Record snowfall impacts golf courses; getting back on the greens in St. George

"I can't drag race in the snow so in the off-season we tried golf," Jason Hall said, golfing at Dixie Red Hills Golf Club, St. George, Utah, Dec. 12, 2013 | Photo by John Teas, St. George News

WASHINGTON COUNTY – St. George is known throughout the state as a golf mecca.  Golfers may wonder, what is the impact of this recent weather anomaly on the area golf industry and even more importantly, when can I get back on the course again?

Washington County is home to 12 courses, many of which are highly ranked by Golf Digest magazine.  The snow and colder than normal temperatures have certainly had an impact on the golf industry and the avid golfers who venture out this time of year.

Golfing at Dixie Red Hills Golf Club, St. George, Utah, Dec. 12, 2013 | Photo by John Teas, St. George News
Golfing at Dixie Red Hills Golf Club, St. George, Utah, Dec. 12, 2013 | Photo by John Teas, St. George News

City of St. George owns four of the courses, while Washington City and Hurricane City own one each.  The other six courses throughout the county are privately owned.

Golf is the second highest generator of tourism revenue in the county, behind only the Tuacahn Amphitheatre and Center for the Arts, Roxie Sherwin, director of the St. George Convention and Visitor Bureau, said.

In 2012 it was estimated that area golf courses earned just over $43.8 million from 166,944 nonlocal rounds of golf, Sherwin said, and that golf tourists spend an average of $175 per day on green fees, lodging and dining.

December and January typically see about one-half the golfing tourism in the St. George area as other months. March through May is considered the area’s peak season.

Sand Hollow Resort Golf Course estimated a loss between $3,500-$5,500 per day as a result of closing due to Saturday’s snow storm. “That would be my guess,”  Head Golf Pro Adam Jasperson said.  The golf course averages about 60-80 golfers a day during December and January, he said. At a green fee of $78-$82 per golfer this can certainly have an economic impact.

Tom Costello, head golf pro at The Ledges Golf Club, said that The Ledges has lost 10 days of golfing due to the inclement weather. He estimates that they will not open again until next week, Costello said. Since they are located at about 1,000-feet higher elevation than other courses in the county, The Ledges may be closed longer, Costello said. The Ledges services approximately 75-100 golfers per day this time of year with green fees running about $50 each.

“Today we are shoveling the greens off to prevent damage,” Costello said on Wednesday.

"I can't drag race in the snow so in the off-season we tried golf," Jason Hall said, golfing at Dixie Red Hills Golf Club, St. George, Utah, Dec. 12, 2013 | Photo by John Teas, St. George News
“I can’t drag race in the snow so in the off-season we tried golf,” Jason Hall said, golfing at Dixie Red Hills Golf Club, St. George, Utah, Dec. 12, 2013 | Photo by John Teas, St. George News

This is a slower time of year for our golf courses, Colby Cowan, director of golf operations with the City of St. George, said. The city golf courses average about 70-80 golfers a day during December as compared to the 140-180 golfers during the peak season of March and April, he said. A lot of snowbirds and the people living up north go home for the holidays during this time of year, Cowan said. Business then picks up again in mid-January through May.

Cowan, who has been a golf pro in the area for 15 years, said he has never seen anything like this before.

“I don’t know to what extent the weather has affected revenue,” Cowan said, “but there has certainly been a loss.”

In addition to lost revenue from green fees, other concerns of local golf venues have included maintenance of the golf carts, damage to irrigation systems and the courses themselves. In anticipation of the cold weather and to  prevent damage, for example, employees at St. George’s city golf courses have been recharging the batteries on the golf carts every couple of days.

“I have never seen anything to this extent,” said Scott Brandt, golf pro at Bloomington Country Club for 22 years. Bloomington, which has been closed since last Friday, usually sees about 75 golfers a day this time of year. We are hoping that we don’t have damage to our irrigation system once the snow melts, Brandt said.

While the city courses may not open until early next week, they are hoping to have the driving range at Southgate Golf Club open on Saturday. I would be extremely surprised if we are able to open before next week, Bloomington’s Brandt said.

So, what is an avid golfer to do while waiting for the snow and ice to melt off the course? You could decide to trade in the clubs for a snowboard or a nice pair of skis. But if you are not into snow and ice and would rather continue swinging the club, then area pros recommend that you continue practicing your swing in the garage or in your living room.

Continue swinging the club and keep your muscles loose, Brandt said. I recommend stretching to stay limber and also you can go to the Southgate indoor instruction facility, Cowan said.

Cowan also warned to be careful not to get back on the course too soon because it can damage the root system of the greens if the ground is still frozen.

If Mother Nature decides to cooperate, area golf courses are hoping to be open again early next week.

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Email: sheinecke@stgnews.com

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