An hour north of Boston, the golf shops hold their end-of-season sales in early October, and by the end of the month, the club pros have flown south to Florida, to begin all over again. The courses remain open, however, for a month or so—at first, with flags in fresh-cut cups, and then without flags but with unlined holes cut in the middle of the green, and finally with no holes in the green but perhaps temporary greens set up some yards in front, on patches of fairway where putting is as chancy as bowling across cobblestones. Nevertheless, a devoted few play on, through Indian summer and Thanksgiving, into December, until the first snowfall puts a decisive end to the golfing year.

Just as a day may come at sunset into its most glorious hour, or a life toward the gray-bearded end enter a halcyon happiness, December golf, as long as it lasts, can seem the sweetest golf of the year. The unkind winds and muddy plugged lies of April and May, the deepening rough of June, the hot, eager crowds of July and August, the obfuscating goose feathers and fallen leaves of the autumn are all gone, gone, and golf feels, on the frost-stiffened fairways, reduced to its austere and innocent essence.

December always holds some mild-enough days. Sunshine glints like a thin shell of ice on the upper sides of the bare, gray twigs, the sky is striped like blue bacon, a tardy line of Canada geese wobbles its way south, and the air is delighted to be providing oxygen to some plucky sportsmen. The foursome, thinned perhaps to a mere threesome or twosome, meets by the boarded-up clubhouse exhilarated to have an entire golf course to itself—fairway upon fairway visible through the naked trees, zigzagging back and forth in the view from the first tee. There are no tee markers, no starting times, no scorecards, no gasoline carts—just golf-mad men and women, wearing wool hats and two sweaters each, moving on their feet. The season’s handicap computer has been disconnected, so the sole spur to good play is rudimentary human competition—a simple best-ball nassau or 50-cent game of skins, its running tally carried in the head of the accountant or retired banker in the group. You seem to be, in December golf, reinventing the game, in some rough realm predating 15th-century Scotland.

Golfers enjoy sneaking in an “extra” round on a warm December day.

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Golfers enjoy sneaking in an “extra” round on a warm December day.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images