June 4, 2019 12:13 am

Lethbridge golf season off to better start than last year

WATCH ABOVE: Southern Alberta can produce challenging conditions for golf courses, as was seen last spring. Danica Ferris has more on a better start in 2019.

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Southern Alberta is notorious for quickly-changing weather conditions, making it a challenging place to run a golf course. But people who work at local courses say this spring has presented more favourable conditions than last year.

“If the weather’s bad, we are going to be slower for sure,” said Jae Maegaard, head associate professional at Paradise Canyon Golf Club. “We’ve got the die-hards, we’ve got the guys that want to wear toques and rain suits, but it obviously doesn’t pay the bills just to have those out there.”

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Spring of 2018 was a frosty one in Lethbridge, with colder temperatures and snow that lingered, pushing back opening day for many local courses.

“Last year, we weren’t open until April 20. [We] had a miserable start,” Maegaard said. “It puts us behind the eight-ball quite a bit, whereas this year, we were able to open on March 29, which is a little bit more what we’re used to around this area.”

“[Last year] the snow stuck around a lot longer than we would have liked,” said Mathew MacDonald, assistant professional at Henderson Lake Golf Club. “Even when it did finally become summer, there was a lot of wind — a lot of windy days — and people just don’t like playing when you can’t hardly stand to hit a golfball.”

MacDonald said that the weather affects a whole lot more than just numbers on the course.

“Unfortunately, we saw that in our sales through the pro shop, as well as in the kitchen,” he said. “When you just can’t have the people here because they are not interested in playing golf in that weather, it just doesn’t work.”

While this season has gotten off to a hotter start, with temperatures already hovering close to 30 C in Lethbridge over the weekend, the pros said that people still read too much into the long-range forecast.

“If [only] we could get people to trust our opinion on what the weather’s going to be like that day, instead of looking at the forecast and everybody looking at their weather apps,” Maegaard said. “We feel that we for sure have lost some traffic based on what they have seen on that, and I know other courses are struggling with that too.

“I honestly don’t trust the forecast, and that’s what I try to explain to our members and guests so they don’t get an early cancellation and then all of a sudden, the day is beautiful and then they miss an opportunity to play golf and we miss an opportunity to get a little further ahead.”

The weather might be out of the hands of those that run golf courses in the area, but MacDonald said there is another more welcome kind of challenge to running a course in Lethbridge.

“I would just say general competition, in all honesty,” MacDonald said. “There’s a lot of fantastic golf courses – which is very good for the public at large – but in terms of the golf course itself, that can be a struggle because you’re always working against other facilities.

“Obviously we want to see everyone succeed and everybody to have a great year, but it’s one of those things that when there’s more choice, people tend to go other directions too.”

But the weather?

“Compared to last year, it’s been spectacular, actually,” MacDonald said. “Sales are up and we’re seeing more people out on the golf course, which is awesome.”

 

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