A double-run in pinochle might be as rare as a hole-in-one, say the two golfers killing time playing cards Friday in the Pro Shop at Fort Hays Municipal Golf Course.
Friday’s frigid wind was whipping the flag in front of the shop and a layer of snow blanketed the city-owned course. But it was warm inside.
“We have people come out just to get out of the house,” said Pro Shop Manager Jeremy Coulter, a golfer himself.
“We’ve only had maybe two weekends where temperatures were above 40 to 50 degrees,” Coulter said. “Most of February the course has been covered with snow. There just hasn’t been much play.”
The brutal weather so far this year means activity at the course has trailed last year, say city officials.
A 40-degree rule at the course south of town on the U.S. 183 Bypass means the temperature must be 40 degrees or greater for anyone to golf.
“If you step on grass when it’s frozen it will break the grass off, and walking on the greens will leave footprints for several weeks,” said Jeff Boyle, City of Hays Director of Parks.
January is typically not a very good month anyway, Boyle said, but this year has been worse than usual. There hasn’t been a single round played since Feb. 23, he said. With more snow in the forecast this weekend, it’s likely that will continue to be the case at the 18-hole course. While the sidewalks and parking lot have been cleared, a lot of the cart paths are drifted over with snow.
“The days we’ve had warm temperatures the golfers have been out here,” Coulter said. “I’m sure there’s a lot of cabin fever. As soon as there’s a decent day, they are all here.”
The weather forecast is showing very few days above 30 or 40 degrees, Coulter said.
City Finance Director Kim Rupp on Thursday reported to the Hays City Commission at its regular meeting that revenue at the course had dipped $11,300 in January compared to a year ago, and he cited weather as the likely culprit, keeping members from renewing their memberships.
The course, one of two in the city, ended the year with 273 members for 2018. Membership runs from March 1 through Feb. 28. The first couple months of the year are usually when members renew, Boyle said.
“Just on memberships alone in January we were down $4,235,” he said. “There were a lot of folks who didn’t come in and renew yet. So revenue for the cart sheds is also down $1,500.”
Green fees, the fees paid by non-members for drop-in play on a weekday or weekend, were only down about $60 for January.
The 2019 annual budget for the course is $393,418, Boyle said. Revenue in 2018 was $277,883.
A single membership is $465 a year, two family members can join for $575, and a family membership is $645. One of the 168 parking spots in a cart shed runs $275 a year for a gas cart, and $300 a year for electric.
“January is typically not a very good month,” Boyle said. “Now April, everybody comes out of the woodwork in April. May and June are very, very good months for us. July can be as well, if it’s not 100-degrees plus. Who wants to be out in 105 degree heat?”
And when it’s 90 degrees, the parking lot is full, he said. A 40-degree day isn’t a deterrent.
“We have some members who will show up in stocking caps and gloves on,” Boyle said. “More power to ‘em, they love to play golf.”
This past week, Coulter said business at the Pro Shop had actually picked up a little.
“It’s behind what it was last year, but we had quite a few renewals,” he said. “Right now we are going through cart shed renewals.”
Despite working the Pro Shop, Coulter’s game also has slowed.
“I probably would have had a few rounds of golf by now,” he said. “This is slightly unusual, we would have had a few nicer days by now.”