Members of Springbrook Golf Club who happened to drive past the course on Route 202 in Leeds a little more than a week ago probably hoped it was an April Fools’ joke.

Alas, the prank already had been played.

Neither Mother Nature nor the golf gods held up their end of the bargain with the steady melting that traditionally unfolds in March. So passers-by saw longtime owner Joe Golden and his grounds crew taking dramatic measures into their own hands.

“We plowed all the greens. I rented a Bobcat on tracks. That’s something I hadn’t done in 31 years,” Golden said. “As a rule, you don’t want to do that. It’s a call you don’t like to make.”

After the cost-benefit analysis, it was Golden’s only choice.

Whatever risk was involved in possibly tearing up the putting surfaces was outweighed by the danger of letting the tender grass sit underneath a thick coat of snow and ice any longer.

“They say it can stay under ice for 90 days before it dies,” Fox Ridge Golf Club owner and superintendent Ed Michaud noted. “It was quite a bit more than that.”

All things considered, in the aftermath of a harsh winter for the record books, golf courses in the Lewiston-Auburn area are holding up relatively well.

Most say they are anywhere from a few days to two weeks behind schedule. The goal of Auburn’s Fox Ridge and Apple Valley of Lewiston is to open Easter weekend, April 18-20.

Springbrook and Martindale Country Club of Auburn hope to host play by the end of the month.

“It really depends on the weather, but we’re shooting for April,” Martindale co-owner and head professional Nick Glicos said. “It’s actually perfect when it kind of melts gradually like this.”

Perfect wasn’t a phrase that came to mind three weeks ago, when overnight temperatures still were approaching zero and daytime highs never nudged above freezing. Snow pack at the time was measured in feet.

Apple Valley owner Linda Kelley ran into the same issues as Golden. She saved the expense by shoveling the greens at her nine-hole course.

“There were three of us out there,” Kelley said. “At 56, let me tell you, that’s quite a workout. And I was the youngest.”

Kelley, who purchased the property prior to the 2013 season, estimated that 99 percent of the ground is now open.

Well, open, but saturated. Not to mention bumpy.

“The frost heaves are incredible,” Kelley said. “It looks a little bit like the roads in Lewiston.”

Owners say those natural hazards will remedy themselves with an extended period of sunny, breezy days and nighttime temperatures in the 40s.

Michaud also is hoping for some rain, believe it or not. He said it will take care of the lingering frost being reported by all the Androscoggin County layouts.

He came to Fox Ridge from the Sugarloaf course in Carrabassett Valley.

“There, it was like this every spring, but this is the worst I’ve seen it in 13 years here,” Michaud said. “It was the fourth-coldest March on record. That’s really what set us back. It looked like a big white Pac-Man eating my camp (in Eustis). There was no place for the snow to fall off the roof.”

Golfers and their favorite haunts were spoiled two years ago, when an unprecedented week of 75-degree temperatures allowed most to open for business by the fourth week of March.

Last year was closer to a traditional starting date. Golden opened April 15.

Things have taken shape nicely since he brought in the heavy equipment, but the ankle-deep mud and patches of white in Springbrook’s fairways remind the owner that he’ll be fortunate to beat the record-late opening day of May 1.

“We had snow, ice, snow, ice all the way down, and then three to five inches of ice underneath that on top of the greens,” Golden said. “We’re probably a couple weeks behind, but things have a way of catching up really fast.”

As for the financial hit from the winter-that-wouldn’t-end, it isn’t as bad as you might assume.

Martindale opened up to limited public play in recent years, but much of its season is already paid in full.

“An early opening doesn’t affect us too much where a majority of play is membership play,” Glicos said. “We’re not driven by the public fees. In a year like this, that’s probably a good thing.”

Michaud said the late start actually might be better for the books.

“When we do open early, by the end of May, revenues are about the same and expenses are way up. It actually costs us money to open early,” he said. “We do it, because how do you look your members in the eye when they wonder why they have to go to Nonesuch (River) to play golf?”

Both Nonesuch, located adjacent to the Maine Turnpike in Scarborough, and Falmouth Country Club of Portland will be open this weekend. Being located 30 miles farther south is their secret weapon.

Having a wide-open course with few trees in the middle is traditionally Michaud’s advantage, allowing him to open earlier than the local competition.

“When we are able to do that, it’s usually a doozy of a week,” Michaud said. “But I don’t think that’s going to be the case.”

This week’s more seasonable conditions have escalated public fever. Pro shop phones have rung incessantly.

“Everyone wants to know,” Kelley said. “The leagues are calling. They want to get rolling.”

She tells them the tentative opening day is April 20.

There’s a pause.

“I know that’s Easter Sunday,” Kelley said. “But you know, I didn’t create the calendar.”

Or control the weather.


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