With the first snowfall since November hitting earlier this week, golfers have been able to take advantage of the unseasonably nice weather as courses remain open.
“Last year we were closed for most of the month of January and this year we’ve been open all but a couple days,” Wildcreek Director of Golf and Head Golf Professional Eric Huzarski said. “We are averaging probably 60-75 rounds a day compared to a normal January, when we’d probably average maybe 20. So with the ability for people to get out there and the weather being so mild, it’s been fantastic really.”
Other local courses are seeing satisfied golfers turn out in high numbers as well.
“Obviously, the weather has been unseasonably warm and dry, allowing us to stay open much longer this year,” Red Hawk Director of Golf Chad Pettingill said. “In turn, that has made our members and some of the guests that come in to town very happy. We stayed open until the snow hit the beginning of this week, which has been the longest we’ve been open, ever, in one stretch of time. We’ve never been open in to January before. Sometimes in December a few days, but nothing like it was this year. So we did get quite a bit more play due to just being open.”
Mike Soloman, new owner of the Links at Kiley Ranch, echoed those sentiments.
“We’ve been fortunate with the amount of golf play. I feel sorry for the skiers, but for us, there’s a lot of play, a lot of interest. Except for these last few days, it’s been nice for the golf.”
Despite the local increase in play, the dry season does not completely benefit local courses.
“It’s kind of a catch-22,” Huzarski said. “I mean it’s great for revenue. We definitely get a little increase in revenue with the weather so mild like this, but it is a little tougher on the course. The course takes a little bit more of a beating because there’s so many more golfers playing when it’s in its weakest condition. So come spring time, things will be a little more challenging.”
The possible damage to courses is a worry throughout local shops.
“It’s better, course conditions wise, that we get a wet season,” Pettingill said. “We need moisture. The more moisture we get, the better the course is, both cosmetically and for play. We’re in more of a dry, arid climate here in this area, and to have a wetter winter season with snow definitely helps our conditions come spring and next summer.
“You would like it to be nice weather into the late fall so you can get a few more rounds out there and continue to let the guests come out and play and the members play. At some point though, when it starts to get cold and the grass stops growing, you start wanting to get a little snow coverage and close the golf course a little bit so that you’re not doing damage. When the grass doesn’t grow, obviously you’re doing a little bit of damage out there with cart traffic and divots that aren’t healing and being repaired. It’s not something that will hurt the course long term, it’s just bringing it back next spring will need a little more maintenance.”
In order to ensure that the lack of moisture doesn’t hurt the courses in the spring, the courses have been much busier behind the scenes to keep the courses in good shape.
“Typically we’re turning off the sprinklers and preparing for snow,” Pettingill said. “This year we did that and then kind of had to restart everything and get the water back on and try and get some water out on the golf course because it was very dry, to the point where we were concerned about losing turf or tees and greens and that kind of stuff.”
The need for upkeep has been a trend around the links in Northern Nevada.
“Normally we’re not throwing as much water on our golf course as we have been this winter just because normally we’re getting some help from Mother Nature and getting some snow on the course,” Huzarski said. “We’ve been firing up our irrigation system regularly and trying to get as much water out there as possible to keep the conditions as good as we can.”
Even taking this in to consideration, Huzarski is not worried about the possible ramifications for play.
“It’ll definitely slow it down a little bit. We’ve had such a wet spring the last couple of years that the course has really popped and turned green very early. I don’t really know what to expect this year. If this dry spell continues, we’ll probably be a little thin in the beginning, but we should be in good shape pretty quickly on.”
With a reported storm headed this way for the weekend, golfers are left deciding whether or not to cross their fingers for a continued dry season so they can continue to hit the course.
“Well, it’s kind of like do you want to shoot me or hang me,” Soloman said. “There’s not much of a choice. We need the moisture on one hand to keep the course, so I don’t mind a week or so of that, but then on the other hand we need play to get revenue and have people work, so it’s tough.”