Area golfers, courses getting back in swing of things

Derby Grange Golf & Recreation in Dubuque was packed on Wednesday for the opening of the facility’s driving range.

“It’s always the most exciting day of the season,” said owner Ron Breitbach. “Everybody is always itching to get out.”

Many area golf courses have either opened or are preparing to open their courses now that the weather has taken a warmer turn. Local course owners said they all wait until the frost is out of the ground before welcoming back golfers.

Breitbach noted that the ground doesn’t become firm enough to play on until the frost clears, and rainfall also helps the process.

“Mother Nature is going to dictate everything,” he said. “It always seems to happen pretty quick. It always takes about two days to get up and running once the weather breaks.”

He said Derby Grange always opens for the season in phases, starting with the driving range and mini golf. The golf course might be open by next week.

Typically, Breitbach said he hopes to open for the season on the second weekend of March, but it all depends on weather. One year, Derby Grange opened on Feb. 19, and another year, it was only open for two days in March.

Mike Fagerlind, owner and general manager of Timberline Golf Course in Peosta, Iowa, said that course should open within the next week.

He added that the goal always is to open by April 1, but the past several years have been warm enough to start the season in mid- to late March.

In addition to waiting for the frost to get out of the ground, Fagerlind said, staff will make sure there is no ice damage to greens and clear away fallen sticks and branches. The pro shop and snack bar also will be fully stocked before opening.

“Hopefully, golfers are ready to play if it’s nice enough,” he said. “Golfers have been calling off the hook to see if we’re open yet.”

Lacoma Golf Club in East Dubuque, Ill., opened two of its courses on Thursday, but no golf carts are allowed yet.

Gene Bears, PGA professional at Lacoma, said the club sometimes opens courses as walking only when the frost layer is still leaving the ground, as driving on the course could damage it.

He said the other Lacoma course is more shaded, meaning the frost layer takes longer to leave the ground. That course might be open toward the end of the month.

“If we let them out too soon, ball marks and footprints on the course take a long time to recover from,” he said.

This past winter, Bears added that Lacoma started offering golf simulators for those itching to play prior to the weather being warm enough to do so outside.

“But we’re looking forward to welcoming our loyal customers back this year,” he said ahead of the opening. “We like to get the course open as soon as possible for them.”