published Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

Sun finally out for Chattanooga area golf courses

Tim Whitaker removes the flag for Curt Roark at the Brainerd Golf Course as golfers enjoy great weather over the Memorial Day weekend.
Tim Whitaker removes the flag for Curt Roark at the Brainerd Golf Course as golfers enjoy great weather over the Memorial Day weekend.
Photo by John Rawlston /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The unofficial start to golf season began in April on the weekend Adam Scott won the Masters.

Augusta entices golfers to dust off their clubs every spring as a rite of passage.

Mother Nature, by dropping rain, postponed the full opening until Memorial Day weekend, when she granted golfers, course superintendents and course managers a perfect blend of warm temperatures.

Rounds were played in abundance.

"This is really the first decent weekend that we've had in how long?" Eddie Taylor, Chattanooga's city director of golf courses, said Tuesday. "We had a great Memorial Day weekend, which was better than last year when temps were in the mid-90s."

Every weekend between the Masters and Memorial Day weekend had at least one rainy day in the Chattanooga area.

More than 34 inches of rain has fallen on Chattanooga since Jan. 1, which is more than 12.3 inches above normal, according to Jerry Hevrdeys, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Morristown, Tenn.

"I guess that's good for boating," he joked. "But it's probably kept a lot of people indoors with all the rain."

Golfers staying inside is deleterious for the golf business. As Moccasin Bend head golf professional Devere Keller said, "The golf business and the weather hold hands."

Public courses such as Moccasin Bend and the city-owned courses -- Brainerd and Brown Acres -- as well as the semi-private Valleybrook Golf & Country Club rely heavily on golfers, especially weekend golfers, to generate revenue through green fees.

"It wipes out the bottom line," Valleybrook owner David Drake said. "I don't know what we've lost in terms of dollars, but I'll bet it cut the play out here at least in half compared to last year. The overhead continues, but the income drops dramatically.

"But that's the life of something where you depend on the weather every day."

The wet months of March, April and May have put a dent in annual income for the 2013 calendar year at each course.

Taylor said the two city-owned courses combined to have 904 golfers play over the three-day weekend. That's an increase of about 15 percent from last year when Memorial Day weekend temperatures were in the 90s. That's a good holiday weekend.

But it doesn't account for an April drop, at Brainerd for instance, from 4,416 rounds last year to this year's soaked month to 3,789 rounds.

"The rain killed us," Taylor said. "Since March, it's rained 2.7 inches. Over the same time frame last year, there was 8.5 inches. We're a revenue-driven operation, and when historically your two best three months [April, May and June] are rainouts, your revenues are really down.

"I can't remember a spring this wet in my 22 years."

Especially on the weekends.

The Cleveland Invitational scheduled for May 4-5 had to be postponed until July because more than four inches of rain began falling before the tournament began. The Signal Mountain Invitational had to be cut to a 36-hole event because rain and threatening weather would not relent on May 19.

"Too much water means no golfers, the possibility of disease and having employees who don't get to work," Taylor said. "When the weather cooperates, our numbers are as good as they've ever been."

It's the weather cooperating that's been a problem.

"We have to have rain," Keller said. "We'd just prefer that it rains at night."

Contact David Uchiyama at duchiyama@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6484. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.

about David Uchiyama...

David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...

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