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Local golf courses see warm winter benefits

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The warmer-than-average temperatures this winter — 5.8 degrees above normal in the month of December and 4.3 degrees above normal in January through Friday, according to National Weather Service data for the Central Park weather station — has been a boon for some local golf courses.

“It’s a bonus,” Great Rock Golf Club manager Brian Curtin said Saturday. “We’re certainly happy about it given the season where rounds were down,” he said. Rounds were down nationally anywhere from 10 to 15 percent, Curtin said. Locally, the number was about 13 percent, he said.

Great Rock and other golf courses that have remained open this winter are seeing, on average 25 to 30 golfers a day, managers and golf pros told RiverheadLocal this weekend.

“One Saturday a couple of weeks ago, we had 160 golfers,” Curtin said. “That’s the equivalent to a decent Saturday mid-season,” he said. “And it was definitely a winter record.”

The Indian Island county golf course is open this winter for the first time ever, said the golf pro there, Steve Feder. “Normally we would have been closed after Jan. 1,” Feder said.

On Jan. 7 — a day when the average temperature in Central Park hit 54 degrees — Feder said 200 golfers played the Indian Island course. He said he expected about 80 players on Saturday.

Eileen McCaffrey, the head golf professional at Cherry Creek Golf Course, also reports the course there has been busy for a winter season.

“We have no temps,” McCaffrey said. “Golfers look for that.” McCaffrey was referring to temporary greens some courses set up for the winter, to protect their regular greens. Temps shorten the course and alter play, she said.

Courses that are open are operating with skeleton crews. The grass is dormant and needs no mowing. But groundskeepers have to take special measures to protect their greens. However, even courses that are closed for the winter have to tend the greens, carefully clearing them of snow and ice.

The pros and managers say they take iit day-to-day on whether or not to open. Often special winter rates offer golfers significant discounts.

Hardy winter golfers will find courses are usually faster this time of year.  “I can tell you when the ground is frozen, I drive the ball 300 yards,” laughed Great Rock golf pro Jim Wirths.

But there may not be too many frozen fairways in the weeks ahead. The National Weather Service forecast calls fro temperatures in the 40s and 50s this week, with higher-than-normal temperatures on the East Coast through the month of February — when the average daily temperature is 35.3 degrees.

Peter Blasl contributed reporting to this story.

RiverheadLOCAL photos by Peter Blasl