But when the time of reckoning came at Pennsauken and P.J. McShea Jr. teed off on the first hole at 7 a.m., the optimistic weather predictions had been shelved, replaced by the harsh reality of clouds, temperatures in the 40s, and an unforeseen enemy to anyone wielding a 3-wood: fog.
"We hit it so straight we didn't have to worry about the fog," McShea, 55, of Philadelphia, joked over a Miller Lite at the club bar after finishing his round. "And if we don't, we pretend we did and drop a ball."
McShea and his buddies who packed the watering hole around noon Sunday weren't complaining, however. They've endured worse playing conditions. Just last weekend, they shoveled snow off the greens so they could putt.
Most of the other players out Sunday were happy just to be playing golf in January. At least 160 people came to play, about four times what the club would expect if the temperature were below 50 degrees, Garrison said.
Not that Sunday's weather was all that bad - for January in the Northeast. The high of 49 was well above the 40 degrees normal for this time of year, said Kristina Pydynowski, a meteorologist at AccuWeather.com.
A high-pressure system pumped milder air into the region, she said. That air was also moist, creating dense fog.
"The air is just still, and that easily lets the temperature fall to the dew point to form the fog," Pydynowski said. "Cold air will be coming back soon."
A cold front will push temperatures down to a low of 38 by Monday night, she said.
The impact of Sunday's fog extended beyond fairways. Low-hanging clouds by midmorning affected flights in and out of Philadelphia International Airport.
By noon Sunday, the average delay for arriving flights was 21/2 hours, spokeswoman Victoria Lupica said. Some departing flights were late, too, she said.
If anyone planned picnics Sunday, there was no evidence of them in the city's parks. By about 2 p.m., only two benches among dozens in Washington Square Park were occupied. Those who were in the park between Sixth and Seventh Streets just off Walnut were hurrying through - bundled in winter coats and hats, some warming their hands on cups of coffee.
Nearby, tourists in horse-drawn carriages huddled under blankets.
Contact Andrew Seidman at 856-779-3846, firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @AndrewSeidman on Twitter.
Inquirer staff writer Diane Mastrull contributed to this article.