Winter golf attracts out of town visitors

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 8, 2000

Steve Miller of Mobile watches as his golf partner and brother-in-law, John Tenuto of San Diego, Calif., puts his ball over the water and near the green at Cambrian Ridge golf course. The two men were traveling through Greenville on their way to a wedding in north Alabama. Course employees said there are fewer of these traveling golfers during the winter months.

Photo by Derek Brown

One of the perks for sportsmen living in south Alabama is that winter time does not necessarily mean the end of hitting the links and continuing the process of searching for the perfect swing.

In much of the country golf becomes an unrealistic fantasy by the time December rolls around. But, because of the south's mild winters golf is practically a year-round season in this area.

Sean Curry, director of golf at Cambrian Ridge, said that golfers in the area are fortunate that they can enjoy the sport year-round.

"Although we do experience a decrease in golfers during this time of the year, at least we are able to play. We have guys on our course right now from Michigan and they will not be able to play golf again there until their courses open around April," Curry said.

However, the fact that it is colder and that there are other things that sports enthusiast enjoy about winter local courses are still much slower now than at the other times of year.

"December and January are hands-down our slowest months of the year," he said. "We do not have as many people traveling and the colder weather does have an impact on our local golfers."

There are other factors that have an impact on the winter golfing season. Curry said that there are so many things going on this time of the year that distract local sportsman away from the tee boxes.

"Many people do not play this time of the year because of money. A lot of people spend a lot of money for Christmas and then they continue to pay in January," he said. "We are also impacted by the popularity of college football. When there is a big game on Saturday we can count on a slow day. Now, we have the NFL (National Football League) playoffs coming up and that will affect us as well."

Many people are enjoying the final days of the hunting season which is another competitor for local courses.

"Many of the people who play golf are also hunters and for those people January and February are the final months to enjoy hunting so we have to wait before they come back to the course to golf," he said.

Curry said that the average day in January he will have approximately 25 to 30 golfers as opposed to 250 to 300 that will play each day in March and April.

But, the slow season does allow the grounds crew at the course to get caught up on projects that will make the course better for Spring.

"We use this time to do a lot of winter projects," he said. "We clear out the wooded areas, work on mulch and try to make it prettier for the upcoming season, clear some trees that may have been giving us trouble, edge cartpaths and things like that. Once the grass begins growing again we can not do those type jobs so it is important that we take this time to get them done."

Curry said that Cambrian Ridge will begin to see another pickup in business in February.

"Even though the weather is still bad we will begin to get more golfers in February. We have many people come in from the north through Hobbitt Travel which flies golfers into Alabama and Greenville for three or four days at a time. Those golfers will be coming through February until the first week of April, which brings more money, not just to the course, but also more rooms being rented and meals being purchased in the city," he said.

Combine the additional tourist with nicer weather, no football and the end of hunting season and the weekend trips to the golf course will begin to increase.

Until then the slowdown is an anticipated decrease in business for Cambrian and Curry said that it is a natural part of the business.

"We will have a half-million rounds of golf played on our course in 2000 and we will attract many visitors into Greenville to spend money in our community. I would love to try to have as many golfers out there in January as we do in the spring, but we have accepted the decrease as fact and we try to do the most with it that we can," he said.