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Playing in the Icebox

bkuehn1952

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I have always stopped playing golf when low temperatures turn the course into a solid block of ice.  For me, it isn’t fun to watch my ball carom off the green like an errant shot hit into a parking lot.  I don’t mind cold weather but playing on a concrete-like course is not my idea of golf.  So, why was I standing on the first tee at Whitmore Lake Golf Links last Friday? 

One of my regular golf partners, Mack, is a confirmed cart rider.  To my knowledge, he has not walked 18 holes in at least 20 years.  The only time we have ever walked a course was 9 holes when wet conditions prevented the use of carts.  He almost collapsed and I pushed his cart for him (while carrying my bag) over the last couple holes.

Mack called me early last week and reported that:

1.       Whitmore Lake Golf Links would be open on Friday, 12/13/2019.

2.       They were allowing carts

3.       The forecast was for 42 degrees

4.       The first tee time (10:00am) was open and only $12 for 18 holes with a cart.

Did I want to play?

Against my better judgment, I said “sure” and booked the time.  Of course, a close inspection of the forecast would have shown that the temperature was going to be below 32 degrees for the three days prior to Friday and the high on Friday would be at 4:00pm.  Details, details.

Friday morning rolled around and as I prepared to depart for “The Links” I noted that the temperature was 30 degrees and a light coating of frost covered everything.  I figured the course might declare a frost delay and bump us to Noon, so I checked the local breakfast places in the area.  There was a place right up the road from the course.

Upon arrival at the course, I noted several carts staged outside the clubhouse.  There was a light coating of freeze-thaw ice on some of the fairways but the course looked relatively green.  I went into the clubhouse and found the single employee on duty.  I asked if they were letting people out and he said “yes”.  He added that they only had the first nine open as the second nine had too much ice on it.  The raised wooden cart paths over the wetlands were too dangerous to drive on.  We could go around the first nine twice.  So that is how I found myself on the first tee at 10:00am.

Our first problem was getting a tee into the ground.  Eventually I found a hole made by someone earlier in the season and forced my tee into the same hole.  With that problem solved, we teed off and watched our balls careen down the fairway 300 yards.  Cool!  Of course, now we had to play a shot off a tight lie with as much “give” as a pool table’s surface.  We decided to move our balls laterally to the rough to give us a bit of cushion.  Even then, one needed to pick the ball.  Mack hit a lovely wedge to the center of the green and watched it bounce 20 feet in the air and scurry off the back.  I punched a low 7 iron 20 yards short of the green and ended up over the green, too.  As the round progressed, we took advantage of some prodigious drives.  We got better at judging the distance to expect the ball to bounce & roll on approaches.  We also discovered that if one hit the rough, the ball would almost always come up short; accuracy was still needed.

The greens were bumpy, sandy, aerated blocks of granite.  If one missed the green, a chip shot’s first bounce was significant but then the ball quickly lost momentum once it started rolling across the fuzzy, sanded surface of the green.  Similarly, putting was a challenge just to get the ball to the hole.

We toured the front nine twice in 2 hours and then had a nice breakfast.  We dressed appropriately so we never were cold.  And truth be told, it was kind of fun hitting 300 yards drives and then trying to maneuver the approach on to the green.  We celebrated our successes and we laughed a lot at our failures.  Yes, it was a good time.  Still, if Mack calls about this coming weekend, I plan to be “unavailable.”



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I may not be entirely sane, but that sounds like a lot of fun. Not to play in every time, but doing it once and just trying to do your best in the conditions. It helps that it was cheap though. I don't really want to pay full freight for that.

I played last December where there was no frost, the fairways were fine, but the greens were still frozen for the first 9 holes or so. That was a lot of fun because you would try to get the ball to bounce just in front of the green, and then the ball would have the right combination of spin and speed to stop on the green. There was a way to pull it off. It was really fun when it worked.

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This time of year, I can't be bothered to play in the cold.  I get a week in Pinehurst around Thanksgiving, another week in Palm Springs in January, that gets me enough golf fix for most of the winter.  If we get a couple of nice days, we'll see temps in the 50s, and I might give it a shot, but I don't want to be on the first tee when its still in the 30s. By mid-February, though, I'll start getting itchy and go out in very similar conditions to what you had.  But we'll get a soft surface with sun-thaw, and frozen underneath.  Hard yet sloppy.  Still, a day out playing golf with friends, and a cold beer sitting next to the fireplace in the clubhouse, there are a lot worse ways to spend a day.

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14 hours ago, DeadMan said:

I may not be entirely sane, but that sounds like a lot of fun. ...

I will have Mack call you!  😉

12 hours ago, DaveP043 said:

...a cold beer sitting next to the fireplace in the clubhouse...

I'll take that part any time.  🍺

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46 minutes ago, bkuehn1952 said:

I'll take that part any time.  🍺

Believe it or not, I've never made a double bogey in the bar, its the best part of my game.

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Sounds like fun, living in Illinois years ago my son and I played a hole that was dog leg right with a lake to the right. I pushed my drive which would have been wet but solid ice the ball bounced and skidded across the lake to  a chip away from the green. Never could do that in July. 

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On 12/16/2019 at 1:22 PM, DeadMan said:

I played last December where there was no frost, the fairways were fine, but the greens were still frozen for the first 9 holes or so. That was a lot of fun because you would try to get the ball to bounce just in front of the green, and then the ball would have the right combination of spin and speed to stop on the green. There was a way to pull it off. It was really fun when it worked.

I've tried hitting a 64 degree wedge into a frozen green, straight up and straight down.  Still lands as if on a trampoline and bounces over the green.  The time I am referring to the greens were frozen but the fairway fronting the greens was soft, wet and soggy.  So any British Open approach to the greens didn't work either.

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