As another golf season comes to a close and cooler temperatures approach, many golfers are faced with the decision of whether to hang up their clubs until spring.
But for most avid golfers, the thought of not hitting the links for the entire winter is unacceptable.
Mike Golder, 38, of Annapolis, manages to hit the greens even when the temperatures dip.
He goes to Goodyear Golf Club in Danville, Va., where the winter temperatures are warmer than in the Baltimore area.
Golder doesn't mind the almost six-hour drive to the course because he's also from the area, which is southwest of Richmond.
"I grew up in Danville, and when I have an opportunity to go back home, I usually play down there because it doesn't get as cold as it does here," Golder says. "If it's 50 degrees or better, I usually go out and play, but if it's any colder than that I stay inside and practice my short game by chipping and putting."
According to Steve Searce, the assistant pro at the Goodyear Golf Club, Golder is not alone in his pursuit of a warmer climate to play golf.
"We have people that come down throughout the year from all over," Searce says. "In fact, we even have a group of about 50 guys that come down from Canada every year to just play here. We really don't have harsh winters, so I guess Danville is an option for those folks that live farther north."
Jandie Smith Turner, co-founder of Acuity Sports Marketing and Soulful Golf, a Baltimore golf-event-planning service, doesn't often go too far to swing her clubs. Sometimes she practices at home.
In addition, she visits several Baltimore-area golf courses that have heated practice facilities.
"When the weather starts to turn cold, I usually work on my swing at home by practicing in front of a full-length mirror," says Turner, 40, who started her business four years ago. "That way I can look at things like my setup, posture and swing in real time.
"I also use plastic indoor practice balls that won't damage the walls or the floors if I hit them in the house," she says. "But if it's not terribly cold outside, I'll just go out and play or go to one of two driving ranges that have heated stalls, such as Arundel Golf Park and Rocky Gorge."
Baltimore has more than 30 golf facilities within a 45-minute drive of downtown. They offer a wide range of challenging courses. Some are among the best in the country and have received rave reviews from Golf Digest.
Experts suggest that golfers also change their gear to brave the temperatures. Staying warm helps to prevent injuries.
Eric Simmons, a PGA professional and assistant pro at Whiskey Creek Golf Club in Ijamsville, suggests that golfers purchase a good pair of winter gloves, wear clothing in layers and carry a waterproof rain suit.
When out on the course, take advantage of the cover of the trees to block the wind, Simmons says.
By following these simple suggestions, golfers don't have to put their game on the shelf simply because winter makes an appearance.
Three `must play' courses
Bulle Creek Golf Club
Maryland's No. 1-rated golf course (by Golf Digest)
320 Blenheim Lane, Havre de Grace
Regular 18 holes, $145; caddy round 18 holes, $133 (plus appropriate caddy fee)
410-939-8887 or bullerock.com
Whiskey Creek Golf Club
Stunning views and one of the best finishing holes in golf
4804 Whiskey Court, Ijamsville
Weekdays, $79; weekends, $97; twilight weekdays, $62; twilight weekends, $66; nine holes, $42
301-694-2900 or whiskeycreekgolf.com
Mountain Branch Golf Course
One of the newest and most popular courses in the Baltimore area
1827 Mountain Road, Joppa
$80, March 7-April 10; $95, April 11-Nov. 13; twilight, $65, 5 1/2 hours before sunset March 7-Nov. 13; winter, $65, 5 1/2 hours before sunset, Nov. 14--Dec. 31
877-588-1492 or mountainbranch.com
Arundel Golf Park
1501 Dorsey Road, Glen Burnie
410-761-1295 or arundelgolfpark.com
Rocky Gorge 4 Seasons Golf Fairway
U.S. Route 29 and Old Columbia Road, Laurel
301-725-0888, 301-725-8947 or rockygorgegolf.com