(DAVID KILKENNEY/Special to the Free Press)

Ralph Basile putts on the frosty first green of Sunnybrook Golf Club on Jan. 19. The temperature that day was 16 degrees with a wind-chill index around 1 degree.


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(DAVID KILKENNEY/Special to the Free Press)

Ralph Basile putts on the frosty first green of Sunnybrook Golf Club on Jan. 19. The temperature that day was 16 degrees with a wind-chill index around 1 degree.

    (DAVID KILKENNEY/Special to the Free Press)

    Dan Finkelstein tries to keep warm while walking the first fairway at Sunnybrook Golf Club. He and Ralph Basile have played 18 holes each month for nearly 13 years.

  • photo

Snow what?

Tips for playing (and surviving) winter golf:

• Dress warmly but not too warmly. Layering is the key. A windproof jacket and pants will cut down on arctic gusts.

• Carry your bag. Sitting in a cart won't help your circulation, and using a pull cart is difficult over ice and snow.

• Invest in cold-weather golf gloves. They come in pairs and offer warmth without inhibiting your grip too much. Nike's gloves have microfiber fleece and cost $24.

• Hand warmers are a great option because they're light, cheap (about $2 for a pair) and they warm your digits quickly. If your fingers are cold, you can't do much with a club.

• Make sure your golf shoes are waterproof. Adidas' high-tech Mudskipper golf boot has a gaiter and is nearly impervious to moisture, but normal waterproof shoes should suffice.

• Keep moving. If there's one benefit to winter golf, it's that you don't have to rake bunkers, replace divots or fix pitch marks.


About the series

Come back to the Free Press for the continuation of this three-part series on winter golf in Michigan.


A look at three masters of winter golf


Why winter

is a good time to practice



that can help your game.

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NO WARMTH? NO PROBLEM: Local pair mark 155th straight month playing at least 18 holes

Ralph Basile offered a strange bit of advice for his approach shot to the first green at Sunnybrook Golf Club.

"You want to land it really short of the green," the Sterling Heights golfer said, "because it's going to roll a lot."


It did. Over frozen fairway. Over ice. About 20 yards of roll later, Basile's ball came to rest six feet from the hole. He made the putt. Birdie.

Basile and his playing partner, Dan Finkelstein of Troy, laughed. And why not? It was a sunny Saturday morning in January and the two 48-year-olds were golfing in Michigan. So what if the temperature was 16 degrees? So what if the wind-chill index made it feel like 1 degree?

All that mattered was that Basile's birdie marked the pair's 155th consecutive month of playing 18 holes together in Michigan. In February, Basile and Finkelstein plan to play again for the 156th straight month, which works out to 13 years.

To the casual observer, Basile and Finkelstein look like masochists stomping around a frozen golf course and hacking at balls in the snow. They are living anachronisms. In a sport normally reserved for the fair-weather delights of summer, Basile and Finkelstein look as out of place as hockey players skating on a sandy beach.

But they aren't out of place. A golf course, frozen or otherwise, is exactly where they belong.

Basile and Finkelstein met by chance at Rochester Hills Golf Course in one of those wonderful random pairings that only golf can produce. They began the round as strangers. Four hours later, they were on their way to starting a lifelong friendship -- and the streak.

It began innocently enough. The pair's first stunt was to play every public course in Oakland County in one year. They were done by July 22. Obviously, they needed a stiffer challenge.

"We kind of talked about this, 'Yeah, we should play 12 straight months,' " Basile said. "And then one year we did, and now we haven't been able to stop."

Not for anything or anyone.

"We're determined enough, but we've had a few times," Finkelstein said, before Basile stepped in to finish his sentence, "where we've gotten right to the last weekend."

Last February, deep snow and vacation plans almost ended the streak. But Finkelstein and his wife, Mary, changed their plans and took a 6 a.m. flight from Phoenix in order for him to make his tee time with Basile.

Basile said his wife, Karen, is equally understanding about the pursuit. It isn't hard to see why. In each other's company, the two men have sunnier dispositions than you'd find on Mercury. They sound eerily similar to Click and Clack, otherwise known as the Magliozzi brothers of NPR's "Car Talk." They play golf on an ice rink of a course but cackle like they're at Pebble Beach.

Al Lopez, the head pro at Sunnybrook, laughed as he looked out at the pair from the window of his pro shop.

"Well, I think these guys are very enthusiastic about golf," said Lopez, who has worked 40 years at the Donald Ross course in Sterling Heights. "The weather's no object to them. They're going to play because they love the game, and they have that in their mind. They're going to play as long as the weather is permitting."

And even when it isn't. In the late 1990s, Basile and Finkelstein had their coldest round ever. It was minus-4 at Maple Lane Golf Club in Sterling Heights.

"If you went along with us you'd hear us say, 'you idiot' and 'you're an idiot,' " Finkelstein said. "And then eventually we kind of get toward the end of the round and we said, 'How about another 18?' And we both said, 'Why not?' "

It sounds crazy until Basile offers the explanation every golfer has used at some point: "There's nobody out here. We're moving along."

Idiots. That's Basile and Finkelstein's self-deprecating way of describing themselves and other like-minded golfers who endeavor to play each month in Michigan.

"We've found that there's a cult to this," Finkelstein said. "And when you play in the winter, you'll see some of the same guys. But we're the chief idiots."

Maybe. But they probably would get an argument from Keith Moore. The 61-year-old retired teacher from Clinton Township has a similar streak going. In February, he plans to play at least nine holes for the 168th consecutive month, which would mark his 14th straight year.

For Moore, it started as a tradition of playing with friends the days after Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day.

"A bunch of us started playing," he said. "There was probably eight or 10 of us who had two or three years straight, and then some of them dropped out, and it just became, I don't know, do it."

Like Basile and Finkelstein, Moore laughs at some of his intrepid stories. Along with the clubs in his bag, Moore used to carry a broom for clearing off the greens. Moore let out a belly laugh at the thought of his 15th club.

"We'd just have a ball out there," he said. "Can you imagine a broomstick with your driver?"

Basile and Finkelstein don't know how long their streak will last, but Moore knows his will end some time after his wife, Meg, retires next year and the couple moves part-time to Florida. Moore doesn't seem to have any regrets about ending the streak or having started it in the first place.

"Oh, no," he said. "No, no, no. Even the couple of times I went out by myself I put a smile on myself. This is really stupid, but you know what? I've got people cheering for me."

Maybe more than he'll ever know.

Contact CARLOS MONARREZ at 313-222-6697 or


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