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Story by Ian Guerin
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.
Up north, maybe.
Down here in Golf Capital, U.S.A., we can’t be bothered with such environmental concerns. In South Carolina’s Grand Strand - a section of 60-plus miles of beaches and 90 or so golf courses - the links are still welcoming despite the season. The climate has bolstered the golf-happy area’s status among players who don’t feel like having their clubs collect dust for months on end.
“I can only think of a handful of times when it's been too cold for me,” said Ed Piotrowski, the long-time weather expert at Myrtle Beach’s WPDE Channel 15 and a regular golfer. “Of course, I am not acclimated to the cold like northerners, so what I think is cold may not be to them. I always find the courses to be in really good shape as well. I love playing in the winter because the crowds are sparse and you can get through rounds quickly.”
Piotrowski’s sentiments are shared by players around the country.
The winter months do thin the golfing herd some, but for straightforward reasons, it never completely eliminates it. More spacious tee sheets lead to those faster rounds, with most of the peak-season vacationers having gone back to their daily lives.
Those who elect to book a winter vacation are typically rewarded by Mother Nature.
“December through March is actually one of our drier periods, so all-day rain events are pretty rare,” Piotrowski said. “While we can get ice and snow, it typically doesn't last more than a day and doesn't happen every year. Temperatures range from an average high of 56 [degrees] in December to an average high of 64 in March. Average lows range from 36 to 44. The threat of temperatures getting into the teens is very low. At the other end of the spectrum, it's been 80 on occasion at Christmas and obviously other days through the winter. We have one or two times a winter when temperatures at night actually fall into the teens.”
Simple translation: The golf-prohibitive days are few and far between.
Both on and off the course, visitors see other benefits, as well. The immediate is cost. The most expensive courses during the spring and fall decrease their greens fees considerably, frequently to match those of the mid-range courses’ peak rates. Hotel and transportation options dip, too, as companies compete over fewer customers.
Less traffic pays dividends at the best dining options, too.
Restaurants that normally have a wait of an hour or more in June and July are walk-in ready between December and the middle of March. That includes the likes of Sea Captain’s House - a seaside seafood palace that is a regular honoree as the area’s top high-end option. The restaurant, located in Myrtle Beach, almost never takes reservations, but tables aren’t jammed up like they are much of the year.
The same goes for Rioz, a Brazilian steakhouse in Myrtle Beach. The all-you-can eat table service also offers off-season specials that are available to residents and outsiders alike. Indo Thai, Art Burger Sushi Bar and Croissant’s Bistro, three of the most highly respected local establishments, continue their run each winter, as do some of the higher-traffic chains, such as P.F. Chang’s and Tupelo Honey Cafe, which may not be available in your neck of the woods.
In ours, they add to a golf vacation experience that doesn’t require a horse to carry the sleigh through the white and drifted snow.