While revelers around the world were descending upon Stonehenge and other ancient monuments, I celebrated the Winter Solstice with a trip to my local course.
It is not something I can do most years in Michigan. The El Nino effect for this year, however, is particularly strong. In my imperfect memory, Michigan feels the effects of an El Nino about once every ten years, so golfers need to take advantage of it when it comes.
Quite a few golfers were out on this day. Temperatures were in the low 40s, and the air was heavy and moist. A steady rain from the previous day left the ground soft. Getting a decent roll was completely out of the question.
On days like these — bonus winter days — I abandon all pretense of keeping score. My single goal is to make good contact and hit solid shots. By that standard, it was a successful day. I had just four misfires. The others I picked cleanly, producing good looking shots — if not always to predictable distances.
Putting on days like these also is a challenge. The greens have not been mowed in some time, so the grass is long and the speed much slower than usual. Even though I was fully cognizant of the greens’ glacial speed, I left far too many short.
The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. On the Solstice, the Northern Hemisphere is leaning furthest away from the sun. This positions the sun is directly over the Tropic of Capricorn, and at its lowest position in the Northern Hemisphere’s sky. A From now until the Summer Solstice on June 20, the days get longer. Exactly how much longer each day depends upon your latitude and the date. Things speed up until the Spring Equinox on March 20. At that point, the rate of change between day and night is the greatest.
The transition from longer days to shorter and back again is due to the tilt of the earth on its axis. That’s the same situation that causes the seasons. Each hemisphere has winter when its side of the earth is tilted furthest away from the sun.
The word “Solstice” comes from the Latin, which roughly translates to “sun standing still.” That refers to the impression people had that the sun’s noontime position did not change for several days surrounding the Solstice. It does, of course, but without accurate tools, the change was imperceptible.