Head to Southern California in June and you’re bound to hear the term “June Gloom.” When much of the country might be finally enjoying a bit more sun in the sky, SoCal is often cloaked in a bed of clouds. This week I realized that June Gloom isn’t just some meteorological phenomenon, it’s also a golf phenomenon.
Over the last couple of days I have had a few conversations with fellow golfers in the northeast about their golf games. The theme in all the conversations was the same: their game wasn’t where they would like it to be. One skipped out on a qualifier, one asked what to do after a bad weekend of golf, and another one said his handicap had “plateaued.”
This time of year in New England is golf’s version of June Gloom.
The golf season in the northeast over the past couple of years has extended itself for a few reasons. The winters have been a bit more mild, pushing rounds into late November and even December. My last round of 2020 was on December 15, and that was after we received a bit of snow. With the mild winters, courses are also opening a bit earlier. The third caveat is that indoor facilities are exceptional these days and more accessible than ever.
Even five years ago it was challenging to find a good location to hit balls when courses closed for the winter. For the diehards, golf can be a year-round sport now, with 8/9 months to play outside and 3/4 months indoors. Most diehards will find an opportunity to travel to a warm spot and play golf, too.
Golfers have less rust to scrape off when they emerge from the cold, dreary winter. However, that leads to different expectations. It’s a bit of a running joke among golfers that suffer through winter that the first round is often far better than any rounds that follow it. Expectations are low and gratitude is high. There’s very little golf static in our brains. My first round was down in Charleston in late February, and I played very well. It was the best round I played during the trip. I wasn’t surprised, though, the first round is nearly always like that.
Our ability to play more golf makes this time of year a frustrating one for golfers. We might have a handful of rounds under our belt along with some range sessions. The warm weather and sun give us the sense that we should be hitting our golfing stride. Sadly, this is where the June Gloom comes in. Those low expectations that we had from March-May change with the calendar. June marks peak golf season, and we’re ready to play our best golf!
Not so fast.
Yes, we’ve played some golf. And yes, we’ve practiced. And yes, we’ve scrolled through Instagram and searched on Youtube for the perfect solution to our slice, hook, chucks, skulls, and (gulp) shanks. We should be cured of all golf ailments by June, right. After all, the hot summer sun is the ultimate disinfectant, right? RIGHT?
Sadly, the months of preparation have set many of us up for disappointment. Maybe it’s golfing in wind and rain through the spring that messes with our golf game. Maybe it’s the act of trying too hard and thinking too much about the sport. Maybe we watch pros and college kids on the TV hitting fairways and greens and making every four-footer for par.
We don’t watch Steph Curry and Kevin Durant and then go out to our driveway or park and start shooting threes with the expectation of making all of them. Yet, put us on the first tee box after a Sunday of watching golf tournaments on TV and we think the odds of a lifetime round are better than ever… until they’re not.
But just like June Gloom in Southern California, it will come to an end. The season is long and the game too fickle. July will come around and good shots will string together to make good holes and then maybe good holes will combine for some better rounds. You can define “better” however you would like. That’s the beauty of the game, we get to define our own success and reset our own expectations. The first few months of the northeast golf season are filled with joyous gratitude - we’re outside, walking with friends, and chasing a golfball around for a few hours. For some reason, some of those idyllic images of the game slip away by June. They don’t have to.
How can we fight June Gloom? Maybe it’s time to spice it up - play a new course, use a half set, use a red golf ball, play Stableford instead of keeping score, play from the forward tees, double-knot your shoes, walk the entire course backwards. Whatever it takes!
Any seasoned golfer knows that trying too hard at the same things will just put us deeper in a hole. Shock the system and that June Gloom might just turn into July Glory.