Golf Up North Newsletter Vol 4-21

Welcome to our latest issue!

Congratulations to the winner of our September 15, 2021 Golf Up North Newsletter

Alex F.

You gave the correct number of holes that were golfed on the guy’s “golf road trip” – 72
Thursday – Emerald Vale in Manton – 18 holes
Friday – The Mackinaw Club Golf Course in Carp Lake – 36 holes
Saturday – Wild Bluff Golf Course in Brimley – 18 holes
Sunday – No golf, travel back to home base

We have emailed you for where we should send your prize! If you would like a chance to win some Golf Up North schwag you have to subscribe to the newsletter. Subscribe to Golf Up North Newsletter and be on the mailing list for the November 1, 2021 edition.

Look for this issue’s contest for your chance to win

Golf Up North branded schwag bag!

As I mentioned in the last newsletter, we are new to writing one. Expect to see format and style changes as we discover what you want to read about golf and golfing Up North.

We are nearing the end of the golf season Up North. Starting with this issue we will be publishing monthly on the 1st of the month until March and then we will go back to the 1st and 15th through September. We are hoping the Golf Gods will keep some of our courses open late into the season. I love watching football and get excited when it starts but I also know that my other passion golfing in Northern Michigan is coming to an end for several months. Every fall I start talking about moving somewhere that I can golf year round. Come spring I am reminded there is not a better place in the world than our beautiful Northern Michigan and all the amazing golf courses we are lucky enough to have.

Happy National Golf Lover’s Day!


We are a few days early. National Golf Lover’s Day is Monday, October 4th. We just love golf and wanted to celebrate! 🙂

Golf Up North I love Golf

Winter is right around the corner and Northern Michigan Golf Courses are preparing for a long winter sleep. We reached out Mike Osier, NMU’s Golf Course Superintendent to find out how they prepare for winter months to ensure that courses are ready to go in the spring. NMU is in Marquette, Michigan, in the Upper Peninsula. We figured if anyone knew about preparing a course for winter it would be Mike. He did not disappoint! He provided us with in depth details about the course preparations and maintenance and I learned a lot about the perils of winter for a golf course. I found it all very interesting, I think you will too!

Q & A with Mike Osier, Golf Superintendent, Northern Michigan University Golf Course

Golf Up North NMU Golf Course Greens

Golf Up North – Obviously, weather plays a major role in the schedule, but are there other factors used to determine when you start preparing the grounds for winter?

Mike –
September. We put a lot of effort and research into what fertilizers to use to ensure the fastest possible recovery of the turf prior to winter. We are always trying to minimize stress on the grass plant which is a challenge because we wait as long as we can to aerate since the golfers don’t like it. Stressed grass is more susceptible to disease much like a stressed human. We consider things like labor availability and equipment readiness also. That said, there is almost no price to high to pay in order to do what we can to keep grass that is ¼” tall alive through winter. Most courses will spend 5-10,000 dollars annually on supplies to shut the grass down properly

Golf Up North  – If preparation begins while the course is still open to play, how do you balance the maintenance needs with keeping the golfers happy?

Mike –
Golf slows considerably in the UP after Labor Day. People bird hunt, prep for deer season, shut down the cottage, etc. We communicate the maintenance schedule to the customers, so they aren’t surprised when they show up for their tee time. Also, we perform maintenance practices 9 holes at a time. We shut down 9 for a couple days to get most of the work done, then reopen while we finish up. That said, we adjust prices to reflect the change in greens quality. Eventually, we fully close before we can put the final plant protectant products down.

Golf Up North NMU Golf Course Mowing

Golf Up North – We see many courses that try to stay open until the last possible date, how does this affect preparing the course for winter?

We stay open to the last possible date, typically October 31, but we do not reopen if we have a warm spell. We don’t want golf traffic scuffing off the fungicide. Divots and ball marks don’t heal and that increases startup costs in the spring. 

Golf Up North  – As a course in the Upper Peninsula do you face challenges that your peers don’t see in Northern lower Michigan?

I think we face similar challenges in most ways. Ice is always the worst possible situation, after 75-90 days under ice the grass suffocates and dies. Each course does experience its’ own microenvironment. We are near the lake and may get an inch of rain in December while Marquette Golf Club up on the hill gets 6” of nice snow. We experience both extremes here. I have a few greens that can be under snow for 160+ days and some greens in the same year will only have snow cover for 30-45 days.

Golf Up North NMU golf course Fairway

Golf Up North – Once the course is prepared for winter, is there other course related tasks during the winter months?

I work from March 1 to November 30. In the fall we work on projects that are best done with less golfers around. (Landscaping, tree work, overseeding damaged or stressed areas, irrigation upgrades). We also use the time to fix equipment problems we didn’t get to yet, finish up paperwork, blow out and winterize buildings and tidy up the course accessories.

Golf Up North  – Do you plow snow off the course if it reaches a certain depth or let the snow build up and melt in the spring?

Ideally, we have frozen turf that maintains at least a foot of snow on it all winter. Unfrozen ground can melt snow into slush which will become ice and kill the turf before it melts in early winter. Snow cover on unfrozen soil will create a greenhouse effect at the turf level which allows winter fungal pathogens to multiply to unacceptable levels. UV light will penetrate the snow cover up to 6” and warm the soil. When that happens, we snow blow the greens off and hope the remaining water leaves the surface allowing it to “reset itself” before the next spell of precipitation. Rain on top of snow can have the same effect if the snow cover is not deep enough.

UV light degrades the effectiveness of the fungicides we use to prevent unacceptable levels of Pink or Grey Snow Mold from developing. Lack of snow cover allows wind and freezing rain to desiccate the plant leaves which slows spring green up. If we make it to mid-January without any problems, we are usually ok assuming temps stay average. Ice in February usually isn’t a problem because we expect it to melt in time. If we have a late spring, we will remove snow cover on icy greens to speed ice melt and reduce possibility of grass death. My exciting ice fix is that I used generators and roof ice melt cables to melt 2” thick ice on some greens about 3 years ago. We removed it and the grass lived.

Golf Up North NMU Golf Course Greens ApproachGolf Up North – If the snow is left on the course all winter, how does it affect the grass during the spring melt?

The snow melt provides valuable spring water content for the grass. The less delicate turf like roughs will have some Grey Snow Mold on it which isn’t fatal and as temps warm the pathogen goes dormant until conditions favor development again next fall. We prefer snow cover to no snow cover up here in the north. Most courses up here do not use covers on greens.

Golf Up North – Do you think it is harder on the course for a mild winter or harsh winter?

It’s the type, quantity and seasonal timing of precipitation that matters most. What is ideal is temps gradually declining to and staying below freezing. Followed by a good storm of powdery snow around a foot. Then we want temps to stay below freezing until there is a couple feet of snow everywhere. (In a perfect situation) We can tolerate some rain and above freezing temps if we have the snow cover to use as a buffer or insurance policy. We also don’t want sudden extreme temp fluctuations that may cause the grass to break dormancy during winter. The plant will take in water which then freezes in the plant and bursts all the plants’ cells open causing death. (Crown rehydration injury or death)

Golf Up North – What poses the greatest risk of damage to the course over the winter?

Ice, Ice, Ice. We lost all 18 greens to ice about 10 years ago. Expensive and time consuming to fix. Mad members want to know what happened. Golfers hear about it and don’t book tee times due to temp greens which impacts the bottom line. People still ask me about it.

Golf Up North – Most northern Michigan golf courses have their share of wildlife. Do you find that the wildlife is more abundant in winter and do more damage than during the warmer months?

Golf Up North NMU Golf Course Turtle on the CourseMike-
Moles and voles eat some grass before the ground freezes. The big problem years are when there are white grubs present. Small mammals vigorously till up the turf looking for them and can make thousands of square feet of grass into tillage in one night. We deter them using a mixture of cinnamon sand.

Golf Up North – How do you minimize damage by wildlife?

We eliminate the food source they are looking for. What they want are usually insects of some kind overwintering in the soil. These insects are an economic problem on the course because they disrupt playability and as a result, we take action to control their populations. Goose poop, we scare geese off with fake predators. Deer, not a big problem, hoofprints on greens sometimes which we fix with a ball mark repair tool. I think we are fortunate to have a good predator / prey balance here. Because we are a university golf course, there is no hunting or trapping to “fix” problems.

Golf Up North – Do you offer winter activities on your course? If so, how does that impact winter maintenance and the course in the spring?

Golf Up North NMU Golf Course Mowing the GreensMike-
We currently do not but hope to in the future. As long as the activities avoid the greens, tees, and fairways there is minimal impact to the golf course.

Golf Up North – What do you love about golfing NMU Golf Course? Any tips or warnings for someone who has never golfed there?

Members love the isolation of each hole here. It’s like having the whole course to yourself even on a busy day. Check out the layout on google earth. I think we have greens with interesting nuance even though they look relatively flat. We are a good course for new golfers, most shots will result in a playable lie of some kind. Our forward tees allow the shorter hitters to enjoy a round even when playing with big hitters. We have interesting and varied terrain, doglegs both ways and good but walkable undulations. We do our best to keep time for a round under 4 hours. On the right day 2 people can play 18 holes in 2.5 hours.

Golf Up North – Anything else you would like our readers to know about the course – either maintaining it or playing it?

Golf Up North NMU Golf Course Mike-
The golf course was built by Bryce Gibbs in the early 90s. He built Crystal Lake Golf Club down near Traverse City. He developed the sub-division here and had the course laid out to maximize the amount of frontage available to sell building lots around it. After attempting to sell it twice, he chose to donate it to NMU. NMU invested considerably in course upgrades including significant expansion of the irrigation system on all holes.

We have a unique business structure because of his choice to donate the facility to NMU. The NMU Foundation owns the assets of the golf course. The business that is the golf course leases those assets from the foundation and operates the course. Our profits are returned to the foundation and used for student scholarships such as the Student Flexible Aid Fund. We receive no general fund or student activity fee monies, existing entirely on the income we generate from selling golf.

We only have 3 “adult” employees, the general manager, me (the superintendent) and a mechanic. The rest of our staff is NMU Students looking to gain real world work experience. Students working for me for 2-4 years can expect to gain a working knowledge of mower mechanicals, irrigation pipe repair and pump operation, electrical troubleshooting of satellite irrigation control boxes, basic insect identification / biology / life cycles, the why of fungicide use and more. They will have a general agronomic sense of why we are doing what we are doing, aerating, verticutting, top-dressing, overseeding etc.

We take pride in our ability to provide real word job skills to those who chose to purse them.

As Mike said, we hope this sheds some light on golf course operations for you.

I think everyone would agree that NMU’s golf course is in good hands and definitely added to my list of courses to golf next summer as we head to the UP next summer.

We would also like to thank Mike for taking the time as he is trying to make sure NMU’s golf course is in top notch shape in the spring to answer our questions and provide all the pictures in this newsletter. Thanks Mike – Golf Up North Staff

Interested in Turfgrass Management?

Michigan State University’s College of Agriculture & Natural Resources offers a Turfgrass Management certificate program with an emphasis in Golf Courses. The program is based in East Lansing on the campus of MSU and includes 4 semesters of classroom instruction and 1 semester off-campus internship (primarily April – August). If you would like more information about this certificate program and are interested in a career in Golf Course supervision and management click here.

Sneak peak at November 1st issue

I am finally going to golf one of my bucket list courses this weekend. I have wanted to try the courses at the Grand Traverse Resort for a long time. This weekend, weather permitting I will finally get my chance. We have booked a weekend Play and Stay package with 2 rounds of golf. By the time you receive this newsletter we will have already golfed The Spruce Run and Saturday will be The Wolverine.

I was advised to stay away from The Bear because I would become frustrated. As I have said in a previous newsletter, I have only been golfing for 7 years. Funny how this silly game of trying to get a ball in the hole has become something I live for.

Friends and my husband felt The Bear may be a little too challenging for me, plus they said I would create enemies of the group behind us. The Bear is still a course I hope to play some day, but will wait until I have a little more experience in my bag.

I will let you all know if it lived up to my expectations and will take lots of pictures. Commentary about the courses I will get from my husband to share with you. He has golfed all three courses many times over the years (because he gets all the “boys golf trips”) and has a lot more experience than me on the course.

I also just heard a rumor that my sister-in-law may be headed north and we will meet at one of the A-Ga-Ming courses on the 15th for some golf as well! Should have lots of pictures from that trip as well. No promises though she mentioned bringing the birdie juice. LOL

If you would like to find your perfect Up North golf course visit Golf Up North and if you are looking for fun things to do after your round visit Up North Entertainment for dining, lodging and things to do Up North.

We hope you enjoyed our latest issue of The Golf Up North Newsletter.

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