As golfers go, Stuart Carter says he’s probably as avid as any. So the early opening of golf courses made possible by this remarkably warm winter is a welcome development for the Portland resident.

“It’s a big deal,” said Carter, a real estate investor who also owns a construction company. “The beginning of the season is always a big deal — especially in Maine, where you have a short season.”

Apparently, southern Maine’s golf season isn’t so short anymore.

This winter — the second-warmest on record in Portland — the Nonesuch River Golf Club in Scarborough was open and busy for a spell in January, and opened for three days in February.

“You can now play golf in Maine 12 months a year,” said Daniel Hourihan, the course’s general manager, who opened nine holes Sunday and will have all 18 open this Saturday — almost a month ahead of the course’s usual timetable.

The entire Northeast has had an unusually warm winter because of the position of the jet stream, according to the National Weather Service.

In Portland, this meteorological winter — which the weather service considers December through February — was the second-warmest in the 72 years of record keeping. The average temperature was 30.3 degrees, 4.7 degrees above normal.

The only warmer winter was 2001-02, when the average temperature was 31.3 degrees. The coldest was 1970-71, when the average was 17.9 degrees.

Temperatures in Portland have been running four or five degrees higher than normal for months. For March so far, the temperature has been averaging 35.6 degrees — 4.8 degrees above normal. The average was 4.9 degrees higher than normal in February, 4.5 degrees higher in January, 4.4 degrees higher in December, and 5.2 degrees higher in November.

Cold air stays north of the jet stream, which typically is south of Maine, said Tom Hawley, a weather service meteorologist. But lately, the jet stream’s location has kept the cold air in Canada, he said.

With cold air staying to the north, boatyards, state parks and construction crews are busier than usual for this time of year.

So are grounds crews. At Portland’s Riverside Municipal Golf Course, workers were busy Thursday raking, putting out tee markers and otherwise getting the course ready. The course, which typically opens in mid-April, will open for the season Monday, said manager Ryan Scott.

The warm weather has plenty of golfers itching to get onto the course, he said. “The phone’s been off the hook. They’ve been calling all week.”

In York, the Ledges Golf Club opens today — the earliest date in its history.

For now at least, it doesn’t look like winter will return to drive golfers back indoors.

The warm weather is likely to continue through much of March, Hawley said. In fact, Maine may get temperatures in the 70s next week, in typical hot spots like Sanford and Fryeburg, though probably not in Portland because it’s on the ocean.

Officials in the state Department of Conservation have been discussing whether state parks will open early this season, said Jeanne Curran, a spokeswoman for the department.

“We’ve noticed quite a lot of people getting out all winter long, particularly in southern parks,” Curran said.

Parks can be used year-round. An official opening means water systems are operating, facilities are running and the staff is on duty, said Gary Best, assistant manager for the southern region of the Bureau of Parks and Lands.

The warm winter has been good for a major construction project in Greater Portland. Work began earlier this year on a $7.9 million improvement project on Interstate 295. Road crews are expected to start installing additional structural supports to the Fore River Parkway Bridge today.

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at:

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