Sunday, June 13

How Hot Is Too Hot for Golf?

IT’S 96 TODAY AT the St. Jude Classic in Memphis. Meanwhile, the heat index—that measurement some genius came up with that combines air temperature and relative humidity—is 110. People in Memphis and elsewhere knew when it was sticky hot and suffocating long before the heat index and “feels like” numbers came along.

Look at these tour players at TPC Southwind. They’re soaked with sweat, big dark patches ringing the seat of their pants. They look like they had an embarrassing accident. Sometimes I wonder how European players such as Swede Robert Karlsson and Englishman Lee Westwood acclimate to hot spots like muggy Memphis. I know they play worldwide, including places such as Dubai, but is there any place sweatier than the Home of the Blues?

My question to you is: How hot is too hot for golf? It’s summer now (or nearly so), golf season in North America, and the temperatures are rising. Is there a cutoff point for you, a temperature at which you say, “No, thanks. I’ll tee it up another day”?

(Photo: World’s tallest thermometer in Baker, California, a toasty hot town in the Mojave Desert. / tomspixels, Flickr)

It’s in the mid 90s across much of the Southeast and Southwest. Tomorrow the high in Phoenix will be 101. Does anyone play golf in Phoenix in the summer? Some must. But Phoenix golf, in particular, and Arizona golf, in general, are a much more comfortable activity in the winter months when highs are in the 60s and 70s rather than in June when the average high is 103 degrees and the record is a scorching 122.

This might sound like a variation of the “I walked five miles to school in the snow” story, but when I was growing up in California’s Mojave Desert I routinely played in 105-degree heat. And, yes, it was a dry heat. And, yes, that does make a difference. (But it’s still blistering hot.) It didn’t bother me as a teenager. I didn’t think anything of it. I spent summer days at the golf course and actually liked it when extreme heat cleared the course in the afternoon so my golf buddies and I could have the place to ourselves.

I don’t handle the heat as well now. I can play in it, but I find that my recovery period, especially if I walk, is much longer. It saps my energy. I’m not playing a lot of golf these days, but when I do I’m fortunate to live and tee it up in the Blue Ridge Mountains where the summertime temps rarely reach 90. That’s just fine with me.

−The Armchair Golfer

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Charles Boyer said...

Down here in Raleigh, it was a mere 94 degrees yesterday, albeit with 90% plus humidity. It was miserable, save for a little breeze that saved us now and again.

It has gotten me thinking -- there must be a simple and better way to stay cool on the golf course. I may not be another Dean Kamen, but I think I have some ideas.

The Armchair Golfer said...

Charles: Raleigh is challenging in the summer months, for sure. Good for you for toughing it out.

courtgolf said...

Similar weather here in Atlanta over the was 97 when we came off the course at 6pm on Saturday.

As long as there is cool water and a wet towel, I'm pretty much alright with the heat unless the humidity gets too high.

Used to walk 36 in the Phoenix summer until I got out in a 113 degree day and even 32 oz of water every other hole wasn't enough to stay hydrated and I ended up in bed for 3 days with heat prostration.

Golf Gurus said...

I don't think its ever to hot for golf. I was just thinking about how I get up at 5 am on the weekend to play so if the sun is shinning I will be out there no matter how hot it gets.

Louise said...

It's a difficult question. All i would say is, it all depends if the players can handle the heat. On the golf course there really is no way for players to cool down. Hydration will help as it will keep them a little bit cool whilst playing.

Jim said...

I was wondering if the PGA or USGA or whatever ruling group ever stops a pro tournement(sp?) because of it being too hot.