Spring is here and golf courses throughout much of North America are getting ready to greet golfers in droves. If you're reading this, you're probably eager to dust off the clubs yourself, either at your home course or on a trip.
If the latter, be careful as you plan. The NOAA recently released its long-range forecast for April through June, 2019, and the general theme is, unfortunately (not just for golfers but for residents of much of the country) not great.
Nearly two-thirds of the Lower 48 states face an elevated risk for flooding through May, with the potential for major or moderate flooding in 25 states...The majority of the country is favored to experience above-average precipitation this spring, increasing the flood risk.
Precipitation is half of the two-pronged threat this spring will bring. February 2019 was one of the snowiest Februarys ever for several regions of the country, from northern New England to the upper Midwest to the interior West. Eau Claire, Wis., saw more than 53 inches of snow, almost twice as much as its second-snowiest February, all the way back in 1936 (28.2"). As the excess snow across the country melts and the water drains toward streams, rivers and lakes, levels are going to rise in a hurry.
Nebraska was hit hard by massive flooding earlier in March, with the Missouri, Platte and Elkhorn Rivers all significantly overflowing their banks, claiming the lives of three people and causing more than a billion dollars in damage. In California, late-February flooding inundated the town of Monte Rio, including the historic Northwood Golf Club. The course made it through with relatively little damage, but other courses under similar threat across the country may not be so lucky this year.
What does this mean for traveling golfers? For starters, if you haven't invested in good rain gear in a while, now might be the time. If you're intent on avoiding the rain, the Pacific coast and New England seem to be your best bets, along with parts of the Southwest. Bandon Dunes Golf Resort is located just inside the lighter shade of orange in the map above, meaning the off-peak rates, which run through June, should hold a bit more value than usual.
On the flip side, trips this spring to the Mid-Atlantic, Southeast and Florida run a higher risk of weather interference than usual. As you sketch out your itineraries, be sure to look for courses that are more likely to drain well. Courses in river valleys are especially prone to flooding, meaning that even if you don't get rained out, cart-path-only situations are more likely. In the first photo above, note that the purple ("major" flooding) regions are concentrated around major rivers: the Missouri and the Mississippi. Cities like Memphis, St. Louis and the Illinois/Iowa Quad Cities, all the way up to Minnesota's Twin Cities, could be soggy.
Wisconsin is an increasingly popular golf destination, but you may look into shifting plans to visit the Badger State, especially the central and western areas, from the spring to the fall, if you're looking to take advantage of shoulder-season rates. Instead, northern Michigan, upstate New York and New England might be the place to snag some early-season deals, as long as you monitor flood reports closely.
Don't be shy about calling courses and asking their head golf professionals for honest assessments of the course's drainage, and be sure to report your findings when you review the courses you play here on Golf Advisor. Stay dry and safe out there!