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  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    Lee Grassett chips off a frozen fairway on the back nine during a winter outing Tuesday, February 7, 2012, at the Amherst Country Club.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    Golfers George Thompson, left, and Bob Grassett dodge ice and snow on the back nine during a winter golf outing Tuesday, February 7, 2012, at the Amherst Country Club.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    Golfers Sandy Powers, left, and Darlene Davison putt on the back nine during a winter outing Tuesday, February 7, 2012, at the Amherst Country Club.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    Darlene Davison putts on the back nine during a winter outing Tuesday, February 7, 2012, at the Amherst Country Club.
Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Amherst Country Club opens in February for the first time since 1968

AMHERST – With ice crackling beneath her feet, Lee Grassett took a heavy swing into the frozen fairway at Amherst Country Club on Tuesday afternoon.

New Hampshire golfers, welcome to February.

It’s the first time since 1968 – when Jack Nicklaus was in his prime – that Amherst Country Club has opened in the second month of the year.

The grass isn’t exactly greener, as spots of snow are scattered around Amherst’s 18 holes, but golfers are happier than ever to be on the course, especially during a month when their clubs are usually collecting dust in the basement.

Grassett, 67, who lives and plays in Amherst, said she’ll be back again later this week, as long as the weather cooperates.

“It’s not perfect conditions, but heck, this is New England,” she said, laughing.

Amherst Country Club has nine holes open, and tee times start at 10 a.m. Greens fees are $25.

Chad Zingales, director of golf at Amherst Country Club, said golfers walked into the pro shop Tuesday with big smiles on their faces.

“It’s disbelief; they can’t believe they can play, but they’re happy to do so,” he said. “This is pretty wild.”

Grassett found out the course would be open Monday afternoon and made plans to play.

“I looked at the forecast and said, ‘Yeah, this is doable,’” she said. “As long as it’s above 40 and there’s not much wind, it’s wonderful golfing in February.”

Golf balls run a long way on the frozen grass, and players use anything from ice picks to electric power drills to put their tees in the ground, said Bedford resident Bob Danchik.

George Charland, 74, of Milford, also played Tuesday, and he’ll be out there again all week.

“We’re going to get our 12 months this year,” Charland said. “It’s fun to play, just to say we’ve played in February.”

The players bring winter gear to stay warm. Turtlenecks, earmuffs, winter hats and coats, long underwear and mittens are all part of the game in February.

The strange season has been an up-and-down ride for local golf courses.

A rare October snowstorm dropped more than a foot of snow across the state, but mild weather since has allowed courses to open up again.

Amherst Country Club was open for nearly two weeks in early January before some snow halted play, and one of its busiest days of the season was Jan. 7, when more than 200 golfers showed up to play in the 50-degree weather.

With the course opening in February for the first time in 44 years, the season continues to surprise.

“Our goal is to be open every single month of the year, and so far in 2012, we’re at that expectation,” Zingales said. “It’s pretty exciting.”

Hudson’s Green Meadow Golf Course has opened in February in the past, Charland said, but more often that happens closer to President’s Day, at the end of the month.

An opening this early in February almost never happens in New Hampshire.

“It gets people in the spirit early,” Zingales said. “It’s eliminating the doom and gloom of the long winter, for sure. It’s a huge help for people wanting to get outside and get some exercise. We hope this is an indication of how the season’s going to go.”

Bob Danchik, 68, of Bedford, has only played February golf during trips to Florida. He never thought he’d be playing golf at home in February, but he’s already brought his clubs back up from the basement.

“This is terrific,” he said. “I’m very excited to be able to play and get out of the house.”

Spring might not set in for another month at least, but local golfers are taking advantage of the time they do have to get out and play. Amherst Country Club will stay open as long as possible, weather permitting.

“We don’t have any snow in sight, knock on wood,” Zingales said. “We’ve been getting a lot of calls about this upcoming weekend.”

Cameron Kittle can be reached at 594-6523 or ckittle@nashuatelegraph.com. Also check out Kittle (@Telegraph_CamK) on Twitter.