The course at Jug Mountain Ranch, covered with up to seven inches of ice, may not open until mid-June. Terrace Lakes Resort lost 12 greens and MeadowCreek Golf Resort began the season with 15 temporary greens.
Many golf courses around the country benefitted from what was primarily a mild winter that not only allowed more play throughout colder months, but also left courses in great shape to green up and be playable for unusually early 2013 season openings.
For resort courses in mountainous regions north of Boise, Idaho, however, a milder winter meant less snow and more rain that then turned to ice and has had a devastating effect on the 2013 season, reports the Idaho Statesman.
In late December, for example, the Statesman reports, six inches of snow fell on the golf course at Jug Mountain Ranch in McCall, Idaho. That led the course maintenance crew there to breathe a sigh of relief, knowing the importance that snowpack plays as an insulator to protect grass from ice damage.
The next night, however, a rainstorm swept through the area and washed away the snow. And by morning, all that water was frozen.
“I have photos of what our golf course looked like on December 30,” said Dustin Ames, Jug Mountain’s golf pro. “There were 4 to 7 inches of ice across the whole thing.”
By the beginning of June, the Statesman reported, Jug Mountain still hadn’t recovered sufficiently from the damage to open for the new season, and wasn’t expecting to be able to open until at least the middle of the month.
Because of similar conditions that hit the Idaho 55 corridor that runs north of Boise and west of the Boise and Payette national forests last December, several others of the state’s most popular mountain golf courses were experiencing similar struggles to recover for the 2013 season, according to the Statesman.
Terrace Lakes Resort in Garden Valley, Idaho, which expected to open its back nine during the first week of June to return to full strength, lost 12 of its 18 greens. MeadowCreek Golf Resort in New Meadows, Idaho began the season with 15 temporary greens and was down to six that it still felt might be needed for a few more weeks as June began. Osprey Meadows at Tamarack Resort in Donnelley, Idaho was also still using six temporary greens at the start of June.
McCall (Idaho) Golf Club wasn’t hit as badly as some of its neighbors, the Statesman reported, but had still left nine of its 27 holes closed to protect seven damaged greens as the new season opened.
In the region, only the Whitetail Club in McCall and Cascade (Idaho) Golf Course avoided significant damage, it was reported.
“There’s no mechanical way for dealing with Mother Nature [and] every curveball she sends at you,” said Allan Morrison, the head pro at McCall.
“We knew this was affecting our greens, and we actively removed the ice three times.”
“It was one of those 30-year freak winter things,” added Aaron Ingle, the pro at MeadowCreek. “We had such a dense ice pack that it basically suffocated the grass underneath. That’s kind of what happened to all of us.”
Added Merle Baptiste, the pro at Terrace Lakes: “If it had snowed and then frozen on top of that, it would have been no problem.”
Superintendents at several of the mountain courses talked to each other through the winter to try to find solutions, the Statesman reported.
Jug Mountain and McCall used aerifying machines to break up the ice on the greens and remove it. McCall didn’t remove the ice from its nursery green, providing a test case. Seven greens were “seriously injured,” Morrison said, but all could be played on now if the course was busy enough to need them.
“We didn’t do anything to our nursery green and it was 80 percent dead,” he said. “So what we did saved basically three-quarters of the golf course.”
Jug Mountain used the same ice-breaking technique and received far worse results.
“We didn’t lose a whole green,” Ames said. “We have damage, safe to say, on every green. Some greens, it’s a spot [measuring] 5 [feet] by 4. Some greens, it’s half of it or more.”
A colder-than-usual spring hampered reseeding efforts and added frustration to the initial damage, the Statesman reported. McCall went seven days in May without a high of 50 degrees, and Jug Mountain recorded a low of 25 degrees on Memorial Day weekend.
Terrace Lakes sodded the four dead greens on its front nine and was able to open that side quickly. The eight damaged greens on the back nine were seeded and were expected to open at the end of the first week of June. The course also reseeded six fairways.
“We’re taking an approach of waiting till the golf course is playable and ready to be opened,” Ames said. “It’s taking 14-plus days to pop seed up here right now. If we were down in the valley, we’d have a golf course ready to go right now. [But] everyone up here [in the mountains] is still in Mother Nature’s hands [and] she still isn’t being very nice to us—it’s supposed to turn cold again.””
Some courses also learned that luck plays a big role, too. At Osprey Meadows, for example, the practice green is about 100 feet from the 18th green. “The 18th green had zero damage,” said Wolfe Ashcraft, Marketing Manager and Golf Course Manager for the Tamarack Municipal Association. “The putting surface for the practice green was 90 percent dead. There’s not a lot of rhyme or reason to it.”
While most of the mountain course operators were hoping to be back near full strength by July 1, which is when they usually get busy, the loss of much of June—a month that can make or break their annual budgets—was disappointing. “The last two Junes up here have been disastrous,” Morrison said.