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Jeff Kolpack, Published April 13 2013

Golf itch persists with late start to the season

Fargo - The golf clubs are probably in the basement, staying warm and out of view of the continued snow pack. If there is a window, it’s best to put a blindfold over each of the club heads.

It’s been a tough April so far for Mr. Ping, Mrs. Callaway, Ms. Taylor Made, Nick Nike and Tom Titleist. Oh, and it’s probably been frustrating for you, too.

Perhaps the best way to address it is mind over matter, which is the philosophy Lute Simley of West Fargo was taking at the Sports Bubble indoor driving range on Friday. He played 18 holes using a combination of a physical and mental approach.

“I pretend like I’m playing a round of golf,” he said.

For instance, he’ll use a driver on his first shot. Thinking he’s about 170 yards out, he’ll use his 20-degree hybrid club into the “green.”

“It’s practice with a purpose,” Simley said.

He just got new clubs, so at least he’s getting some work with them. It’s not real grass, sunshine or hazards, but it’s the next-best thing.

Moreover, a rough start to spring does not necessarily mean the entire season will be a loss. It may be a slow first lap, but the race also goes all the way into fall.

The three worst springs in terms of general weather since 2000, according to WDAY meteorologist Daryl Ritchison, were 2002, 2008 and 2009. Still, according to records obtained from the Fargo and Moorhead park districts, the four main public courses in Fargo and Moorhead for the most part did OK.

Edgewood took a hit in ’09, because the flood literally destroyed the course, and it did not open until July. Only 14,180 rounds were played that summer, contrast to a best-ever 34,907 last year.

But the 28,836 and 29,958 rounds played at Edgewood in ’02 and ’08, respectively, could be considered average years – ahead of the number of rounds played in 2001, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2010 and 2011. Floods more than anything have hampered Edgewood as opposed to cold temperatures and snow in April.

It snowed 16.9 inches in April of 2008, with the weather being cool most of those days, Ritchison said. Yet Edgewood rebounded with 29,958 rounds of golf.

“The whole theory is that when springs are bad, they are bad in April,” Ritchison said. “And even in May, it may be 55 degrees, but golfers have such an itch to golf that they pack up the courses. Let’s be honest. Right now, if the snow was gone, the courses would be open and it would be 41 degrees.”

The numbers correlated about on an equal basis with Rose Creek Golf Course in south Fargo, which was hit hard in 2009 but usually manages to play around the high water of Rose Coulee that runs by the front nine in other years.

“The reality for golfers is you can start thinking around late April, early May to get the courses open,” said Ritchison, who himself just bought a new driver. “But with the (Fargo) Country Club and Edgewood, the odds decrease every day without the river flowing, which increases the chances of flooding.”

The Fargo Country Club, said head professional Mark Johnson, is just waiting. And waiting. There’s not much else to do, with the exception of the launch monitor that was installed in the clubhouse last year.

The first goal is to get the driving range open, and putting a guess on that is not recommended right now.

“You talk about extremes,” Johnson said. “Last year, we had the earliest opening we ever had with the driving range open on March 17 and the course on the 21st. This might be one of the latest. Based on temperatures and take out the flooding, I think it’s the latest we’ve seen.”

Like Rose Creek, the Moorhead public courses – Meadows and Rose Creek – have been pictures of consistency since 2000. There is some subtle evidence that a bad flood year at Edgewood translates to more numbers in Moorhead. The Meadows’ best year for number of players, for instance, was 2001 with 36,982 in a year when Edgewood had just 21,194 rounds.

But there also were 24,530 players in 2009 when Edgewood had its disastrous year. Village Green, meanwhile, had its second-best year that summer since 2000.

Meadows head professional Corey Herlickson said information he’s gotten from veteran golfers is somewhere around April 20 is about the latest his course has opened. His general rule of thumb is to target an April 15 opening, and if it happens earlier, all the better.

But this April is getting tiresome.

“A change of pace from last year,” Herlickson said. “There’s a little frustration. We’re generally tired of the snow and cold, and then to have it dump on you on top of that. It makes you wonder when it will end.”

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia