It’s All About Layers

By Jim McNaney

Who could ever forget the iconic scene in “A Christmas Story” when Ralphie’s little brother Randy was dressed up in so many layers by his mother, the kid could hardly move. Personally, I get flashbacks to my youth in suburban Chicago in the early 1970’s. Those one-piece snow suits were hot, uncomfortable and even more of a mistake if you had too much hot chocolate.

Unfortunately, until recently, trying to extend the golf season in Minnesota meant either wearing something so bulky you could not swing or putting on so many layers you need a suitcase to put everything in if the day suddenly got a bit warmer.

Now, I won’t pretend to be the next coming of Marty Hackel, Golf Digest’s resident fashion expert. No one has ever accused me of being “trendy” when it comes to fashion. What I can do is give you some food for thought as to what is out there to make your late season rounds a bit more comfortable. At least you can’t blame your clothes for you performance.

The performance fashion industry has made massive strides over the past few years in materials that are warm, thin and flexible enough to make a proper golf swing. The undisputed industry leaders are Under Armour. Founded in 1996 by a former college football player, Under Armour started as a way for football players to have under garments that kept players warm while playing. At the same time, he searched for materials that would whisk moisture away from the body. This allowed players to remain active in cold weather and not have the sweat make those under garments so wet that it would defeat the purpose of keeping someone warm. Needless to say, they’ve come a long way from football under garments.

Today, Under Armour has gone all-in on golf apparel. That said, they still offer a full line of base layer clothing that work very well in Minnesota in the fall. They even offer insulated pants that look, at first glance, like your summer golf pants, but on closer examination are incredibly warm. No more loud rain pants just to stay warm.

There is more to the story than just base layers. In fact, Foot-Joy has an entire line of cold weather gear that, when used together, allow play on even the frostiest Minnesota morning. Ranging from about $45 to $140, Foot-Joy offers about a dozen or so “mid-layer” options ranging from light mock turtlenecks to full on fleece. Layer on top of that, one of the dozen or so outer layers they offer, and you’d be ready to hit the links right after shoveling your driveway.

Not to be left out in the cold…see what I did there…Nike and Adidas also offer full line-ups of warm weather gear that is so incredibly thin and light it’s hard to believe they’d work. But boy do they work well.

Companies are even getting into the act with footwear. While the Adidas Climaheat BOA might not be the most attractive golf shoe with its high-top design, the multi-layer construction keeps your feet comfortable and warm throughout the entire round.

If you don’t want to run out and buy specific shoes for the last few rounds of the season, most two-year waterproof shoes are made with Gore-Tex liners that should provide reasonable warmth.

For me, fall is the best time of the year to play golf in Minnesota. The colors are spectacular, the courses are in great shape and there are not as many people playing so rounds go fast. The only thing we need to do is make sure we are ready for the elements.

My typical fall ensemble consists of a base layer like Under Armour, a traditional golf shirt, then a mid-layer fleece or quarter zip and an outer-layer jacket mainly just at the start of the round. I do recommend the warmer pants. That might be the best innovation in the past two or three years. Then, my secret, thin ski socks. Those provide excellent warmth and still allow your feet to fit into your normal golf shoes.
Now that most of your body is covered, don’t forget the two most important areas; your hands and your head. For the head, almost any toque will do.

For the hands, you have basically two choices. Use your normal glove and wear “cart gloves” in between shots. While many companies like Nike, Foot-Joy and even Wilson Staff offer these, they tend to be a pain to put on and take off after every shot. One advantage is you can place hand warmers inside those so they will be nice and toasty after you hit.

Your second option is a pair of winter playing gloves. Most companies offer these but, according to the website, Golf Gear Geeks, the best 5 are Mizuno Thermagrip Winter Gloves, Foot-Joy Wintersoft Gloves, HJ Xtreme Winter Performance Golf Gloves, Nike Men’s All Weather II Golf Gloves and Zero Restriction Windstopper Winter Gloves.

So there you go folks. Layer up without worrying you’ll look like Ralphie’s kid brother and get out there and enjoy the last rounds of the year. Most likely, knowing our weather, these options will not only help you in the fall, but probably well into May as well!

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