Have you hugged your golf course superintendent this year?
Better yet, have you hugged their families, who probably haven't seen the people who keep the area courses, clean, green and growing?
2007 has not been the easiest for area superintendents.
It started on the first day of the year.
A rain storm Jan. 1 forced area superintendents out with ice picks, axes, heaters and whatever was needed to remove ice from the fragile grass. On Grand View Lodge's The Preserve course near Pequot Lakes, course superintendent Chad Bohnenstingl said anywhere from one to six inches of ice was on the course.
Grounds crew members at the Legacy Courses at Cragun's in East Gull Lake chipped away at tree damage Monday left after the Aug. 14 storm. It was just one of the weather-related problems course superintendents have had to deal with this year. Brainerd Dispatch/Nels Norquist » Purchase reprints of this photo.
"We did lose some grass in low areas," he said. "Grass can live under the ice for a certain amount of time, but if it goes over that threshold, it will kill it."
Scott Hoffmann, head superintendent at Madden's Resort in East Gull Lake, said winters have become more stressful than summers.
"Everyone thinks we take our winters off but we really don't," Hoffmann said. "There are more things that happen in winter that are beyond our control that are the most stressful. It seems like the longer I'm in this business the less control I have, though."
While it rained in January, it didn't this summer. That pressed superintendents to hike up watering budgets and place more chemicals and wetting agents on the course.
"The wetting agents help the soil hold the moisture longer so they don't dry up as quick," said Bohnenstingl. "With all the humidity we've had it was prime conditions for diseases so we had to put down more chemicals to stay on top of that."
Bohnenstingl said on a normal summer he will run through 24 million gallons of water. He hasn't added up the numbers yet this season, but he knows he's already above that number.
Hoffmann said on a typical summer an 18-hole course will drop about 18 million to 20 million gallons of water. He guessed this year he's probably gone through 24 million to 30 million.
"A lot of it depends on the age and variety of the irrigation system you've got," said Hoffmann. "The things that are beyond our control, for instance, the storm of a week ago, are always challenging, but that was just a mess we needed to clean up.
"The hard part is my assistant has been in the hospital since the first of August. He's a very trusted and respected partner so he's missed."
Hoffmann said Madden's Resort lost about 200 trees in that storm last week. He put it in perspective, however, saying when you have 30,000 to 40,000 trees on your property, 200 trees won't be missed. He did praise the help he received from the neighboring resorts and other superintendents in the area.
Matt McKinnon at the Legacy Courses at Cragun's in East Gull Lake was hoping for an easy summer, from his point of view. Aside from one hole reconstruction on Bobby's Legacy, this would have been the first year that he didn't have to build a golf hole, grow grass or have any major construction.
Instead, McKinnon and his crew spent last week cleaning 70 downed trees from the storm.
Just another example of a superintendent's work is never done.
"My family has all grown up and left the house so it's a little easier for me," said Hoffmann. "My wife is pretty understanding. She's been in the business long enough with me where she knows what summers are like.
"I do feel very fortunate, compared to say a private course, to have an owner who has a good understanding of the golf business and what part the weather plays with that. That takes down the stress level quite a bit, as does an experienced crew. My staff is something I really depended on."
Despite the drought, despite the ice, despite the high winds and fallen trees the area courses are still busy and looking green and clean.
So thank your grounds grew and the guy in charge of them for providing you an oasis in the brown, crusty landscape.
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5856.
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