By Robert Bicknell

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December 17, 2006

It's Sanity Clause time again...

I always dread when December rolls around because I know every joint in my body is gonna start aching due to the cold. My wife, despite being the loving person that she is, refuses to turn on the heaters in the house because she enjoys the sounds of my joints creaking, cracking and popping all winter long.

Sadly, this year looks like it might be colder than average, so I’m gonna suffer big time. Yes, I know that I say that every year...I’m hoping to be disappointed once or twice.

People can effectively be classified as two types: cold weather or hot weather. Although I grew up in New England and enjoyed winter sports such as ice hockey, sledding and crashing into trees at very high speeds while on skis, I definitely preferred the warmer weather sports more…especially golf. Once the temperature drops below 30 C, I start wearing sweaters.

Winter time for US golf professionals in the northern states meant packing the car and heading down south, usually to Florida, for the winter. The local pros down there called us "Snow Birds" and took great delight in emptying our wallets on the golf courses due to the differences in grass used on the courses. Most of us would three-putt for at least two weeks while adjusting to the Bermuda grass’ slower speeds and grain.

Still, I preferred that to imprinting my face on trees all over the ski slopes. This is probably another reason why I twitch whenever I hear that Phil Mickelson or Tiger Woods is taking time off from golf to go skiing. Didn’t Mickelson break his leg once doing that?

I’ve been fortunate to have never been stupid enough to break a leg skiing because I have a simple rule…if I’m about to lose control and wipe out, I aim for the fattest person I can find so they can absorb the impact…or I aim for a friendly looking tree to kiss.

Plucking bark out of my eyebrows after a day of skiing is a normal practice for me.

One of the sad things about Vietnam is that northern pros don’t have the time and luxury or a good excuse to go south for the winter because (a) winter is when the courses are the busiest as all the Snow Birds" come here to play and, (b) it doesn’t snow here, it just stays cold and miserable. If it snowed, we could all go to Phan Thiet for the winter…what a nice idea!

I have yet to see a clubhouse in Vietnam with a fireplace, which would be a nice touch after a round of golf on a very cold day. You could pretend you’ve been skiing. Yeah, I know…wood is too expensive to burn. They must be in cahoots with my wife.

Playing golf in the cold weather requires a different mindset and preparation. Yes, its nice that you don’t sweat while walking the course, but giving yourself a nasty chill while waiting to hit your shot isn’t a great idea either, so you need to dress properly.

A good lightweight under-layer is best and you can find these items on the internet or in countries where people have been know to freeze to death. What you don’t want to do is wear so many clothes that you look like the Michelin Man and can barely move. Wearing a hat to keep your body heat from escaping from your head and a pair of gloves to keep your hands warm in between shots is a good idea too.

All in all, I suppose that I should look at the bright side of all this…

This is the holiday season so the trees around Hoan Kiem Lake will soon be filled with lights which will delight both young and old...which is a nice way of saying I enjoy them as much as my daughter will. People will be in a happy and festive mood. Stores will be filled with shoppers and merchants will be looking at empty shelves on Christmas Day before taking off to Phan Thiet and Vung Tau for a winter break before stocking-up again for Tet.

I’m in the wrong business…

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