Golfers are eager to play in the spring

Published 9:05 am Monday, April 11, 2011

Column: Bob Sturtz, Guest Column

Minnesota golfers are the true believers in the idea of “hope springs eternal.”

Each spring we golfers in Minnesota repeat the exercise of watching the calendar, the weather patterns and the temperatures with the hope of that first round of the year. It might be right here at home or it might be that we have to travel south a bit. Starting about the second half of March, the spring golf countdown is on.

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Des Moines, Iowa, is only 140 miles south of Albert Lea, but often it seems like Miami compared to the temperatures we have. We watch the weather report to squeeze in the perfect spur-of-the-moment round. It takes exactly two hours and 20 minutes to get to Terrace Hills Golf Course in Altoona, a northwest suburb of Des Moines. Terrace Hills always seems to be one of the first course open in the area. A few years ago I played there with three other guys and there were glaciers on the course and ice on the ponds. It killed me to not be able to walk out on the ice to retrieve those lost balls! Occasionally a mis-hit iron shot (of which there seem to be many this time of the year) would put a sting on my hands.

Another way to go is the planned weekend package deal. These deals for northern golfers are big business in the next tiers of states south of Minnesota. There are numerous such packages to be found at places like the Minnesota Golf Show, as well as online. Prices are very competitive. Courses cater to groups of people, mostly guys, coming down from the north for a weekend golf marathon. Typically there is included a room, 18 holes, a cart, and breakfast for under $100 per day. I would suggest shopping around for a package. Our group has been to Veenker Golf Course in Ames, Iowa, Green Hills Golf Course in Chillicothe, Mo., and Alvamar Country Club in Lawrence, Kan. A new course in Manhattan, Kan., looks like an attractive place to visit.

A major concern for a spring weekend golf trip always has to be weather. We have a saying: “Rain at 7, done by 11; rain at 11, done by 7.” That is a positive golf phrase for “we are going out in the rain anyway but it’ll quit any time now.” Bad weather never really seems to matter, because we are like letter carriers — we are not deterred by rain, sleet, fog or snow. I once played 18 holes at Green Hills in Chillicothe in 34 degrees, with snow flurries and wearing every item of clothing I had with me.

There is a certain amount of camaraderie with the players at the course, the hotel and the bar on these weekend trips. The parking lots of the courses and hotels are always filled with cars sporting Minnesota plates. We talk about the weather, our home courses, golf equipment, the conditions and the scores of the day with the other northerners at the course. Usually somebody “knows somebody” and we end up in a big group in the hotel bar talking golf with a bunch of other guys.

Courses in the Albert Lea area are targets for players living north of us, too. Sports Radio 1130 KFAN in the Twin Cities routinely broadcasts course openings in the spring, and I have heard Green Lea Golf Course among those noted. Often in the early spring at Green Lea there will be out-of-towners on the course and in the parking lot. Green Lea and Wedgewood Cove both drain very well and work hard to open as earlier as possible. Clarks Grove and Freeborn usually seem to be open quite early in the spring, too.

Reports are that this has been one of the snowiest winters on record in Minnesota. I believe that. Honestly, it seemed like there was so much snow it was never going to melt. I was at Green Lea in late March and the pile of snow on the east end of the parking lot was still over my head. But the green-grass countdown is on, and my first round with my buddies has already taken place.

Albert Lea lawyer Bob Sturtz writes about golf occasionally for the Albert Lea Tribune.