May 27, 2018
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Harsh winter forces later starting dates for many Maine golf courses

By Larry Mahoney, BDN Staff

The harsh and seemingly endless winter took a toll on many of the state’s golf courses.

Most have opened later than usual and some still haven’t opened.

“Two weeks ago, I didn’t think we’d be able to play golf even in May,” said Steve Leitch, the pro at the Aroostook Valley Country Club in Fort Fairfield. “But now there’s very little frost in the ground. In the open areas, the snow has disappeared.

“The greens are in very good condition. We cover all of them with an ice shield and straw. That being said, we won’t be golfing until May 8 or 9. We could use some warm, drying conditions,” he said.

Mike Ellis, the pro at the St. Croix Country Club in Calais, said he is shooting for a May 1 opening.

“We’re always a little late to open because we have a lot of clay in our soil so the ground is very soft,” said Ellis. “It was a very harsh winter and there is still a fair amount of frost in the ground.”

He said they will benefit from “lot of drainage work we’ve done over the last five years.”

Ice storms did considerable damage to trees.

“That was as bad as I have ever seen it,” said Ellis, who added that the cold temperatures at night have slowed the drying process.

Financially, he said, “we’re a membership-driven course so we don’t have the start-up money we usually have. We opened earlier last year but it rained virtually the entire month of May.

“If we can have a good May, we’ll be fine,” he said.

Fifty-two miles away, in another part of Washington County, Jonesboro’s Barren View Golf Course is thriving because the soil is sand-based, according to superintendent/proprietor Lenny Espling.

It has been open for more than a week.

“The course is as dry as a bone,” said Espling. “I’ve already mowed the grass three times.”

The temperatures have been problematic for Wayne Hand, owner of the Bucksport Golf Club.

“The course is in great shape. The greens need a little work but that’s always the case in the spring. But it has been cold and damp,” said Hand, who will open at the end of this week.

“This is a very late opening for us. We usually open in March or the first of April,” said Hand. “This is a big financial concern. If you can’t get the golfers early, you can lose them (to other courses). We have so many golf courses nearby and we don’t have the population to sustain them all.”

Paul Greco helps manage the J.W. Parks Golf Course in Pittsfield, which opened this week. The Pennsylvania native said they are, “two weeks behind last year but we’re a month behind financially” because members haven’t been thinking about golf due to the weather.

“This is the worst I have seen it in my 18 years here. We can’t play the ninth hole because we’re re-doing the green,” said Greco.

He is hoping the “floodgates” will open and golfers will swarm to the course when the weather improves.

Abby Spector, the teaching pro at the Dunegrass Golf Club in Old Orchard Beach, said the course has been open two weeks.

“It came through the winter very well. It’s very exciting. We’re off to a good start,” said Spector.

Joe Perdue, who owns the Hidden Meadows Golf Course in Old Town, said it has suffered damage to three greens. A Saturday opening is “nine or 10 days later than last year.

“We have some other damage on the course. The service roads and cart paths are non-existent,” said Perdue.

He said they will use temporary greens until at least June and they will offer reduced rates due to the inconvenience.

“We had to snowblow the greens because we had four or five inches of ice (underneath the snow),” he said. “We have to get the ground temperature up so we can re-seed them.”

Purdue said they spent a lot of money and time working on the course during the offseason. He added that there have been a lot of people visiting the driving range they built on a concrete slab — even when it was snow covered.

“We used yellow golf balls (for the range balls),” he said.

They also do a lot of club-fitting and teaching, so that will help defray any financial losses.

The Bangor Municipal Golf Course will celebrate its 50th year when it opens on Wednesday and pro Brian Enman said the course is opening “a week later, on average.

“There’s a little ice damage but not too much. We’ll be fine. Whenever you lose a week of golf, you lose some money. But it’s not a huge thing,” said Enman. “I toured the course and was pleasantly surprised by how dry it was, although there were some wet areas.”


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