Thursday, June 9

When Is It Too Hot for Golf?

(Plucked and updated from the ARMCHAIR GOLF archives.)

THE MERCURY WILL REACH 93 today in Memphis, Tennessee, where PGA Tour players will sweat their way through the FedEx St. Jude Classic. The heat index—that measurement some weather guru came up with that combines air temperature and relative humidity—will hover near 100.

The good folks of Memphis and elsewhere (my hand is raised) know when it is sticky hot and suffocating without the benefit of the heat index and “feels like” numbers. Another way to quantify misery, I suppose.

The players at TPC Southwind will be soaked with sweat, some with big dark patches ringing the seat of their pants. (Some 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 toasty warm places such as Dubai, but is there any place sweatier than the Home of the Blues?

Heat Beatdown

My question is this: When is it 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. Too hot. I’ll tee it up another day”?

I played golf last Friday and the weather was perfect, about 80 degrees and relatively low humidity for early June. This week is a different story. It’s headed toward 90 today in my mountains, which is well above our normal high for late spring.

It’s also in the low and mid 90s across much of the Southeast and Northeast, including blistering June highs of 97 and 98 in Washington, DC, and New York City, respectively.

Tomorrow the high in Phoenix will be 100. You expect it to be a furnace there. Does anyone play golf in Phoenix in the summer? I suppose diehards do. I’ll bet the competition for early morning tee times in the summer months is fierce. Phoenix golf is 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 plenty 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 golf 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 often don’t reach 90. That’s just fine with me.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Photo credit: mariana, Flickr, Creative Commons license)


Charles Prokop said...

I'll be passing up my usual weekly skins game tomorrow - the predicted high here in the Texas Hill Country is 99, and that's too hot. I draw the line these days somewhere around 97, although I'll play on those days if I can get through by noon.

I grew up in Houston, and would play in anything back then. I'd happily walk 36 holes in above 95 degrees with Houston humidity. I can't and won't do that anymore.

I lived in Asheville for about 9 years, and golf in the summer there was great. Winter wasn't so good, though.

paul staley said...

It's 65 degrees right now in Daly City California where I play. Since our course is in the fog belt south of SF our summer question can be just the opposite: "Is it too foggy and windy to play?" Just proof that it's a big country.

Brian Kuehn said...

When the greens freeze it is too cold to play but I haven't discovered the point yet where it is too hot to play.

Personalised Golf Clothing said...

Luckily in England we only have to worry about this 1 day a year!

The Armchair Golfer said...

I'm a lot like you, Charles. I used to play in any heat. Growing up on the desert, I was pretty heat tolerant. But I can't handle those hot days as well as I used to.

Daly City sounds good to me, Paul. Reminds me of my summers in the Pacific Northwest, a short but wonderful golf season weather wise.

The cold is another subject, Brian. I've actually played on frozen greens. So you'll play in any heat? Good for you.

Anonymous said...

Last year at age 66 I suffered near heat exhaustion for the first time in my life. It was 95 degrees with no wind on the course that day. Now I make sure I have plenty of liquids with me and hit the shade as often as I can when on the course. The bottom line is, as you get older take precautions before a problem occurs.
Author of "Triangulate Your Golf Swing."