SEARSPORT, Maine — Susan Prisco, owner of Searsport Pines Golf Course on Mount Ephraim Road, was busily preparing for the nine-hole course’s Saturday opening.
“I’m setting up the pro-shop and putting the candy out,” she said Friday afternoon.
Other clubs in the midcoast area from Searsport to Rockland will need more time before they join Searsport Pines in welcoming golfers.
March 23 is the target date to open the front nine at Rockland Golf Club, Goose River in Rockport has targeted April 15, and the Samoset Resort in Rockport reports on its website that it will open April 27.
“It’s the third time we’ve opened in March since 2006,” said Prisco. That’s the year she took over the club.
“The members are getting a bonus,” she added with a chuckle. “It’s amazing for March to see the conditions out there.”
The course is good enough for walking, but not dry enough for riding carts yet.
“The ground is pretty solid, there’s no standing water,” Prisco said.
“If I let carts out, they’ll just tear it up,” she said.
Searsport Pines will have spring rates in place through April 30 at least, maybe as late as May 15 depending on the conditions.
“It’s $15 for nine holes, $24 with a cart [when permitted] per person,” she said. “It’s $25 for 18 and $36 with cart per person.”
The regular rates will be $5 more.
The special rates will continue throughout the early season, then be offered every Tuesday for the remainder of the year.
She is offering a 10-play punch card for people who don’t want, or need, a full membership. The cost is $180 for the card. After playing nine times, the 10th round is free. The early-season bonus is that after nine rounds, the cardholders get two extra rounds.
“It was very popular last year,” Prisco said.
“The driving range is open, too,” she added.
Rockland, which has a reputation for opening early, needs more time to get the frost out.
“We want to be able to drill down 13 inches,” said Rockland pro Keenan Flanagan. “Right now, we’re only getting down 5 to 7 inches, so we’re not going to open yet.”
He will open the front nine first, because that is higher and drains better.
“The back is usually [open] a week to 10 days later,” Flanagan said.
Flanagan wants to accommodate his clientele as soon as possible.
“The minute we can cut the cups, we’ll get the mower and the roller out there,” he said. “We like the ground temperature to be [at least] 52 degrees. It’s not quite ready yet.”
Flanagan, the head pro for 14 years, has to be mindful of the changes that have occurred at the club over the years, too.
“Since we put irrigation in in 2003, we have to be a little more careful of the product,” he said.
James Blanchette at Goose River has some low areas he has to worry about in the spring usually, but that may not be the case this year.
“We have some low areas, but there’s been very little snow, so there won’t be much runoff. That’ll be beneficial,” he said.
While April 15 may seem like a late starting date compared to other courses, Blanchette still sees it as early.
“This is a tourist-driven area, so typically we don’t open until May 1,” he said. “Anytime before that is good.”
So Prisco will be going it alone, among the area golf courses, for at least a few days. She won’t be alone at the club.
“I’ve been getting a lot of calls,” she said. “People are excited. They’re dusting off the clubs.”
MSGA adds early events
The Maine State Golf Association has added three weekend tournaments to the beginning of its schedule, starting with a one-day tourney at Old Marsh Country Club in Wells on March 31.
Nonesuch River in Scarborough will be the host April 6-7, and Dunegrass in Old Orchard Beach is the third one April 13-14.
The regular schedule gets under way April 20-21 at Biddeford-Saco Country Club in Saco.
The first three tournaments will be team-only events because it will still be too early to post individual scores for handicapping purposes. The types of team events haven’t been determined yet. The cost will be lower, too, at $35 per person because there won’t be any individual gross and net prizes.
Also, the MSGA will be discounting its memberships that are sold at the first three events. They will be $20 instead of $30.