CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Now that summer’s over – and where on earth did it go? – it’s not at all necessary to immediately consign your clubs to a corner of the garage and leave them there until next spring. Unless you live in Minneapolis or Missoula, where winter is coming at any moment and, in fact, might already be here.
Whether you buy into global warming, there’s no denying that summers are getting hotter, no matter where you live. If the golf season is short in your area, you’ll play on any day that’s sunny and ends in “y,” no matter how hot it is.
But if you live in a place where summer morphs gently into fall, the cooler months could be the best of the year to play golf. Ask many players in warm-weather states and they will tell you that sweater weather is their favorite golf season.
The first pullover day of the fall was last week here in Charlotte. What that means is you wear a pullover and shorts to a morning starting time and shed the pullover when the day warms up. That’s the theory.
One day, four of us went out for a 10:44 a.m. tee time. On the drive to the course, the temperature on the dash read 52 degrees. Upon arrival at the course, the breeze had picked up and turned into a bona fide wind, which made the chill downright frosty. But a glance up and down the driving range and the first tee saw a multitude of players in the pullover-and-shorts autumn uniform.
That’s what you call optimism, and no one has that quality in more quantity than do dedicated golfers. Even if the day’s high temperature comes between 2:57 and 3:01 p.m., it’s bound to warm up – eventually – and you can shuck the long sleeves. Besides, if it turns out that you have to leave the pullover on throughout the round, at least you’ve done the smart thing in the first place.
In this part of the world, fall is one of the high seasons for golf at the resorts in the Pinehurst area and on the Grand Strand of North and South Carolina. Summer can be unbearably hot in those areas, and if you can stand the heat, in some places they practically give the golf away. Courses are much busier – and pricier – during the autumn months when temperatures are still warmish but much more pleasant.
The best part is that most golf courses are in their finest condition of the year. In the Carolinas, many courses were struck with winter kill during an unusually icy and frigid winter. But having had a summer to recover, many places – especially the high-end resorts and private clubs – feature conditions that are borderline pristine, with tight, firm fairways and quick greens.
At home, one of the benefits of fall golf is less-crowded courses. When the kids start back to school and football season begins in earnest, fair-weather players go on hiatus and more weekend morning starting times open up. Even if you’re a football fanatic, you still can play golf in the morning and be home to catch the afternoon games because the pace picks up in the autumn. Starting in September, you’re much less likely to have to endure five-hour rounds.
And if you have the disease so badly that you can’t stay away from Golf Channel, the fall part of the professional season can be good fun to watch. You’ll see occasional stars such as Phil Mickelson and Jordan Spieth, who have committed to play at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas. But you also will get a good look at players whose names you might not recognize but who could be stars of the future – such as Kevin Tway, who won the recent Safeway Open.
The European Tour season is still in full throat. You’ll see the best European players – and some of the top Americans – as that tour winds up its Race to Dubai in November. And the LPGA is running hard toward its Race to the CME Globe, which also ends in November.
But given your druthers, if you’d rather play than watch, you couldn’t pick a better time to do so.
The two saddest days of the year can be (1) when daylight saving time ends and (2) when you have to put up the golf shorts. Until then, take advantage of sublime autumn days. They will be gone much too quickly.
Mike Purkey has written about golf for more than 30 years for a number of publications, including Golf Magazine and Global Golf Post. He lives in Charlotte, N.C. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @mikepurkeygolf