Apple Valley Golf Course owner Chad Hopkins works on a new tee box for the sixth hole at the Lewiston golf course on Wednesday. Hopkins said that despite Friday’s gloomy forecast, golfers have reserved a tee time for the first day courses are allowed to open. “I have people calling and saying they don’t care if it’s a blizzard, they are coming,” Hopkins said. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Thanks to favorable weather, area golf courses were going to be in great shape even before the coronavirus pandemic.

Being included on Gov. Janet Mills’ non-essential business list gave groundskeepers and superintendents an extra month to prepare and maintain their courses, and now some ahead of schedule and near midseason form with the season set to open Friday.

“We have had a nice mild spring and the winter wasn’t the worst ever, so that was good,” Randall Anderson, owner of The Meadows, said. “When you take in the fact you don’t have to work around golfers dying to get out after winter, it has afforded us the opportunity — one that we didn’t necessarily ask for, but you have to make the best of it — the chance to do spring cleanup pretty fast, get the turf going quicker than normal.

“It might take you two-and-half hours to mow the greens right now, but that’s because there’s no golfers. (Normally) it might take you four, four-and-a-half hours because you have to worry about pulling up flag sticks and working around some golfers. It’s amazing how much quicker some of the stuff can be done.”

Anderson said The Meadows is ahead of schedule by at least a month because of the combination of good weather and additional work time.

It’s almost the complete opposite of a year ago when golf courses were in bad shape in the spring.

Martindale co-owner and director of golf Nick Glicos is glad he’s not dealing with both a bad winter and a pandemic in one season.

“We are as good we have ever been in the spring, and it’s a welcome sight,” Glicos said. “With everything going on with the virus and being unable to open, it’s a real good thing to look out to see healthy good turf to play on early. If we were faced with last year’s spring, the conditions from the winter, and had put that along with the virus that would be a tough one for a lot of clubs. We are really fortunate once we do get a chance to open most every place will be in excellent shape. It should be good for the players.”

Brian Robbins prepares to go out on the course to help with maintenance at Apple Valley Golf Course in Lewiston on Wednesday. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Courses have been able to put more time into spring cleaning, which consists mostly of clearing brush that fell during the winter, while also giving their fairways and greens more attention.

At Apple Valley, the only course within Lewiston’s city limits, the extra time has been especially helpful.

“The course is in its best shape since the early spring of 2016,” owner Chad Hopkins said. I’ve been aerifying the greens, fringes, tee boxes, and removing many limbs throughout the course. Trying to not only help make the course more player-friendly, but also creating more ways for air and sunlight to hit the wet and shaded areas for a healthier course overall.”

Greens, in particular, have been helped by the delay to the golf season, according to Poland Spring Head Golf Professional John King.

“(Poland Spring superintendent James Beaulieu) was really pleased with how the greens came through,” King said. “With our greens, the Donald Ross design, they are a little bit of push-up greens. It has taken a little bit more time to get the water out of those and dry up a little bit. I think he’s really pleased how things are going, though.”

Courses didn’t use much of the extra time to make drastic changes or work on major projects. Those things cost money, and most courses are trying to stay within their means.

“With this time, the uncertainty we foresee, you don’t know what’s coming is. (Beaulieu) wanted to keep an eye on budget too,” King said. “He does have some small things going on. I think some of it might be clearing up some trees, brush and things like that.”

Brian Robbins rakes pine needles between the fifth and sixth holes at Apple Valley Golf Course in Lewiston on Wednesday. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Although the extra time was nice, Hopkins said it would have been better for Apple Valley to have golfers on the course.

“This is work that I was planning on doing, anyway. It actually would’ve been easier financially if we could have been open to offset the expenses,” Hopkins said. “Money has been a ‘one-way street’ since the shutdown.”

Martindale, meanwhile, has been able to get work done that wasn’t necessarily planned.

“Over the winter, when we had so little snow, as we got into March as this virus started coming on, because the snow had melted we were able to get on the back nine and do some work in the trees,” Glicos said. “We had some down trees from previous storms that were a big pick-up and a big cleanup to do. We were able to get some additional work done there, too.

“When the green light goes (on) we should be ready to play some golf, and I think the customers, the members, are going to enjoy it.”

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