Last week I was lucky to play some great courses in Scotland, from Dornoch and Brora in the north, to Gullane outside Edinburgh. I was a bit unlucky to encounter some horrendous weather--the tail end of Hurricane Katia dumping lots of rain on the courses, then its aftermath with 40 m.p.h. winds.
But at one of the courses, Craigewan Links at Peterhead Golf Club, an unheralded beauty just north of Cruden Bay and Royal Aberdeen, its club professional for 30 years, Harry Dougal, was nice enough to caddie for me. And along the way, he gave me a lot of excellent advice for playing in bad weather. He had me hitting shots I would never have thought of, and with pretty good success. Over the next few weeks, I will return to Harry's sage lessons, and pass them on to you.
Here are some of Harry's tips you can put into play this weekend, especially if you're in the northeastern U.S., where we're getting hit with a lot of rain:
1. Pack at least two dry towels and put one in the bottom of your bag so your grips stay dry.
2. If you wear a glove, carry two or three spares, preferably in a zip-lock bag.
3. Make sure any waterproof clothing you buy is generous in fitting and does not restrict your movements in any way.
4. Thin to win. Try to pick the ball cleanly from wet turf. Even a slightly fat shot can be
disastrous. And a thin approach shot will probably still hold a saturated green.
5. Be smart around the green. Surface water can accumulate very quickly, so check your route to the hole before playing any sort of running shot. Where ordinarily you would choose to chip the ball, you might find the aerial route is your most viable option.
6. Sand play--square up the clubface. When you face a greenside bunker shot and the sand is wet and compacted, your sand iron will not bounce as willingly as it would do normally. You must encourage the leading edge to dig, so set up this shot with the clubface relatively square. In severe conditions, use your pitching wedge.
7. Putting--play for less break. On a wet surface, the ball will not take the borrow as readily as it does on dry, quick greens because you have to hit the putt harder.
Thanks Harry. I'll come back to you in a week or so for some more tips from a wise Scottish pro.
In the meantime, I'd love to hear from readers about their best tips for playing in the rain. Or give me your worst disaster. Just click the comments button at the beginning of the article.