December 15, 2017
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Warm, dry summer a blessing and curse for Maine golf industry

By Larry Mahoney, BDN Staff
Updated:
Micky Bedell | BDN | BDN
Micky Bedell | BDN | BDN
Bangor Municipal Golf Course, pictured during the Greater Bangor Open in July, is among the Maine links that have overcome hot, dry conditions with an extensive irrigation system. Other courses are at the mercy of the weather.

The unusually warm weather and dry conditions in some areas have had varying impacts on the state’s golf courses this summer.

Yet the positives have outweighed the negatives, according to golf pros, superintendents and general managers.

There have been so many sunny, warm days that Bangor Municipal Golf Course head pro Rob Jarvis said his only major concern was that his members would get “golfed out” from playing too much.

“It’s very important for our staff to make sure our golfers are still excited to play. We don’t want their interest to dwindle,” said Jarvis.

As a result, Jarvis and his staff have looked at ways to add club events or provide another wrinkle to an existing tournament.

Mike Dugas, the golf pro at J.W. Parks in Pittsfield whose family owns the course, said the weather has been good for them.

“We depend on vacationers from the lakes around us, so every day we have available for golf is a good day,” said Dugas, who is the golf coach at Husson University in Bangor.

“We’ve been able to keep the course fairly green despite the lack of rain. From a negative standpoint, the staff has been cranking every day. They haven’t had many easy days, which you get when you have some rain,” said Dugas. “But the college kids who work for me are happy to be making money.”

Even some courses that have irrigation from tees to greens have had to water more than usual. Those that don’t have sprinkler systems in their fairways can be hard-pressed.

“It is tough. All we can do is hope for rain,” said Chad Armell, the superintendent in charge of the grooming and maintenance at Hidden Meadows Golf Course in Old Town.

But Armell pointed out that he doesn’t hear many complaints from the golfers because “their drives that would normally go 200 yards are going 250 [yards thanks to the dry fairways].”

The humidity has been both a blessing and a curse.

“Humidity can lead to fungus,” said Armell. “But the water in the air from the humidity prevents the course from drying out as much as it could.”

Joe Perdue, the owner and head pro at Hidden Meadows, said they have been fairly busy during the morning hours and after 3:30 p.m.

Between noon and 3:30 p.m., the hottest part the day, the course has been a ghost town, he said.

“You could fire a cannon off [and not hit anybody],” said Perdue.

That is a common theme among the golf pros.

“It has been pretty slow in the afternoon when it has been really hot,” agreed Michael Foster, the general manager and superintendent at JaTo Highlands Golf Course in Lincoln. “But, other than that, the good weather has been great for business. We’ve had only one rain day.

“We have a men’s league on Tuesday evening, and we haven’t had a rainout this year. The people love it. We had five last year,” he added.

He said that it has cost a little more to irrigate the course, which he said is in great shape, this summer.

Lenny Espling, the owner and superintendent at the Barren View Golf Course in Jonesboro, said he is having the best year since he took over five years ago.

In addition to the irrigation system doing its job, he has benefited from “fog just about every morning.”

The sun and the lack of rain haven’t been the only issues challenging the golf pros.

“The sun is one thing, but the sun and the wind together are a nightmare,” said Jarvis. “That’s drying the course out two ways. One day of wind can have the same impact as three or four days of sun.”

Jarvis credited superintendent John Kelley and his staff for keeping the course in excellent shape. He noted that their irrigation system consists of over 600 sprinkler heads.

Barry Madore, the pro at the Presque Isle Country Club, said they have actually had some rain so their course has been lush.

“Our weather has been really good. We’ve had more rain than they’ve had in Bangor or south of Bangor,” said Madore. “We’ve had the right amount of rain at the right time. Everything is soft and green.”

He said memberships are up “5 to 6 percent” and the daily turnout has been up about 10 percent.

Madore said Presque Isle Country Club’s big tournament, the Spudland Open, had a record turnout of 228 last month.

Ben Allen, the assistant pro and head teaching pro at the Old Marsh Country Club in Wells, said they have received 9½ inches less than normal, but “we have had enough rain to keep our course in magnificent shape.”

He said they do have one person responsible for watering the course and he has been “watering it like crazy.”

Allen said the one concern is they use ponds to irrigate the course and the water levels in the ponds are low.

Mike Bouchard, the assistant pro at the Augusta Country Club in Manchester, said they have had a good summer.

“It has been pretty hot, but nobody has complained,” said Bouchard. “People are happy to have the sun.”

 


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