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Mild weather means busy January for golf courses

Any other winter would have been a fine time to get new golf carts. But then again, the long-range forecasts for the winter of 2011-2012 had people expecting to be bundled up and scraping ice off windshields right now.

Hardy golfers are taking advantage of the unseasonably above-freezing temperatures in astounding numbers, according to the club pros at local golf courses. At Buffalo Grove Golf Club, assistant golf professional Joe Bridges said they are seeing about four times as many players as usual.

Bridges noted that a “busy” winter is still paltry compared to the business most courses do during the summer months. In the typical December and January, Buffalo Grove hosts 200-250 total rounds; they are headed for four times that amount by Jan. 31, if the snow stays away.

“In December, we did 400, and we’re probably going to exceed that in January,” Bridges said. “Last December and January, we did 24, total. There was probably one or two days where we were open, with no snow on the ground.”

The Arboretum Golf Club is closed right now. Head professional Geoff Tollefson said the course has no carts at the moment.

“We would have liked to have stayed open, but the lease expired,” he said Monday.

Both pros noted that, while business is relatively good, grass likes snow.

“The ideal winter situation is to have a two- to three-inch snowfall cover the course,” Bridges said.

“If you don’t have any snow cover and then you get that bitter cold that comes in and the ground is exposed, the grass doesn’t take that very well,” Tollefson added.

He said bluegrass, typically found on a course’s edges, is fairly tough and can hold up to freezes. But bed grass, the stuff that courses plant for tee boxes, fairways and greens ‚ the majority of a course’s ground ‚ can suffer in the cold.

If any hard freezes come this winter, that is.

“We’re not in any worry mode yet, considering it’s been pretty mild,” Tollefson said.

With no carts, Arboretum has nothing to gain from this warm winter, and is scheduled to reopen with a new fleet in March. At BGGC, competitors can play nine holes, with shorter distances: the club set up temporary greens at the ends of the fairways, protecting the delicate real greens from being walked on. Bridges said that even in a warm winter, precautions must be taken.

“That’s the reason we have our other nine closed,” he said. “We’re protecting it.”

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