The recent June-in-January weather disappeared over the weekend, but golfers and golf course operators could not complain after temperatures returned to the norm for winter.
“We’re smiling at Northwoods,” pro Greg McBride said in expressing a sentiment felt throughout the area.
“Definitely welcome,” echoed Oak Hills pro Jeff Schaeffer.
“Great,” Lin Rick general manager E Rutherford said. “Last weekend was one of the best we’ve had regardless of the time of year.”
Business boomed at golf courses during the record-breaking warm spell with reports of increases of up to 50 percent over most winter months.
“We’re going to have a big jump over our normal January,” McBride said. “We usually do 900-to-1,000 rounds in January, and we had 750 through last weekend with two-and-a-half weeks to go in the month. Even with the shorter (winter) days, this is going to be an outstanding January.”
Rutherford noted that last winter’s warmer-than-usual weather created the busiest winter in five years and he said, “We’re ahead of that pace after last weekend. We had about 160 players both days and that’s about all we can handle this time of the year. We didn’t have a great December with all the rain, but January is great.”
Schaeffer estimated a 30 percent increase over the normal January at Oak Hills and said the club had 518 rounds last Friday through Sunday (Jan. 11-13).
“We over-seed, so we’re green from tee to green, and that’s always a plus in the winter,” he said, “but the warm weather really makes a difference, too.”
Weather, obviously, affects courses throughout the year and Fort Jackson Golf Club director of golf Mike Casto, who said his club’s two courses are well above budget for January play, pointed out that projected rounds are often lost in summer’s hot temperatures.
Courses “are at the whim of the Internet,” Northwood’s McBride said. “People plan two or three days ahead and if the Internet says it’s going to rain, the course is empty even if the sun is shining and the temperature is perfect. On the other hand, if the Internet says the weather will be great for golf and we get rain, the pro shop is full of people waiting for the rain to stop.”
Any downside to the warm spell? “Well, the temperature tricks the grass and some of the fairways are trying to ‘green up’ too early,” Rutherford said, “but we can’t complain. It’s been wonderful for golf.”
Elgin’s Kelli Murphy (junior girls), Greenville’s Keenan Huskey (junior boys) and Greer’s Dawn Woodard (women) have earned Carolina Golf Association player of the year awards for 2012.
A junior at Lugoff-Elgin High and the Columbia women’s champion, Murphy enjoyed a stellar year that included advancing to the finals of the Carolinas Junior Girls tourney and the quarterfinals of the U.S. Junior Girls championship. Huskey, who has committed to play at South Carolina, won both the Carolinas Junior Boys and the Carolinas PGA Junior championship. Woodard, a former Furman player, won the Carolinas and the South Carolina women’s match-play titles, the South Carolina women’s stroke-play championship and earned medalist honors at the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur.
S.C. courses ranked
Golf Digest’s “Greatest Golf Course” rankings for 2013-14 included Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course (21) and Hilton Head Island’s Harbour Town Golf Links (96) among the top 100.
The magazine’s top public courses include the Ocean Course (4), Harbour Town (18), May River Golf Club at Palmetto Bluff (Bluffton, 27), the Dunes Golf and Beach Club (Myrtle Beach, 52), Caledonia Golf and Fish Club (Pawleys Island, 97) and the TPC at Myrtle Beach (Murrells Inlet, 98).
Pine Valley Golf Club in New Jersey edged Augusta National for the best overall course in the magazine’s survey. Pebble Beach retained the No. 1 spot among public courses.