Critical Weather Tool for Winter Golfers

Each winter, my friends and I patronize several public golf courses within a hundred-mile radius of where we live. The courses are ones that stay open through the winter as long as they aren’t covered with snow, but sometimes it’s hard to know for sure whether they’re open or not, because we have to leave home before anyone is likely to be in the golf shop to answer the phone. That means we sometimes arrive at a course only to discover that we won’t be playing there that day after all:

Tunxis Plantation Golf Course, December 21, 2014

Actually, on the day shown in the photo above, we found a course that really was open, after making a bunch of calls from the parking lot. Recently, I discovered a trick that would have saved us a lot of driving that day. The Wundermap feature of the website Weather Underground includes links to webcams associated with many of the public and private weather stations in its vast network. If there’s a functioning webcam near a course you’re hoping to play, you see check the actual conditions, in real time, before you leave home, like this:

Oops—no golf today.

Member-Guest News (Part Three): Six Proven Ways to Change the Weather

P1140008

There was heavy rain in the forecast all weekend during my club’s member-guest, but hardly any rain actually fell. My brother and I used our umbrellas to protect our golf bags before we teed off on Saturday morning, but that was pretty much it for the bad weather. Most of the rain that did fall fell on Friday night, making things much easier for Gary (our terrific superintendent) and his crew. 

For the most part, the rain went either north or south of us. I take partial credit, because I’ve developed a number of effective techniques for warding off golf-threatening storms. Probably my greatest success was on a summer weekend almost twenty years ago. I had a big golf game planned for the following day. The forecast was lousy, so all afternoon I kept my TV tuned to the Weather Channel. Every time the radar map came on, I dropped what I was doing and stared. It is sometimes possible to create a localized high-pressure system by exerting fierce mental and optical energy on particular parts of the screen. On rare occasions, I have succeeded in diverting full-blown tropical depressions.
radar
The following morning, I read only the sports section of the newspaper and never turned on the TV or consulted Weather Underground. Checking the forecast on the day of a golf game greatly increases the likelihood of rain, because rain clouds, like wild animals, can smell fear. As I left the house for the course, at eleven, my wife asked if I would be home for dinner. “I’ll probably be back before lunch,” I said. “It’s supposed to rain hard all afternoon — why don’t we plan on taking the kids to a movie?”
That was a desperate move on my part. The sky looked so dark at that moment that I had felt compelled to invoke the Law of Maximum Irritation. The law states that the likelihood of completing a given round of golf increases in direct proportion to the amount of trouble the golfer will get into when it is over. By virtually promising my wife that I would be available for a wholesome family outing in the afternoon, I came close to guaranteeing that the storm would hold off at least until Titanic was sold out.
As I drove to the course, the morning’s sprinkles became real rain, but I never turned the wipers above intermittent speed. Running the wipers at full force encourages a storm and may promote lightning. I also opened my window a few inches and put on both my sunglasses and my golf glove.
Alas, those bold measures didn’t work. In fact, the rain became more intense as I pulled into the parking lot. So, in a final heroic attempt to appease the golf gods, I threw a maiden into the volcano: I sacrificed the back nine. “Just give me nine holes!” I cried, while smiting the dashboard with my (gloved) left fist. “Rain all you want! Just hold the thunder until two-thirty!”
And that, finally, was enough. The clouds began to break up just before we teed off, and the rain stopped altogether before we made the turn. Of course, I was in big trouble when I finally got home, after several beers, at seven o’clock. But I didn’t care. To tell you the truth, I almost always get in trouble when I play golf.

 

P1090771

Why Golfers Should Watch the Radar, Not the Forecast

Smallest Sunday Morning Group on record, Sunday, December 16, 2012.

Smallest Sunday Morning Group on record, Sunday, December 16, 2012.

We had a good group and decent weather this past Saturday, but the forecast for Sunday was horrible—rain, snow, “ice pellets”—so Hacker (real name) decided the prudent thing would be to cancel the regular meeting of the Sunday Morning Group (because of “upcoming weather”) and concentrate on planning our second annual S.M.G. Christmas party and Global Warming Invitational.

When I woke up on Sunday morning, however, there was no precipitation of any kind, either in my yard or on my Wundermap (the most important piece of golf equipment after the 34-degree hybrid). Just to be sure, I checked Raindar, on my smartphone. Yup: nothing. I then sent an emergency email, to which I received just one response, from Mike A. (Hacker had recklessly committed to taking his grandchildren to Cabela’s.) Mike and I met at the course at 10:00.

There was a tiny bit of icy precipitation of some kind, which accumulated in trace amounts on the wheels of my pushcart:

Slight icy build-up, after eighteen holes.

Slight icy build-up, after eighteen holes.

But the weather was actually decent, and there was no one else on the course, and we finished in a little over two hours. We played our regular Sunday game (net best ball, stroke play, plus skins), but with one-man teams (of which we had two). I was a stroke ahead after nine holes, but Mike annihilated me on the back and finished with a total of 8 over par—the best score ever recorded by a one-man team. We split the skins (with five each) and tied the Money Hole (No. 2, because there were two of us), so he ended up winning five dollars. Here’s our scorecard, which I kept in Sharpie on a torn-apart Titleist box:

Scorecard 12-16-12

The moral of this story is: make no irrevocable golf decision based on a forecast alone.,