Courses Face Tough Recovery from Severe Winter

Ice choked off oxygen that grass needed to survive.

The snowiest winter on record in Southeast Michigan history is finally behind us; the birds are chirping, grass is growing and golfers are starting to swing their way around area courses.

Or is the grass growing?

Although it seemed like an April Fool’s joke that virtually no one was golfing on April 1, more than 200 people in the golf industry were at a seminar that day at Oakland Hills Country Club in metro Detroit. They were, unfortunately, attending a much-needed Ice & Recovery Seminar featuring the coordinated efforts of the Michigan State University Turf Team and extension specialists, the United States Golf Association, the Michigan Golf Course Superintendents Association, and the Golf Association of Michigan.

Kevin Frank, MSU turf extension specialist, talked about the research done over the winter that demonstrated there will be damaged courses in Michigan, especially in areas from Lansing to Detroit — meaning golfers will need to be a little forgiving and patient this spring.

“If this was a small issue there would be a small group here,” Frank said after addressing an audience of more than 200 managers, owners, greens committees, and others. In a conversation later with the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, Frank said: “In some places, there was constant ice cover for a period of 60-70 days. And talking to superintendents, you’ll hear a range of depths on that ice cover, anywhere from a half inch upwards to 4 inches. That’s something I haven’t seen in my 15 years here.

“Combine that with the heavy snowfall, and it created a situation that was pretty much beyond the control of any turf manager. There just aren’t many options when you have that much ice covered by two feet of snow.”

Lots of snow is one thing, but ice chokes off oxygen that grass needs to survive the winter.

Steve Cook, certified golf course superintendent at Oakland Hills Country Club, also told the association that open lines of communication between golfers and superintendents is key. “I really think one of the most valuable things you can do in situations like this is to just talk to your members, talk to you golfers,” Cook said. “Just let them know what is going on with your golf course and what steps you and your team are taking to address any issues.

Jay Eccleton, general manager of The Emerald in St. Johns, north of Lansing, and a CGCS, attended the same event and noted the setback this spring to greens due to ice coverage varies across the state, with the worst stories coming out of southeast Michigan.

“It’s happened before and we’ve been able to bounce back, based on the technology and the education of the golf course superintendent,” Eccleton said. “A lot of areas will see some of the damage that was left behind from the winter, but in all reality we all went through this together, from the homeowners to the golf industry professional.

“We all understood this was one of the roughest winters on record. I think that will make it more acceptable to some of the recovery we need to see in the next couple months. This is the time you will see the course superintendent shine.”

Bob Krause’s Golf Tips:

Balance Advice – Good for early Season

At address you want equal distribution — not too much on the toes (ball tends to go right and/or slice) — not too much on the heels (ball tends to go left and / or you hook).

Feel your weight across your shoe laces!

Bob Krause spent nine years playing numerous professional tours around the United States as well as participating in the PGA Tour Qualifying School.