Crooked River Ranch Golf Course was closed for nearly two months this past late winter and early spring as the course was covered with about 3 feet of snow.
And that course was not alone, as tracks across Central Oregon opened much later than usual this season and are continuing to deal with the effects of the late-winter snowfall that blanketed the area.
Crooked River Ranch — which was closed from early February to late March — and other courses in the Redmond area are sometimes open year-round.
Not this year.
“We had never been closed this deep into the season, at least in the 13 years I’ve been here,” said Pat Huffer, head golf professional at Crooked River Ranch. “It (snow) came late, it came deep. We get enough snow some years where we’re down for maybe three to four weeks at a time at the most.”
All courses across Central Oregon are now open for play, but many are still dealing with the damage that comes from significant, prolonged snow and ice on the fairways and greens.
Huffer said in late April that Crooked River Ranch was in good shape, though, greening up fast after plentiful rainfall in early April.
“We’re mowing like crazy now,” Huffer said. “You can’t believe how green it is out there, probably from the fall fertilizer that laid dormant all year.”
A primary concern of Huffer’s was damage from voles, small rodents that eat grasses and roots. Voles can leave small burrow-entrance mounds and can also damage grass by feeding on the roots, causing the grass to dry out.
“Two years ago when we got the big snow, we had significant damage done by the voles,” Huffer recalled. “It was the first time we had that issue here, because we never had snow stay on the ground that long. The vole damage (this winter) was really nothing compared to last time, and no clue why. The most damage we had was losing a few trees. Long term, I don’t think it’ll be too terribly bad. We’re up and going.”
Quail Run Golf Course in La Pine is one of the highest-elevation courses in Central Oregon. The course typically opens by mid-March, according to assistant manager Josh Day.
This spring, Quail Run did not open until April 16.
“We were hoping to get open the early part of March, but that late-February snow really pushed us back,” Day said. “It took a long time to come off.”
Significant rainfall in early April helped to melt the snow faster, but it also flooded cart paths and other areas, according to Day. Also, the lingering snow and ice were damaging to some greens, some of which required some new sod.
“The worst thing about this winter was the way the snow came,” Day explained. “It melted, froze, and then got ice on it, and it stayed on there for a long time. That can be damaging to some of the grass areas so we have to really keep an eye on that. It looks like we’ve come out pretty good, but we’ve noticed a few spots that we have to keep an eye on. And then the early spring was really wet and it was starting to frustrate us. We had a lot of standing water in places.”
Another issue at Quail Run is the elk herd that arrives annually each spring. Sometimes the herd is as small as 12 to 20 elk, Day said. This year, it’s closer to 100.
The animals can cause damage to the greens and leave a mess on the course with their droppings.
“We always have a problem with elk,” Day said. “We’ve got a big (herd) this year. The sprinklers at night chase them off. But early season and fall is when we see the elk.”
Jeff Fought is the director of golf at Black Butte Ranch, whose Glaze Meadow Golf Course opened on April 19.
“This is the worst I’ve seen it,” Fought said. “It was incredible the amount of snow we got, so to not start until late April, it’s the latest start I’ve had in 18 years. I hope it’s not the new norm.”