It’s still chilly, the fairways are damp, and there could be snow and ice in shaded areas, but the golf season is getting under way in southern Maine.

Nonesuch River Golf Club in Scarborough was the first club to open, with nine holes available for walkers only starting March 28 – five days earlier than last year and nearly two weeks sooner than in 2017.  All 18 holes were in play by Wednesday.

“We have always tried to strive to be the first one open,” said head pro Matt Gaynor. “We take a little pride in that. We enjoy bringing that sense of hope that spring is here.”

The Bath Golf Club and Dunegrass Golf Club in Old Orchard Beach opened a day later. On Thursday morning, the Links at Outlook in Berwick will become at least the fourth course in southern Maine ready for play.

“I have some diehards that will come here regardless,” said Jeff Maldonis, the director of golf at the Links. “I have four groups booked already. We already have 70 (rounds) booked for Saturday.”

Maldonis added, “After a tough Maine winter, if it’s 45 (degrees), it feels like 85 to these guys. Saturday is supposed to be 59 and sunny. If that happens we’ll have over 100 rounds.”

Old Marsh in Wells (Friday) and Dutch Elm in Arundel (Saturday) are planning to open their full 18-hole layouts this weekend.

If players can tough out the raw conditions, they usually get a cost benefit.

At the Links, $49 will get you 18 holes with a cart (which must stay on the cart paths) through April 11, a savings of up to $30 compared to midseason weekend rates.

Bath Golf Club, which began playing all 18 holes Wednesday, is charging $40 with a cart for a full round (cart path only), or just $20 if you walk. Peak season rates are $65 with a cart. Located on old farmland on a peninsula that juts into the merging waters of the Androscoggin and Kennebec rivers, Bath has a tradition of opening early.

“By opening up this early for our members and people in the area, it gives people a chance to get the clubs out of the garage, and come out and have some fun, even if the course isn’t in prime condition,”said Henry Fall, the club’s assistant golf pro. “There’s some sense of giving back and welcoming the new season. The course came out of the winter very nicely and if the course is prepared, we want to offer it to anyone in the area.”

Courses located farther north, inland or both will have to wait a couple more weeks, said Dave Pollard, the co-owner and course manager at Spring Meadows in Gray, which is celebrating its 20th year.

“In the last week we’ve seen quite a bit of snow that’s melted,” Pollard said. “Traditionally we’ve opened up right around the 15th of April and I suspect it will be right around that time this year, probably more the latter part of the third week around the 18th.”

On its website, the Maine State Golf Association is posting an updated list of courses that have opened or announced an opening date.

And for those hitting a course in early April, it’s good to remember there will be soggy spots.

“Waterproof shoes are a must. I’d suggest long pants, waterproof shoes and you might want to bring another pair of socks with you,” Gaynor said. “I know from experience.”

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: SteveCCraig

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