Golf clubs and their golf courses have something in common — they both make their green when the sun shines.
It didn’t shine much in June and July, in fact it rained most of June and almost all of July, but now that August has started off sunny and at least warm if not hot, club staff members are smiling again.
“June and most of July were just horrible,” said Eric Dubay, general manager at JaTo Highlands Golf Course in Lincoln. “But the last three weeks have been fantastic.”
Brian Enman, head pro at Bangor Municipal Golf Course, said, “June [play] was down about 10 percent, and July was about 12 percent.”
Mars Hill Country Club was hit even harder than Bangor, according to Andrew McQuade, the general manager and superintendent.
“We were probably 40 percent off on green fee rounds for May and June,” he said.
Part of that was due to opening later than usual because the winter snow hung around longer.
“Normally we open around the end of April. This year it was mid-May,” he said. “That’s the third-latest start we’ve had.”
Even then, McQuade did point out that because of their location on the side of a mountain, the club was able to start earlier than most of the other Aroostook County clubs.
They all pointed to pent-up desire to play as the big reason play hadn’t suffered even more than it did.
“We noticed [the demand] even in July,” said Dubay. “People were just plain sick of it, and they were going to get out no matter what.”
Enman saw some of that demand as well.
“They put on their waterproof shoes, or their hip boots, whatever,” Enman said with a slight laugh, “they were going to play.”
Golfers took advantage of the sunshine when they had the chance, according to Enman.
“When we did have good days, we were very busy,” he said.
July was a little better at Mars Hill, said McQuade, but now August is much better.
“We have a lot of people calling in, checking dates,” he said.
“This past Saturday we had 50 to 60 green fees, on top of our normal member play,” McQuade added. “For this area, that’s a great day.”
Bangor has been doing well, also, this month.
“We’re averaging 200 a day, maybe a little more,” Enman said.
JaTo’s Dubay could point to one advantage he had over some other courses to keep his numbers from falling as much as theirs.
“What saved us is we have [paved] cart paths all the way around,” he said. “We could restrict carts to the path.
“That made an incredible difference in saving the [condition of the] course.”
And power carts are the key for many clubs because some people will not play if they can’t use carts.
“They make a difference,” said Enman, making his point about the unusual weather pattern. “There were four days in July we didn’t have carts out.”
Enman hopes that someday Bangor will have a paved cart path all the way around, instead of mostly in the high traffic areas such as near tees and greens.
“That’s something we’re striving toward,” Enman said. “We’re always trying to increase the cart paths. … Sometime we’ll have it all done from tee to green. That would be ideal, but it’s not cheap to do.”
The one thing he, as well as Dubay, is sure of is that those rounds that weren’t played earlier this year can’t be made up.
“Once those people drive by, they’re gone,” said Enman, pointing out that a large number of players at Bangor Muni is related to tourist traffic.
“I’ve gotta think that during July and August, especially, 30 to 35 percent of our players are traveling through,” he said. “It’s not likely they’re going to turn around and come back.”
“The season is short. Once you lose them, you never make them back,” he said. “We call them throwaways.”
They hope the throwaways will be kept to a minimum for the rest of the season. This is the time when their optimism and prayers kick in.
“The way play has been the last three weeks, we’re ahead of last year [for the same three weeks],” said Dubay. “We’re going to come out good if the weather holds out for us.”
McQuade’s enthusiasm is a little more reserved because the Aroostook County season is so short.
“Normally, we stay open through the Columbus Day weekend,” he said. “We might get a good day or two after that.”
If the weather does stay good, though, they have a chance.
“If we’re lucky, we’ll get back to an average year,” McQuade said.
That might be all any golfer can hope for right now.