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Golf courses extending seasons as warm weather persists

Between 20 and 30 courses are still offering tee times

A man walks with his golf clubs.
A man walks with his golf clubs at Briardale Greens Golf Course, Thursday, March 19, 2020, in Euclid, Ohio. Tony Dejak/AP Photo

The Meadows of Sixmile Creek golf course has been open nine days in December. What was once unheard of during a Wisconsin winter, is becoming more common as temperatures get warmer.

Scott Kesling, owner and operator of the public course near Madison, said on days when the temperatures are above 40 and the wind is calm, about 100 golfers come and play.

“It’s good for business and if we can get people out here and enjoying the game of golf, especially in December, we’ll take it,” Kesling said.

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Golf courses across the state have extended their seasons due to above average temperatures.

Rob Jansen is the executive director of the Wisconsin State Golf Association. He said golfers and course owners are taking advantage of the chance to be on the green, adding that between 20 and 30 of the association’s member courses are still offering tee times.

“It’s definitely a bit unexpected, but certainly a welcome surprise by golfers throughout Wisconsin, many of whom are continuing to play at the facilities that are open,” Jansen said.

December has been unseasonably warm

Cameron Miller, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in southern Wisconsin, said temperatures this December are “well above normal.” So far this month, there have been no record daytime highs, but temperatures in Milwaukee and Madison have been about 10 degrees above normal.

“We are well behind on precipitation for this month. And then temperatures are on average warmer than normal,” Miller said.

Mild and dry winters are common in the northern U.S. and Canada during in an El Niño year — which we’re currently experiencing.

“We have (an El Niño) that’s rivaling how strong the one that happened in 2015 was,” Miller said.

Above normal temperatures can be expected through the end of the year. Starting Dec. 21, temperatures are expected to be 10 to 12 degrees warmer than average for Madison and Milwaukee. Highs will be in the upper 40s. Snow may be possible in the Northwoods but will likely melt by Christmas Day.

“Unfortunately, a white Christmas does not look like it’s in the forecast here,” Miller said.

Warmer temperatures good for golf

Jansen said the typical golf season in Wisconsin is from May to October. But end dates are up to individual courses. For The Meadows of Sixmile Creek, that means staying open as long as the weather allows.

“It comes down to whether there’s snow on the ground. Once people can’t see their golf balls, we can’t have any golfers,” Kesling said.

Some courses put tarps over the green and sand on parts of the course to preserve it for springtime, which makes it less ideal for golfers. Other courses lose seasonal workers and don’t have the staff to stay open. That means increased business for the courses that do stay open.

“Especially on a nice December day — and we’ve had quite a few of them — they’re all going to flock to those courses that are open and keep them pretty busy,” Jansen said.

Kesling said people call his course on nice days to see if they are offering tee times. He’s even seen new faces this month, a trend that started during the pandemic and has persisted.

“(It) being an outside sport — a lot of new faces, a lot of people that just decided that they wanted to pick up the game,” Kesling said.

Jansen said golfers appreciate the extra practice and businesses who didn’t factor the extra days into end-of-year budgets welcome the surprise.

“There’s probably going to be golf played on Christmas this year, which certainly doesn’t happen very often, but it’ll definitely be a Merry Christmas for those golfers that get to play,” he said.