Though most driving ranges have been stirring for a couple of weeks, the 2013 golf season kicked off in Winnipeg Friday when the John Blumberg Golf Course opened 18 of its 27 holes to duffers.
The three other municipal courses -- Crescent Drive, Harbour View and Kildonan Park -- are ready to tee off this morning, finally signalling an end to a long, wintery existence for those who love to spoil a nice walk by trying to hit a small white ball with an angled metal club into a tiny hole.
"The weather looks great and our booking sheets are full for the weekend, so it should be busy," said John Bowen, director of golf at Blumberg. "Once we determined we'd shoot for a Friday opening, and I think we made that decision Monday or Tuesday, people started to book spots."
Player's Golf Course is also scheduled to open this morning, while St. Boniface and Niakwa are prepping for Sunday. Other clubs, such as Transcona and Glendale, are planning to open early next week.
Brad Kirton, the assistant pro at the nine-hole Player's course, says today's opening comes earlier than he originally thought, as last week's rain and snow and generally miserable weather forced him to curb all expectations.
"People are anxious to get out there," said Kirton. "Hopefully, the weather continues to hold and things dry up even more."
Incidentally, Environment Canada is calling for sunny skies all weekend with daytime highs in the middle to upper teens.
Friday's opening at Blumberg was three weeks later than its average start date (April 11) and a far cry from the March 17 opening the course had in 2012. The 47-day delay from last season certainly won't be good for business, but Bowen wasn't ready to forecast doom and gloom concerning the bottom line.
A long winter could mean a long summer, he said. "These things have a way of balancing themselves out."
As for the natural green, Bowen said the course is in "pretty good" shape and the extra days of snow cover and cold temperatures have not resulted in any increased winter kill or snow mould. Some areas are a little soggy, especially the holes near the Assiniboine River, but things should dry sufficiently in the next few days. Bowen anticipates all 27 holes will be open Sunday.
For those looking to play the public city courses, reservations for tee times at Crescent Drive and Kildonan Park can be made one of three ways: calling 311 (open 24 hours every day); contacting the course directly or through the three-day advance online reservation system (winnipeg.ca/golf). Online bookings for John Blumberg and Harbour View can be made at drivetheball.com.