BEVERLY — An old wooden sign with "Course Closed" spray-painted in yellow rests comfortably on its back next to a bush just outside the Beverly Golf & Tennis Pro Shop.
In a typical year, that same sign would be standing upright, protecting Beverly's 18-hole course from unwanted guests until at least early April. Unseasonably warm temperatures this month, coupled with a very mild winter, have allowed golf courses around the North Shore to open early, however, and a week of record-breaking heat has business booming.
Beverly Golf & Tennis opened March 15, and David Dionne, head golf professional, reported that the course hosted 250 golfers on Sunday, and a steady flow of weekday golf followed.
"The course came through the winter well," Dionne said. "The conditions are improving every day. The greens are smoothing out a lot faster than normal because of the weather. (The grounds crew) has cut the greens at least three or four times so far.
"We didn't want to open too early and do damage to the course. We saw the long-range forecast and knew it was going to be pretty nice weather, so we decided to go along with it. You always think of the golf course first. You don't want to open with a bad product."
The early feedback for Beverly Golf & Tennis has been positive. There are a couple of wet spots on the course, but very few restrictions for golfers.
The same can be said for The Meadow at Peabody, which opened for full play on Feb. 23, the earliest in the course's 11-year history.
Steve Guy of Salem and Tom Konevich of Topsfield finished 18 holes in a tidy 4 hours and 10 minutes at The Meadow yesterday afternoon, just feeling fortunate to have such warm weather this early in the golf season.