Getting ready for a new season
Albert Lea golf course starts in fall to prepare for a new season
For many golfers, the onset of spring means the start of a new season — an opportunity to start with a fresh game and a chance to get out and enjoy the outdoors.
While it takes the casual golfer about an afternoon to get the clubs cleaned up and spruce up the golf cart, area golf course workers have already been hard at work for many weeks, making sure the course is ready to roll as soon as the spring weather permits it.
According to Green Lea Golf Course owner Jeff Elseth, the work preparing for the next season begins as early as the previous fall.
“For me it actually starts late fall in meeting with sales reps and pre-booking merchandise,” Elseth said. “They’re always about six months ahead. So about October, November we start meeting with sales reps, they show us the new products, clubs, bags, apparel and we do all of our pre-booking.”
Also during a normal year in the offseason months, Green Lea would host small parties as well as open the bar for a few hours periodically.
Once the spring starts to make its way in, Elseth said that’s when they start to put together plans for membership deals, getting the word out on golf leagues, contacting groups or individuals that had events at the course in the previous year, and many other small tasks around the clubhouse.
Elseth said the offseason also presents a time to educate golfers on some of the new products and services they offer. This past year it was about the new online booking system Green Lea implemented, which allows golfers to register for tee times right from their smartphone.
When it comes to outside work, keeping things in order also starts long before the first snow falls.
Mike Carlson, the head groundskeeper at Green Lea, said once the mowing stops in the fall, they take care of a few projects around the course before focusing on equipment maintenance.
“It’s some tree work, some cart path work,” Carlson said. “Things you look at all year and you want to do, but you don’t have time because the grass consumes you. Once we get past that, it’s strictly equipment issues.”
When the snow starts to melt, Carlson said it’s a lot of seasonal cleanup, blowing off and mowing the greens, and keeping an eye out for snow mold and other growths in the grass.
“This was probably the easiest winter on the turf I’ve had here, and I’ve been here for 22 years now,” Carlson said. “Winter didn’t kick in until late. We did have that cold stretch, but we had snow cover by then. Everything was fine. You never know though, and that’s what scares you. What you do in the fall matters.”
When it comes to Minnesota winters though, it can be a bit difficult to tell just when the snow is going to stay away. Carlson said usually by mid-April they have gotten one round of mowing in, and by May they are mowing greens every day and fairways and tee boxes three times a week.
Waiting to get on the course after a long winter can be a difficult test for many golfers, but Carlson said it takes about two weeks after the snow melts to have the course in top of the line condition.
“We have our own standards, we’re not going to open until we’re ready,” Carlson said. “We know golfers want to get out, and there are courses that will open as soon as it’s warm enough. But we won’t do that. We wait and we want to make sure the course is clean, the greens are clean, the sand traps are clean. We just want golfers to come out and have the best experience they can right away.”
Elseth said the course was able to open for play on March 26 this year, slightly earlier than normal. Weather permitting, he said the course will have business seven days a week from opening day to about mid-November most years.
He said the total rounds played at the course in 2020 was way higher than average, and he expects that trend to continue into this season.
After a long winter, seeing people back out on the course is the biggest reward for Carlson.
“Green Lea has a lot of character,” Carlson said. “We’ve got elevated greens and it’s just fun to be here taking care of it and see it when it looks good. And it comes back to the people. Seeing the members out here enjoying the course is one of the best parts.”