For many, dropping temperatures and fallen leaves mark the unfortunate end of the golf season.  If modest green fees and decreased wait times aren’t enough to keep you on the links, the following shall provide further incentive not to take that 5-month hiatus you’ve become accustomed to.  Instead of fleeing to a heated driving range or packing your sticks away altogether, consider it a privilege to test your skills in Fall’s blustery environment. For three years running, February has been the sole month to prevent me from playing 18.

I’m not endorsing a Saturday foursome on a 28 degree day in mid-January, simply encouraging you to make it past thanksgiving.  High winds, firm greens, and frigid conditions make October and November ideal for honing in on your unexplored potential.  Dubious bounces catalyzed by precarious terrain not only offer a multitude of shape and flight options, they expose a golfer’s most detrimental swing flaws.  Remember that inviting little 340 yard par 4 that fit your eye so pleasantly all summer? Suddenly, the howling head wind you hear pounding at your eardrum added 3 clubs to your approach shot, or worse, provoked your big miss; a snap hook into the trees.  Additionally, that docile little collection area over the back propels balls OB like a concrete trampoline. A routine two putt for par just became up and down to salvage double.  A dogleg with an unflattering crosswind requires you to flirt with disaster, demanding a draw that rides the hazard line in hopes of holding the fairway. There’s a reason European golfers are more versatile than Floridians. Though this assertion is not absolute, their games tend to translate better because they learned to compete in a diversity of conditions.

The volatility of late-season play presents the Sunday stud with unfamiliar obstacles, strips away his confidence, and coerces him to navigate recognizable layouts from new and uncertain vantage points.  The inclement weather provides the adversities necessary for improvement.  When the benefits from the practice range become futile, the golfer must rely on feel, innovation and creativity.  He will uncover and magnify a repertoire of abilities previously hidden from his golfing consciousness.  Tapping into and expanding his skill set, which, had he not teed it up double-gloved in long sleeves, would have remained dormant and concealed due to his traditional practice regimen.  High-ball hitters must learn the knockdown shot and wedge loyalists to bump an 8 iron.

Need another bonus? Consider the prospect of finally defeating your most formidable opponent. We all have that friend/foe: the seemingly unflappable, relentlessly consistent playing partner.  We had victory in our sights once before, before our final tee shot ended up in a fairway divot the size of Kevin Stadler’s left breast inevitably making triple and losing by one.  Those openings arise more often in fall and winter, when golf is riddled with variables and enough inconsistences to keep competition close and finishing holes more dramatic. It’s an adventure that revisits the essence of the game itself.  Those inflicted with the golf obsession share a masochistic need to have their ego’s shattered; and more significantly, a ferocious hunger to defy preconceived standards for greatness. Fortunately, a flush long iron into the 18th green yields a gratification, immediate and sufficient enough to bury the countless mishits that preceded.  In my professional (enough) opinion, the benefits of “off-season” golf far outweigh the agony of its elements.  Just like every other round you’ve played, perfection can’t be achieved, only pursued.  As the amateurs of warmer climates plateau, take advantage of the luxury you’ve been afforded. Grab a skullcap, trade your beers for the hard stuff and go play.