Everyone knows that Spring brings excitement in the golf world. Needless to say, 2020 Spring brings us all sorts of emotions. First and foremost, I hope everyone is being smart, safe, and healthy. Second, I hope everyone is staying patient during these unprecedented times.
Golf is a fantastic sport for many reasons: the camaraderie, the exercise, the personal and peer competition, all the while surrounded by a beautiful green space, filled with wildlife. We believe playing the game of golf is a safe and great way to get outside and enjoy some healthy activity. There is a massive amount of work happening behind the scenes to plead the case to Governor Walz to allow golf. The allied groups of golf – the Minnesota Golf Course Superintendents Association, the Minnesota PGA Section, the Minnesota Club Managers Association of America, the Golf Course Owners Association of Minnesota, and the Minnesota Golf Association – are all working extremely hard to sell the fact that playing golf fits the Governor’s request that Minnesotans get outside to stay healthy, while following strict protocols. As I’m sure you’ve read, those states that are playing golf already, are playing a game that is not considered “normal.” All of these restrictions are designed to protect everyone – players and staff. And to prove how important following those restrictions are, the state of Illinois did allow golf, but has now reversed its decision, as people were not following the social distancing guidelines. The leaders who represent golf for the state of Minnesota are working hard to get everyone out on courses, safely, as soon as possible, with the hopes that when play resumes, everyone will follow the guidelines.
But it’s also important to remember one key point. Our average opening date at Midland is around the second week of April, and the past few years we’ve been closer to May because of poor weather! I know that doesn’t make this situation sting any less, but try and think about it as if you haven’t missed any golf yet.
One major positive to report is that the golf course came through winter in near-flawless shape. The winter had crazy temperature fluctuations, ice formation, and brutally cold temperatures, but the turf weathered it well. Preparing the course after snow melt and opening day is a monumental task, and one very few observe. This year has brought difficult challenges, operating with a staff size less than half of normal, to comply with the Covid-19 restrictions, to keep our staff safe. Uncovering greens this year alone was a monumental task. The weather windows did not cooperate, and we dealt with some trying adversities.
It snowed the day before we started to uncover the GreenJacket’ed greens, which are a non-permeable plastic. The next few days were forecast to be very warm, so we didn’t want to wait, as once the soils warm, gas exchange occurs, and the threat of turf loss is real. So the result was an incredible effort by our small staff, alongside the golf shop staff. Removing the wet, heavy snow on the covers added an incredible amount of work to the process, and we couldn’t have done it without the help!
The other greens on the course are covered with Excelsiors, which comprises of woven wood fibers. After the snow, we then had to wait several days for them to dry, before rolling them up. Rolling them up wet will result in the covers deteriorating quickly during storage, rendering them ineffective. But the window of opportunity from when they dried until the next rain was basically one day, so it was another massive effort, with a small staff, to remove more than 175 individual covers.
So all greens are uncovered, and the turf throughout the property looks fantastic, but we’ll have to wait a little longer to see you. There is a massive amount of work that we normally complete before we open. With the current staffing situation, I’m not certain all of it will be done before opening day. There will be concessions, as hard as they are to swallow. We’ll do our best in the situation we find ourselves in. Our goals have not changed; they will only take us longer to reach.
This pandemic has taught us to appreciate things on a new level. Some things we take for granted, until they’re taken away. Safety isn’t something we think about in our daily lives. Golf is a game, but it brings a sense of family when it’s played at any kind of “club.” Midland Hills has been a club since 1919. Its members, over the century, have been through world wars, market crashes, the Great Depression, a world-wide influenza outbreak, Pearl Harbor, 9/11, on and on, and yet we’re stronger today than we’ve ever been. There is no doubt that you feel a sense of family about your club, and your peers. And it’s never been as important as it is right now to feel a sense of community. So remember that you’re all in it together, you care about one another, and share your love for the game of golf at your club.