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.

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.,