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Feb 21

Golf and Global Warming

Golf and Global Warming: I Don’t Get It

We’re all into the global warming age now. We’ve all heard about it, and have probably sat for at least one explanation of it. Some walked away believing it, some did not. However, funky things are happening with weather extremes, and in recent times, no one knows that more than the golfers on tour.

dove 1Consider the big match play fest this week at Dove Mountain in Arizona – an absolutely drop-dead gorgeous Jack Nicklaus course lying at 2,800 feet, give or take a few, in the Arizona hill country. All the engines are revving for these matches, one of few on the tours today. And what do we get instead? First, we get wind-driven rain that won’t let a golf ball sit still, and that turns into snow – yes, snow. But it’s Arizona, right? Just like Hawaii without all the ocean, right? No, it’s thirty-three degrees and two inches of snow on Dove Mountain.
Poor Ian Poulter, he’s freaked out by the whole thing. This is his second tournament of the year, and his first (in Maui) was called on account of wind. Not only that, but he was three up on Stephen Gallacher, who unceremoniously hit the frequent number one golfer with a snowball. Poulte, of course,  will not rest until he is avenged.

This is the second  time in three years that such weather has gotten in the way, and in the ’05 version, the entire course ended up entirely underwater. Tiger had to abide an abandoned round at Torrey Pines a few weeks ago due to fog, the kind of weather where “fore!” doesn’t do anyone a bit of good. You could drown playing at Pebble Beach in weather like that.


dove 2The turf experts are going crazy all over the world, especially in North America. It freezes in places where it isn’t supposed to, and long-winter states suddenly have a three-day heat wave, and poof, winter’s over. At the Dayton Country Club in Ohio, Dennis Cox says it’s the worst he’s seen in almost forty years, with extreme heat, humidity and extreme rainfall. If you don’t have the bucks to keep them maintained, tees, fairways and greens can scorch, and when it’s hot and a thunderstorm comes through, the roots of the grass get boiled.

weird-weather-golf 1Traverse City, Michigan lost its winter almost entirely, usually a time when turf guys can breathe and relax a bit. On the other hand, Seattle had a winter storm. Even Alaska, most of which can count on some good snow, got 272 feet of the stuff (that’s not a typo) at Valdez. I suspect that the Bering Invitational is probably canceled this year. Meanwhile, turfies are debating whether fungicides become less effective in non-wintry weather.
Winter Flight Deals - WINTER15
And what of those people who are playing back on Dove Mountain? They can’t keep their hands warm. What do you do? What are you allowed to do? Apparently, you can pre-warm golf balls in a cooler, but not during the round by artificial means, which means no adding of ice.  You are allowed to warm your hands by any means you think will be effective. Once warm, you can hold the golf balls in your hands to warm them. Some attempt to cool the balls, thinking they will go farther, but I read that the thermal conductivity of a golf ball is extremely low, and that the lack of elasticity by coldness would diminish distance anyway.

All I know is that for day 1, Tiger and Charles didn’t happen, a stuttering start in a warming world – and it ticks me off. Somebody get me Al Gore’s handicap – no, I mean the real one. If the world is going to change like this, it’s time for him to stop sandbagging.

Incidentally, Stacy Lewis is blowing it up in Thailand with a 63, where all she has to worry about is extreme humidity. When I was a kid, that meant trying to hold on to the club after contact. Do they ever cancel a tournament from humidity?

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About the author

G.F. Skipworth

has spent every available moment playing golf or studying the greats since the 60s, in between world tours as a classical musician, Harvard studies in Government or as the author of a dozen novels. Nicklaus and Snead may be the statistical greats, but Skipworth is a life-long devotee of Gary Player, and considers meeting the South African at the Jeld-Wen to be an unforgettable milestone. His driving passion in golf these days is to raise viewer interest in the LPGA.