by Steven Wright
The tarps are off, the carts are charged and it’s… March? Yes, don’t adjust your calendars, Blackberry Ridge opened its golf course Tuesday, the earliest ever in the course’s 14-year history.
Temperatures in Sartell climbed to over 70 degrees on Sunday, helping to improve course conditions and allowing Blackberry staff to give the green light to golfers. Those who dusted off their clubs for the opener on Tuesday were met with a somewhat chilly start to the golf season, but the colder temps didn’t stop John Stafney of Sartell from getting in his first round of the year.
“Anything above 36 degrees, I’ll play,” Stafney chuckled, “As soon as it opens.”
The Newsleader met up with Stafney on the 12th green, where he rolled a few putts to get a feel for the spring greens.
“I grew up playing sand greens in North Dakota,” Stafney said, noting the thin layer of sand still present on Blackberry’s greens.
The mild winter, coupled with low amounts of moisture have created ideal conditions for early-season golf, but the grounds crew still has its hands full in preparing the course. Soil temperatures at Blackberry are currently too cold to allow grass to grow, so this means temperatures will likely need to stay above 50 degrees before the crew can mow and trim the vast 220 acres of grass and turf.
Brock Swanson, the head PGA professional and golf instructor at Blackberry, has been busy behind the scenes and is excited to present patrons with a brand new fleet of electric golf carts.
“The battery systems are much better than our old carts,” Swanson said in a Newsleader interview.
The new carts, which come in an “eye-popping red” color, will be much more reliable, easier to charge and have fewer issues than the old carts.
Swanson has been the head pro at Blackberry since 2012 and has created plenty of opportunities for families and youth to learn and play golf. Every Sunday after 4 p.m. this season, families can play 9 holes of golf with a special “15’’ cup on each green. The larger cup will make the game more enjoyable for all skill sets.
“It’s always fun to see the ball go into the hole, whether it’s a regulation size or a 15-inch cup,” Swanson said.
The cost for families is $20, and $5 for a cart.
“If you have kids or a family member who wants to try golf, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to come out and play,” Swanson added.
Teaching and helping golfers improve their game has always been a passion of Swanson’s, who is excited to give lessons and also lead a youth instruction camp this June for ages 5-13. Swanson said being able to teach people the game of golf and watch them improve is what makes his job so rewarding.
To kick off the year, Blackberry will host an open house March 27 to give the public an opportunity to see the course, meet staff and enjoy beer tasting from Beaver Island Brewery as they celebrate the start of a new season.
For more information on events at Blackberry, visit blackberryridgegolf.com and click on the event calendar and see their ads in today’s Newsleader.