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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Subpar winter is golfer’s delight

 (The Spokesman-Review)
By Jonathan Brunt and James Hagengruber The Spokesman-Review

Skiers might be crying, but the warm weather has golfers pinching themselves in disbelief.

At least six golf courses across the region opened in recent days. Dave Lowe, owner of Highlands Golf Club, in Post Falls, said he’s never had such an early season in his 26 years of experience.

“The best I’ve ever seen was the middle of February, but never January. Never,” Lowe said. “It’s a weird thing. We’re all smiles. I wouldn’t want to be in the ski business, though.”

Typical gray, cool January weather is expected to return today through Saturday, but no major snow is on the horizon, and warmer temperatures should return Sunday, said Paul Bos, meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Spokane. Snow levels could drop to 2,500 feet Friday night, but any precipitation should be light.

“We’re not looking at any big storms coming in,” Bos said.

No big cold snaps are expected, either, which should keep golf course grass from freezing. A narrow band of frost lingers about four inches below the surface at Highlands in Post Falls, but that’s not deep enough to cause concern over damaging grass roots, Lowe said. Apart from some wet spots on the greens, “the fairways are perfect,” he said.

Prairie Falls, of Post Falls, opened Tuesday, with 111 golfers hitting the course. “That’s real early for us,” said Darrell Hull, the course’s golf pro.

Liberty Lake Golf Course opened Friday. The course typically offers some form of golfing every month of the year, albeit sometimes on temporary greens. But most winters only offer brief glimpses of golfing weather, said Liberty Lake’s head golf pro, Kit DeAndre.

“This ranks typical for Spokane for me. However, I can’t remember this many sunny days in a row where there was no wind out there,” DeAndre said Wednesday afternoon. “I’m looking at a foursome of guys right now. One’s got a T-shirt on.”

One of the city of Spokane’s four golf courses, Esmeralda, in east Spokane, will open today. “It’s not the norm,” said Mike Stone, Spokane’s parks and recreation director. “Once every five or six years we might have it open in January.”

Pamela McKinzie, Spokane’s golf program supervisor, said it probably will be mid-February before any of the city’s other courses open – The Creek at Qualchan usually is the second. “If we get some more 50-degree days, it could be much sooner than that,” she said.

Other early openers include Fairways Golf Course in Cheney, Trailhead Golf Course in Liberty Lake and Painted Hills in Spokane. Painted Hills Manager Ron Ridl said even power carts are being allowed on the course – a sign of the unusual dryness and strength of the grass.

“It’s just like summer, brother,” Ridl said. “We’re going great.”

Meanwhile, ski areas are skidding along. Silver Mountain, in Kellogg, plans to reopen today with drastic reductions in both snow and lift ticket prices. The resort is reporting 20 inches of snow at its summit, but lift tickets of only $19.95. All the region’s ski resorts, except for Mount Spokane, will be open this weekend. Mount Spokane is holding a free concert, barbeque and snow dance party Friday beginning at 5 p.m.