The Unsung Heroes of Tetherow: The Golf Course Maintenance Team
By Jesslyn Gillespie
The early birds of Tetherow aren’t the robins, but the greenskeepers.
Sculpted from lush High Desert terrain and the hands of professionals, Tetherow’s golf course is equal parts art and functionality. It’s a balance meticulously maintained, and one that, if done right, is invisible. This month we peek behind the curtain and celebrate the unsung heroes of Tetherow who wake up before the sun—the men and women who maintain our beloved course.
“After recently playing Tetherow this fall during the Kidd Cup, I realized I have never seen the course in such immaculate condition,” applauds Jake Edwards, Tetherow’s Head Golf Professional. “The turf quality of the fairways and green conditions truly showcase the course maintenance attention to detail and commitment to excellence.”
The work starts at dawn. Justin Smith—Tetherow’s Golf Course Superintendent equipped with a BS in horticulture and turf management from OSU—meets around 5:30 a.m. with his team to open up the shop, discuss special events and projects, and decide the first tasks. Then eight or so employees head out to set up the course, starting at Hole 1 to beat the golfers. If you’re an early riser, you may see them from your window, mulling about the greens on mowers and carts.
Afternoons are for the detail work. There are two crews: landscaping and golf. The duties of the former include taking care of the greenery surrounding the Clubhouse and resort. The duties of the latter include keeping the course at perfect playing standards. The golf crew has five full-time employees, including assistants, greenskeepers, an irrigation technician, and a mechanic.
Both crew’s goal is to be as productive as possible without interfering with the golfers.
“Keeping the course looking as natural as possible takes a lot of work,” Smith says.
Smith will personally test the speed of the green four or five times a week with a stimp meter; Tetherow’s speed is fairly fast at ten feet-eight inches. Eleven feet is unplayable due to the undulation of the course. Greens are mowed four times a week and rolled in alternate fashion, and the range is picked of loose balls as needed. Summertime means implementing a fertilizer program, which is planned during the shoulder season. Nearly all of Tetherow’s products are eco-friendly; harsh fertilizers and chemicals have no use here.
With all this work, many helping hands are necessary. But those familiar with golf course maintenance might consider the Tetherow team relatively small in numbers.
“Most courses lay off the entire crew in wintertime,” Smith says. “Tetherow keeps people on year-round to work on projects and snow removal.” Current golf course openings at Tetherow include landscapers and Golf Course Services team members.
The Bend climate is certainly a factor. Bend averages over 33 inches of snow a year. This means the grass—similar in genera to Bandon Dunes’—goes dormant. To prepare, the course is blanketed in sand, which stimulates growth when the warmth returns and also helps to keep the greens firm. A full-course aeration is also necessary going into and coming out of the cold months. Machines with solid metal tines punch holes four inches deep and a half-inch wide with the goal of oxygenating the soil and keeping the ground from getting too firm. Sand is then spread the following day. You may have noticed that this fall’s aeration process was completed recently on September 10-11th.
While the grass is dormant in wintertime, the course is not idle. It’s common to find deer and elk herds wandering the white fields, the cold having pushed them down from higher elevations. Children sled down the snow-filled bunkers. Members walk their dogs on the trails. Come spring, when the snow melts, they’ll once again be replaced by songbirds, golfers, and a team of greenskeepers in full swing.