Spring Fever

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.

Mike Manthey

13 Replies to “Spring Fever”

  1. Rob Etten says:

    Thanks Mike for the open and honest communication. As eager as we are, it’s still not worth getting out too early and damaging all of your team’s work from last fall. Appreciate you keeping the best long-term interests of the club in mind!

    1. Mike Manthey says:

      Thanks Rob. We’ll keep the poker faces for the golf matches, no need to keep anything hidden right now!
      Thanks for the support, as always.
      M.

  2. fred zonino says:

    I remember Keller’s opening after their reconfiguration a few years ago. It was a disaster. New grass was not established, too much water on the course, probably set them back 2 years. Lets not rush

    1. Mike Manthey says:

      Fred,
      Keller was a perfect, and unfortunate, example of turf not ready for play, and the repercussions that followed, as they did pay for it for several years. I agree, lets not join that club.
      Thanks,
      M.

  3. Joseph Nilan says:

    Great message Mike. Please take all the time you need before we open.

    1. Mike Manthey says:

      Thanks for the support Joe!
      Appreciated,
      M.

  4. Tucker LeBien says:

    Mike-

    Thank you for your thoughtful message and ongoing stewardship of the course.
    Questions- what specific type of turf is on the fairways and greens, and was that changed from prior to the renovation?

    Tucker (new member 1375)

    1. Mike Manthey says:

      Tucker,
      Great Q. Fairways and greens are a combo of Bentgrass and Poa Annua. Some holes have different ratios of varieties based on sunlight, air movement, drainage, traffic patterns, etc. Both varieties date back 100 years, so when talking about how a golf course plays, it’s always important to think about how new the “technology” you’re playing on, in regards to the turf. No grass varieties were changed during the project, as you need a full 12 months to mature turf from seed. Our project timeline was 3 months.
      M.

  5. JOHNNY says:

    Is Midland going to do a big punch in May are are you going to do a small punch of the greens

    Yes I understand the importance of doing punching the greens

    And does Midland usually do two big punches per year

    One in Spring and another late September

    My guess is they take at least two weeks before the putting is back to normal in Spring and 2 weeks in the fall

    And double yes to not opening too soon

    1. Mike Manthey says:

      Small tine aerification in May, and another in August. We do a large tine before we cover late October. Recovery is always based on weather, some years it’s a few days, some years it’s two weeks, so I don’t promise anything in regards to getting back to normal. With the green expansions, they’ll receive additional small tine aerifications throughout the year, so small that they’ll have little to no effect on play. The more aggressive we are with the sod, the faster we’ll get it to match the playability of the existing green surfaces.
      M.

  6. Norm Chervany says:

    Great discussion and decions … stay the courze

  7. Daryl Skobba says:

    Thank you for this update Mike. I am a new member to Midland Hills CC. I have over the past few years played as a guest and was always in awe of how wonderful every aspect of the course looked. I thank you and your staff for the great job you do.

    1. Mike Manthey says:

      Daryl,
      Thank you, it’s 100% a big team effort of the staff and club leadership.

      And welcome!
      M.

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