VASSALBORO — Mike Cote sat in the clubhouse at Natanis Golf Course. He’d just played his third round of golf of the season, not bad for April 7.

“It’s still a little wet, but for this time of year, it’s in great shape,” Cote said. “The greens are in phenomenal shape.”

After a relatively mild winter and an early snow melt, golf courses around central Maine are preparing to open for the season. Natanis has been open for three weeks, course manager Rob Browne said, and 27 of Natanis’ 36 holes are currently open. All 18 holes on the Arrowhead course are open, along with holes one through six and 16 through 18 on the Tomahawk course.

“The course is in good shape,” Browne said. “People are pretty anxious to get outside.”

Augusta Country Club and Waterville Country Club both expect to open soon. Augusta is planning for a Friday opening, club pro Dave Soucy said. Nick Pelotte, the manager of Waterville, said Tuesday he hopes to open this weekend.

“From a golf course standpoint, we didn’t have any issues with winter,” Pelotte said. “The greens are now uncovered. The staff’s out there. We’ll mow everything before we open.”

One thing that can damage greens in the winter is a melt, followed by another deep freeze. That didn’t occur this winter, Soucy said.

“A lot of problems stem from when you have a warm up, water melts and it gets down into the greens and freezes,” Soucy said.

At Sugarloaf Golf Course in Carrabassett Valley, pro Zach Zondlo said the plan is to open in late May.

“(The) course is very healthy. We were able to look at greens last week during melt and are really excited,” Zondlo said. “(We) historically open between Memorial Day and June 1. We don’t want to rush and would rather have the course in the condition golfers expect it to be when they visit.”

Mike Hamel putts on the ninth green of the Arrowhead course Wednesday at Natanis Golf Course in Vassalboro. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Sugarloaf is trying something different this year in terms of course management. Rather than aerate the greens before winter, a process in which small holes are punched into the green to allow room for grass roots to grow and remain healthy, aeration will take place this spring before the course opens.

“Our thoughts are the grass goes into winter as healthy as possible instead of us straining it by aerating at end of season,” Zondlo said.

Belgrade Lakes Golf Course plans to open May 1, and will begin taking reservations for tee times April 23.

Golfers will not have to wait that long for options in courses, however. To Cote, getting out on the course is a sign of normalcy returning as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

“It was a tough winter,” Cote said, “but any time you can get out (playing golf) before the end of March, it’s a positive.”

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