In recent years, the Headwaters Golf Course in Three Forks has closed for winter from November 13 through the end of February. With warmer temperatures in the forecast, local golfers looking for a chance to get on the course can play as long as the temperature is at least 40 degrees for several hours.
According to Pro Shop Manager Sydney Rochford, in March, they must first get the snow and ice melted on the course before they can allow players.
"Then the guideline to open is the temperature has to reach and maintain 40 degrees for several hours in the day for it to be worth opening. The reason for this is that playing on frosted grass is very damaging," she said.
In the past, Rochford said they used to open year-round, which was essential in the early years of the course to keep up with bills, but they now close in November through the winter to give the grass a break during its dormant stage.
"The more we stay off the grass in the winter, the better the grass will come back in the spring. We also cover our greens with tarps, and this protects our Bentgrass greens from the heavy frost," she said.
Those interested in playing can do so when the weather allows on temporary greens and tee boxes with no carts. The winter rate is $10 per 9-holes.
According to Rochford, long-time Course Superintendent John Shampeny will watch the weather carefully and decide when to pull the tarps off the greens, usually the first or second week of April.
"If they are pulled too early, they can get a hard frost which delays recovery time. But if they are left on too long, it risks burning up the grass. Usually by mid-April and as long as the weather cooperates with us, we are able to maintain more regular hours," Rochford said. "By May, we should be operating totally normal. When you see the tarps come off the greens, we will proceed with normal play on tee boxes, greens, and carts will be allowed on the course again."
In an effort to generate additional revenue, the Headwaters Golf Course is looking at possibly adding on to its current clubhouse, which would be home to simulators, cart storage, and extra storage.
Rochford said with the increasing popularity of golf and the course reaching a maximum revenue generated through a 9-hole course in the last two years, the question has become 'how do we continue to grow as a non-profit?"
While another 9 holes would be the first choice, Rochford said they don't have the room to grow in that capacity land-wise because the current land is owned by Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks, with whom they have a lease agreement.
"So, the idea of simulators came up with their increasing popularity," she said.
The idea of adding simulators was first presented in September of 2022 at the annual Gallatin Valley Golf Association Meeting.
"We had roughly 30 members in attendance there, and while they were interested in the idea, they wanted to see the numbers on it, so the board decided to pursue the idea further," she said.
Earlier this year, the course asked area golfers to fill out a survey that Rochford said was intended to get a better idea of what our membership and regulars thought about simulators and how often they would use them.
There was plenty of feedback from the public, with over 300 filling out the survey.
"My goal when putting out the survey was to get 100 responses, so both myself and the board were really pleased to see as many responses as we had. Not only the number but also how many respondents took the time to thoroughly answer questions with written responses," Rochford said.
While the proposed clubhouse expansion is still in the very early stages, and the board has not fully committed to moving forward, Rochford said the plan would be to build onto the existing clubhouse on the north side of the building.
"The top level would have enough room for up to 3 simulators, a walk-in cooler, and more storage space. The ground level would serve as cart storage to keep our carts out of the weather," Rochford said.