VASSALBORO — It’s been a strange winter, one that’s kept those desperate for outdoor activities on their toes.

It hasn’t been the snowiest of years, at least by historical standards. Yet much of the winter weather that did take place occurred late in the season, right as the promises of the spring thaw seemed to be closest.

For the most part, though, the snow and ice from this winter has melted away, and local golf courses have been hard at work preparing for the 2023 season. Following the recent warmer spell, some courses across the state are set to begin that season over the next couple days.

“This is about the time you assess what things around the state look like,” said Paul Richmond, superintendent of The Meadows in Litchfield and vice president of the Maine Golf Course Superintendents Association. “Usually, you have some places suffering from ice damage, but this year, it’s been very minimal. A lot of places are ready.”

One course has already let some members get an early start and will officially open as soon as Thursday. Natanis Golf Course in Vassalboro has set an opening day of Thursday, making it the first course in the central Maine area to open for the 2023 season.

Other courses, such as the Augusta Country Club in Manchester and the Waterville Country Club in Oakland, are not quite ready to open.


“We’re still a week if not a little bit longer away, I would say at this point,” said Waterville Country Club General Manager Nick Pelotte. “We haven’t set an official date yet, but next week’s weather is looking pretty good. I’ll be curious to see how much progress we can make next week, and we’ll make a determination.”

Steve Demmer, the new general manager at the Augusta CC, said this week they are still about two weeks away from opening because of wet course conditions.

Natanis General Manager Al Browne said they were snowblowing the course in late February and early March to prepare to open. The use of specific equipment workers use to get the greens and fairways ready for early play allowed the clearance of 20 acres of snow in just four days.

“We have a 72-inch snowblower on a tractor, front-mounted, and that allows us to get rid of a lot of it pretty fast,” Browne said. “We’re letting a bunch of the members out (Tuesday), but once Thursday comes, that’s when we open things up and get to our official hours.”

Major storms March 4 and March 14, of course, did coat Natanis with additional layers of snow. Yet the weather in between and following those storms saw quick melting, and with 19 days of high temperatures of 40 degrees or higher since, the state’s only 36-hole course is ready for play.

“Those March snows tend to melt pretty quick, especially if you don’t have any existing snow,” Browne said. “You have the grass showing through, and the sun hits that, so it’s a little warmer and melts quicker. … The guys who have played so far said it’s drier than they expected.”


Ron Webber cuts an arrowhead-shaped wooden tee marker with a scroll saw Tuesday April 4, 2023 at Natanis Golf Course in Vassalboro.  Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

The Meadows is scheduled for a Friday opening day. Richmond said that course had originally been set to open March 17, but the storm of three days earlier was significant enough that a three-week delay was deemed necessary to get the course in playing condition.

That wait worked wonders with the aforementioned stretch of warm weather. The greens, Richmond said, are in top shape. Even with the delay, the April 7 opening day is roughly in line with the time the Litchfield course has opened in previous years.

“We’ve had a stretch of warm weather recently that’s helped, and those two really warm days a week and a half or so ago pushed all the remaining snow off,” Richmond said. “It’s all melted, and it looks great. That slow drainage we’ve had has really been perfect for us.”

Sheepscot Links Golf Course in Whitefield is another local course set to open in the coming days. Leon Oliver, Sheepscot Links’ owner and superintendent, wrote in a Facebook post Tuesday night that the nine-hole course plans to open at 8 a.m. on Saturday.

Just how big the opening day draws will be, directors at all local courses agree, will depend on weather conditions on those specific days. Even at the places that aren’t ready just yet, the greens and fairways that are visible have left general managers and superintendents with reasons for optimism.

“We’ve had pretty good weather conditions in terms of what’s going to be beneficial for our turf,” said Pelotte, of the Waterville Country Club. “We can’t see every part of our course, but everything that we can see right now suggests that we’re going to have some great conditions this year.”

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