From the Northeast to the Southeast to selected regions of the Midwest and Northwest, autumn, which robes deciduous trees and shrubs in a riotous explosion of color, is the exclamation point to the golf season. On a crisp fall day with nature’s splendor on full display, golfers can experience one of those “happy-to-be-alive” moments.
Foliage. The vibrant amber, scarlet, and sunburst orange colors are fleeting, but for as long as it lasts, there’s nothing like the effects produced by nature’s stunning fall wardrobe. (As daylight hours shorten and temperatures cool, chlorophylls degrade and hidden pigments in the leaves are revealed). Setting science aside, the sheer thrill of teeing it high, swinging away, and watching the ball soar above the blazing trees into a clear blue sky is unrivalled.
Weather. The hot, sticky dog days of summer are a distant memory. Come fall, both the mercury and the humidity drop. Yes, there are concessions to make. Your muscles don’t warm up as well on a chilly day as they do in the heat. And the ball doesn’t compress as fully or fly as far in the cooler conditions. But on a brisk fall day, your exhaled breath visible in the air, there’s a joyful quality to fall golf that engenders gratitude. This is especially true for walkers, who can generate body heat as they trundle the fairways.
No Crowds. Let’s face it. Most golfers are fair-weather players. At the first sign of frost, or even at the conclusion of Labor Day weekend, many so-called enthusiasts deposit their clubs in the garage until next spring. With these pretenders sitting at home watching football on TV, autumn campaigners usually have the courses to themselves. Which means a brisk pace of play—no dilly-dallying tolerated!—in the company of fellow diehards who understand that sunlight is limited with Daylight Savings Time having ended.
Attire. We’re not going to pretend that we don’t enjoy the togs of summer—short-sleeve golf shirts and shorts for men, sleeveless golf shirts, and shorts or skirts for women. But for those who’ve experienced golf in Britain and Ireland, there’s something invigorating about wearing heavier trousers (corduroy pants are a favorite), a turtleneck, and a wool sweater to gird one for battle in the fall. Ear muffs optional.
Course Conditions. Turfgrass, especially bentgrass and Kentucky bluegrass, thrive in cooler weather. The greens, typically aerated in late summer, are usually smooth, fast, and true by mid-autumn. With a heavier morning dew to nourish them, fairways are a thick green carpet. Reduced play ensures that un-replaced divots are rare. By the way, unless your companions are sticklers, it’s perfectly OK to play the “leaf rule” in the event you can’t find your ball in the leaf-strewn rough. One stroke penalty, drop another ball.