Bergum: Weather not doing golf courses any favors
I once heard it called the golfer’s universal lament, and it goes something like this: “Please, God, let me make my normal swing, just once!”
I’m starting to think we should use a similar approach when it comes to the weather here in our little region of the Pacific Northwest, as in, “Please, God, let us have a normal spring, just once!”
I don’t know about the rest of you recreational golfers out there, but I’m on the verge of a meltdown.
So, when I woke up Friday morning and saw my back deck and grill covered with snow, I decided to check in with some of the PGA head professionals in the area to see how they are holding up during another wet, cold and windy spring.
It turns out, not very well – which is what I expected.
Their livings are made, after all, off people who book tee times, rent carts, take lessons and patronize their pro shops.
And so far this spring, the vast majority of those people have been unwilling to brave the elements and get their golf grooves on.
“It’s like you come to work every single day, and you’re facing Mike Tyson in his prime,” said Mark Gardner, the head professional at The Creek at Qualchan. “And you have to stand up and take the one big punch. It really wears on you.”
According to Gardner a couple of foursomes, who are in town for Bloomsday, tried to play his city-owned course Friday morning, with a light snow falling and temperatures struggling to stay above freezing.
“But they bagged it after nine holes,” Gardner added. “And, at the moment, I think we only have four golfers out on the course.”
It was cold and blustery, as well, at The Highlands Golf Course in Post Falls on Friday morning.
But according to head professional Chris Johnston, he had about 30 hearty souls slogging their way around his privately owned public course.
“I wish I had a camera,” Johnston said. “It’s like some people have finally said, ‘If I want to play golf any time soon, I’m going to have to play in the rain or the snow.’”
What is making the lack of early season play on area courses even more damaging to the head pros’ bottom line is that fact that this is the fourth consecutive year in which the spring weather has been abysmal.
“This is my sixth season here since the new owners bought the course,” Johnston said, “and in those six seasons we had the worst winter since 1953, and now the wettest and coldest April in recorded history.
“So, yeah, it hasn’t been good.”
Johnston’s estimates the rounds played at The Highlands in April will number close to 1,000 fewer than were played that same month in 2007 when the region last experienced a “normal” spring.
Gardner said the revenues taken in by the city and him through April 15 were down about 35 percent from what he considers a decent year.
“We’ve only had, maybe, two decent days since we opened,” he explained. “So people just aren’t in the mind-set to play golf at all.”
Last weekend proved to be one of nicest of the year, and most courses did good business on Saturday. But the following day was Easter Sunday, which is typically a slow golf day no matter what the weather.
“Saturday was a good day for us,” said Johnston, who added he had 230 paying customers on Saturday. “But Sunday wasn’t good at all. Typically, we don’t do much on Easter and Mother’s Day.”
Johnston went on to explain that courses can never make up the revenue they lose because of bad weather in the spring, because the majority of tee times are always filled throughout the warm months of June, July and August.
“And once school gets back in session in September, it can be 80 degrees and sunny, and you’re still not going to get many people out to play,” Johnston said. “So we could really use some help from the weather.”
Which brings me back to, “Please, God … oh, forget it.”