'It's a guessing game': Winter weather keeps golf courses busy

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'It's a guessing game': Winter weather keeps golf courses busy

It's been a roller coaster of a winter season for local golf courses.

The rain-freezing rain-snow-freeze events have made it very difficult to do the necessary work to prepare the course for the upcoming season.

Golf course superintendent Paul MacCormack of Fox Meadow Golf Course in Stratford, P.E.I., said fluctuating temperatures and weather conditions this winter has a lot of the behind-the-scenes work necessary for the upcoming season challenging.

'It's always a challenge'

"Back in the day, you used to be able to depend on the fact that snow would come just before Christmas," he explained. 

"It would stay as snow until it melted in March, and that's just not the case anymore. The fluctuations with temperature and weather patterns have been just so sporadic over the last few years."

He said that's changed, with unpredictable weather making his job harder.

"It's always a challenge. It's always something that we always have to be mindful of as the weather comes and goes and changes and it's just another facet of the job now that we have to pay attention to," he said.

"Before you could kind of go home and forget about it for a few months, but really now you have to be mindful of what's going on under the snow."

Thaw/freeze bad for greens

What's been going on under the snow is an accumulation of ice, due an unusual mix of snow, rain, freezing rain, and above and below-average temperatures.

Thawing and refreezing can cause thick ice to form, which can damage greens.

"With the warm water and temperatures and then all of a sudden it drops to -10 and freezes really quickly, that can actually damage the crown enough that it can kill the plant as well," said MacCormack.

"So for us, it's just a matter of keeping track of those events and keeping track of when ice is forming and then going from there," said MacCormack.

"It's a total guessing game, and it's sometimes one of those scenarios that you're darned if you do, darned if you don't. Sometimes you'll pull the trigger and make a decision and go blow off a green or go clear something off and it actually works in your favour."

'You're darned if you do, darned if you don't'

Most of the golf course improvements are achieved in the off-season.

MacCormack is hoping for a stretch of warm weather in March and April — and despite the challenging winter, MacCormack believes conditions will be on par this season, when golfers tee off in May

"I never like to say we're completely out of the woods because I don't like to tempt fate," he said.

"I'm fairly content and pleased that we were able to bare everything off and get a look at the grass underneath and to know at this stage of the game, it's healthy and with only a few weeks left before the warm weather really starts to kick in, we're in a pretty good position."

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