As January turned into February, I pictured area golf pros – area golfers, for that matter – consulting the Farmers’ Almanac and scouring the Internet for long-range forecasts.
Spring golf is always iffy in the Inland Northwest given the fickle weather, but Mother Nature seems to be in a little better mood than previous years, even though it’s 48 degrees and raining as I tap away on the computer.
“You just come to realize you don’t count on a good spring, you don’t depend on it,” Hangman Valley pro Steve Nelke said. “Most of your revenue is from June 1st on but if you have good springs and it happens to fall on weekend days it’s great. You just can’t lose the weekends.”
Thanks to generally favorable winter and spring weather, most area courses are in excellent early-season condition and pros reported an increase in business. A few sunny weeks in March helped on both counts.
“We got a kick-start with that nice weather and the course is in phenomenal shape,” said Patti Marquis, pro at The Links in Post Falls. “It’s a little hard to tell, we opened March 1 and sometimes we don’t open until the end of March, but our play is way up.”
“March was up. April has been a little flat,” said Nelke, noting Hangman Valley opened March 15. “It seems to me if it’s nice on the weekends people will spend one day recovering their yard back from the wilderness and one day getting out to play (golf).”
Circling Raven in Worley opened later, on April 5, and the weather hasn’t been kind.
“Last Saturday we had snow for parts of the day,” director of golf Tom Davidson said. “For us, it’s a little bit of a drive so it better be really nice for people to come out and play. We’re significantly behind where we were last year at this time.
“For a couple weeks in March I’m sure some of the other public courses were killing it, but we weren’t open yet.”
The plus was that when Circling Raven opened it was in great shape.
“The warm weather through March really helped out a lot,” Davidson said. “We didn’t have a ton of snow cover through winter.”
But they did have a little too much hoof cover as a herd of 100 elk roamed the course.
“We had a little damage but nothing we can’t fix. It’ll heal up pretty quickly,” Davidson said. “They spent at least three weeks in January and February. It’s usually a smaller herd of 20 or 30 for a shorter period of time but these guys made a mess. Our crew is always on top of those things.”
Hangman Valley opened on all permanent greens, a rarity, and the irrigation system was activated earlier than usual.
“The worst thing you can do is open in mediocre or bad shape and then that kind of stays with you in the spring,” Nelke said. “That kind of stays with you by word of mouth (from customers). In talking to some superintendents, we didn’t have that normal near zero (degree) stretch with wind that sucks all the moisture out of the course. It seemed to be a little more manageable winter.”
At The Links, greens are running 10.5-11.5 on the Stimpmeter, according to Marquis. The course doesn’t have to deal with several of the typical spring headaches. Trees are scarce so there are no broken branches to clean up.
The Links is located above the aquifer on the Rathdrum prairie “so it drains like no course I’ve ever seen,” Marquis said. “We have monsoons and can still drive carts anywhere.”
But there was no escaping the rugged weather conditions that greeted golfers at the Pro-Am last Monday at The Links, another reminder that spring can still feel a lot like winter.
“It was so cold and windy,” Marquis said. “It was like playing golf in Antarctica. We were just missing the penguins.”