1. Putt wherever. A synthetic mat with an actual hole is your best bet for trying to recreate the pace and feel of a real putting green. Short of that, a coffee mug on your living room carpet will do. It might not make you a better putter, but spending three months hitting dead-straight six footers will at least make you think you're a better putter. And that, we all know, is half the battle.
2. Book a buddies trip. If only to soothe your golf-deprived psyche, you need to envision a time when you're wielding a 7-iron instead of a snow shovel. Do it with buddies now and you can all enjoy the entertainment of email trash talk ("I've seen your swing. There's no way you're a 9!").
3. Organize your golf photos. It's time to make sense of the endless series of golf photos you've taken over the years. The beautiful courses. Your playing partner's follow through. Those artsy shots of a ball resting near a flagstick. Do we smell coffee table book material? Maybe not one that anyone else will buy, but there are a number of online printing sites that will allow you to have something that looks like it was professionally bound.
4. Play golf on a simulator. So maybe pounding a ball into an oversized screen is not the same thing as feeling a breeze in your face and the grass under your feet. But the competitive exercise of trying to grind out a score is still rewarding, and you can transport yourself—even just temporarily—to some of the game's most desirable locations in the process.
5. Strengthen your golf muscles. Most experts will tell you building your core strength will serve you in multiple aspects of life, not just golf. But for the purposes of making it through a dreary winter, your workout routine should be inspired by images of you pumping a drive over a forced carry, advancing the ball out of heavy rough, or when appropriate, executing a powerful toss of your bag into a lake.
6. Follow Hank Haney's advice and make 100 swings a day. The noted instructor says the best way to groove a swing is to repeat it without worrying about where the ball is headed. You can do this in your backyard, or if you're blessed with high ceilings and an understanding spouse, you might not even have to leave the house.
7. Cue up old Masters clips. The azaleas. The calming intonations of Jim Nantz. That MUSIC. In the throes of a demoralizing winter, you occasionally need a reminder that a better life exists somewhere, if even through the flickering images on your screen. You can go the predictable route—Jack's win in 1986, Tiger in 1997—or just pick some random second round from the last decade. Watching the Masters—any Masters—is like an instant sprinkle of springtime.
8. Test out new equipment. There are all kinds of practical reasons why you should do this—your clubs are outdated, your swing has changed, someone got you a gift certificate, etc.—but there's no need to rush. Test out a bunch of new clubs. Hit into the nets at the store. Get tested on a launch monitor. Rinse. Repeat. Since there's probably not a lot of real golf in your immediate future, you should treat club buying the way some people turn testing food samples at Costco into lunch.
9. Upgrade your golf gear. Those saddles shoes you haven't worn in three years. That baggy shirt from a long ago member-guest you'll never wear again. It's time for a mass purging of all the outdated items in your golf collection and a re-stocking with fresh modern looks. Spend time online and in stores. Familiarize yourself with the styles that fit both you and the times. You might not reap the real benefits until spring, but you'll still get a lot out of the process.
10. Up your golf IQ. We could make the case that hunkering down with a winter's worth of Golf Digest will surely turn you into the smartest golfer in your foursome. But don't stop there. From non-fiction epics like Mark Frost's "The Greatest Game Ever Played" to instruction essentials like "Ben Hogan's Five Lessons" to fictional gems like our own Dan Jenkins' "Dead-Solid Perfect," there are stacks of golf books out there that will help make the winter pass quicker.
11. Play real golf. Outside. At some point they stopping cutting real holes into the greens, but it's not like they build a barricade around the golf course. At Golf Digest, we've determined you can play a perfectly enjoyable round of golf in anything above 35 degrees. The key is plenty of layers and not a lot of expectations. And of course, a warm cup of something at the end.
12. Take up bowling. Contributing Editor David Owen has described bowling as a "wintertime golf methadone"—an activity featuring a familiar mix of competitiveness, camaraderie, and bad shoes. "We bowled in golf clothes and golf hats. We referred to frames as holes and to games as rounds." Mostly what bowling offers in the absence of golf is a chance to get your buddies together to do something other than just drink and eat.
13. Play fantasy golf. The problem with watching golf on TV is you don't have the same investment in how someone else fares. Fantasy golf, meanwhile, allows you to sweat some tour players' 6-footer for par as if it were your own. It might be for money. It just might be for personal pride. Regardless, you'll find your paying closer attention than you have before.