Warm weather pays dividends for area golf courses

Clubs in Grafton, Saukville stay open into December to capitalize on a season prolonged by a mild autumn

    Golfing in December? In Wisconsin?
    That’s the reality at three area golf courses — Fire Ridge and Edgewater golf clubs in Grafton and The Bog Golf Course in the Town of Saukville — that have taken advantage of the unseasonably warm weather to extend their seasons and their profits.
    “It’s like playing in Ireland but without the wind,” golfer Michael Fritz said while playing in a foursome at The Bog on Friday, Dec. 1. “Our motto is every day is a bonus. It isn’t often that you get to play 10 months of golf a year.”
    Golf courses in Ozaukee County typically close for the season in mid-November before more seasonal pursuits like deer hunting and holiday shopping begin, golf professionals said.
    But this year, on Nov. 24, which was Black Friday, 106 people played golf in temperatures that hit 60 degrees at The Bog.
    “We were in the perfect storm on Black Friday,” Andy Runkel, head golf pro at The Bog, said, using the metaphor in the positive sense. “The weather was great and everybody was off from work.”
    Since Thanksgiving, between 30 and 50 golfers a day have been playing the courses during the week. The numbers have been stronger on the weekend.
    For golf course operators, that means additional revenue they hadn’t counted on.
    “It definitely feels like we’re stealing a little bit because you can never budget or forecast what the weather is going to be like this late in the season,” Runkle said.
    While golf fanatics don’t need a lot of encouragement, golf courses have cut their rates to add an incentive for fair-weather players.
    “The die-hard golfers will come out here if it’s 35 degrees,” Andy Podolak, head golf pro at Fire Ridge Golf Club, said. “The average golfers are always trying to find lower price points just as they would when they’re looking for a hotel.”  
    Courses can afford to discount their normal rates by nearly half because of low maintenance costs in late fall, Podolak said.
    “We don’t groom the grass now because it’s not really growing after the first frost of the year,” he said. “Our grounds crew is starting to prepare the grass for the winter snow as opposed to fixing divots or mowing the grass every day.”  
    Without any seasonal help, the driving ranges at the courses are closed for the remainder for the season and professional lessons are no longer being offered.  
    “Our golf operations and maintenance staff is kind of scaled down so our services are somewhat limited, but you can still get out to play in December,” Runkel said. “When the snow flies, we’re going to shut the doors.”
    Depending on the weather, Fire Ridge and The Bog will most likely close their courses this week, but Edgewater Golf Club plans to stay open.
    Edgewater’s winter clientele includes  junior golfers looking for a place to practice.
    “With the other courses closing, there’s always a desire to golf when you can, whatever the weather,” Dan Hubacek, whose parents own Edgewater Golf Club, said. “The younger golfers are pretty serious because they want to make the cut for their high school teams in the spring.”
    Besides, Hubacek said, Wisconsin golfers are a tough bunch.
    “We were out golfing one day and the ground was frozen. In order to get our tee in the ground, we had to use a drill bit to dig a hole,” he said. “It was like playing on concrete in a parking lot, but that’s the lifestyle of a die-hard golfer — you play whenever you can.”



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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