frozen water hazard saving a ball that would’ve otherwise just trickled in at the edge.
And March. Well, that’s my birth month, so I recall spending my birthday at both extremes over the years, from being stuck in a blizzard to dining al fresco… However, here, you’re bound to get at least one of those perfect spring days in March where you can sneak in a round if the courses open up.
But January and February? The closest I usually get to a golf swing is a vigorous snow shoveling session.
But this year, with my renewed focus on improving my game, I’ve found that this time of year is surprisingly an ideal time for us cold-weather folks to work on our swings, even if it means getting a little creative.
For those of you living in Wisconsin and other chilly states, here are just a few of the things I’ve tried so far.
I have started taking weekly lessons at GOLFTEC and my coach, Todd Gamroth, has helped me realize that hitting into a net can be fun. “There are ways to practice during the winter and to get better,” Todd explained to me. “The winter is actually when some of the biggest changes are made in the golf swing-when you’re not worried about going out and playing the next day.”
I never thought about it that way before, but he’s right. I spent the whole month of January patiently working on drills with him and didn’t even take my driver–my favorite club in the bag–out once! I’ve been much more prone to “trust the process” during the winter.
I’ve heard rumors about outdoor facilities in my area, but had never checked them out. I was a little skeptical about how they operated in the snow and freezing temps, but I decided it was time to take a little drive to Gastrau’s Golf Center in Oak Creek, Wisconsin to find out.
The family-owned facility, which includes a driving range, mini-golf and foot golf courses, has been open since 1998 and began staying open year-round in 2004. In 2019, they began offering Toptracer, a program owned by TopGolf, that allows guests to monitor every shot they hit, as well as play games and virtual golf.
“We’ve been super-busy this winter,” owner Steve Gastrau told me, crediting Toptracer, combined with the increased interest in golf over the last year, due in part to the pandemic. In fact, this is the first year he’s had to plow his range in order to scoop up the golf balls, just to keep up with the demand. Steve said he’s been plowing the range himself after every snowfall this season.
On the day I visited, it was 30 degrees outside, but I soon had to remove my jacket thanks to the strong individual heaters warming each bay. I felt extremely comfortable spending an hour and a half playing St. Andrews on Toptracer.
I’m not sure how many other heated outdoor facilities exist across the state, or how many there are across the country, but I do highly suggest you check them out if there’s one in your vicinity. I learned that Gastrau’s even has a Toptracer league… definitely something to consider for next year!
Your Basement or Garage
If you have the space, consider turning your basement or garage into your own personal hitting bay. For as low was $100, you can purchase a basic net and mat and swing away anytime you please. I bought my dad his setup for Christmas and now we hit balls in his garage regularly. If you’re looking to splurge, you can even purchase your own launch monitor and simulator. (Sorry dad, maybe next year… ;))
Anywhere You Want
There are plenty of drills you can do inside where you don’t have to hit an actual ball, or even swing a club to work on improving your game and there are even more ways to turn that practice into fun, like how I’ve taken to “chipping” toys to my cats.
And, aside from practicing your swing, there are also plenty of other ways to use this time to improve the other areas of your game, such as increasing physical fitness or working on the mental part of your game, too, which are topics I’ll focus on in upcoming articles.
So, how are you practicing this off-season? Tag us in your photos on Instagram and Twitter and we might share them on our sites.
Good luck–stay warm and stay sharp!
NOTE: This story is adapted for Stick and Hack from Caitlin’s column in Wisconsin Golfer magazine, the monthly digital publication of the Wisconsin State Golf Association.
Caitlin Moyer has been hacking and hoping since she was 10. Over the course of her career in the sports industry, she's had the chance to play the game with LPGA, MLB and NBA players, as well as NASCAR drivers and celebrities, but her favorite playing partner is her dad (even though he is a stick). Inventor and sole practitioner of the one-flap™ golf swing (patent pending).
More Stick and Hack Content
Stick and Hack Club Membership
Start Connecting With Stick and Hacks All Over the World