Winter has been long. The snow is gone (for the next few hours). Everyone wants to get out and play. A tradition like no other in Minnesota, sparked by the first few nice, warm days of early Spring, is “when will the golf course open?” This question is usually followed up by, “well xyz golf course in town is open, so why can’t we?”
Spring always brings anticipation, excitement, and much needed patience. First, every golf course is different in the level of expectations they have for their golf facilities. Some take the short-term gain of capturing early revenue, with the long-term health of the turf at the back of their minds. These facilities usually pay the price for their early play, and cannot understand why their turf starts declining come July, and they’re in terrible condition the remainder of the season. Some facilities are built upon great draining soils that firm up enough much faster to allow play. And some facilities have many more steps to de-winterize before opening day can even arrive.
At Midland, we always have the long-term health of the facility at the forefront of our decision making. This has been evident in the quality of turf we’ve been able to build upon over the past decade. We make the best decisions for our environment, soils, turf, and ability to provide a good product. Every golf course is different with their goals and standards, in regards to Spring openings.
Today, I’m not going to tell you an opening date, because we don’t have one yet. What I can tell you, is that we are not yet ready to open this week or next. There is still frost in the ground, the greens covers are still on, and the turf is not awake.
By covering our greens, we create a warmer microenvironment underneath them, once we lose our snow cover. The turf quickly evolves to having that protection. Uncovering the greens when the night time temperatures can dip into the 20’s will shock the turf, and delay breaking dormancy even more than normal. That threat is still very present. The covers themselves have to be 100% dry to roll up and store, as this can take several warm, sunny, and windy days. The uncovering process itself takes several days, as does cleaning the surfaces afterwards. The entire process is very labor intensive.
With our construction project last Fall, we have acres and acres of sod all over the golf course. We have to make sure it’s firm enough for foot and cart traffic, and actively growing to recover from said traffic. This is a step we normally don’t have to consider, but with such a large investment into the improvements, even opening a few days too early, would be a foolish business decision, short and long-term.
We try to open the driving range sooner than the golf course. Installing the hitting mats has given us the ability to hit balls before the range tee turf has started to grow. The evidence of the quality of turf on the range tee, because of the ability to utilize the mats in the Spring and Fall, is undeniable.
Just like every golf course, every driving range is different. Ours has great topography, but it works against us in regards to drainage. Both #1 and 18 drain into the belly of the range, and its soils are some of the worst draining on property. In order to open the range, we need to be able to run the ball picker to retrieve the balls. The driving range will not be ready to open this week, and we’ll continue to evaluate the situation daily.
This isn’t meant to be a tease, but instead, act as a transparent communication, especially if you’re a new member to Midland. There is always a large part of the “Midland engine” that no one ever sees, and properly opening the golf course is the major step in jump-starting the season. Just like you, the Turf Department wants the season to start as soon as possible. There might be a few public golf courses that have opened, or will, this weekend. My recommendation is to make a tee time at one, and go enjoy. The forecasted 5″ of snowfall we’re supposed to receive today will prolong winter a bit longer, but it’s a normal occurrence for mid-March. Our average opening date is Masters week; some years we open after, and some years, before. That’s where the patience comes into play…
Let me know if you have any questions, and as soon as we have an opening date, it will be communicated.