HELENA — Since November of 2022, the Helena area has seen an average temperature of 24.2 degrees and 42.7 inches of snowfall according to National Weather Service data for the Helena area.
In short, it’s been a long winter and even when the weather has been warm enough to melt some of the snow that’s fallen, another round seems to follow shortly thereafter.
In recent years, golfers in the Helena area have been treated to early starts to golf season due to limited snowfall and warmer temperatures in the late winter and early spring, but this year that doesn’t appear to be the case.
“Mother Nature has a lot to say and how we move from being closed through the winter to open in the spring,” said Green Meadow Superintendent Derek Hofer. “For the winter closing it’s about October 31 to close and then we’d like to be open on April 1.”
Though, Green Meadow Country Club isn’t indicative of all golf courses in Montana, many like Green Meadow are still under a blanket of snow, leaving golfers to roll putts in their garages dreaming of sunnier days.
Though, in this time golf course superintendents and greens keepers aren’t just lazing around waiting for the course to thaw, and in some cases, they need to be creative to ensure the health of the course for the spring.
As snow melts, it can turn into a sheet of ice across the course which isn’t always a bad thing in short doses, but for extended periods it can cause disease which in turn causes problems for the future of the course.
“The plants themselves along with the ground give off gases which get trapped in that layer, which if left there long enough, is eventually what expires those plants,” said Hofer.
Hofer said he and his team used a snow plow to clear the snow off of the greens and spread a layer of black sand across the ice to help trap solar energy, melt the ice, and preserve the state of the course.
Though the calendar will eventually give way to April soon enough, one thing is for sure golf and golf courses are at the whims of Mother Nature even when the course isn’t snow-covered.
“The 20% or the 30% that wasn’t snow covered, we’d already kind of started working on some of that, although it’s just so soft, the grounds are soft, soils are soft and you know, sometimes by being a little bit too early, you do damage, you know, to those surfaces,” said Hofer.
Again, Green Meadow Country club isn’t indicative of all courses in Montana, but as for when Hofer expects the season to start?
“My guess is that, it’s hard to say and I don’t want to get anybody’s hopes up or anything like that.”
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