Chip Shots: Making the Most of the Warm Weather

There is no question that we’ve had a volatile and unusual winter. While the previous winter saw some seriously cold and snowy conditions in February and March, this one has featured far less snow and many warmer than normal days.

For me, this has meant playing disc golf throughout the winter months while snowshoeing only six to seven times and not cross country skiing at all. For golfers, it has meant, for the hardier souls, a relatively short down time. A few courses stayed open until December, and now golfers have witnessed the near-miraculous . . . playing golf in Maine in February.

In fact, there were two area courses that opened for play in February this year. Penobscot Valley Country Club (PVCC) got things started early, with the result being 40-plus golfers hitting the links on February 21. The following weekend Hermon Meadow joined PVCC, and saw a fair amount of activity. Of course the most recent weather has led to other courses opening, and if this fair stretch continues, most likely all area courses will be open by April 2. I know many courses also have their driving ranges open, for those of you who want to spend some time tuning up before hitting the links. I think Hidden Meadows in Old Town took the honors in the “first driving range to open” category, as they’ve had their mats out for nearly a month.

On February 28 I joined the ranks of Maine February golfers, playing nine holes at Hermon Meadow with two of my golf buddies, Rick Redmond and Ben Smith. We met at Noon and I had a chance to chat with the course owner since 2011, John Snyer. He’s worked at Hermon Meadow since 1992 and can only recall one other winter when play has been allowed in February. “I believe it was in 1995 when we had the course open for play in February,” recalled John. “In 2011 we had golfers on the course in early March, but we typically shoot for opening by April 1. Basically, if a majority of the snow and ice is gone and there is no risk of frost damage, we will try our best to get portions of the course playable.”

Chip Shots Host Alan Comeau (L), Rick Redmond, and Ben Smith take on the early season conditions at Hermon Meadows for 9 holes in February.

After a group photo documenting our historic winter round, the three of us headed for the first tee. The holes in play were numbers 1, 7-12, and 17-18 (I believe all 18 holes are now in play at Hermon). After a solid start on number one, we were joined by a solo player, Bruce, who is a local bartender and an avid golfer, getting over 150 rounds in the previous year.

We proceeded to play a surprisingly pleasant nine-hole round, enjoying the low 40-degree temperatures and relatively good conditions. For not having played in three months, we all struck our shots quite well and even scored some pars. On hole nine I had the good fortune of having my approach shot careen off the ice along the edge of the water hazard, and I’m pretty sure that shot in warmer weather would have ended with my ball taking a bath.

As we came off the 18th green and approached the small ice-covered pond that lies just behind it, we each pulled out a ball and hit low iron shots across the ice to the other side. How often, if ever, do you get to play an ice shot when golfing? For the record, both Ben and Rick left their shots short, which meant their golf balls were left sitting on ice 10-15 yards off the bank. We were tempted to slide out and grab them, but the thought of falling into frigid water kept us safely on land.

Just this past weekend, March 13, I joined Ben and two other golfing buddies, Kevin Bernier and Mark Allen, and we took on Penobscot Valley Country Club in what had to be 20-25 mph wind gusts. I thought we were playing in Scotland, but the course was in great early-season shape and we had a fun time. I think PVCC had nearly 250 players on the course that day. Remarkable. Another thing that was remarkable - I hit my 5 hybrid to within two feet of the pin and holed the putt for my first birdie of the season!

I’m looking forward to what will hopefully be a long and pleasant golf season here in Maine. I'm also excited about writing more Chip Shots Blog posts. Be sure to call your favorite course to find out if they are open, and hit the links!