This winter's weather never has been better and yet many Hillsborough County golfers still say this is the cruelest season.
The subject is golf rates, which rise during the winter with the annual invasion of northerners.
Fortunately, there are a few shortcuts to the pricing game, such as buying an "Associate Partnership" card that costs $30 but gives a discount of up to $7 for every greens fee purchased at Babe Zaharias, Rocky Point and Rogers Park golf clubs.
Other courses offer discounts for walkers, Florida residents, senior citizens, the basic newspaper advertisement, and what might be the best break of all: Twilight rates.
Twilight rates usually fall after 2 or 3 p.m. and the savings can be as much as $15 to $40.
"It definitely gets more busy after the twilight times," Summerfield general manager Craig Morissette said. "But it actually might be worth it to pay a little more and play in the morning when it isn't so crowded. The morning rounds might be a little more pleasurable because you may not be pressed or held up as much by other groups."
The bottom line, however, is costs at Hillsborough County public and semi-private courses aren't going to budge until mid-April or early May when the summer rates will dip from $5 to $30 off the current price.
So until then, here's what it costs to tee it up (All rates include cart fee unless otherwise noted):
BABE ZAHARIAS GOLF CLUB (MUNICIPAL): $32 before noon; $27 after noon; $21 after 2 p.m.; $14 after 3:40 p.m. The club also runs discounted walking rates, weekday nine-hole specials and discounts for the Associate Partnership card.
BLOOMINGDALE GOLFERS CLUB (SEMI-PRIVATE): $57 and includes cart. Discounts for Florida residents and walkers (after 2:30 p.m.) are available.
COUNTRYWAY GOLF CLUB (SEMI-PRIVATE): $21 before noon and $16 after noon.
CYPRESS CREEK GOLF CLUB (SEMI-PRIVATE): Weekdays _ $34 before 11 a.m., $29 after 11 a.m., $25 after 1 p.m. Weekends _ $39 before 11 a.m., $34 after 11 a.m. and $29 after 1 p.m.
DIAMOND HILL GOLF CLUB (SEMI-PRIVATE): Weekdays _ $27 before noon, $22 after noon, $17 after 2 p.m. Weekends _ $32 before noon, $27 after noon, $17 after 2 p.m.
THE EAGLES (SEMI-PRIVATE): Weekdays _ Oaks and Lakes courses $47 before 2 p.m., and $35 after 2 p.m.; Islands and Forest courses $55 before 2 p.m. and $43 after 2 p.m. Weekends _ Oaks and Lakes $52 before 2 p.m. and $40 after 2 p.m.; Islands and Forest $59 before 2 p.m. and $47 after 2 p.m. Discounts available for Florida residents (must show driver's license).
GOLF AND SEA CLUB (SEMI-PRIVATE): $38 before noon and $28 for seniors; $25 for everybody after noon.
HALL OF FAME (SEMI-PRIVATE): $27 before 11 a.m., $24 until 2 p.m., $17 after 2 p.m.
NORTHDALE GOLF CLUB (SEMI-PRIVATE): $40 before 3 p.m. and $15 after 3 p.m.
PEBBLE CREEK GOLF CLUB (SEMI-PRIVATE): Weekdays _ $35 before noon, $25 after noon, $18 after 2 p.m. Weekends _ $45 before noon, $35 after noon, $20 after 2 p.m.
PERSIMMON HILL (PUBLIC): Nine-hole course with $8 greens fee (All walking but pull carts are available to rent). Discounts for juniors (under-18) and seniors are available.
PLANT CITY GOLF CLUB (SEMI-PRIVATE): Weekdays _ $20 before 1 p.m., $15 until 3:30 p.m., $12 after 3:30 p.m. Weekends _ $25 before 1 p.m., $20 until 3:30 p.m. and $15 after 3:30 p.m.
RIVER HILLS COUNTRY CLUB (SEMI-PRIVATE): $59 before 1:30 p.m., $36 after 1:30 p.m., $18 after 3:30.
ROCKY POINT GOLF CLUB (MUNICIPAL): Same as Babe Zaharias and Rogers Park Golf Clubs.
ROGERS PARK GOLF CLUB (MUNICIPAL): Same as Rocky Point and Babe Zaharias Golf Clubs.
SILVER DOLLAR TRAP GOLF CLUB (PUBLIC): $28 before 1:30 p.m. and $22 after 1:30 p.m. Can walk any day after 12:30 p.m. for $14.
SUMMERFIELD GOLF CLUB (SEMI-PRIVATE): Weekdays _ $29 before 1 p.m., $23 after 1 p.m. Weekends _ $35 before 1 p.m. and $24 after 1 p.m. Every day after 3 p.m. is $12.
TPC OF TAMPA BAY (SEMI-PRIVATE): $89. Rates will drop $31 on the weekdays during the summer.
UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA (PUBLIC): Weekdays _ $32 to ride and $25 to walk before noon, $27 to ride and $22 to walk after noon, $14 to ride or walk after 3 p.m. Weekdays _ $30 to ride and $23 to walk before noon, $25 to ride and $20 to walk after noon, $14 to ride or walk after 3 p.m. Special rates are given for seniors, students and certain morning specials are available during the week.
WALDEN LAKE (SEMI-PRIVATE): Weekdays _ $34 before noon, $24 until 2 p.m., $18 after 2 p.m. Weekends _ $44 before noon, $34 until 2 p.m. and $18 after 2 p.m.
WESTCHASE (PUBLIC): Weekdays _ $50 before 2 p.m., $30 after 2 p.m. Weekends _ $55 before noon, $50 after noon, $30 after 4 p.m.
Another option that might be worth exploring is asking a private club about "associate memberships."
At Carrollwood Village Golf and Country Club, for instance, an associate membership may be purchased for $275, which entitles the golfer to 10 free tee times (at certain times of the year), and other discounted rates through all the seasons.
"Probably the best thing about getting an associate membership is avoiding the crowds that you sometimes get at public courses," Carrollwood Village head pro Mark Wickham said. "At a private course you rarely have to worry about getting out there and playing right away."