The golf industry in Southeastern Michigan has had a very interesting spring. You’ve probably heard the horror stories about damaged greens and massive turf loss. Many courses opened up with a few temporary greens, some opened with all temporary greens. The UMGC was fortunate enough to open with all 18 greens rolling. We did have some minor damage to 3 greens but we feel lucky and proud of the course conditions at the end of the spring.
This begs the question though: Can we, for certain, attribute the present conditions of the UMGC to something other than luck or good fortune? It is incredibly presumptuous to think that we are exempt from Mother Nature’s awesome power to humble. After all, during the golf season, superintendents and greenskeepers alike waltz with her with the hopes of controlling water, heat and turf diseases. At the UMGC, we like to think of this relationship not so much as a dog fight vying for control but rather a concert of humility and power. Make no mistake; nature is the predominant player—no matter what this chemical rep says or that hubris filled superintendent claims. With respect to nature, we do carry out maintenance practices that are well thought out and minimally invasive. We do prioritize the health of the turf in the fall before it goes into dormancy. We do put our course to bed as clean and orderly as we possibly can. These are things that we can control. These are things we own to promote a healthy golf course.
Fairways, tees and rough all came out of winter in great shape! Especially the rough! We had planned to keep a more consistent height of cut in the rough during the week by mowing twice a week at 2.25”. We found that this wasn’t enough. The rough was healthy and aesthetically pleasing, but played too aggressively for our golfing community. The answer was lowering the height to 1.75” and cutting 3 times a week. Sometimes, healthy turf, especially in the rough, is a curse as much as a blessing. This frequency of mowing is demanding on machines, people and sometimes isn’t in the cards dealt by the aforementioned.
However, the amount of acreage designated as rough is decreased this year due to newly added "natural areas." These areas are carefully shaped to give the course texture and add an interesting visual element. They are also a cornerstone of our sustainability efforts. Less mowing equates to a smaller carbon footprint. Natural areas also provide a venue for native Michigan grasses and wildlife to flourish.