Originally created 01/07/01

Cold weather keeps golfers off fairways



Area golf pros have had plenty of time to catch up on paperwork in their offices. They sure haven't rung up many green fees at their cash registers in the pro shop.

Play was down as much as 50 percent at some courses because of Augusta's coldest December since 1961.

The Forest Hills Golf Club is a prime example. The most-played public course in the area each year, Forest Hills had 3,450 rounds played there in December 1999. In 2000, the number dropped to 1,740.

"It's been bad, tremendously bad," said Forest Hills head pro Robby Watson. "We were closed for eight or nine days in December, a total that is unusually high for us."

In December, the high temperature was in the 60s five days, in the 50s eight days, in the 40s 15 days and in the 30s three days.

The coldest day was Dec. 30, when the high topped out at 34.

"When the high doesn't reach the 50s, your play really is affected," said Belle Meade head pro Gregg Hemann.

"When it's in the 40s and the wind is blowing at 15-20 mph out here, the wind chill is in the teens," said Kurt Kaltz, head pro at Pine Ridge Country Club in Edgefield, S.C. "Nobody can stand that."

"Someone said the highs have been about eight degrees colder in December this year than last year," said Jones Creek pro Brent Smithers. "It doesn't seem like that much, but there's a big difference between 46 degrees and 38 degrees."

"We're like the farmers - we depend on the weather for our income," said Persimmon Hill pro Mo Mullinax. "Unfortunately, it's one of the bad sides of the business. If the weather is good, nine times out of 10, the golf is good."

The pros use different phrases to say the same thing: play is way off because of the cold weather.

"It's brought it to zero, just about," said Midland Valley pro Steve Foss.

"Mighty, mighty slow," is the way Mullinax puts it. "I've been in the business 18 years and I've never seen it like this."

"The weather has almost put a stop to our play," Smithers said.

"There were very few days in December when we opened on time."

Clubs won't open their courses for play until their greens are thawed out. Walking on frozen greens will kill the rye grass.

At Midland Valley, it has been between 12:30 and 1 p.m. on most days before the greens are thawed out.

"Look what that does to your day," said Foss. "If you tee off at 1:15, it's almost dark when you finish. We need spring here about Jan. 20."

Even when the greens have thawed out and are suitable for play, that doesn't mean there will be any takers.

"We had days in December when nobody played," Mullinax said. "Even on the days we've opened at 11, there hasn't been anybody beating on the door trying to play before that."

The courses did get some relief over the weekend when the highs were in the 50s each day.

"It's like a heat wave," Pine Ridge's Kaltz said.

Belle Meade's Hemann couldn't get too excited over a couple of mild days.

"I heard we're going to have a real winter," Hemann said. "We can't wait for spring around here."

ADOPT-A-HOLE:

You've probably heard of adopt-a-highway, where a group or person helps sponsor the upkeep of a highway. Now comes adopt-a-hole.

Woodside Plantation in Aiken has introduced this member-sponsored program to help beautify the club's two 18-hole courses. In the first day of the program, more than 200 members turned out. In addition to picking up pine cones and sticks, they trimmed yardage markers and filled in divots.

Chilling out

Here is a list of the high temperatures in Augusta for the month of December:

Dec. 1: 60

Dec. 2: 48

Dec. 3: 66

Dec. 4: 50

Dec. 5: 59

Dec. 6: 50

Dec. 7: 59

Dec. 8: 67

Dec. 9: 49

Dec. 10: 46

Dec. 11: 49

Dec. 12: 66

Dec. 13: 41

Dec. 14: 48

Dec. 15: 54

Dec. 16: 53

Dec. 17: 68

Dec. 18: 51

Dec. 19: 39

Dec. 20: 37

Dec. 21: 45

Dec. 22: 46

Dec. 23: 44

Dec. 24: 53

Dec. 25: 45

Dec. 26: 43

Dec. 27: 42

Dec. 28: 43

Dec. 29: 46

Dec. 30: 34

Dec. 31: 40