Between the Trees Blog

April 8, 2021

Hello friends...
It's that time of year again, thoughts of golf run rampant through our heads, as we defrost from winter and look forward to greener pastures (pun totally intended). A little golf tournament down in Georgia this weekend to wet our whistles, all while the Wilderness Maintenance Staff is starting to March towards opening day.  Lady Luck and Mother Nature combined to bless us with a smooth spring (so far) and the maintenance staff has a list of projects that they are looking forward to doing.  Items on the list, expansion of the driving range tee, drainage work off the 8th green, bridge work on #9, just to name a few.  Still a few weeks away from our first mowing and when we can really start course preparations.  So far the course looks like it came through the winter very well, and opening day will be here before we know it. 

Combining the driving range tees

Looking down hole #18

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

Ryan VerNess

Follow our maintenance team on Twitter @WildernessGCM!

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

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