Local golf courses prepare for spring season (April 03, 2014)

In a few days, professional golfers from around the world will converge on the rolling greens at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia for the annual Master’s Tournament.
A similar pilgrimage will occur in Ligonier, as local golf courses are preparing for their many patrons’ return this spring.
Ligonier Country Club had a productive winter, according to the club’s PGA Golf Professional John Klinchock.
“They built a new tee on number 18, removed some trees and trimmed up some trees,” he said. “You wouldn’t think that outside jobs are being done that time of year on a golf course, but it’s the perfect time because you can get heavy equipment in there without disrupting the turf. A lot of golf courses do tree management in the winter. We also did a big drainage project on number 17.”
This winter has not been very harsh in terms of affecting the grass itself, according to Klinchock.
“The worst thing you can get, which we had probably about five years ago, is freeze, thaw, freeze, thaw,” he said. “That’s bad for the grass. If it stays cold all season, it’s fine.”
Klinchock said golfers have already been out on the course, which is open year-round weather-permitting, but he predicts it will be about a month until conditions are up to par for perfect putting weather.
The club will kick off the season with its opening day for members on April 26, and Klinchock said several special events are planned this summer, including the Westmoreland County Amateur and a men and women’s invitational. The club also play host to numerous fundraisers that are open to the public, he said.
Last year, approximately 17,500 rounds of golf were played at the club, and Klinchock said they hope to surpass that figure.
Anyone interested in learning more about membership at Ligonier Country Club should visit the website at
The turf at Ridgeview Golf Club is also getting the pre-spring treatment, according to owner and operator Don Gilbert, Jr.
“Our spring preparations involve fertilization of the greens and mowing them in progressively lower heights in order to get them to their normal playing height of one-eighth of an inch,” Gilbert said. “The weather hasn’t been as cooperative as we would like it to be. The cold weather obviously stunts the growth of the grass for springtime, and the lack of rain inhibits the fertilizer from getting into the soil.”
Despite the less than satisfactory conditions, Gilbert hopes to open in early April, depending on the weather.
“We don’t open until the temperature is basically above 50 degrees on a regular basis to avoid frost damage to the greens and trees,” he said. “Also, the golf carts perform better when the temperature is above 50.”
Last year, the public course had a late opening due to weather, while the year before the club opened early in the second week of March.
“Mother nature definitely has her hand in the golf business,” Gilbert said.
The course’s upgrades includes the installation of two new tee boxes on hole number three, Gilbert said. Number five’s green, which suffered damage last July due to the high amount of rainfall, has been renovated.
“The green turned out beautifully,” Gilbert said.
This season will include the club’s first Memorial Day weekend special offer.
“We will be honoring the troops, both past and present, by offering free rounds of golf to both active and retired service men and women,” Gilbert said.
With 3,000 rounds of golf played last year, Gilbert hopes to double or triple that amount. Additional information about Ridgeview Golf Club can be found at
Champion Lakes Golf Club staff will begin mowing its greens within the next week, according to superintendent Marcus Hollick.
“It’s been a long winter,” Hollick said. He said the greens are still de-thawing.
“The weather is not like it should be,” he said. “Usually we’d be mowing by now.”
The public course’s official opening is April 18, according to manager Allison Groat DeStefano, but it is open now on days with appropriate weather.
Reservations are still available for this year at the club’s two rental properties and bed and breakfast, DeStefano said.
“We do a lot of overnight packages,” DeStefano said.
Groups from outside of the state often take advantage of the resort’s accommodations, some hailing from as far as Canada, according to DeStefano. She said many people, in addition to golfing at the resort, enjoy going into town to visit Fort Ligonier, local eateries and shops.
She said the club hosts numerous tournaments and events throughout the year, and the staff is “constantly improving” the golf course.
“We are redoing some sand traps, and we’ve taken out a lot of trees,” she said. “We’ve been here for almost 50 years, and the trees have really grown up. We trimmed a lot of them.”
Visitors will be able to enjoy the club’s new patio bar within the next month or two, DeStefano said.
More information about Champion Lakes Golf Club can be found at

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