To say that “if Pole Creek Golf Course wasn’t here, neither would I be”, might sound a little dramatic, but maybe not far short of the truth. The reason for this is that the day the golf course opens is perhaps the single most anticipated day of the year for me. It defines so many things: the arrival of summer and the donning of t-shirts and shorts, the re-acquaintance of old friends you haven’t seen all winter, the prospect – if you carry your clubs – of more exercise, the re-familiarization with the fantastic views and scenery the course offers up, and of course the multiple opportunities to work on your game, shoot some good scores, and have a beer and a laugh along the way.
Former Head Professional of Pole Creek and long-time friend Kim Anders refers to a round of golf as the occasion to go “hit and giggle” – tough to do when you see you ball careering towards the trees, water, someone’s backyard, but I guess if I adopted this approach more often, maybe I wouldn’t go there!
Opening Day for Pole Creek is tomorrow, May 15th, and yesterday evening sitting in my hot-tub with the snow continuing to fall heavily, I wondered whether that was still wishful thinking. It’s always difficult for an opening day to be established too far in advance, and the snow we’ve had since the ski season ended has definitely not assisted in this regard. However, yesterday I also had the opportunity to speak to both Larry Burks, General Manager of Pole Creek, and Head Golf Course Superintendant Craig Cahalane, and get a feel for how the course is looking now and an outlook for the summer.
The big question always, is how well the golf course has survived the rigors of winter. Amount of snowfall, timing of snowfall, freeze-thaws, drainage, on-set of warmer weather – all conjure up a variety of challenges for Craig and his crew in trying to ready the course as early as possible. On a scale of 1 to 10 Craig gave the course an 8 and perhaps more importantly, the greens a 9. Ice damage, which has caused all sorts of problems in the past, is virtually non-existent on the greens this year, thanks to an action plan adopted a couple of years ago whereby they would be cleared of snow around the beginning of March and for the most part kept cleared from then on. As March is statistically the heaviest month for snowfall of the whole year (and April second heaviest), this is quite an undertaking, but has proven effective in limiting the damage to the greens to the largest extent.
The greens are actually cleared manually, with hand-controlled snow-blowers set high enough off the ground so as to not rip into the green itself. Then it’s a question of treatment with fungicide, and keeping ice from forming for too long. Some greens or parts of them are covered to assist in this process. The end result is a much higher quality of greens from the start and a superior golfing experience, rather than having to play catch-up throughout the summer or – at worst –having to replace sections of the greens themselves with new turf. As for the tees and greens, other than the normal snow mold in places which – with warmer weather – will take no time to turn around, things are looking really good.
The pine beetle infestation which has been a real headache for a number of years may perhaps be finally abating. Only 180 dead trees were cut down this year, with no impact on layout of holes or aesthetics. In addition there might only be 1 more year of spraying, so the outlook here too is postivie.
After all the irrigation work two years ago and a brand new clubhouse which debuted last year, perhaps the final piece of the puzzle is to have fully paved cart-paths. In addition to two contributing tournaments, an allocation has been made from the budget towards cart-path paving and if golf revenue comes in above budget, there may be more to spend.
All in all, I detect more grounds for optimism for a great summer of golf than ever before. As always, attention will focus on the weather, but in the words of one of our summer tagline: “Work Be Gone, Play Begin!”