Originally published May 14, 2003
Your drives may be less than stellar, your chip shots imperfect. Club face technology is over your head. Regardless of your local forecast, however, basic golf umbrella skills are within every player’s reach. Merely master single-hand grip, balance, span, and umbrella structure, size and composition. With regular practice, you’ll see your wet game improve as the humidity rises and your handicap drops.
First: Single-Hand Grip. Releasing the span of the umbrella requires a body, arm and hand motion, that, with a bit of practice, will keep the rain where it belongs, in the water hazards and off your game. A good grip will help get you there. When the drops begin to fall, try the umbrella pros’ grip, the grip that the driest all use – the four knuckle wrap around zip grip. Don’t wait for lightning! Grasp the handle of the umbrella firmly, but not too firmly, with a horizontal thumb and evenly spaced fore and middle fingers. Flip the shaft handle up in a single deliberate continuous arc. Your umbrella sales professional can help you calculate the proper sweep of this arc, its depth, pitch and length, the one that’s just right for your raise and rotation. Keep the elbow in tight and don’t lose the umbrella to wayward wind gusts during the upward rotation. Watch the angle of the wrist!
The raise is key to staying dry. A quick and smooth rotation through the raise will help you reach maximum span with maximum speed with a raise that feels smooth and looks good. If you are right handed, use your right hand. If you are left handed, use your left hand. The sacrifice of upper body strength for switchers is not recommended for beginners. You can practice this motion at home with a short broom or small pet away from chandeliers and other overhead fixtures.
Second: Balance. Proper balance requires studied practice and concentration. Even the most expert raise and rotation is ruined by poor balance. A badly balanced umbrella will leave your torso soaked faster than you can say Mary Poppins at the Masters. Once the umbrella is fully rotated in raised position, it is essential that you read the angle and intensity of the wind and rain. With practice, you should be able to do this effortlessly during the raise well before deployment. Strong wind gusts, secondary wind shear and the occasional funnel cloud have caused, in rare circumstances, rotator cuff injuries resulting in months of indoor physical therapy not to mention needless lost dollars in umbrella repair.
Third: Span. The concept of span requires an honest assessment of your girth. The wider you are, the greater the span of the umbrella that is needed for dry effect. Too much span is simply wasted and prevents rainfall from evenly reaching the course, a problem in areas under drought restrictions. Too little span and you’re wet. Large spans require deft maneuvering and substantial upper body strength, however, and complicate balance. They also add elements to consider in structure and composition, but more on that later. If span is a problem, get out of the cart and walk a lot. Fourth: Size, Composition and Structure. Before executing a successful deployment, the right umbrella must accompany your bag. Sizing is important. While most of us purchase our umbrellas right “out of the stand,” it pays to consider a custom hold. Certain websites offer custom umbrellas with good span and structural characteristics tailored to the specific needs of your game, but you’ll have to provide them with information such as your arm length and body height, loft (how high you usually hold the umbrella), extension (how far out the umbrella is held), girth (important for span), and age and raise speed (important for shaft handle and structure composites), as well as your typical playing climate and local average rainfall characteristics. Advances in technology today permit the manufacture of golf umbrellas some of which have spans the size of circus tents. How do they do it? Take a look at the GolfinDolphin RainGear Device System’s Long Course Pro T17V12i FlexShaft GraphSteel High and Dry Touring Model™ for example. Engineered with weight and strength ratios optimized for different rotation angles and arc and lift characteristics, the T17V12i Touring Model has the lightest and strongest support shaft handle commercially made with a forged steel flange at the top center spoke matrix. Constructed with a power flex mix of moisture shedding SilverK2MaxGuard X™ graphite and surgical quality high-strength stainless pro steel, this model also has a slip resistant grip that’s one step away from flypaper and utilizes TuffTefMaxTexDropletRipGuard™ technology at the fabric crown. The T17V12i’s secret, however, is in its remarkable patented TaperWickDryForged™ high temperature carbolic smoked “SpiderHighSpreadXL™” tensile spokes which are able to deploy minimally 72% more span than conventional golf umbrellas while at the same time offering the most forgiving deployment available with less rotational pressure, and all of that combined with the Touring Model’s centered weighting for thoroughly accurate balance. It takes 215 hours to manufacture one of these beauties. Of course, there are literally dozens of umbrella models on the market from which to choose. Aimed at the low handicapper, some of the most expensive rain protectors have GPS locators and digital wind speed and moisture alert warning systems with private sound technology embedded in the liquid crystal titanium core found at mid-shaft handle. A fun extra available in limited models (borrowed from professional bass fishing gear) is the next generation micro fish finder that locates sterile triploid grass carp in deep water hazards. But remember, state-of-the-art electronics alone, no matter how fun or sophisticated, won’t keep you dry.
Written by Larry A. Berglas