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posted: 12/31/2011 7:00 AM

Mild December gives golf courses plenty of green

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  • Joe Kudla of Elk Grove Village putts on the 18th green at the Arlington Lakes Golf Club in Arlington Heights.

       Joe Kudla of Elk Grove Village putts on the 18th green at the Arlington Lakes Golf Club in Arlington Heights.
    JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

  • Kenny Geheb of Palatine tees off while playing in shorts at the Arlington Lakes Golf Club in Arlington Heights Thursday.

       Kenny Geheb of Palatine tees off while playing in shorts at the Arlington Lakes Golf Club in Arlington Heights Thursday.
    JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

  • Phil Priest of Rolling Meadows completes a round of golf at the Arlington Lakes Golf Club in Arlington Heights Thursday.

       Phil Priest of Rolling Meadows completes a round of golf at the Arlington Lakes Golf Club in Arlington Heights Thursday.
    JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

  • Above average temperatures have shortened the Four Lakes ski season in Lisle.

       Above average temperatures have shortened the Four Lakes ski season in Lisle.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

 
 

No, golfers, you are not dreaming.

Those are actual flags on the greens you're seeing today at many golf courses around the suburbs.

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A mild fall and warmer start to winter have extended the golf season to unprecedented lengths.

Usually, December golf in the suburbs means layer upon layer of winter clothes and brightly colored golf balls to search for on snowscaped fairways and greens.

Not this year. This year it's all grass from tee to green.

"We were looking back and I don't thing we've ever made it this far into December," said Mike Carney, golf sales coordinator at Prairie Landing Golf Club in West Chicago. "Normally, we try to get to Thanksgiving and then we'll pull the pins the following week.

"But with the mild weather we just said, 'Ah, we'll just leave the pins in and if people want to come out, they'll come out.'"

And today could be the day to do it with temperatures forecast to approach 50 degrees before dropping into the mid-30s on Sunday. Today's expected high would mark the 11th day this month the Chicago area has seen a high of 45 degrees or above.

It'll be the 20th day this month above 40 degrees, reports the National Weather Service.

For today, "we're booked solid," Carney said. "People are dumbfounded that we really don't have any tee times available."

That's also the case at Highland Woods, a Cook County Forest Preserve course in Palatine.

"We're pretty much booked for the day; we've got a full tee sheet," general manager Joe Bidro said. "And we've been averaging about 100 players a day in December -- pretty exciting."

Although Bidro said any day his year-round course is open there will always be some players out there braving the elements, Carney said the heartiness of area golfers has been pretty impressive.

"What's funny is if you told them it's going to be 45 degrees and cold -- it's always windy out here -- if you told them that on April 15, I guarantee I would not have this many people on my tee sheet," Carney said. "But because it's Jan. 1, it's like, 'Hey, we're beating the system.'"

The extra month or so of business is just what the golf industry needs.

"The golf industry, coast-to-coast, has been really struggling the past few years," said Bidro, who suggested golfers call other courses in the area for tee times today. "Any business is a bonus at this time of year. It's been a good month, let's put it that way."

The same can't be said for many of the ski facilities in the area, which witnessed a dismal December compared to last year's bounty of snow.

"We're pretty frustrated with Mother Nature," said Peter Pope of Bartlett's Villa Olivia with a laugh. "The employees and the customers have been saying they haven't seen a situation like this for many, many years.

"It's not even so much natural snowfall -- most Decembers we've had 10-15 inches of natural snow -- but more so our problem has been the temperature being as far above average as it's been in December. That's prevented us from making the amount of snow we normally make."

But Pope and Co. are persisting.

"We've been working hard to make enough snow to have a base on whatever part of the hill we can," he said. "Right now it's limited to our four smallest runs, which are open on a day-to-day basis.

"But we think people will come back strong once we have the conditions that allow us to (make enough snow). It's supposed to get a little colder next week. We really hope to open all our runs by then."

Some flurries are in the forecast for Monday, but the next two weeks look clear unless a new weather pattern emerges.

Until then: Fore!

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