Just as snow on the ground in central Maine this time of year makes skiers think of hitting the slopes, the absence of it makes golfers break out their clubs.

“We’ve had a ton of calls,” said Rob Browne, general manager of Natanis Golf Course in Vassalboro.

Natanis will open 21 of its 36 holes today in one of its earliest season openings. The earliest the course opened was March 6 two years ago. Typically it opens the first or second week in April.

Browne said he probably would have put carts out today if not for the wet weather of the past couple of days. With unseasonably warm temperatures predicted for next week, he expects carts to be available by midweek.

Walking rates are currently $27 for 18 holes and $21 for nine. Regular tees and greens will be in effect with the exception of the second hole on the Arrowhead course, where advanced tee markers are in place due to some snow. Browne said the hole will play as a par 3 instead of a par 4.

Greens came through the mild winter well. Damage to greens generally occurs when ice builds up on the surface for 60 days or more.

That wasn’t the case this winter. In fact, a couple of bouts of warm weather followed by cold was more of a concern since grass sometimes appears too early.

“At this point, we’re beyond that now,” Browne said. “We came through fine.”

Golfers will notice the absence of several trees this spring since superintendent Allen Browne and his crew cut down several last fall and over the winter.

“We cleared a ton of trees, mostly to get a little more light and wind on the course and open up tee boxes,” Browne said.

Trees were cut on holes 14-17 on the Tomahawk course and 5, 12, 13 and 17 on Arrowhead. Golfers will especially notice the 16th hole on Tomahawk, a par 4 dogleg left that leads to a crowned, elevated green. Trees that lined the left side of the fairway have been cut and replaced by fescue grass which Browne said should help speed up play.

Several courses around the state opened this week, including Nonesuch in Scarborough, Toddy Brook in North Yarmouth, Old Marsh in Wells, the Brunswick Golf Club and Mere Creek, also in Brunswick. The Maine State Golf Association will begin its schedule of weekend tournaments, three weeks ahead of time, starting March 31 at Nonesuch.

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T’s Golf of Manchester opened its driving range for the season Thursday. The facility will be open noon to 5 p.m. daily, weather permitting. More information is available of its Facebook page.

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

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