Brutal winter: How New Englanders are coping with delayed golf

Jeff Martin
Norton CC Facebook page
This brutal winter in the northeast didn't deter Norton Country Club PGA Head Professional Jeff Martin from hitting the links on Feb. 17.
By T.J. Auclair
PGA.com
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Series: Golf Buzz

Published: Tuesday, March 31, 2015 | 12:34 p.m.

The calendar must be lying. At least that's what golfers in the northeast must be thinking.

The calendar says it's spring, but one look at the snow-covered ground out the frost-coated window and it's clear that golf season isn't nearly as close as it should be.

"I don't remember anything like this and that's borne out by the record totals," said PGA Professional Leigh Bader, co-owner of Joe & Leigh's Golf Shop, 3Balls.com and Pine Oaks Golf Course in South Easton, Mass. "This weather just keeps throwing eye-high fastballs at us, one after the other."

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Bader's businesses are located roughly 30 miles south of Boston, which -- through the end of March -- had seen its snowiest winter on record with 110.6 inches of the white stuff.

"It's been aberrational this year, weather-wise," said Bader, who also set pricing standards on used clubs for the PGA Trade-in Network. "In addition to record inches of snow cover, it's a thick blanket, and the record low temperatures haven't helped either. I read the other day we're on pace for two 30-day runs with temperatures at least five degrees below average. It's just depressingly long, gloomy, gray days.

"We see cabin fever hit every year," Bader added. "This year people have gone from cabin fever to total depression, chin down on the chest. They walk through the golf shop and they look like they need a hug, not a new golf toy."

Jeff Martin is the PGA Head Professional at nearby Norton Country Club, where he says as recently as last weekend, the club's superintendent measured 18 inches of snow in the middle of the fairway on the par-5 14th hole.

"It's even worse here than a lot of places because I don't think we have one fairway that's exposed to the sun," said Martin, a three-time PGA Championship participant and a regular in the PGA Professional National Championship. "We're still a ways away from opening. It'll be at least two weeks, maybe. Opening after the Masters is played up here is almost unheard of. I remember when I started at Norton a few years ago. We were open in mid-February. I don't recall anything like this since moving to Southern New England. This is as late a start as I've ever seen."

Here's a video of Martin on the par-4 first hole at Norton Country Club from Feb. 17, emphasizing just how brutal the winter has been:

 

 

 

 

Posted by Norton Country Club on Tuesday, February 17, 2015

 

 

All of this snow has a trickle effect... and not just when it finally starts to melt.

No golfers means no income for golf-course owners. It also means delayed product orders for pro-shop owners.

Bader is getting hit on both sides. Along with owning a course, his 3Balls.com business specializes in the secondary equipment market. With fewer golfers playing at the moment, there isn't much of a secondary market.

"There are less used clubs going through the flow right now," Bader said. "It slows down everything. It makes everything go in slow motion.”

Bader is optimistic though.

“It might not seem like it now, but mark my words -- the calendar will win," he said.

Eight miles north of Boston is Winchester Country Club, a classic Donald Ross design. A private golf club, Winchester typically doesn't open until the first weekend in April -- later than most places in the area.

"It's definitely going to be a lot later this year," said PGA Head Professional Jim Salinetti. "We still have a foot-and-a-half of snow in a lot of spots. We're two weeks behind at best -- more like three. It's been a long winter."

At Winchester Country Club, Salinetti has an indoor facility for winter lessons and club fittings. Needless to say, that's been awfully slow lately.

"We usually get really busy in there at the end of February and definitely by the beginning of March with lessons and club fittings," he said. "Since the weather has put everything so far behind, it's delayed the fittings and lessons.

"It's been a little frustrating," Salinetti added. "But I'm at a facility where as long as it's nice in the late spring and summer, we'll make up for it. Other facilities aren't as lucky."

So what can players in the northeast do to ready themselves for a new season once this weather finally breaks? It will break… right?

"Don’t try to do much early on," Martin advises. "Try to work on fundamentals. Work on grip, posture, aim and spend a lot of time on your short game -- you can putt in the house if you need to. Early in the season you're not going to be making good golf swings, so spend time on your short game. It makes up for a lot of sins. It sounds silly, but lower your expectations and you'll be surprised how well you actually play." 

T.J. Auclair is a Senior Interactive Producer for PGA.com and has covered professional golf since 1998, traveling to over 60 major championships. You can follow him on Twitter, @tjauclair.