Fair-weather fans: Why winter golf on the West Coast can be wondrous

As I drove past another busy golf course the other day, it brought to mind a conversation you might have with someone subjected to snow and wind-chill indexes at this time of year.

“Just finished shoveling the sidewalk, but I’ll probably have to do it again in the morning,” they typically say. “We’re expecting another few inches overnight.”

“How awful,” you respond, trying to sound sympathetic. “I won’t tell you what I did today.”

“Let me guess. You played golf.”

“Well, yeah. But that isn’t the best part.”

“You had a great round?”

“I did. But my score isn’t what was so great.”

“You won a lot of money?”

“Yes on that, too. But there was something else that made me even happier.”

“I give up.”

“I played in shorts.”

Nothing makes winter in the Midwest and Northeast feel colder and drearier to a serious golfer than talking to someone who gets to play our great game year-round.

Do we truly know how good we have it on the West Coast? Sure, we get some rain here and there, and the courses might be a little muddy at times. But this still is a great time of year to play. For a lot of reasons:

–In many locales, it’s the best weather of the year. I consider temperatures in the 60s – sweater weather – absolutely ideal.

–Not every course is that busy. People have Christmas shopping to do. Or they’re not willing to play if it’s wet. That means you should be able to play faster.

–The combination of cooler weather and less crowded courses means you often can play more than 18 if you want. I find it relaxing sometimes to play an extra nine holes, especially if the temperature is comfortable.

–There aren’t the distractions of pro tournaments you want to watch. Check out this month’s events. Hardly any. This is your time to play, while the pros take a break.

–The greens aren’t as fast. I actually like fast greens, but they tend to play a little easier in December if shots hit and stick and putts don’t break as much as usual.

–And here’s the best reason of all: It’s so much fun to tell friends and relatives back east all about it.

Not that you should gloat. It’s not becoming. Just state the cold, hard facts. The sunshine. No clouds in the sky. The relaxing pace. The promise of more days just like it in the near future.

People have laughed when I’ve told them this, but I’m completely serious when I say that when I moved from the frigid Midwest to the relatively balmy Bay Area 40 years ago, my No. 1 reason was to be able to play golf in the winter.

If you haven’t lived in the snow, you can’t begin to understand how depressing it is. White Christmas? Give me a break. The snow is gray and ugly before New Year’s Day.

And even if the snow melts and the temperature gets above freezing for a day or two, virtually all of the courses and driving ranges are closed from November to March. Golf is only a rumor – except, of course, when you turn on the television to watch a tournament in Hawaii, California, Arizona or Florida.

I never played golf with a substantial amount of snow on the ground while I lived back east, simply because it never appealed to me. It’s not really golf. “Snow golf” seems like as much fun as playing in the sand and heat of the Sahara.

So what are you waiting for? If today is a nice day, why aren’t you out there with everyone else?

And this certainly solves what to put on your Christmas list. Buying you a round of golf is a nice, affordable present, and the person who gave it to you most certainly will enjoy hearing all about how much you enjoy it – unless, of course, they live in the snow.

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