Mother Nature must have had a bad round to open the golf season last year.
She probably hit her first drive into the swamp before putting her second drive into a bunker. Her next shot likely ricocheted off a tree and almost hit her in the forehead. When she got on the green, she probably four-putted for a 15.
She then apparently threw her clubs in the pond off the 18th green, and took it out on the golf world the rest of the summer.
At least that’s what it felt like to the Janesville area.
That was especially true at Blackhawk Golf Course. The popular nine-hole course off of Palmer Drive and East Racine Street took the brunt of Mother Nature’s wrath.
In February, 5 to 6 inches of rain falling on the snow and ice produced a wave of runoff that turned Spring Brook Creek, the waterway that runs through the course, into a small raging river.
When the surge hit the aging cart bridges, it was like an unblocked J.J. Watt charging into a field goal kicker.
The bridges went on injured reserve.
Without the bridges, the course provided golf-cart shuttle service to get players from the No. 1 teebox to the fairway, from No. 2 green to the No. 3 teebox, and from No. 6 tee to the fairway.
Course management figured the inconvenience would last until things returned to normal by June. Wisconsin DNR regulations prevented any work on the waterway from March to May to preserve the spawn of fish in the stream.
But June rolled around, and there was still no progress.
“It got pushed back twice because of material delays,” said Matt Ellis, the general manager and head golf pro at both Blackhawk and Janesville Riverside. “The beams that cross the river are long pieces of wood. You can’t just go pick those up at Menards.”
So the shuttle service had to be used throughout the 2018 season.
But Mother Nature wasn’t done throwing hooks and slices at the local golf scene. Weather conditions were less than ideal during the 16 weekends in the state’s primary golfing months of May, June, July and August.
“Almost half of those days it was 85 degrees or hotter, or it rained,” Ellis said.
That and the bridges being out contributed to a 37 percent decrease in rounds played at Blackhawk, Ellis said. The hot/wet weather caused a 19 percent decrease at Riverside.
“2018 was a tough year,” Ellis said. “We had to deal with issues that were mostly out of our control.”
Work on the bridges is 99 percent complete, Ellis said. The lone remaining work is to put in cart paths. Those will be put in this spring.
The bridge abutments now are located on land, replacing what used to be pilings in the creek. Ellis said that should prevent the bridges from being washed away, even if a similar flooding situation occurs—which shouldn’t happen anytime soon.
“That was like a 100-year flood,” Ellis said.
The current abnormal winter situation of no snow cover a third of the way through January should not hurt golf courses, Ellis said. Course superintendent Ryan Tully’s major concern during any winter is ice forming on greens and fairways.
If all goes well, the two courses should be good to to go sometime in April.
Let’s just hope Mother Nature’s opening round goes better this year.