Teed off: Winter weather wreaked havoc on Ontario's golf courses
Taylor Poelman, Special to CTVNews.ca
Published Wednesday, May 28, 2014 5:17PM EDT
Ontario golfers who have been looking forward to getting back on the green this spring are disappointed by the poor conditions plaguing some of the province’s clubs due to this year’s harsh winter.
Golf courses in southern Ontario usually open in April. But due to lasting effects from the seemingly endless winter, some have only just been able to open.
Very few greens are ready to be played on as many courses across Ontario, Quebec, and the northern United States received extensive damage after months of extreme winter weather conditions. In some cases, courses report they are spending millions of dollars to renovate their ruined greens.
Cutten Fields in Guelph, Ont., is one club that has yet to let golfers onto its greens, although they can at least get on the course.
“We’re on temporary greens,” said David Kuypers, superintendent at Cutten Fields. “Not popular with any golfer at all, but necessary to get the golf course back in order.”
Kuypers is confident that he’ll have Cutten Fields fully up and running soon, but the delay is significant.
“The damage here is really unprecedented,” he told Canada AM.
Unfortunately, only Mother Nature is the only one to blame: Southern Ontario’s December ice storm, followed by the polar vortex in January, caused the ground to flood and then freeze, suffocating the grass.
And it’s not just southern Ontario that has dry, yellowed greens – Kuypers said even courses in the Deep South of the U.S. are having trouble.
In some cases, drastic measures have been taken to save the greens, and prevent this type of damage in the future.
Golf courses in Ontario feature two predominant types of grass: annual bluegrass (called Poa Annua), and creeping bent grass. Bluegrass is what usually covers Ontario greens, but creeping bent grass has a much higher tolerance for bad weather and cold temperatures.
“Some golf courses have just made the decision to renovate – change the grass, basically. And they’re not going to have the risk associated with having annual blue grass,” said Kuypers.
However, creeping bent grass is expensive, making some course operators hesitant to use it.
“It’s a very significant capital investment. It’s going to dramatically impact the season that you do that work in. … It is a major, major renovation.”
But Kuypers pointed out that despite high costs, the investment might be necessary in order to keep courses going.
“Greens are very important for income of golf courses,” he said. “When they’re in bad shape, courses lose money.”
The green is where golfers make their most important shots, and if they aren’t playable, golfers might take their business elsewhere.
“Golfers tend to make their value judgments and conditioning estimations based on the greens. And when they’re not in good shape, all the revenue lines that golf courses have to make money tend to suffer,” said Kuypers.
Kuypers noted that while setbacks are frustrating, golfers must realize that unpredictable weather is something everyone deals with.
Eager golfers will have to remain vigilant, as only time -- and now spring weather -- will tell how quickly the wilted greens will recover.