On course for totality

Several golf courses in the path of the total solar eclipse plan to welcome the darkness.


Aerial view of Ghost Creek golf course
The path of totality for the April 8 Great North American Eclipse will touch 15 states, as well as Mexico and Canada. Illustration courtesy of NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio

Sometime on the afternoon of April 8, the moon will begin to slide directly between the sun and the earth. The exact time depends on location, but all of the contiguous 48 states will have a view of at least a partial solar eclipse.

Millions of folks who live along a swath that runs from Mexico, through Texas, northeast across the U.S., clips Canada then runs out across the Atlantic Ocean, will ­— clear skies willing — witness a rare celestial treat: a total solar eclipse, when the moon’s apparent size is greater than the sun’s, turning day into night.

It will be the only total eclipse this century that will be visible in Mexico, the U.S. and Canada, and the last total solar eclipse visible in the contiguous 48 states until 2044.

The last such total solar eclipse happened just seven years ago, in 2017, and that one — the Great American Eclipse — snarled traffic from coast to coast.

This year’s solar eclipse, the Great North American Eclipse, threatens to, ahem, overshadow the darkening of 2017.

While the longest duration of totality in 2017 lasted just over 2 minutes, totality will stretch to more than 4 minutes at some points this year. And over half of the U.S. population lives within 250 miles of the path of totality for the April 8 event. 

A total of 15 states will be touched by the line of totality, and countless festivals, school closures, watch parties and special events will spring up in its path.

Conservatively, hundreds of golf courses fall in the path of totality, too, and some of them have special events planned to take advantage, from simply providing parking facilities to silent discos to community watch parties.

Here’s a look at the plans of a few facilities along the path of totality.

Boot Ranch Golf Club
Boot Ranch Golf Club in Fredericksburg, Texas, plans a silent disco party and eclipse-themed “moonmosas” for its members on eclipse day. Photo courtesy of Boot Ranch Golf Club

Boot Ranch Golf Club

Fredericksburg, Texas

Totality start: 1:35:58 p.m. CDT

Duration: 4 minutes, 23.8 seconds

The Texas Hill Country city of Fredericksburg, Texas, has been planning for the Great North American Eclipse for a long time — since 2020, to be exact, when it began formulating a community response for local stakeholders.

The city of roughly 11,000 people is close to much larger Austin and San Antonio (both are a little over an hour’s drive away), but it lands almost on the centerline of the eclipse’s path of totality. Half of San Antonio falls outside the path of totality, while Austin lies on the path but will only have 1 minute, 40.3 seconds of totality, while Fredericksburg will fall dark for a whopping 4 minutes, 23.8 seconds — about as long as it gets in the U.S. Given the area’s traditionally favorable weather conditions, it’s a good guess that Fredericksburg could be overwhelmed come April 8. One estimate suggests Texas could be inundated with anywhere from 180,000 to 720,000 visitors to view the eclipse, making it the state most likely to be impacted.

“I don’t suspect it will affect my schedule much,” says Patrick Joy, GCSAA Class A superintendent at Boot Ranch Golf Club and 11-year association member. “The only thing I’m worried about is traffic. I don’t think my staff will have any trouble getting here, but I’m curious about them getting home. I call it a mow-and-go. I might have them do half a day, then get home before it starts.”

Boot Ranch does plan an event for its members. From noon to 3:30 p.m., members can don eclipse-safe sunglasses and boogie the day-turned-into-night away in a silent disco while downing “moonmosas.” They’re encouraged to wear attire from the 60s and 70s.

“We’re at 1,800, 1,900 (feet) elevation, so we should have a good view of it, I’d imagine,” Joy says. “I know in town a bunch of wineries and breweries are doing big events to capture revenue. One of them is doing a two-day festival. One’s doing a concert and actually bringing in a couple of decent acts. That should be cool.”

Hickory Ridge Golf Course
Hickory Ridge Golf Course will be at the crossroads of a major continental total solar eclipse for the second time in seven years. Photo by Trey Anderson

Hickory Ridge Golf Course

Carbondale, Ill.

Totality start: 1:59:17 p.m. CDT

Duration: 4:08.3

Carbondale has the unusual distinction of being in the path of totality for two hyped solar eclipses in a seven-year span and has planned a whole weekend celebration at the Southern Illinois Crossroads Eclipse Festival.

“NASA will be here just like last time,” says Trey Anderson, GCSAA Class A superintendent at Hickory Ridge Golf Course and 26-year association member. “There will be plenty going on.”

Technically, Anderson is executive director of the Carbondale Park District, but he still is superintendent at the course, his “first love.” Anderson says he was taking a break from the industry when the last major U.S. eclipse darkened the region in 2017, but he was still in the area.

“We really wanted to do something this year and talked about it as a staff,” he says. “We’d done this before, and everybody learned a little bit. We talked about what worked well and what didn’t.”

The park department seriously considered a camping event, but the possibility of bad weather scuttled that talk. 

“The dirty little secret is, from a probability standpoint, on this day in April, there’s a 50-50 chance it could be cloudy, maybe thunderstorms, rain,” Anderson says. “The camping area could have been a problem with bad weather. You’d have to staff it 24-7. Somebody brought up, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to play golf during it?’”

So, the Solar Eclipse Golf Outing, limited to 24 foursomes, was born. The event will tee off at noon, meaning the sky will be darkening in earnest just about the time participants make the turn.

“Ideally, it (totality) will happen about halfway through, and we’re trying to figure out with staff how to do that,” Anderson says. “Maybe we’ll have some drinks available. Hopefully this will kick off the year for us, get people excited about the course.”

The event has its own logo, which likely will be featured on T-shirts and golf towels, and eclipse-viewing glasses will be available.

“I’d be shocked if it didn’t fill up,” says Anderson, who plans to play in the event. “We’re not looking to make money off of it. A lot of people are. As a tax-supported entity, we thought about doing something for the kids, but everybody will be out of school. They’ll be doing stuff with their families. But I think this will be cool for our golfers. And this might be the last go-around. I believe the next one is in 35, 40 years. I’m not sure all of us will be around for the next one.”

Mound Grove Golf Course
Mound Grove Golf Club in Waterford, Pa., has plans for overnighting RVs. Photo courtesy of Mound Grove Golf Club

Mound Grove Golf Club

Waterford, Pa.

Totality start: 3:16:36 p.m. EDT

Duration: 3:19.4

The team at Mound Grove Golf Club hadn’t given much thought to the eclipse until one of the RV centers in nearby Erie, Pa., asked if it could sponsor the facility’s parking lot for the eclipse.

“They came up with what I thought was an astronomical price for people to park their RV, get some food and watch the eclipse, and maybe we can get them on the golf course,” says Greg Biebel, Mound Grove’s superintendent and one-year association member. “Are we doing an event to increase the golf? Yeah, sort of. But we’re also very community-minded, and we love to accommodate the community whenever we can as long as we make a dollar or two.”

Mound Grove’s eclipse package is a two-day affair. The night before, folks can claim their reservation-only RV parking spot before being provided a barbecue dinner, followed by a concert and bonfire. Eclipse-day festivities include a continental breakfast, games and a buffet lunch before the darkening.

Biebel says the parking lot could accommodate 75-100 RVs, and more could be parked on the driving range if there’s enough interest.

“We got a few reservations right away,” he says, “but not as many as I thought we’d have. We just learned that a local casino announced they’re having a big eclipse party. Some of our neighbors are letting people park RVs in their yards and charging them. It’s starting to become a real fistfight. I don’t know any other golf courses in the area are going to do anything. Honestly, I think people would be fools if they don’t use the eclipse to their advantage. It’s their one shot in a long time to play that game, the game that you can get on the golf course and watch the eclipse at the same time.

“I did get a report that the state police are anticipating 250,000 visitors to the northwest Pennsylvania region, which creates a nightmare. Here we go. It could be a crazy two days here in Erie, Pennsylvania.”

That said, Biebel doesn’t buy the hype.

“I think the whole thing is overblown,” he says. “I’ve seen an eclipse one other time. I put a welding helmet on. ‘Yup, there it is.’ Then you get back to work.”

Terry Hills golf course
Terry Hills Golf Course in Batavia, N.Y., is just one Genesee County business encouraging visitors and locals to “Genesee the eclipse” there. Photo courtesy of Terry Hills Golf Course

Terry Hills Golf Course

Batavia, N.Y.

Totality start: 3:19:19 p.m. EDT

Duration: 3:42.3

The 2024 solar eclipse is a big deal in Genesee County, N.Y., the county seat of which is Batavia.

Local businesses are encouraging folks to “Genesee the eclipse” there, and there’s even an official eclipse mascot, Genny the Cow.

One such local business, the 27-hole Terry Hills Golf Course, is encouraging visitors, promising a limited-edition eclipse-themed menu and drink specials throughout the afternoon and golf “weather-permitting.” The course also touts its “very large parking lot (and they are able to control their parking lot lighting)” as an ideal viewing location.

“They’re going to sell and/or give out glow-in-the-dark balls,” says Thad Thompson, Terry Hills’ GCSAA Class A superintendent and 25-year association member. “I don’t remember it getting dark enough for that, but it’s a novelty.”

Thompson says unseasonably warm weather had him “chasing his tail” the month before the eclipse, so he wasn’t sure all the course had planned. He doesn’t expect much of an impact on him or his crew.

“I can envision the entire crew sitting there wondering what’s going on. I’m not sure they even know about it,” he says. “I remember the last one. I was at my first job on the sixth tee with welding glasses on. It was crazy.”

Andrew Hartsock (ahartsock@gcsaa.org) is GCM’s senior managing editor.