“We want people to go sledding, go for a run, walk their dogs, go snowshoeing or skiing,” says the golf course superintendent. “This is a beautiful, peaceful place, and we enjoy sharing it with the community.”
LeBlanc has been the superintendent since 1991 and he has always encouraged the public to spend time on the course.
“We have to plow a path to the club house for fire and insurance reasons but we plow the whole parking lot so there’s tons of room for people to park there,” he said. “We like having extra eyes out on the course – just for things like today.”
Today, Jan. 14, LeBlanc’s phone started ringing with reports from walkers and dog walkers that someone had torn up greens and tee boxes.
“People were telling me they saw a side-by-side out there doing donuts and driving on the greens,” said LeBlanc.
LeBlanc followed side-by-side tracks to the second green where his heart stopped for a moment – one of the last jobs his staff does in the fall is cover the second green with an ice shield: a $4,000 tarp and insulating material specially designed to protect the green from thaw and freeze cycles.
“If that ice shield gets a hole in it, it’s ruined, it’s worthless,” he said. “I spend what I can from my budget to keep these greens in shape – it’s tough if I have to start replacing equipment and repairing intentional damage to the greens.”
The ice shield is white plastic to reflect back the sun’s rays but that also makes it hard to see under the snow – which why the Pines’ staff put a small metal fence around the green – just enough to indicate that people should stay off it.
“People think it’s just grass, but this is our livelihood,” said LeBlanc. “We try to provide the best playing surface possible to keep the golfers coming back.”
LeBlanc won’t know if the tarp was damaged until the spring. If water gets under it and freezes to the green, he could be reseeding or resurfacing.
“Resurfacing could cost $10,000 and that doesn’t include labour and lost revenue while it’s closed,” he said. “People want to play 18 holes, not 16, and if they hear we’ve closed a green, they stay away – and that hurts us in terms of income and that affects staffing levels.
“It all trickles down to the whole community really if people are off work because of something like this.”
Further along the course a skidoo drove across the eleventh green where the wind had blown off the snow. The snowmobile spun in the middle of the green and ripped up grass and soil there.
“Usually skidoos do less damage because they travel on the snow,” said LeBlanc. “I can see I’ve got some reseeding to do here best case scenario.”
A side-by-side driver also stopped atop several tee boxes and spun donuts – at the seventeenth tee box they tore up grass and dirt.
“This is intentional vandalism,” said LeBlanc. “It is pretty sad. They are stopping to spin in the most vulnerable spots.”
LeBlanc says skidoos and four-wheelers won’t cause any damage if they stick to the pathways and avoid the greens and tee boxes.
“It’s mostly local people and they know their way around, they know what to avoid and most of them do,” said LeBlanc. “Skidooing and four-wheeling is a big part of our culture and we’re not interested in chasing people – we don’t want this to be closed off private property – we just want people to take some care.”