Loeffler's Link

April 24, 2019

HOLTS SUMMIT, Mo. --- Enjoy your winter? Or should we say, are you enjoying it?

Is it over yet?

Definitely yes ... we think. But lest we forget, the Kansas City Royals had a home game postponed in early May of 2013.

By snow.

All of us were ready for this winter to end, but some more so than others. Like golf course owners. Those folks are in the same boat as farmers, as far as being dependent on weather for their livelihoods, and this winter did them no favors.

Certainly, golf courses make the bulk of their income in the spring, summer and fall months. But most of our mid-Missouri winters, especially the last several years, offer ample opportunities to get in nine or 18 holes now and then.

Not this one.

"It was a tough, long winter," Railwood Golf Club co-owner and Superintendent Jim Johnson said. "Even though winter didn't start in October, it started for golf courses.

"I think the only good thing I've seen from this winter is that we had good frost depth, so it appears that a lot of the grubs and bugs in the soil are dead. We're not seeing nearly as many moles."

The lousy weather started in October and lasted through late March.

"There's usually a decent month or two, at least," Johnson said. "You're not looking at a zero, let's put it that way. October and November are usually good months, they sort of help finish your year for you. But that wasn't the case this time."

Johnson said they never expect much out of December-February, but March has always been the breakout month to start the year. Well ...

"March was bad," Johnson said.

Johnson, of course, is at the top of this golf pyramid, but long winters effect every employee at a golf facility, from the grounds crew to the clubhouse workers.
"It trickles all the way down," he said. "You can't bring people back to work as quick, and you don't get as much stuff done as you wanted to get done.

"It all adds up; it shortens everything into a shorter season and time frame."

Finally, we've enjoyed some days and weeks of good weather, which means a lot of work for Johnson and his crew.

"We're not planning anything great and new this year," he said, "there are just a lot of little things that we've had to put off that we need to take care of."

Currently, Railwood isn't taking new members, but the course is still open daily to the public. Membership is currently hovering around 700.

"We're really happy with that, that's about where we want to be," Johnson said. "We probably have 200 members who play a lot and about 200 others who play routinely, and the rest don't use it very often.

"I wish they would."

For members and non-members alike, winter is over, it's at last time to come out swinging.

"I think if people haven't been here in a while," Johnson said, "we've made some improvements the past few years. The fairways have improved a lot and we've made some changes in the clubhouse, for example. And I think the value you get is still really, really good, I think people will see that when they come out.

"Come play golf, it's great weather. And if you have a membership, you should come out and enjoy it."

Railwood has about 30 tournaments and "outings" (smaller groups of 30-40) scheduled for this year, which is a nice bounce-back from three years ago. That's when the future of the course was uncertain until Johnson and a partner bought out Justin Smith.

Before that uncertainty, Railwood was hosting 40-50 events every year. When that uncertainty hit, the vast majority of the tournaments found other venues.

Railwood features four leagues a week --- a men's league, two men's seniors leagues and a couples league --- and a fifth, a women's league, will likely start in May.

Unless it's snowed out, that is.

After this, let us never speak of the Winter of 2018-19 again.

The long, cold winter certainly
took its toll on area golf courses

Chris Leuckel

Gray Birdsong hits his second shot on the par-4 12th hole during a round in late March at Railwood Golf Club in Holts Summit.