Recent rains have given some relief to golf courses that have seen a spike in water and labor costs, but still report steadily increasing rounds and revenues.
Golf courses in Wisconsin are seeing a spike in costs due to the worst drought in decades—but there are upsides, too, WisBusiness reported.
“Water is at a premium,” said Jeff Bollig, spokesman for the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America. “Most of the facilities, I’ve heard, are either tapped out on water supplies or close, and that means they have to buy more water, which is expensive, number one. Plus, their staff is working more overtime to hand-water places that maybe irrigation doesn’t get to as much, so you’re also talking more labor costs.”
Bollig said courses are unlikely to raise their prices for a round, though some private clubs might assess members to recoup this year’s costs. The standard bluegrass in many Northern states does not do well in hot weather, he added. After an exceptionally mild winter and spring, with little snow and few April showers, greens were already dry, WisBusiness reported.
David Brandenburg, who manages the Fond du Lac County (Wis.) public golf course, said that though the course opened earlier than usual in March due to the warm spring, searing heat is keeping many golfers home.
“We’ve lost as many days to heat this year as we normally would to rain,” said Brandenburg. “I’ve seen it this dry, but I’ve never seen it this hot when it’s this dry.”
John Okray, Assistant Golf Pro at Glen Erin Golf Club in Janesville, Wis., is telling a different story, WisBusiness reported.
“Our course is actually in really good shape,” said Okray. “We’re watering, of course, a lot more than we normally would—pretty much close to double the water amount that we put on the course.”
Glen Erin has its own well, though staff has stopped watering its driving range to focus on the fairways and tee boxes.
Jason Boaz, Golf Pro for Grand Geneva resorts in Lake Geneva, Wis. said business has remained strong and recent rain has helped to restore parched grass.
“People are showing up—golfers will play in any weather,” Boaz says. “We started giving out bottles of water to guests and we’re giving out ice-cold towels. We’re doing our best to keep everyone hydrated.”
Brandenburg said Fond du Lac has marshals traveling the course to supply drinking water.
Despite the heat, Ginny Bocek, program specialist for Waukesha (Wis.) County Parks, reported a 25 percent increase in revenue and rounds for courses in that county, compared to last year. Bocek also pointed out that courses have to mow less often, which saves on fuel costs.
Joe Roszak, chief of business operations for the Milwaukee County Parks Department, said golf in the area never totally shut down due to the mild winter, so he foresees a banner year for area courses.
“Reservations are popping up further in advance—often three or four days, and some are scheduled one to two weeks out—because people are fairly confident there won’t be bad weather,” Roszak said.
Jack Storm, who co-owns Brookfield Hills Golf Course in Brookfield, Wis., said recent rains replenished his club’s creek and pond. But that doesn’t mean conditions are normal.
“Golfers have to realize that you’re not going to have as thick of a rough,” he said. “The fairways will be much firmer [and] you’ll get more roll. [But] it won’t be as emerald green as you’re used to at this time of year; there will be a little burnout, and the putting greens will probably be a little slower.”
For more information on how courses in other parts of the country are coping with the challenges brought by this year’s long, hot and dry summer, see “Courses Get Creative to Deal with Drought.”