Val Emerle answered the telephone inside Schenectady’s Stadium Golf Club.
“We don’t know yet,” she told an anxious golfer. “I don’t know yet — it depends on how the weather goes.”
Emerle said goodbye and ended the call. “Another one,” she said.
Emerle, who works in the pro shop of the Jackson Avenue club, said she talked to about 60 golfers in just an hour during Tuesday’s early afternoon. They all wanted to know when Stadium, traditionally one of the first golf courses to open in the Capital Region, would be returning to swing time.
Nobody knows for sure yet at Stadium or other local courses. Snows from the cold, harsh winter are melting, but ice and frost still present problems for greens and fairways.
“We’re depending on Mother Nature right now,” Emerle said. “If the sun stays out and stays warm, it will happen quicker.”
She added that there are still 10 inches of ice on some course corridors. Snowy islands were visible on a few Stadium hills and flat grounds on a sunny spring day. “Once the frost comes out of the ground, all that water will soak right in,” Emerle said. “We’re built on sand. It will not be wet.”
Van Patten Golf Club on Main Street in Clifton Park has survived winter. Head pro Bob Kennedy said the
grounds superintendent has toured the grounds and found all greens in good shape.
Kennedy said ice layers were the biggest worry this March. After late-winter and early spring rains, he said, cold nights have frozen the water. “When the sun beats on the ice, it causes a layer of heat right under the ice and burns the grass,” Kennedy said.
This year will be nothing like the balmy spring of 2012, when Stadium and Van Patten were both open by mid-March. Like Emerle, Kennedy said inquiring golfers have been calling the club.
“With the long winter, I think everybody’s very excited to get outside,” Kennedy said. “We’ve had a lot of ringing. A lot of people want to play golf.”
Last year Van Patten opened on April 3. Kennedy said course regulars will be staying home this weekend.
“It’s probably going to be early next week, probably Tuesday the 8th,” he said. “The grounds are really wet.”
Matt Daley, head pro at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course, said more than half of the ninth hole on the Oregon Avenue course remains covered by snow.
“Right now, we have 22, 24 inches of frost in the ground,” Daley said. “When we get warm weather, especially warm nights and rain, that helps alleviate that. We got a lot of rain this past weekend, so I expect a lot of that frost will diminish.”
Daley also expects Muni will be open by mid-April. Like other course officials, he remembers 2012 and an early March opening. “It was an abnormal year, a mild winter in general,” Daley said. “We had a great March. That year, it lasted right through November.”
Western Turnpike Golf Course in Guilderland never announces a set opening date. “It’s just as soon as possible, as soon as we can,” said head pro Casey Childs. “Our superintendent has been out checking the course. It’s looking great so far.”
Recent spring-like conditions have helped chase away the last of winter from Turnpike’s three nine-hole courses. “Last week we were 80 percent covered,” Childs said. “Now we’re probably 10 percent. The last week, it’s done a great job of clearing.”
The Western Avenue course’s heated outdoor range has been open weekends since February. If the week’s mild temperatures continue, Childs said he will consider opening Turnpike’s primary range.
The 550 members at the private Edison Club in Rexford golf course will also have to wait a little longer — even though most of the snow is gone.
“A couple weeks ago, we took snowblowers out there and got rid of as much snow as we could. We did all the greens with snowblowers,” said Mark Jorgensen, the Riverview Road club’s general manager. “We kind of tried to help Mother Nature along.”
With snow no longer an issue, Jorgensen is now concerned about frost. “It’s deeper than it’s been in years,” he said. “Some contractors have said it’s been up to 48 inches deep in some areas. What happens, when you have all the water sitting on top of the ground, you get very muddy conditions until that frost level will lift.”
At Stadium, the course driving range opened for the first time on Tuesday. Shortly after 1 p.m., 11 golfers were zooming, slicing and hooking yellow range balls with drivers and irons.
Mark Barton, 55, of Sharon Springs, was sharpening his swing in the 50-degree temperatures. He’s glad his favorite season has arrived.
“It’s been too long,” said Barton, dressed in a yellow T-shirt and black athletic pants. “Feels like it’s been a lifetime.”
He can’t complain about Stadium’s late opening. “Mother Nature did it to us,” he said. “This is the next best thing, other than flying to Florida.”
Gary Costanzo, 59, of Rotterdam, was also swinging — and looking forward to spring, summer and fall appointments.
“Everybody I’ve talked to can’t wait,” Costanzo said. “The first two weeks this is open, you won’t be able to get a tee time. It’s going to be packed.”
Val Emerle didn’t get the chance to watch the practice rounds. She had to answer the telephone.
“Just the driving range,” she told an inquisitive golfer. “Five dollars for a small basket, $9 for a large one. You’re welcome.”
Emerle hung up the phone. “That was a new one,” she said. “He wanted to know if the sun hit the driving range.”