Golfing In Texas Weather - What's tougher a par or the Texas weather?

Let’s talk about the Texas weather. “What has that got to do with golf or the price of tea in China” you say. Well, if you golf, you’re going to be exposed to some kind of weather and it is usually going to be harsh. Rare are the days that are 68 degrees, light breeze and clouds covering the sun all day. You had better be prepared to play in something else because fair weather golfers don’t get to play in this State very much.

Growing up in Valley Mills, Texas I learned early that lightning flashes meant get in the house, the downtown siren blowing constantly means take cover, cornfields can be stripped bare by hail in a matter of minutes, sleet or ice storms make it really hard to drive, flooding ditches make really good swimming holes, and when its really hot you need to go find a store with an air conditioner.

I lived next door to Otis Evans. Otis, for all practical purposes was, well….a bum!  He had no physical means of support, he lived in his brother’s house, he slept on park benches, he always needed a shave and his clothes, although clean, didn’t necessarily match. Otis however, was the most respected man in town! People would come up to him and ask what the weather was going to do and he would say “It’s going to rain next Thursday”…..and it would rain every time he predicted it! I once heard him predict a storm three months out and he hit it on the day!  He told me point blank that there was no such thing as a meteorologist and to this day, I have not seen one that could hold a candle to him. He invited me into his house one day and broke out pictures of clouds, maps, weather history, almanacs. Hey, wait a minute, maybe this guy was not a bum after all. I do remember that if Otis was nervous, you had better be nervous too! I am sure this is how my fascination with the weather began.

When relating weather tales, always remember that your friends, enemies, relatives and playing partners will always try to one up your stories.  I don’t know why, it just happens. Here are some weather stories you can relate to and one up if you feel the urge.  Enjoy.

  • HEAT - We have a saying when playing summer golf of "Hit and Hunt for Shade." I try to drink plenty of water, wear chill tie, and go slow. I have found that this is not a good time to play tournaments as it is so hard to concentrate. I was with Terry Hancock in a tournament at Waterchase in Fort Worth and that is the only time I have actually wanted to quit with about four holes to play. It was just so miserably hot! I can’t take 115 Texas Lightningdegrees.
  • Lightning - Boy howdy, am I ever scared of lighting. I was with David Brown at Bluebonnet Hill in Austin on hole #6 when we heard a faint rumble. We didn’t think much of it since it seemed way off in the distance. There are several towers located in this area as it is a high spot. We teed off on #7 and started driving down the cart path when all of a sudden KABOOM! I am told that a lightning strike is 50,000 degrees and I believe it because my face got hot. I told David it’s time to go and he said “That was my best drive of the day. I’ve just got to hit it to the green”. He realized that he was holding a lightning rod and couldn’t bring it above shoulders. After he chunked it about three feet he turned and said “Let’s go”.
  • COLD - It is so hard to swing when bundled up in layers. I used to play in a night league at a lighted par three in Waco called the Golf Ranch.  It was so cold one night that we couldn’t swing.  You can’t get any flex from your clubs and you need low compression balls or it feels like hitting a rock. I have seen Larry actually split some Top Flites when they were left in the cold in the trunk of his vehicle.
  • ICE - The ponds froze over at Heather Run in Waco one weekend and Larry and I took advantage of no water hazards. I putted one across a pond about 80 yards. Larry chipped on the same pond and it made a boing sound. It was fun.
  • Sleet - I once had a golf outing canceled at Texas A&M in March because of sleet and I was extremely disappointed. Then sometime after that I was playing in a softball tournament in Waco on a Sunday morning in the sleet. That was the only time I was actually glad that we lost (1-0, in a slow pitch game?). I was cold, wet and miserable.  Maybe that was a good thing the golf was canceled.
  • Rain - How many times have you been caught in a rainstorm while out on the course. I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count that high. A lot of tournaments will send you back out. All I’ve got to say about that is that it is difficult to continue playing well when you are soaking wet. I once played with Larry in the rain at Waterwood and he whacked the ball about 10 feet on the green, with a rooster tail shooting out behind it. On the forth whack the ball just floated into the hole. Lake Jackson’s The Wilderness has built in canopies on their carts that cover your clubs.Ambush Golf Course at Lajitas under water
  • Floods - I got caught in the rain at Cottonwood in Waco and my group took shelter in a pump house. All of a sudden the water started rising over the fairway and kept rising. We became trapped and could not drive our carts back to the clubhouse. We literally had to wade through the water on the fairway carrying our clubs and then walk back to the clubhouse. How many times have courses been closed due to flooding and millions of dollars spent on cleaning up debris, repairing bridges, and replacing sand and greens. This picture shows Ambush at Lajitas completely under water due to the Rio Grande flooding 33' about its bank destroying the back nine and most of the irrigation system. Moody Gardens, just after a mulit million dollar renovation, found a shrimp boat, tires, swing set, and tons of debris on thier fairways after hurricane Ike.
  • Tornadoes - Larry and I were playing at Moody in a 5 man scramble after playing in a low ball. We birdied the first hole and teed off on #2 when Larry ask, “Tank, is that a wall cloud?” and I replied “No it is too small.” We eagled #2 and then birdied #3. We teed off on #4 and again Larry asks, “Is that a wall cloud?” I replied this time, “Yes Larry, that could be a wall cloud.” We had a 10 foot putt for birdie and all of a sudden Larry ask, “Tank, is that a tornado?”  And I said, “Yes Larry, that is a tornado. Mark the ball and let’s get out of here.” We barely made it back to the clubhouse when the skies opened up. Luckily the tornado went back up and did not hit us.  Richard Madison made the comment of the day - he said he knew we needed that putt for birdie and there was a tornado coming and that was just too much pressure!Wind is a constant factor in Texas Golf
  • Hail - The same storm that produced the tornado produced golf ball sized hail (appropriate). We had just barely made it inside when the hail started. A dog ran across the parking lot yelping. Some cars were damaged. The fringe of the #11 green looked like a thousand balls had been hit into it. I was sure glad we made it to shelter.
  • Wind-Larry, Terry,  and I played at Mansfield National and Tierra Verde in the remnants of hurricane Gustav. The winds reminded me of a washing machine, kind of rocking back and forth.  The winds in the Panhandle can be 50 mph but it does not gust and is a little easier to adjust to. The winds on the Gulf Coast does gust and adjustments must be made on each shot or scores can balloon quickly. Adjust your shots by adding up or moving down a club or two.
  • Rainbows - Every time I see a rainbow while playing golf something good happens. I don’t know why and I refuse to question it. I am just going to go with the flow and enjoy the beauty.
  • Drought - Well there are three things that can happen in drought conditions. The good, the bad, and the ugly, and I have encountered all three.  The good is the fact that 385 yards for a drive is nothing. The ground is so hard that the ball rolls forever. The bad is that the ground has cracks and crevices big enough to swallow a small dog - and that beautiful drive you hit down the middle has just disappeared down one. The ugly is that sandwedge from 80 yards out that you just bladed over 180 yards. Yep, been there, done that.
  • Wet - It’s been raining for two days and all of a sudden it stops. You just got to get some golfing in and it’s got to be now. Never mind that the ball won’t roll and your clubs stick in the ground and you lose your ball in the casual water. The urge to play is just too overwhelming. I played with some construction engineers in these conditions and hit a ball into a sandtrap at Cottonwood in Waco. When I tried to hit it out, my sandwedge bounced in the wet sand and bladed the ball. It came out low, hot, and to the right. It hit one of the engineers in the temple and he went down like he had been shot. That scared me more than anything else ever has, and to this day, I am nervous in wet sandtraps.
  • Snow - Nope, never done that. In case you didn’t know, we get more Blue Moons than snowstorms. But there have been lots of Texas courses that were white during some of the winter months.Dew on the fairway at Augusta Pines
  • Humidity - All along the gulf coast and especially in the Houston area during the summer you are going to get wet. I have had to change gloves more than once during a round and my shirt and shorts looked like I had a bucket of water dumped on me. You will become drained very easily.
  • Frost - I went on a bus group golfing trip out of Waco to one of the nicer Dallas courses. They did not want their greens harmed so we were delayed for thirty minutes to let the frost melt. This was a first for me.
  • Dew-I have played many a tournament that had an early start delayed because dew was on the ground. The excess water makes it difficult to hit or chip the ball crisply, but it sure is easy to see the line of a putt or where the carts have been.
  • Dust - One of my favorite pictures used to be at the Reeves County Golf Course in Pecos Texas. It was of the back of a golf cart loaded with two golf bags. Two arms were placing their clubs back into the bags and the dust was so thick you could not see past the front of the cart. Now that’s dedicated golfing.
  • Fog - OK, I had a discounted round at the Victoria Country Club and I was going to take advantage of it, fog or no fog.  I couldn’t see 20 feet in front of me. I used the map on the scorecard to determine which direction to aim and just swung easy. I would drive down the cart path and find my ball in the middle of the fairway at about 250 yards from the tee box. I would hit an iron with an easy swing in the direction where I thought the green might be and listen for that familiar thud.  I did this for 8 holes and I was at even par before the wind came up and the fog lifted.  Once I could see again I started that old “swing it hard in case you hit it” routine and started playing like $#&%! Hmmmm… maybe there really is something to that swing easy thing after all.

But don't let the Texas weather stop you from playing this fun, frustrating, expensive, and rewarding game.

Your golfing buddy, The Tankster
AKA  The Restless Golfer and many other aliases, some not so flattering

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