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Local golfers enjoy rare December day on the links

The three open Sioux Falls courses were packed
Published: Dec. 1, 2021 at 6:59 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - The leaves are all gone. The grass, getting kind of brown. And there’s still a chill in the air.

But it’s not stopping area golfers from filling up Elmwood Golf Course on the first day in December.

“Sweet! It’s December 1st and I get to play golf. How cool is that,” recently-retired Dave Wilson thought to himself when he woke up Wednesday morning.

The average high temperature on this day in Sioux Falls is 37 degrees, over 20 degrees below Wednesday’s high.

“I’ve never played in December,” Wilson said. “That’s what makes it amazing, and that’s why it was so important to get out here today.”

Wilson was one of several golfers happy to be filmed by Dakota News Now cameras, but one player not only turned down an interview, but asked we not even film his clubs, in fear of his wife finding out he was skipping work on a Wednesday.

They were among the 175 max-capacity golfers at Elmwood -- one of three courses in the Sioux Falls city limits open for business, along with Willow Run and Bakker Crossing. The window of tee times was limited to four hours, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., due to the late sunrise, early sunset, and time needed for the grounds to thaw.

When the course announced last Friday it be open this week for five days, every day was booked within two hours.

“There’s just that (mentality of), ‘If I can get out there and play, I’m gonna, and people in this town are golf crazy,” said (City of) Sioux Falls Golf marketing director Cat Clark.

Clark isn’t kidding. In 2015, Golf Digest rated South Dakota the No. 1 state in “golfing avidness,” a metric that combines the percentage of a state’s population that plays golf with the number of rounds per golfer.

Chuck Slaven, 77, is golfing avidness. He’s played for 62 years. Sporting earmuffs and a light coat, Slaven’s was asked why he came out to golf on Wednesday.

“Why not?,” Slaven said. “I have the time. I’m retired. I love to golf, so here we go.”

Slaven typically golfs a few times a week during the actual golf season from April to November. He could move south to play in year-round golf in warmth, but he’d rather spend time with his adult children and grandchildren, who live here. And he’s played in far colder weather than this.

“The worst cold weather was three or four years ago,” Slaven said. “It was January 3rd. We played at Willow Run. It was 42 degrees and very windy. The benefit was the fairways were frozen and the ball went a long way with the wind.”

But you better get the winter golf while you can. Cold temps will return in a few days, and Clark says Friday is likely Elmwood’s last open day of the year so the course can gear up for 2022.

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