Monday, January 19, 2015


Radrick Farms and UMGC are not the same golf course.  Best practices vary between the two courses based on a number of factors—layout, style, soil, even temperature (Radrick is consistently a few degrees colder and a few days behind all season long.)  That is not to say that there are no similarities.  Both courses have great greenskeepers and staff… both have equipment that can be utilized at either site and both are wonderful resources in the athletic department family.

The two golf courses have always been friendly neighbors, sharing resources over the years. With the inclusion of Radrick into the athletic department, we have taken the idea of "synergy" to a more evolved and integrated ideology and action plan.

Since the end of the ’14 golf season, WE, as Golf Operations have done a number of projects that because of our synergized efforts have added up to a sum greater than the total of its parts…

  •     An expansion around the perimeter of 5 green at UMGC.  1800ft2 added to the existing 3600ft2—a 50% increase of square footage!  Radrick Greenskeepers Matt and G were integral to the project.
  •     A rebuild of a nursery at the UMGC by planting harvested cores from greens aerification.  This nursery, in theory, should be an adequate composite of the cultivars of all the greens at the UMGC.
  •     Reconstruction of 16 tee from ground up at RFGC…  3700 sq ft!!!  The UMGC Greenskeeper staff assisted in construction and sodding.
  •     Bunker expansion at the UMGC practice facility—using RFGC’s excavator.
  •     Shared labor and equipment for greens aerification at both courses.
  •     Three members, representing both courses, comprise ½ of the athletic department’s snow removal crew.  Dean, Clint and Mark work together all winter long. 

Projects Bring UMGC and Radrick Employees Together

 Green Expansion at UMGC #5

New Bunker at UMGC Short Game Area

This list is just the tip of the iceberg.  It (incompletely) represents three months of work at two courses.  Superintendents Scott Rockov and Dan Mausolf have been able to orchestrate a partnership that benefits golf at the university, acts as valuable cross training and breaks down silos amongst fellow team members within the athletic department.  We, as a team, vow to become better and more efficient at this in the future!  The sky is the limit! 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Nature vs. Nurture

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.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

"One must maintain a little bittle of summer, even in the middle of winter." - Henry David Thoreau (1817 - 1862)

Polar vortex, mini ice age, climate change… call it what you want.  This winter in Michigan, has been legitimized by colder than usual temperatures, greater than normal snowfall and the absence of warm days that melt accumulation.  Spring is supposedly around the corner but when I got to work this morning it was a whopping -4°F. 

At the UMGC, we are obviously concerned with what goes on underneath this white blanket.  Historically, in this area of the country, we get “thaws” several times during the winter months.   This season we have not had one since December 15th, 2013. 

18th Green at the UMGC

We have been monitoring the health of our greens underneath the ice by taking plugs and planting them in paper cups.  Greenskeeper  Dean Noworyta fabricated a sharpened steel shaft with a solid plunger to remove iced plugs on greens with minimal damage done.  He has been removing samples every Wednesday since the 3rd of February.  Thus far, every plug has been healthy and coming out dormancy with vigor. 

Research compiled the USGA tells us that bentgrass and bluegrass have a great ability to tolerate ice for up to 120 days.  On the other hand, Poa annua is notorious for having very little tolerance to icy conditions of 45-90 days.   The samples taken at the UMGC (with poa annua present) show no signs of ice damage. 

  February 19th sample after one week of growth

The crew at the golf course will continue to monitor the greens weekly for the remainder of this harsh Michigan winter.  For more information please refer to the MSU Turf Blog. 


Scott Rockov

Superintendent, University of Michigan Golf Course    

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Good Things Come In Small Packages

Every season, at the UMGC, we have a couple of temporary staff members that show an elevated amount of interest and passion about the golf course.  Some have aspirations of working in the industry and some just got bit by the UMGC bug.  These people are a joy to work with because of their dedication and positive attitudes.  All of their efforts and excellent work warrants commendation. 

These few also thrive on challenges.  Greg Wnuk, recent graduate of University of Michigan, had the opportunity to design and execute his “UMGC senior thesis.”  The project, dubbed “Mini Six”, is a 1/120th scale model of the green complex of #6 at the course. 

The model is a living, growing and maintained piece of bentgrass turf that was reclaimed from the #6 green expansion project, which is the signature hole at the UMGC.  It features a “soil profile window” that has an irrigation head (fully operational), drain tile and distinct layers of aggregate soils.  The topography of the green was surveyed in the fall and converted to the scale model.  It will be displayed and maintained for viewing.

Plywood box lined with plastic and reinforced with tension rods to hold the total weight of 175lbs

Live drainage trenched into the clay base to ensure the proper movement of water in the model

Bunkers are molded to spec with modeling clay to be later filled with sand

The original sod, harvested 3 months prior, was kept dormant until planted on top of final grade

View of green from a ½” tall golfer

Upcoming potential projects for inspired young groundskeepers include pollinator gardens in natural areas, butterfly gardens, bat houses and, tree cataloguing/gps/tagging.  We look forward to this upcoming season with new and returning employees that could carry out these inspired projects!  

Here are some extra photos of the project.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Our signature hole #6, at the UMGC, has gone through an expansion project that increased the area of the upper shelf by 40%. This green expansion is a key element to changes that have been seen on the course in recent years.  We are fortunate, at the UMGC, to have such a rich historical record of the golf course that dates back to 1931. The project reclaims a large area that would have been included in the original 1931 MacKenzie design of #6 green. 

The row of pines and shrubbery that were a later addition to the course were removed and sodded over with fescue. The entire redesign of the top of #6 is a call back to the great architect’s plan and philosophy. MacKenzie made a career switch to golf course architecture from medicine. He thought of golf as a social game that was good for people’s health. Our hope is that this project will help open up the course to the camaraderie among players that is so inherent in the great game of golf. 

Hole #6 is one of the many projects included in the UMGC's Master Plan. Other future plans include the removal of declining and dead trees, transplanting of existing trees and planting of new trees. As well as, green expansions and green restorations. The UMGC's Master Plan is a multi-year plan that intends to create a more enjoyable golf course while respecting the course's history and tradition. Come play the UMGC in the spring of 2014 and let us know what you think.

#6 Green before ground is broken on project

Amending the soil in preparation for bentgrass sod 

Dean Noworyta limbing a spruce before felling it

All areas almost ready for sod!

Mark Richards preping the transition edge from existing green to new sod

Grading the area to be sodded

Greg Wnuk seaming the bentgrass sod

 Rolling the finished product

Completed project!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A Tale of Two Courses

The month of September is a welcomed time at the UMGC. The crew can breathe a little easier knowing that the shorter days and falling temperatures relieve stress on the turf. The grass grows a little slower and the risk of turf disease lessens. It is also the month that football and varsity golf starts. Our wolverines hit the links and take the field at the big house and we, here at the course, do our part to support them in every way.  

Football Saturdays reveal the dualistic nature of the UMGC in the fall. Friday, the course is the number 8 college course in the nation according to Golfweek. Saturday, the course is a top-ten college football tailgating destination with a few thousand parked cars and around ten thousand football fans. 

By Sunday at 10 am we are back to the number 8 college course in the country. The whole process is timed and executed to a tee by the grounds crew at the course.  

It could be likened to having a gigantic blowout bash while your parents are on vacation and then having their house cleaned up and spotless by the time they get back the next morning—6-8 times a year. The only difference is that we aren’t misbehaving by hosting tailgaters—quite the opposite-- we are happily providing a place for our beloved football fans to celebrate the tradition of Michigan Football.

Check out our YouTube video and watch the golf course transform during the Under the Lights weekend.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Team... The Team... The Team!

One of the most important objectives at the University of Michigan Golf Course is to help the golf teams win championships. This spring, renowned golf course architect and Alister McKenzie expert Mike Devries designed and built a McKenzie style putting green for the Men's and Women's golf teams at the Weisfeld Family Golf Center. The University of Michigan Alum Devries has designed several great courses in Michigan such as Kingsley Club, Greywalls, Pilgrim's Run and Mines Golf Course. He has also overseen a restoration at another Alister McKenzie gem, Meadow Club in Fairfax, California.

The green has a flat upper shelf that is designed for straight putting practice and a challenging lower shelf which allows for heavy breaking putts and downhill practice.

The University of Michigan Golf Course maintenance crew made the final touches. They were responsible for sodding the banks around the green and growing in the green surface. With great weather and a great crew, the teams will be putting on their new green in no time.

Check out the pictures!