Between the Trees Blog

October 27, 2020

The time has come, sadly, to put the clubs in the corner, trade our polos for hoodies and golf gloves into snow gloves...put the course down for a long winter’s nap. 

While 2020 has certainly been a strange year to say the least, being here at the golf course has brought a little bit of normality.  My first season here has definitely brought a few ups and downs, and new experiences along the way, but I enjoyed every minute.  

From our first cuts, oh so long ago... 

To our May Flowers, and June showers (that’s not how it’s supposed to go)...

The BBQs and the smiles…

The repairs and the shake of the head…

The sunrises and sunsets…

The frosty mornings and the winter blanket…

The golf season seemed to go by in a blink of the it’s time to put the course to bed, then work on equipment and the shop this winter, all while looking forward to next spring.  (Can’t come soon enough)!!  

I want to thank the staff.  Without them none of this would be possible.  2020 was a tough year, we were short staffed all season and they really kick tail, picking up the slack. They were awesome, can’t thank them enough!!

To quote the good Dr…”Don’t Cry Because It’s Over; Smile Because It Happened.”  

From all of us here in Golf Maintenance may you have a happy and safe holiday and your dreams be of green fairways and birdie putts...and we’ll see you on the first tee (in a few months).  

Be Safe,


Give us a follow on the Wilderness Golf Maintenance Twitter Page @WildernessGCM

September 15, 2020

To paraphrase the great Minnesota band Semisonic, “it’s closing last round, so call up your friends and get here!”  

August may have seen the end of summer, but it went out in style.  The Indian Summer Classic was great, the crew had the course in great shape...a little rain in the morning didn’t even slow them down.  

September can be an amazing time to play golf, with the fall colors and the crisp cool temps, perfect khakis and a long sleeve.   It’s also a huge time for fall cleanup, or as they say in golf maintenance, aerification.

  <I’ll duck, while you throw things> 

I could bore you with the details, but know this...1) it is an absolute necessity for the immediate and long term health and quality of the course, and 2) we work too hard to provide a great playing surface and wouldn’t mess it up, if it wasn’t important.  For those of you who would like some more information about aerification, here is a link to a great article by the here.

Fall means here comes the cooler temperatures, and as we’ve seen already, it can get pretty chilly in the morning.  Brings about another one on the top 5 golfer dislikes...the dreaded “frost delay” <dun ta dun>.  Let’s cover some of the common questions, I hear…
Why is there a frost delay?...”I don't see frost on the first tee or putting green, there wasn't frost at my house, and what possible damage could it do?”  So, let’s get down to the nitty gritty and answer some of these questions?  

“What is frost?”… I think most of us know what frost is, it's the freezing of dew on the leaf blade.

“Why is this bad?”...since the leaf blade is made up of 88% water it also freezes and any contact by man or machine will cause it to break and rupture the cell walls.  Thus breaking the cell membrane and causing the plant to discolor and die.“

But there is no frost on the putting green?”…That very well may be true, but the golf course is a large piece of property with elevation changes, shade, and micro climates all being important factors in determining temperature and frost.  

 “The first tee time is after the sunrise; doesn’t that mean the frost is gone?”…little known fact, the coldest part of the day is just before sunrise, once the sun rises the frost sets in and we are able to determine the length of the delay.  

“Why is there a delay at all?”…the reason for the delay is, when there is frost we don’t want anyone on the grass, golfers or maintenance staff, thus delaying the start of maintenance operations.  Since we strive for the best golf course conditions (mowed greens, tees, and fairways, and raked bunkers) this puts us behind and we have to briefly delay the first tee to allow for maintenance to stay ahead of the anxious golfers. 

“The first hole is clear, can’t we go?”...unfortunately, no.  While the 1st hole might be ready to go, if holes after it are still frost, then that stops us from doing what we need to do.  The major delay here is that the 3rd hole is low lying and in the shade, one of the holes that stays frosted the longest.  

Frost sucks, there is no if, ands, or butts about it...we have to wait, the golfer has to wait, and it’s cold!!...but at the end of the day, we have to do what’s best for the course.  

This month we recognize one of my favorites (is that because she makes an amazing strawberry, rhubarb cheesecake bar, maybe) or is it her constant smile and positive attitude, definitely, Billie Jean Monson…

While she may not have been here the longest, started in 2017...she comes with 15 years of prior golf course experience.  When a friend recommended working at a golf course, Billie Jean jumped at the chance to work outside.  Billie Jean fell in love with numerous different pieces of equipment and is always looking to try new things when new stuff arrives.  Billie Jean said one of her fondest moments was getting to work alongside her youngest daughter for 8 seasons, but while the working was fun, the drives to work could be a little sketchy.  When it comes to lessons learned, Billie Jean will never forget to use her parking breaks, while getting off her mower to put the tee markers back, her triplex creeped off into the woods without her!!  When you see Billie Jean, you won’t be able to hold back your smile...thank her, as we thank her for the job she does.  

The days are getting shorter and colder, get those final rounds in while you can...As always, we look forward to seeing you on the 1st tee and keep it between the trees.  


Give us a follow on the Wilderness Golf Maintenance Twitter Page @WildernessGCM

August 12th, 2020

We’ve reached the dog days of summer and fall is right around the corner...I once heard August described as the Sunday of Summer.  So let’s take advantage of our last fading moments to get in a few quality rounds.  

It’s said that everything balances out, and for as dry as June was, July evened it out quickly.  Over 8 inches of rain in 15 days left us pretty sloppy.   While brown and dry may not be aesthetically pleasing, it beats the heck out of wet and soggy.   Wet conditions lead us to the dreaded “cart paths only”...and while CPO can be a four letter word around the golf world.  I really wish that golfers would understand that I, as well as, many other golf course superintendents don’t do this lightly.  No one wants to put carts on paths, especially us, crews work tirelessly to provide the best playing surface as possible.  We want to show off the course in it’s best light, however sometimes it’s just absolutely required with the soggy conditions.  The fairways here tend to hold water, it comes from a combination of the lack of sand in the root zone combined with heavily clay and rocky soil.  Surface drainage and catch basins are our only option which leads to heavy wetness around the basins.  Heavy cart traffic would lead to hours and hours of damage repairs, plus a poor fairway product.  It’s with that in mind that we choose to go CPO, when we do.  

While we are hitting the tough subjects, let’s go ahead and grab onto the third rail of golf course maintenance...greens speed.  <Too slow!!>  <Too fast!!>  <These pin locations are terrible!!>  Ever since Johnny Miller uttered the now infamous word, “stimpmeter,” golf maintenance has never been the same...and while I’d venture to say that most golfers don’t know what a stimpmeter looks like, it certainly is a huge topic of conversation.  We’ve all heard on TV that greens are running (pick a number) and that is the main determining factor to the greens condition or quality for that matter. The thing that Johnny (and others)  never talked about, is that you have to have a “number” that fits with greens design, condition, and most important, the clientele.  While I’ll be the first to admit we came out of the gates a little slow this spring (pun totally intended), we have really started to settle in on a good, smooth, and quick putting surface.  A surface that fits the major contours of these greens as well as the amount of play and the resort golfer looking to enjoy a nice 4:20 hour round.  There are many who will disagree and we can discuss this until the snow falls.  

(Whoosh) that, that is behind us.  Let’s talk about some fun things.  July saw our first “Pizza and divots party.”  The staff worked until dark filling fairway divots and eating frozen pizza.  We tried to answer the age old question, which is better Dave’s frozen pizza or Lotzza Motzza...speaking of which, I don’t think we ever came to a conclusion

This month we recognize a true gentleman...the OG himself...the longest continuous Wilderness Maintenance employee, Dave Pike. Pikester to his friends, Mr. Pike to many.  Mr. Pike has been with the Wilderness for 15 seasons.  Dave Pike grew up here on the Range, born in Ely and graduated from Babbitt.  Mr. Pike has impacted many lives in his 34 years of teaching elementary for Gilbert and Eveleth. Not only in the classroom, but on the hardwood and baseball diamond, Mr. Pike was there for the kids and head coaches alike.  One fate filled morning in 2005, Mr. Pike, looking for something to do in the summer, stopped by the golf course.  While the plan was for just one season...we all know ‘the best laid plans”.  15 years later, Mr. Pike is still enjoying working outside and comradery that comes along with working with a small group of people.  Courses like the Wilderness don’t get to where they are without people like Dave Pike.  We thank him and if you see him, you should too.  

WOW!!...a lot to digest there.  Labor Day is quickly around the corner...and the end of summer will be upon us.  Let’s get out and enjoy our last few days of summer.  

As always, we look forward to seeing you on the 1st tee and keep it between the trees.  


Give us a follow on the Wilderness Golf Maintenance Twitter Page @WildernessGCM

July 14, 2020


The calendar turned to June and summer is truly upon us. With Covid-19 at the forefront of our minds, it is like a summer we’ve never experienced before.  Also, it was a June that is rarely seen in these rain.  The golf course showed it.  We spent most of the month chasing dry spot after dry spot.  While the obvious question is, “don’t you have irrigation?” ...and the answer would be, we do.  However, systems aren’t designed to go that many days without natural irrigation.  Irrigation heads are connected to both high spots and low areas.  A July 4th weekend that saw temperatures jump over 90 degrees for three straight days. I felt like Mother Nature was hazing me...nevertheless we held it together.  Finally getting some rain and we are on our way to the look you have become accustomed too. 

One thing that has certainly stuck out this season with the Covid rules in place...cart traffic.  We are constantly moving cart arrow signs to get carts to not drive in the same spot constantly.   

June saw the arrival of flowers to the golf course. 


Wendy 6.11.2020​

Bryan 6.11.2020

While Covid didn’t make it easy to fulfil our order...Brandts Greenhouse in Tower came through in the clutch and hopefully lead to a lasting relationship.  Course horticulturist, Marilyn and her small army of helpers, Anita, BillyJean, Wendy, & Bryan took over 8 days to get all the plants planted.  They really accentuate the course...great job.  

Speaking of Marilyn, let’s learn a little more about her.


Born and raised on a farm in Sauk Center, Marilyn and her sisters developed a green thumb at an early age.  Whether it was the family garden or the front porch flowers, Marilyn’s love affair with flowers spans over 40 years.  Led her to writing weekly articles for the St. Cloud Times for years.  When Marilyn isn’t elbow deep in dirt, she is most likely doing her day job.  Marilyn is a Special Needs teacher for the St. Cloud School District.  During summer break, her and her husband Jon like to escape to their cabin in Tower...which is what led her to us.  6 years ago, Marilyn decided to get a summer job so she stopped by the golf course...and the rest is, as they say, history.  When on the course or around the clubhouse, make sure to take a moment and enjoy the flowers.  If you see Marilyn and if you are around those flowers, you have good chance, make sure to thank her for the magnificent job she does.  Thank you, Marilyn!

As we run around here, sometimes late in the evenings or early in the mornings, we can get some spectacular views. 

As always, we look forward to seeing you on the 1st tee and keep it between the trees.  


Give us a follow on the Wilderness Golf Maintenance Twitter Page @WildernessGCM

June 16, 2020

April turned to May and the Governor said, let there be golf...Gjallarhorns were sounded and the green flag waived, and it was on!!  Golfers turned out in full force in May, some even braving 20 degree mornings, but they were excited no less...and so were we.  We were excited to show off our product...then 20 turned into 80 degrees, and we lost an irrigation satellite for a couple of weeks, then sadly the eighth hole looked more like August in the Desert than May in Minnesota.  I learned a long time ago in dealing with grass, nothing good happens fast...and so, we continue to baby the eighth green along waiting for it to fill in.  The good thing is that most of the issue is cosmetic and we are able to keep the green rolling smooth as ever.  

Speaking of a little brown hue...I’ve learned a new term since starting, “the lake is low”...which I’ve figured out means we need rain.  It sure has been a dry spring, but that has allowed me to really dance that fine line of keeping the fairways firm and fast, while sacrificing a little in the cosmetic look.  At least the skyball hitters and the worm burner drivers will love it.  
May brought on a couple interesting things...a stuck irrigation head and a 20 degree night...

Cool spring mornings after warm spring days...

Created a dew whip to give that clean and dry fairway feel...also, probably more importantly, knocking off dew is incredibly useful in disease prevention.

We had our first Monday Evening Maintenance Party...Ole leading the way on the verticutter.

While the greens started off a bit on the slower side.  Coming out of winter, you always want to be cautious in how hard you push them.  Verticutting is the first step in getting up to that peak season speed. 

As we move into June, be on the lookout for the amazing flower arrangements, and be sure to give a shoutout to Marilyn for the amazing job she does arranging them well as Bryan, Anita, Billie Jean and the rest for their tireless effort in getting them all planted.

This month’s amazing worker is Anita Milbridge...Anita is one of the crew's OG.  Born and raised in northern Minnesota, in 2004 Anita needed a job, so she signed on with Wadsworth Construction crew that was contracted to build The Wilderness.  Anita quickly showed her keen eye and ability to set grade, and was tasked in setting irrigation heads.  After travelling with Wadsworth for a couple of years, Anita returned to Tower, and has been a staple on the crew ever since.  Asked what brings her back every season, she says, “she’s fallen in love with the crew, they are like family.”, literally...she met her husband on the crew!!!   If you see Anita, say thanks, not only for what she has done, but for what she still does.   

Well duty calls, and I’ll have to keep this month’s letter a little shorter and months past.  I want to give a shoutout to my guy, Louie...thanks for the feedback and the respectful, single first off.  Look forward to seeing you next year.  I hope you have enjoyed, and maybe learned something new.  If you enjoy this type of thing...feel free to follow along in our summer journey to provide the best this course has to offer.  We have a new twitter page @WildernessGCM and our Blog ‘Between the Trees’.  

I want to leave you with this, 2020 has been a crazy year so far, and while we were running around trying to finish up Maintenance Monday before dark, I couldn’t help but stop and admire the view...

Because too many times, we just forget to look.  
As always, we look forward to seeing you on the 1st tee and keep it between the trees. 


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