Golf course properties in the state are dealing with the financial hardship that comes with reduced play, as well as delays to planned course improvements from the wet and cold. Mark Lambert, golf pro at Nansemond River Golf Club in Suffolk, said it helps to look on the bright side: “In some respects, our expenses are down this year because we were closed so much. We were closed 13 days in March, which is a lot.”
Golf courses in Virginia are dealing with the after-effects of the recent cruel winter, the Norfolk-based Virginian-Pilot reported.
Mark Lambert, golf pro at Nansemond River Golf Club in Suffolk, said it helps to look upon the bright side of our recent cruel winter. “In some respects, our expenses are down this year because we were closed so much,” said Lambert. “We were closed like 13 days in March, which is a lot.
“People don’t realize, but last winter (2013) was bad, too. This winter was colder, with more snow, but last year it rained almost through April. When it’s warm and rainy, you kind of have to stay open because you might get two or three guys playing.”
Lambert’s lament echoes comments from other local pros who endured small pockets of decent winter-golfing days interrupted by long stretches of wintry blasts. For them, the recent sunshine and 60s or 70s are welcome, the Virginian-Pilot reported.
But Billy Judah, the pro at Red Wing Lake in Virginia Beach, said that while this past winter was extraordinarily cold, a few degrees don’t usually change market conditions, the Virginian-Pilot reported.
“Anything that dips below 50 and it’s cloudy and rainy, we’re not going to get any play anyway,” he said. “So whether it’s 20 degrees or whether it’s 40 doesn’t make a whole lot of difference.”
Along with the financial hardship of reduced play, the wet and cold delayed or denied course improvements. It forced operators to reduce hours of part-time workers and take on a more diverse workload themselves. And it left the Bermuda grass in many fairways still unseasonably brown, showing areas of dormant “winter kill” that will take longer than usual to green up, the Virginian-Pilot reported.
“It’ll eventually fill over,” Lambert said, “but it’ll be late-season.”
At Bide-A-Wee in Portsmouth, pro Andy Giles said the inability of his maintenance crew to work outside much of the winter meant there was time for fresh paint all around and an overdue sprucing up of the club’s party pavilion, the Virginian-Pilot reported.
“They did a lot of inside work that they normally can’t do when you have to cut grass,” Giles said. “But now we’re kicking in. When the weather’s nice, we’re jamming,” especially on Friday night mixers that Giles said have drawn 120 golfers in recent weeks.
“January wasn’t the worse we’ve ever had, but February was the worst February,” said Glen Pierce, the director of golf at Virginia Beach National as well as the head pro at Heron Ridge. “We’re not in a position where it’s not feasible that we can catch last year (financially). But the problem is last year wasn’t very good, either.”
Judah said clubs routinely budget for winter by “preparing for the worst and hoping for the best,” the Virginian-Pilot reported.
“We were really fortunate a couple of winters ago and had a great season,” he said. “That’s just a bonus. But as anything else in this world, the cost of everything around us is going up and it’s harder to make ends meet. You have to get lean. It’s the nature of the golf business now as professionals.”
As one example of staffing cutbacks, Judah said as a young golfer, he never saw club pros pulling golf carts out of sheds. These days, he said, that job is a regular part of his duty, the Virginian-Pilot reported. “Not that it’s bad; it’s just the truth,” Judah said.
Like Lambert, Judah applied a good-natured dash of sun to the winter aftermath. “If there’s a good thing, it’s that the bent-grass greens didn’t get beat up all winter long with foot traffic,” he said. “They got a little rest.”
Pierce said that while his part-time staff also got more rest than it wanted, no layoffs were necessary at his clubs. “I’m answering the phone, if that tells you anything,” Pierce said. “We’re definitely behind, but we’re trying to remain optimistic. When the weather turns around, we’re gonna be ready for it.”