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A Rollercoaster of Winter Weather

Jeff Holmes, CGCS Golf Course Manager

There never seems to be two days that are the same and there sure aren't two winters that are equal. With that being said, this winter has been nothing short of confusing. It has stayed warm and rainy when it should be cold and snowy. But the good news for golfers and the golf courses is that when the weather has warmed up, it has melted all of the snow.

Melting all of the snow prevents any chance of ice buildup on the fine turf areas. This is a big plus so we don't receive any type of ice damage to the turf. However, there are other turf concerns when the snow blanket is not covering the golf courses. Certainly, wind desiccation is a concern and so is cold temperature crow hydration. Ideally, somewhat frozen ground and snow cover across the property is the best way for the golf courses to survive the winter months.

Snow mold is a fungus that can also grow on the turf in the winter months, but is usually preventable with managed practices. We can protect the turf areas from some of the winter challenges but there are other factors that put us at the mercy of mother nature. The good news, so far this year, is that with all of the crazy weather swings, the golf courses are over-wintering extremely well. On January 28 and 29, the property received about 10 inches of snow. Now two weeks later, come February 11, we will more than likely be looking at grass again. There’s still not any measurable frost in the ground. With that scenario and not much snow pack to speak of, once the weather turns the corner, conditions can change quickly for the golf courses towards waking up from its winter slumber.

Our golf course maintenance team was moving sod to cart path edges in January and we were adding soil to the cart path edges to get ready for spring seeding. That’s a first for me in January! The bridge on No. 8 Valley has needed some major structural work this winter. The wooden barn beams have served their life and it’s time to upgrade the support structure of the bridge, which our team is working on. We will be putting in galvanized-coated steel beams. This change will last for many years and the barn beams made it over 30 years, so no one can complain about that.

Equipment purchases are still tough. It has been taking over a year to get product that has been ordered. Normally, in the past, that type of purchase would have been completed within about four months, if not immediately. As all of you know, purchases of larger items has become a project that will probably take a year or more. We are planning for a new irrigation pump station this coming November, so that process has already started. A pump station from design to completion used to take about six weeks; since COVID, it’s more like six months or longer.

Leah Connolly, the Club Horticulturalist, is moving on to a new role at Calvin University grounds. We say “goodbye” to Leah and wish her the best. She was with us just a little over a year and has done a great job for us. We are going to miss having her on our team!

The ground hog says six more weeks of winter, but what does he really know? If it warms up, we may be playing golf come mid-March. I will make a full prediction in mid-May.

Enjoy what is left of winter and we will see you on the courses soon!