Midway through March, golfers around the area can put away their shovels and heavy jackets, and start dusting off their woods and irons.
With a mild winter and temperatures averaging 41 degrees this month, including high temperatures hovering over 70 degrees last weekend, clubhouses around the area have started opening their doors, giving golfers a chance to hit the links a month earlier than usual.
"It was a little bit of a surprise. It's not something you plan on back in January and February," said Granite Falls Golf Course general manager Chad Reimer. "You usually try for April 15th or somewhere around that date, as opposed to March 15th.
"We were caught a little off-guard. On the other hand, we're happy to have it open and have an extra eight weeks."
Said Jim Munson, the course superintendent at Savannah Oaks Golf Club in Lynd, "This is the first time I've been able to open up on March 15, especially compared to last year and the lousy spring we had."
At the Marshall Golf Club, new golf pro and clubhouse manager Ken Bramhall has had to meet and greet golfers a little sooner than he anticipated. But with highs of 81 degrees last Friday, 77 on Saturday and 84 on Sunday, the golfers have come out in droves to play the first nine holes at MGC. Bramhall said the back-9 will be ready this weekend, weather permitting.
Area Golf Course Openings
Marshall Golf Club: Front 9 open, back 9 to open this weekend (weather permitting). Carts available starting Thursday.
Savannah Oaks Golf Club (Lynd): Open. Temporary greens on holes 1, 2 and 3.
Countryside Golf Club (Minneota): Open.
Tyler Golf Club: Open.
East Bay 9 Golf Course (Balaton): Golf course open. Clubhouse not open. Golfers pay at the paybox.
Hendricks Golf Club:?Course open at noon.
Slayton Country Club: Open.
Granite Falls Golf Course: Open.
Rolling Hills Golf Club (Westbrook): Golf course open. Clubhouse will open March 30.
*Note: Phone calls made to Tracy Country Club, Cottonwood Country Club and Canby Golf Course were not returned.
"It's a fun challenge," Bramhall said. "The pace has been a little faster. There's a lot more activity. ... Things are still in clean-up mode, picking up a few limbs and branches."
Over at the Hendricks Golf Club, the dry winter has been a relief for the grounds crew, who had to deal with extensive flooding at the course in 2011. This year, the Hendricks Golf Club was able to open this past weekend.
"May was wet for everyone, but May was a disaster for us last year," said Hendricks GC clubhouse manager Craig Midtaune. "We did a tile project last fall and hopefully, that's taken care of that problem. It should be much better this year."
All nine of the golf course the Independent was able to contact all reported strong showings at their respective golf clubs.
"Things went very well over here," said Tasia Dass, the clubhouse manager at Tyler Golf Club. "Lots of members came in. We were pretty surprised, but we can't complain about that."
There are still adjustments to be made at each respective golf course. At Rolling Hills Golf Club in Westbrook, the clubhouse is not expected to be opened until next week. Cleanup and course upkeep is still on the docket for many of the courses around the area.
With temperatures expected to hover in the 60s for the rest of March, the threat of winter appears to be over as area golfers prepare to tee off.
"I think this last weekend, people are just happy to do something outside, regardless of what it was," Reimer said. "People were out in shorts and t-shirts. It felt like summer."