Clean up, repeat, the cyclical season of course maintenance staff

Course maintenance staff work tirelessly to ready courses for members and green fee players daily.

One of the biggest drawing cards for a golf course is simply the beautiful views nature can provide along with playing on top-notch surfaces such as perfectly trimmed greens to finely manicured tee boxes. Without maintenance staff, none of this would be possible, I guess you could say the crews are unsung heroes.

Late in the afternoon on July 18, out of nowhere a plough wind blew through the Saskatoon Golf and Country Club (SGCC) forcing the final four players, referees, and staff beelining it for the clubhouse. Everyone was safe but the course was littered with fallen trees and branches, benches and even a cart windshield but, according to SGCC superintendent Terry McNeilly said the course conducted some tree thinning ahead of this year that helped with the situation.

“We did a lot of pruning in the spring and took down a lot of the big branches,” McNeilly said a week after the storm postponed the Saskatchewan Men’s Amateur Championship playoff between Danny Klughart and Jehremy Ryde. “That saved us having to clean up a big mess. Without the pruning we did in the spring that storm would have been three times as bad.”

The referees met and decided to postpone the playoff until the next morning. The weather did clear up in the evening, but most golf course maintenance staff works early in the day and wasn’t available to assist in the cleanup as the 18th fairway and green was unplayable. The SGCC staff was out bright and early getting the hole free for play. McNeilly said preparing the course for large events or on tight timelines is nothing new.

“We’ve had situations where we’ve been flooded out and stuff,” he said. “It’s all hands-on deck, you start by getting rid of the water and debris, that type of thing. You then work on the playing surfaces, and then into the rough and non-playing areas, you just clean it up”

The SGCC has about 12 to 14 staff on their maintenance crew. McNeilly said the staff got the course back to normal about four days later but, Mother Nature had other plans.

“The morning of the playoff everyone was working on cleaning up, we finished cleaning up from that storm yesterday (July 24) and then we got another storm this morning so we’re starting all over again,” he explained.

In case you are out on the course and threatening weather is coming, safety is the number one concern, even with their eyes on an amateur and mid-amateur championship both Klughart and Ryde put their safety first.

“There was a branch pretty close, I turned around and asked an official if we could go in?” Klughart explained shortly after marking his ball. “I turned around and there was one pretty close to me. That was pretty wild.”

Ryde said he thought they had time to finish the hole as the weather moved in.

“It wasn’t in my mind to hurry,” Ryde said. “I saw the TaylorMade flag by the green whipping, I yelled at my caddy to not go anywhere near the trees and let’s get out of here.”

Klughart eventually went on to win the championships Friday morning.