Winter Weather Delays Maine’s Golf Season

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Nana Poku

(NECN: Amy Sinclair, Portland, Maine) - Richard Maines and his buddies are the kind of golfers who can't wait for the season to start.

"The day they open, we're usually here," said Maines just before teeing off at Riverside Golf Course in Portland, Maine.

But this spring, the municipal course opened three weeks later than usual.

Other courses, including Val Halla in Cumberland, won't open until May. It's easy to see why.

"There's been very, very few golf courses spared the widespread destruction that we've seen this spring," said Randy Hodsdon, Director of Rules and Competition for the Maine State Golf Association.

Fairways and greens are pock-marked by big dead patches of turf - the result of spending months under a thick coat of ice.

"The three to four inches of ice we've had this winter encapsulated the turf and basically suffocated it," said Gene Pierotti, Superintendent at Riverside Golf Course.

Crews across the state are working long days, trying to revive their battered courses.

"Last week, we sliced and seeded. This week, and we'll be finishing today, dimpling the greens and dropping more seed in, fertilizing and watering," said Pierotti.

In the meantime, Riverside has set up temporary greens on 11 holes to give golfers something to shoot for while the grass recuperates.

All this will take a financial toll. According to a study done by the University of Maine's School of Economics, the golf industry generates $270 million in revenue each year.

Because of the short season in Maine, few courses will be able to recoup the cost of a late start later on.

"The economic impact of a golf course staying closed is very far-reaching, in terms of income to the club, wages for everybody involved," said Hodsdon.

When the courses are closed, there's very little traffic at the restaurants or pro shops. So far, the diehards are taking the rough conditions in stride.

"It's better than sitting at home," said Maines.

Those who prefer a perfectly manicured course may be better off leaving the clubs in the car for a few more weeks.

What the greens in Maine really need is a good stretch of warm weather. And so far, Mother Nature is proving to be a very unreliable golfing partner.

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