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Golf courses wait on Mother Nature to do her thing
April 5, 2018
Waterloo Region Record

It's hard to picture it now -- with flurries in the forecast and unseasonably cold weather for at least the next week -- but the golf season is actually upon us.
The Cambridge Golf Club opened for business Tuesday, said head professional Carla Munch-Miranda, and 20 hardy souls journeyed to the Clyde Road course and braved the elements.

"Yes, we are officially open, we just need some warmth," she said in an email. "Last year we opened around the 15th, but it wasn't a very warm spring last year so we're hoping for a nice start to the golf season this year."

Conestogo-based GolfNorth Properties is still more than a week away from opening eight of its courses, with Brookfield and Foxwood first out of the gate Friday, April 13. The remainder of its courses in Waterloo Region -- Rebel Creek, Grey Silo, Conestoga, Beaverdale and Dundee -- are tentatively set to open Friday, April 20.

Several of these courses opened in late March last year, said GolfNorth vice-president Mike Turner, adding this is the latest start to the season for at least the past five years.
"When I was a kid, April 15 was the norm but people are expecting to get out earlier now," he said.

Dave Roy, head professional at the City of Kitchener's Rockway and Doon Valley courses, said the courses are ready to go but will remain closed until the weather co-operates.

"There is a chance we might be open April 13, but more likely the weekend after, it just depends on Mother Nature," he said.

Sharpening their pencils

Ontario golf course owners are dealing with the provincially mandated $14 minimum wage for the first time this season and looking for ways to deal with the additional expense.

GolfNorth, which owns or operates 30 courses in Ontario, will push a new "local rule" at its courses this season that is aimed at cutting labour costs and making the game more enjoyable at the same time.

Players are being asked to lift, clean and place their balls when hitting into bunkers, a move that is aimed at making golf more enjoyable for mid to high handicappers and cutting on maintenance costs at the same time.
Additional rakes will be provided, making them more readily available, said Turner, and a trial run last year showed golfers are more likely to use them because of the new rule.
They'll take advantage of the rule to improve their lie and are also more likely to rake the bunker after making their shot. With players taking better care of the bunkers, less work will be required by maintenance staff.

Traditionalists might scoff at the rule but they are under no obligation to follow it.
"I have more recreational players than I do tour players and I want them to have fun and have a great experience," said Turner.

GolfNorth is also considering closing courses during slower times so maintenance workers can do their jobs without being disturbed -- "allowing them to do eight hours of work in six hours," said Turner -- and restaurants/bars might also be closed earlier or open later.

Still with GolfNorth, the company added a pair of courses to its stable over the winter by signing lease agreements to operate the Oaks of St. George, Uplands in Vaughan, and Ironwood in Exeter. On the flip side, the Waterloo Golf Academy and Paris Grand are officially out of operation.

CHIP SHOTS:Luke Moser of Waterloo, a Troy (Alabama) University grad, is one of 14 Canadians competing at the third Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada Q-school this season at the Wigwam in Phoenix. ... Dave Smallwood, who spent his first 23 years in the golf business at the Galt Country Club, is back at the private club as its new general manager (more on that next week). ... Team Ontario members Dylan Henderson and Bennett Ruby, both of Waterloo, recently competed in the Can-Am junior team matches at the Wachesaw Plantation Club in Murrells Inlet, S.C. ... PGA of Canada head professional Chris Moreby has moved from Oaks of St. George to Grey Silo.