Shoreland Country Club pro Jason Harrell calls it gravy days when golf courses open early in the spring.
Last year the course opened on March 28. Two years ago, it was March 11.
But this year, there is no gravy.
This is the only year in Harrell’s five years at Shoreland that the course hasn’t opened in March.
But this year it won’t likely open until mid- or late April.
“The 10-day forecast looks promising,” Harrell said. But it could be the third or fourth week in April when the course finally opens.
Harrrell said there are lows in the 20s and highs in the 30s, they’re not gaining up any ground. The long range forecast for April 21-25 is 40s and 50s.
“That’s what you want,” he said. “Then we can really think about opening.”
“I’m looking forward to the season starting,” Harrell said. “Before I came here, the middle of April was pretty typical as far opening day. Four years opening up in March, everybody gets used to it pretty fast.”
Opening in March has been a bonus for Shoreland. Since the club is semiprivate with memberships, it has income. But it would also get green fees from the public if it were open.
“The early spring I call it the gravy cause it’s extra revenue you can make,” Harrell said. “When we opened up March 11, it was great. Everybody was excited to play … We’re not reliant on that green fee that would be coming in. It’s nice to have a little extra revenue, but it’s not necessary.”
Business is lost in other areas such as beverage and food sales. It has affected the Woods Restaurant at Shoreland. Harrell owns the merchandise in the pro shop, so his sales are down.
“I have all these boxes with clubsto sell and no one to buy anything yet,” Harrell said. “I’ve sold one dozen balls for a guy who’s going on a trip yesterday. Most people don’t need balls because they don’t have anywhere to go.”
Every year, it’s a waiting game for weather and course conditions to improve to allow golf courses to open. Sometimes early openings don’t last long.
“Last year we opened earlier, but the weather wasn’t the best in the spring,” Harrell said. “It didn’t really get nice until June. April and May were pretty bad.”
Many Wednesday mens’ days and weekends were rained out. So Harrell hopes this year when Shoreland opens, it stays open with nicer weather.
Harrell said he feels bad about the high school teams not being able to practice outdoors. Instead they practice in the gym and some, like the St. Peter girls team, at the indoor-outdoor driving range in Shakopee. But it’s not the same as being on the course.
Two of the high school meets have already been taken off the calendar. Thursday, April 12 was cancelled and Monday, April 16 may be rescheduled. “We don’t know now if the April 23 boys invitational will work,” Harrell said.
Harrell is considering opening the driving range early to let the teams practice. But players would have to they pick their own balls instead of a ball machine because the ground is so soft.The balls plug into the ground, so that will have to firm up.
How does Harrell determine that Shoreland is ready for play?
“The first step is all the snow cover has to go away,” Harrell said April 11 with about a third of course still covered in snow. “Then the frost has to come out of the ground. When the ground is frozen, we had a perfect storm for frost because we didn’t have snow cover for a while when it was really cold. The frost is thick. Someone I talked to the other day who does construction and digs said it’s about 3 feet deep. We need warmth and rain to get that up.
“When the frost melts, it brings everything to the top and makes everything mush. It would be fine if we went out now and could even drive in a golf cart because everything is frozen. Once it start thawing out, you shouldn’t even walk on it. You can cause unneeded compression of the soil. Long term your turf would suffer for it.”
Harrell said the course condition looks good. “We’ve been able to go out and tour it. As far as winter kill, it’s very minimal. Spots are starting to turn green, we need that ground temperature to be a lot higher. You really start to see something when the ground temperature gets above 50 degrees.”