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Rough greens par for area

Area golf courses rebounding from harsh winter

Sunday, June 1, 2014
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Schenectady Municipal Golf Course ranger John Mackey surveys the course's damaged fifth green Saturday morning. In the background is a temporary green being employed on the hole.
Schenectady Municipal Golf Course ranger John Mackey surveys the course's damaged fifth green Saturday morning. In the background is a temporary green being employed on the hole.

— Unlike courteous golfers, Mother Nature doesn’t always replace her divots.

A nasty winter and miserable spring battered many area golf courses, some of which are only now beginning to recover.

“Terrible. It’s much worse than normal,” said 57-year-old Jim Caschera of Schenectady, who has played three area courses this spring and was waiting to tee off Saturday at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course. “I’ve been playing since I was a little kid, and I don’t remember it like this.”

His companion, Bill Janis, nodded. “It’s like that at every course in the area,” the Schenectady man said.

Particularly hard hit were greens around holes. With a shorter root system and a need to be pristine, many suffered from ruddy bald patches cause by a particularly frigid winter pockmarked by thaws. The resulting ice did the damage.

“It was a harsh winter, but the spring has not been kind,” said Matt Daley, the head golf professional at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course. “The spring wasn’t good enough to heal the greens all the way through.”

Schenectady Muni, as it’s commonly called, suffered through a frost delay the first week of May — “ridiculous,” Daley said — and still is employing a temporary green on its fifth hole as the regular green mends. Four other greens were damaged.

“It’s ice damage,” Daley said. “When you get that thaw, and it freezes and it thaws and it freezes, that is a superintendent’s worst nightmare.”

It’s not just Muni. Kevin Maloney, first assistant golf professional at Mohawk Golf Club in Niskayuna, said “the greens are starting to come in phenomenally” after six temporary greens had to be employed earlier in the season.

“There is absolutely nothing anyone could do,” Maloney said. “Every club in the area had a problem, had a struggle.”

Some fared better than others. Joe Lucas, golf course superintendent at Saratoga National Golf Club said, “we got dinged up pretty good,” but the course is in great shape now. Orchard Creek Golf Club in Altamont did well, but Superintendent Peter Cure noted he’s received reports of affected courses from “Michigan and Ohio to New Hampshire and Vermont, all along the northern corridor.” Muni is still playing catch-up, and hopes to be back to normal in the area of Father’s Day. “We are a good solid month behind,” Daley said.

David Chinery, an extension educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension in Troy, is not surprised by the travails of area courses. He said the freeze/thaw winter, harsh spring and wind hurt grass, in addition to hollies, boxwoods, rhododendrons and other horticulture.

“Some of them probably have some ice damage on the greens,” Chinery said. “When we have freeze/thaw conditions, that ice tends to really damage. … It makes a lot of sense. We had snow cover, but it wasn’t continuous. We had a lot of cold temperatures and a lot of wind.”

At the championship and executive par 3 courses at Saratoga Spa State Park, the greens held up. The same can’t be said for all the fairways.

“We cover our greens. But on other parts of the course, we had a fair amount of ice damage,” said Robert Kuhn, assistant regional director for the Saratoga Region of State Parks. “This was an unusually bad winter. The course did not fare as well as it usually does.”

Highland Park Country Club in Queensbury also covers it greens, but suffered damage to five because ice got beneath the protection.

“We are definitely on the mend: We just threw down seed last week, and threw down seed” Thursday, said Brendan Dretlein, who works in the pro shop.

“This is the worst I’ve seen, and I’ve been here seven years,” he continued. “That’s the problem being a seasonal business: It’s just a crapshoot how long the winter is going to be in the Northeast.”

 
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