Let's call it "The Differential" — the difference between the weather at the golf course you're on and the weather you've just escaped.
Here's an example: Chicago: cloudy, high of 28, low of 12, wind from the southwest at 16 to 23 mph, chance of flurries; Maui, Hawaii: clear, high of 79, low of 64, wind from the west at 4 mph, slight chance of showers.
About a 50-degree differential there. Throw in that sweet, faintly citrusy scent of fairway grass in late afternoon, buckets of sunshine and knowledge that your course back home is crusted over with snow, and see what I mean?
Here are some warm-weather winter golf destinations that maximize the temperature and emotional distance between you and the bleakness you're fleeing. Most prices exclude tax or resort fees:
Westin Princeville Resort, Kauai, Hawaii: Any time you can work a jungle waterfall and the Pacific Ocean into the same shot, you've done something right. The Prince Course, a Robert Trent Jones Jr. design ranked as Hawaii's No. 1 course, is a steal when bundled into a stay-play package. The Westin's packages start at $345 a night and include two 18-hole rounds and an arrival-day nine-hole round. A four-night package runs $1,380. Skip airport club-schlepping and the airline baggage fee, thanks to complimentary club rentals during your stay. (866-716-8140 and mention rate plan LXPKG1, westinprinceville.com)
Scottsdale Fairmont Princess/TPC Scottsdale, Ariz.: The TPC Scottsdale Stadium Course, venue for the Waste Management Phoenix Open, is where Tiger Woods and a crew of eager fans in 1999 moved a 2,000-pound boulder so he could hit his ball on No. 13. It's also where fans jamming the par-3 16th "Roman Colosseum" grandstands raucously cheer or jeer the pros.
Ordinarily, a course with a rack rate of $299 could hardly be called a bargain, but combine golf at the TPC with lodging at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess and the value shines through. Two nights at the Princess, a round at the TPC Scottsdale Stadium Course and another round at the TPC Champions Course can be had for $450 per person through April 30. Or splurge for three nights and one round each at the Stadium Course, Troon North and Grayhawk for $785. (888-400-4001, http://www.tpc.com/tpc-scottsdale)
The Grand Del Mar, northeast of La Jolla, Calif.: The Grand del Mar, which spreads rose petals on your bed, and The Grand Golf Club deliver superior value in understated, almost hushed tones that shout luxury. Surrounded by a preserve with hiking and equestrian trails, the area's only Tom Fazio course is drop-dead gorgeous. Packages start at $695 a night and feature two rounds of golf, with a complimentary room upgrade at check-in, based on availability. (855-314-2030, thegranddelmar.com)
La Costa Resort and Spa, Carlsbad, Calif., north of San Diego: This dowager, a pioneer in full-service golf, tennis and spa vacations, has, as they say, had some work done. The latest renovation by KSL Resorts to the 1965 Spanish Mission-style property includes a course renovation by Damian Pascuzzo and Steve Pate. The old North Course (now the Champions Course) makes the most of a tight routing that will challenge but not humiliate. (Bonus: Torrey Pines Golf Course is just down the road.) La Costa stay-play packages include unlimited golf, breakfast and choice of rooms or suites based on availability, for $479 per night based on double occupancy. (800-854-5000, lacosta.com)
Teeth of the Dog Golf Course, Casa de Campo Resort, La Romana, Dominican Republic: Pete Dye created three courses here, but the Teeth of the Dog, the top-ranked course in the Caribbean, drinks most lustily of Caribbean ocean views. A third of its routing fronts or flirts with the ocean, which means Caribbean breezes demand solid ball-striking, but inland holes through jungle offer welcome shelter from the wind. The resort's four-night Golf Lodge packages start at $1,128 per person double occupancy and include breakfast, one round on the Teeth of the Dog, one round on the Dye Fore course and unlimited golf on the Dye Links course. (Golf Lodge deals are available only by phone at 800-877-3643. For website info, visit casadecampo.com.do)
The Mid Ocean Club, Harrington Sound, Bermuda: C.B. Macdonald, one of the classic designers of golf's golden age (Chicago Golf Club, National Golf Links), designed The Mid Ocean Club in 1921. Robert Trent Jones Sr. updated it in 1953. Not exactly a package, but the club's members will let you play for $250 a round on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. One of 20 guest cottages goes for $315 for a double through March. If you're willing to fly nearly 600 miles out into the Atlantic Ocean for golf in breezy sunshine, this is your place. (441-293-0330, themidoceanclubbermuda.com)
TPC Sawgrass, Ponte Vedra, Fla., southeast of Jacksonville: During the Players Championship in May, the TPC's TV-friendly but diabolically hard to hit 17th island green on the Stadium Course sends Titleists to a watery grave (the record is 50 in one round in 2007). TPC Sawgrass offers double-occupancy, two-night lodging at the Sawgrass Marriott Resort & Spa for $359 per person. This March Madness package includes a round of golf on the Stadium course and one on the Dye Valley course. (888-877-9193, tpc.com/tpc-sawgrass)
PGA Village, Port St. Lucie, Fla., north of Palm Beach: This three-course resort offers a three-night, three-round package through March that runs between $561 and $708 per person double occupancy for a villa and between $537 and $684 per person double occupancy for Hilton Garden Inn standard rooms, all within walking distance of the clubhouse. The resort has one Tom Fazio and two Pete Dye designs, with the Dye course having some of the most bizarrely shaped bunkers you'll find anywhere, a couple of them just a foot wide. (800-800-4653, pgavillagepackages.com)