Golf season is a month behind after record-setting snowfall and rainy, cold April
Long before the last winter snowflake fluttered in April, Rich Rocky knew Whispering Woods Golf Club would be in for a challenging season.
“Let’s put it this way,” the course’s owner said. “Basically, we’ve always opened in March or April. We opened and closed and opened and closed at different times until we finally opened for good around the end of April.
“That’s the best way to describe this winter.”
Rocky isn’t the only owner or operator of a northwestern Pennsylvania course that was buried beneath the winter’s unprecedented snowfall of 198.5 inches. Numerous courses are getting a late start because of the lingering wintry conditions and a series of cold, rainy days in April.
Although the courses are getting started later, most are lush and green this weekend.
Crab Apple Ridge Golf Course took its name from the fruit that grows on trees found throughout the Waterford course.
Owner Rusty Tracy is confident those trees will mature.
“It’s May,” Tracy said, “and this is the latest I’ve ever seen them bloom.”
Jamie Kissman, who operates Brabender Southwoods Golf Course in McKean, said our unseasonably warm February was a terrible tease. Kissman said he was briefly optimistic he’d open for business at a reasonable time.
“It actually melted out there a little in February, so I actually felt good for a couple of weeks,” he said.
Then came March and more than 30 inches of snow.
That erased Kissman’s plan for an early opening.
Linda Christensen chose to roll with weather’s prolonged punches when she decided to unlock the clubhouse doors for Riverside Golf Course in early April.
The owner of the 18-hole Cambridge Springs course allowed patrons to play the course, albeit in spartan conditions. Cups and pins were considered luxuries for those who ventured out.
“I just charged them $10 for what it was,” Christensen said. “As crappy as April was, I didn’t bring in my grounds crew until about two weeks ago. There was still more snow on the ground than grass and the grass wasn’t growing, so what’s the point?”
Some owners and superintendents said they expect that play will pick up now that it finally appears winter’s wrath is through with the region.
Even better, none reported damage to their courses beyond what’s normally expected.
And for all of the grumbling about the long winter, some mentioned one major positive to the record snow. The snowpack protected their courses from wind erosion and snow mold, which are those white patches of fungus that most golfers tend to notice on greens.
Erie Golf Club is susceptible to that problem because of its elevated and exposed location. However, superintendent Nancy Crane said the 18-hole course held up better than she anticipated.
“I was concerned there would be a threat to the greens, but the snow must have covered them long enough to prevent any serious damage,” she said.
The owners, though, still lamented losing out on April revenue. The weather effectively shortened their season by at least one month.
“Once Labor Day hits, the focus tends to change from golf,” Crane said. “Kids go back to school, and then people start thinking about doing indoor things like shopping. Losing the spring, even if there’s gorgeous weather in September and October, doesn’t help us much.”
Rocky also mentioned that end-of-the-season trend. Not just at Whispering Woods, but at all area courses.
But that’s still five months and countless tee shots and birdie putts away.
That’s why Rocky is just glad area residents who persevered through the region’s record-setting winter can finally drive, chip and putt again.
“I’m anxious to get back out there,” he said.
Mike Copper can be reached at 870-1614 or by email. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ETNcopper.