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Prince Rupert Golf Club delayed season opening

Public requested to take care, stay off damaged grass and keep away from wolves

Prince Rupert Golf Club is teeing up for the season with preparations to the grounds underway and staff looking toward opening the driving range on Easter weekend.

Shawn Fagan, head golf professional for the city facility and Ryan O’Halloran, golf course superintendent, are concerned about the public accessing the grounds before the grass is ready as damage is occurring to the grounds, which creates more work to prepare for opening.

With winter weather patterns and an extended period of snow on the ground, it has been an abnormal winter-to-spring transition, O’Halloran said, adding this isn’t just at the Prince Rupert club, but golf courses all over the North have experienced the same thing.

Some courses are further behind in opening preparations than Rupert, with Terrace not open yet and Smithers still covered in snow, he said.

“It’s just one of those years,” Fagan said. “We are at nature’s whim for outdoor sports.”

“Last year, we were open halfway through March with carts out on the golf course April 1, but with the late snow that we’ve had, we’re going to have to push back that opening start date by a couple of weeks,” O’Halloran said.

Weather dependant, they hope it will be sooner rather than later.

“We really just want to let all the membership and local community know that we are closed for the time being.”

The course needs to be prepared, as O’Halloran explained, and it’s better when people are not walking across it or playing on it before it’s ready, as this leaves footprints, divots and indentations.

“Right now, we have frost in the ground that’s pretty deep. So even with the warmer temperatures, it may thaw out in the top three inches, but we’re still frozen four to 10 inches underneath.”

This creates a saturated underground level where the water can not escape through the frozen layer, damaging the greens.

Even sitting in a high sunlit area on the grounds, mounds of snow are visible as Fagan told The Northern View there are some areas of the course that receive sunlight for only two to three hours a day. Some holes are still not accessible and are covered in snow, he said.

There is a lot of preparation to get the grounds ready for golfers to enjoy a game, starting with tree and debris clearing with chainsaws and chipping, which can take up to two weeks, O’Halloran detailed.

Next, it’s on to repairing the potholes that have occurred over the winter on the seven-kilometre cart path. This is a repair that is done annually, he said. Then it’s onto the agronomics with aeration of the grass, fertilizing and topdressing, completed with a humic acid application to get the microbes started.

“We have a pretty small crew here and a pretty big property to maintain, so we take it in stages,” he said. “Prince Rupert is a pretty niche climate for growing grass. Many years we can keep it green and playable throughout most of the winter.”

But not so much this past winter, he said. The course was blanketed with ice for five to six weeks throughout December.

“You could skate on our golf course. There was three inches of ice everywhere … so that shocked our plants into dormancy, which is a problem we don’t usually have.”

The golf course superintendent had to use a tractor to inspect the grounds because there were more than 18 inches of snow in some places at the back of the course.

“It has really pushed us back [with an opening date]. That’s gonna be a big challenge going into this season, compared to previous years where guys were out golfing in February in shorts on green greens.”

Public Safety is another concern for Fagan and O’Halloran regarding people on the course before it’s game ready and populated.

Several wolves have been seen on the course, with a young female attracting dogs and luring them back to a pack of males. Conservation officers were called out recently when a sick wolf was reported to have attacked a domesticated pet dog. Joggers, pedestrians and families with children need to be aware, they said.

Fagan said once the course is ready and people are welcomed back to walk the pathways around the grounds, the wolves will be warded off by the constant activity, but for now, people need to remain cautious.

READ MORE: Prince Rupert Golf Club welcomes a new pro

K-J Millar | Editor and Multimedia Journalist
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Abi McCleary 7 and Finn McCleary 11 from Terrace visit the Prince Rupert Golf Club during spring break on March 29 with their dad, who has friends working at the course. Golf courses across the North are not yet open to the public or members due to an extended winter and the need to prepare the grounds. See full story on page 2. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)