FAIRWAYS: Golf Course Owners Open Carefully for 2022 Season

Winter 2022 treated some Door County golf courses more gently than others, but course operators are coping and gearing up to open this month or early next month.

At Idlewild, pro and owner Brandon Hansen scheduled Friday, April 29, as the opening day, although the course would have been in good enough shape to accommodate golfers who walked and carried a bag one week earlier.

“We would have opened today if we hadn’t gotten that half an inch of rain Wednesday,” Hansen said April 22. “There’s another half inch of rain [in the forecast] Saturday. If you open to walking only, how many people are you actually going to have?”

Though “everything’s in pretty good shape,” rain made things too soggy to mow the greens by April 22.

“If you can’t get them cut once and rolled once, it’s not really worth playing golf,” Hansen said.

He said the greens and fairways came through the winter in good shape, and ash trees killed by emerald ash borers posed the only preseason problem around the course. Idlewild removed the ash trees that were starting to drop branches around cart paths, greens and tee boxes, and Hansen said “we probably have 30 or 40 to go.”

Still, he said, Idlewild has plenty of trees left that can get in the way of errant shots.                    

“There’s no shortage of trees, for sure,” Hanson said.

The same goes for Alpine Resort, where a crew cut down more than 200 dying ash trees and long-dead pines. Despite the massive tree- and stump-removal effort, Alpine’s fairways remain almost completely tree lined. Golf manager Simon Ward said the course will plant trees to fill gaps, and the greenskeepers are working to improve one green that had some winter kill.

The shop at the front of the Alpine clubhouse has reopened, and visitors can enter and pay greens fees, weather dependent. The front nine reopened to the public the week of April 20, and the back nine (holes on the old White and Blue nines) will reopen after cleanup work.

At Maxwelton Braes south of Baileys Harbor, Jim Bresnahan opened the links for the weekend of April 23-24, closed with rain and cold weather in the forecast the next week, then prepared to open for good starting April 29. Likewise, Cherry Hills north of Sturgeon Bay opened its range and front nine April 21, with golf allowed day by day and the back nine reopening, weather dependent.

Bresnahan said almost all courses have a few spots with winter kill on a green or fairway in the early spring, but his course had hardly any this year. Even though rain and snowmelt formed a pond for about two weeks this winter in front of the par-5 third hole, the grass came back in that spot.

The emerald ash borer hasn’t had much of an impact at Maxwelton Braes, although Bresnahan lost a big ash tree that had guarded the left portion of the fairway about 50 yards in front of the green. Other than that, Maxwelton Braes has mostly maple, pine and oak trees.

Peninsula State Park Golf Course announced an April 30 opening day, and The Orchards east of Egg Harbor was aiming to reopen the same weekend.

At 27 Pines southeast of Sturgeon Bay, owner Tom Schmelzer was planting two spruce trees on Earth Day, April 22, to replace two small trees that he lost during the winter. A location near the fifth hole didn’t get much snow cover, and wintry winds “sucked the moisture” out of two immature trees. Pines are the most predominant trees around the course, and Schmelzer said the course fortunately had no ash trees to lose.

He reopened for golfers who were walking on April 21, and opened the driving range and allowed carts during the weekend of April 22.

At another of Door County’s nine-hole courses, the new owners at Stonehedge targeted a May 6 opening day for the course and bar.

At Deer Run on Washington Island, the new owners, the Masgay Group, are planning a May 18 opening for golf, and they’ve had meetings with some of the regulars to learn about their wishes and expectations, Jesse Bartnik said. The new owners have been receiving a lot of interest in resort room reservations, as well as for their planned front-lawn beer garden and German-food spot.

Just how quickly things will green up and how soon new grass will grow in depend a lot on soil temperature. Schmelzer said grass seed won’t germinate until soil temperatures reach 52 degrees, and that measurement was 40 on April 21.