With all the mild weather of late the feeling that golf was near would have been impossible to ignore. Well, come Friday it will be more than just a feeling.

The golf season at Black Butte Ranch will officially tee off on Friday, March 4, with the first nine holes opening at Big Meadow. Next week, all 18 holes will be open for golfers.

For those of us who have been itching to shake the winter golf blues, such news could not have come any sooner. After all, a golfer can only take so many “ghost” swings in front of a mirror before the urge to get on the course becomes overwhelming.

Of course, golf is decidedly less enjoyable if the course is a mess following a long winter. Good news this year, though, as Big Meadow came out of winter in nearly idyllic shape.

“We came out of winter looking really good,” said Phil Lagao, Black Butte Ranch’s longtime superintendent. “We just did the first mow of the greens, tees and fairways on Wednesday. And we’re getting everything cleaned up. Yeah, I’m pretty happy.”

Lagao’s excitement is warranted. The winter weather has so far played right into the hands of Black Butte Ranch’s maintenance staff.

Central Oregon was met with heavy snow late in 2015, leaving a healthy blanket of snow until well into January. That snow acts as a sort of insulation blanket, protecting the delicate turf from Mother Nature’s winter wrath.

Most importantly, because temperatures remained below freezing for weeks, the snow did not melt in a significant way. That meant that the course was able to avoid a freezing-thawing cycle that can lead to a buildup of ice. And ice is often the most common enemy of healthy turf through the winter.

A warming trend in February led to a steady thawing. But it was not so warm that it caused flooding. In other words, so far the winter has been “just about perfect,” Lagao said.

“We have no ice damage or snow damage,” said Lagao, adding that the staff only had to manually clear ice off of small sections of three greens. “It’s been a pretty easy spring so far, to be honest with you. Every year is different but I am pretty happy with this one so far.”

Even the irrigation system on Big Meadow has been fired up. And what could be a clearer sign that the golf course is ready to awaken from winter?

Big Meadow will continue to stay open so long as weather permits. The price is right, too. Currently Black Butte Ranch is offering the lowest rates of the season. The public can play all 18 holes for a mere $35, and Black Butte Ranch homeowners pay just $30. If a full 18 is a bit too much, the public can play nine holes for $20 (homeowners are $15).

Don’t forget, March 1 marked the Oregon Golf Association’s opening of the handicapping season, so the scores count.

Yep, golf is here again.

Big Meadow Golf Shop is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. For tee times call 541-595-1500 or book online.