Berkshire County's golf courses in good shape following warm winter

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Jim Easton has a pretty good view of the Taconic Golf Club course from his office at the club.

The head course superintendent looks out at his 6,410 yards of green grass and sand traps and likes what he sees.

"Everything has greened up much sooner than normal," Easton said with a laugh. "If you look at the rough, the fairways, the tees, the whole thing, there's virtually no dead grass."

Going into the final snowstorm of the 2015-16 winter season, less than two feet of snow fell in Berkshire County. According to a story in The Eagle, 12.6 inches of snow had fallen before the final storm in late March. That was far less than the average snowfall of 78.6 inches.

"This was amazing. No snow. I don't know if we'll see another [winter like that] any time soon," said Easton, who is in his fourth year as the superintendant in Williamstown.

Golf courses throughout Berkshire County are now open and up to full operation. For all of them, it was a very short winter.

"This winter has been a home run," Wyantenuck Country Club course superintendent Peter Bacon said, mixing his sports metaphors. "I would say we've done two winters worth of work in one, because the weather was so great.

"There was no damage to the turf. Everything was in great shape all winter long."

Bacon said that in addition to clearing downed branches and brush, he and his staff in Great Barrington were able to do some work on bunkers. Twelve months ago, that wasn't possible because in March, there was almost two feet of snow on the ground.

The late March snow that hit Berkshire County didn't do much of anything to Wyantenuck. Bacon said some of the perennials around the 6,056-yard layout might have been "knocked back" a bit because of the colder temperatures.

Wyantenuck was open until Dec. 14, 2015 and this year, the club opened for golf on March 16. The course superintendent said it was probably the shortest time span between closure and opening.

"We were outside all winter, so there was not too much snow time. There were some bad days, but we got a lot of tree work done in the winter," said Bacon. "Even in February, we were cutting some sod, which is unheard of."

And it's a far cry from last year.

In a Berkshire Eagle article published on April 15, 2015, only Bas Ridge Golf Course in Hinsdale was open on the day Americans had to send in their income tax returns.

"This is the worst damage we've had in 12 years," Wyantenuck's Bacon said in last year's article. "Some greens I never had damage on are damaged."

Jim Conant, the course superintendent at the Country Club of Pittsfield, said last year that seven or eight greens were damaged. He had hoped the course would be open by May 1, even with some temporary greens.

"We are about four weeks behind," he said, when asked about the climate.

This year, the Country Club of Pittsfield shut down for the winter right after Thanksgiving and opened up on March 25.

"In our case, we use protective covers on the greens. That's a three or four-day process taking them off. We started implementing them last year after all the winter kill that we had," said Conant. "It took us last year until the beginning of June to get the grass that color on the green.

"It's a welcome relief to start a season without some damage to the turf, that's for sure."

Mike Salinetti is in his first year as the course superintendent of the Wahconah Country Club in Dalton.

"It was definitely an easy winter as far as the health of the turf and all that," said Salinetti, who also said that the course preparation was the same as always.

Wahconah opened in mid-March, but shut down after that late March snowfall. The Dalton club reopened for the season right after Easter.

"One thing that was nice is that we were able to get done a little bit earlier," Salinetti said. "What would have been nice to open in early March, but it just got a little wet again afterwards. Right now, we're at the point where the turf looks great and it's beautiful out there.

"The greens are rolling firm and fast. To have that this early in April is fantastic."

Bacon said that Wyantenuck did a little work on bunkers, but none of the course superintendents interviewed did anything major to their courses.

Wahconah's Salinetti said that it looks like the golf season ahead is going to be a first-rate one.

"It looks like it's mid-May," said Salinetti, "with nearly July playing conditions. It's so firm out there right now. With the soil temperatures being so cool, it's good to let the roots chase the water at this point.

"It's going to be great and it's only going to help the turf in the middle of the summer when we do dry out — if we do."

Conant loves what he sees on the Country Club of Pittsfield course, and he expects members will, too.

"I have to keep on telling myself that it's April," he said. "You look around and it looks like it's the end of May.

"You feel like you're a good four weeks ahead of where you normally are. It's a pleasant surprise and it's very welcome, that's for sure."

Contact Howard Herman at 413-496-6253.


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