The Secrets of the Course: Why Tetherow Closes for the Winter

‘We want to be the best we can be as soon as we can be’

By McKenna Brown

 

At the beginning of our very mild November, we heard some grumbles from Members that the course had closed too early. If it’s still sunny, shouldn’t we be able to play?

course-updateIt’s not quite that simple, though, as Course Maintenance Supervisor Chris Condon explained. There are many tasks that must be completed before winter hits full force, and those tasks take time.

The comfort stations sprinkled throughout the course must be cleaned and shut down, of course, as do The Turn and The Revolving Dog. The course maintenance staff must also cover and secure the bunkers on the course, or else winter winds will blow the sand away.

“It’s about three weeks to do everything,” Condon says. “Three weeks to blow out the irrigation system, cover the bunkers, top-dress the greens and tees. That’s the big stuff that we do to winterize the course.”

By far the most labor-intensive task – and the most important, says Condon – is covering and prepping the fairways and greens for the winter. He and his crews painstakingly cover the fine fescue grass with a protective layer of sand – about 1,400 tons per year!

“I learned it in Wyoming. I did a golf course in Wyoming, and they always covered the greens with sand, and then they actually put a blanket over the top of it,” Condon says. “(When I got here) I thought, ‘let’s do a fairway and just see what happens,’ and in the spring that one was the greenest fairway.”

He’s been doing it ever since the course opened, to the tune of about 12,000 tons of sand total. And that sand doesn’t get removed in the spring; his crews aerate the course and the sand is forced down below the grass.

“It does a lot for the golf course; it’s not necessarily just for winter protection,” Condon says. “It doesn’t really protect it from the snow, just the constant wind that’s cold that can dry out the plant.”

Some other courses in the area stay open through the winter, conditions permitting, but Condon says Tetherow’s fine fescue grass really wouldn’t be able to tolerate that. The fine fescue allows for our links-style course with fast and firm playing conditions, but it isn’t the hardiest grass out there. It needs time to recuperate from foot and cart traffic, and the cold winter season provides just that.

“We just want to give the fine fescue a little break before it goes into the winter season and give it enough of a break that it can recuperate,” Condon says.

But there’s one more benefit to the top-dressing: It allows Tetherow’s course to be in better condition in the spring than any other golf course in the area.

“We want to be the best we can be as soon as we can be, and the course closing and all the functions that we do on the course during the winter allow us to do that,” Condon says.