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Golfers hit links this Christmas

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TORONTO—Canadians deprived of a white Christmas this year have the option to celebrate on the greens instead.

Balmy breezes and soaring temperatures across parts of central and eastern Canada have prompted some golf courses to stay open throughout the holiday.

Based on early bookings, Canadians are planning to take advantage—viewing a December day on the links as a rare opportunity and an early Christmas gift.

Golf courses planning to stay open through the festive season report they’re fully booked and even have long waiting lists in place for Christmas Eve—normally a day when the greens are long out of commission.

“El Nino” conditions are causing unusually-high temperatures on the East Coast while western regions largely are blanketed in snow.

Christmas forecasts in Montreal usually herald temperatures well below the freezing mark but the current trend has turned that tradition on its head.

Environment Canada is calling for a daytime high of 16 C on Christmas Eve—temperatures that at least one golf club supervisor cannot recall seeing for years.

Alain Beland, of the Centre de Golf le Versant in nearby Terrebonne, Que., said the spring-like conditions are bringing people to the course in droves, adding there’s already a waiting list of 40 people hoping to tee off on Christmas Eve.

Even staff now scheduled to work unanticipated Christmas Day shifts don’t seem to mind, he said, adding that yesterday’s forecast high of seven C hadn’t stopped people from snapping up most available bookings.

“It’s a little bit cloudy around but everybody’s happy,” Beland said of the unseasonable conditions.

“Everybody’s talking about playing golf in December.”

Matt Duench of Waterloo, Ont. has been energized by the exciting possibility of a yuletide golf game.

The 36-year-old marketing professional said he’s in the process of rearranging his Christmas Eve schedule to allow him to both fulfil holiday family obligations and get some time in with friends on his local golf course.

Duench said his normal enthusiasm for the game is enhanced by the novelty of playing a summer sport in what normally would be the dead of winter.

Today’s projected high of 11 C in Waterloo certainly isn’t conducive to his normal cold-weather pursuit: snowboarding.

“Just a few weeks ago, I kind of made the choice, begrudgingly, to swap out my golf clubs in my trunk for my snowboard,” Duench noted.

“I’ve kind of been thinking that maybe I should go back the other way and put my clubs back.”

North Americans across the continent are getting accustomed to sharp reversals in their ordinary weather patterns.

Ski resorts on the West Coast, where slopes have been nearly barren of snow for the past two years, have found themselves on the receiving end this year of significant snowfalls that have created ideal conditions.

Multiple resorts in Western Canada have reported a noticeable uptick in visitors and are projecting more steady traffic throughout the holidays.

The same trend is at work in the U.S.

In a reversal of a typical Christmas, forecasters expect temperatures in New York to top 15 C on the holiday—several degrees higher than forecast conditions in Los Angeles.

Southerners in large parts of typically temperate Louisiana and Arkansas awoke yesterday to tornado watches two days before Christmas.

Duench, for one, is happy to treat the winter reprieve as a holiday gift from Mother Nature.

Based on booking numbers at the Lionhead Golf Course in Brampton, Ont., he’s not alone.

Associate golf professional Trevor Brodie said about 230 people already have scheduled tee-off times for Christmas Eve, adding he fully expects the remaining handful of spots to be snapped up by day’s end yesterday.

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