Sorry, Tim Allen. This #PureMichigan moment didn’t occur beneath the Mackinac Bridge or inside a quaint, secluded lakeside cabin.
It happened on the dirt-covered third tee of a private suburban Detroit golf course. The spot, believed to be one of the highest points in Wayne County, offers an expansive view of Meadowbrook Country Club.
Here, along famed 8 Mile Drive, crews from TDI Golf pushed dirt. Superintendent Jared Milner and trusted assistants Brian Hilfinger and Andy O’Haver inspected every square foot of emerging, tender turf. Arizona-based, Wisconsin-born architect Andy Staples noted changes since his last visit. Shaper Scott Clem crafted intricate features such as “Chocolate Drops” and bunkers designed to be surrounded by bentgrass.
Beaches and lakes, trees and critters, ballparks and fireworks are snippets of idyllic summer evenings. For those of us invested in the golf industry, scenes like the one at Meadowbrook are tough to top.
Here’s the condensed version of the story (we plan on telling the full version later on): Meadowbrook is a 100-year-old club in the shadows of a city gutted by the recession. The club hosted no rounds of golf this summer. It closed in fall 2015 for a major renovation. Members overwhelmingly approved the project. When the course reopens next spring, it will feature rebuilt greens and bunkers, 35 acres of regrassed fairways, two acres of sand-capped approaches, enhanced irrigation and drainage, fewer trees, and 15 to 20 acres of native areas.
Thousands of hours and millions of dollars are needed to complete the work. The club assembled an energetic team consisting of a savvy superintendent with previous construction experience surrounded by two talented assistants, experienced builder and architect who cares more about fun and resource management than protecting par. Milner, Hilfinger, O’Haver, Staples and Clem, along with general manager Joe Marini, joined us on our #PureMichigan evening. Marini reads publications addressed to superintendents and knows the difference between bentgrass varieties. He’s bullish on Meadowbrook’s future, and his optimism resonates with the entire team.
As daylight faded, our #PureMichigan evening continued indoors. A conversation about the state of Meadowbrook and golf in the Rust Belt ensued. Business and agronomics spurred the renovation. Nobody else in Meadowbrook’s neighborhood has undergone a major post-recession makeover; Michigan winters place Poa annua greens in precarious positions.
Our next #PureMichigan moment occurred the following morning as we stopped 110 miles short of the Mackinac Bridge, a breathtaking structure linking Michigan’s lower and upper peninsulas, to tour The Loop at Forest Dunes. Tom Doak wanted to design a reversible golf course; businessman Lew Thompson wanted something to differentiate Forest Dunes from competitors. “We are basically going from one to three courses, which in this economic timeframe and lack of growth is impressive,” Forest Dunes general manager Chad Maveus says.
The Loop was an infant during our visit. The course plays clockwise one day; counterclockwise the next. Overnight guests receive divergent experiences, and one crew is needed to maintain two courses. Fine fescue tees and fairways flow together. The responsibility of managing fine fescue and developing a team that maintains two golf courses as one falls on director of agronomy Brian Moore. “It’s like any golf course to me,” he says. “I think people overthink it a little bit. Once you get out here and see it, it’s a pretty straightforward and easy concept to grasp.”
This issue is devoted to creativity blossoming into normalcy.
Stripping Poa, coring greens and moving existing Poa to new locations like Sewickley Heights Golf Club (page 12) might seem #PureCrazy to outsiders. But it should help the Western Pennsylvania club accomplish its goal of supporting championship greens.
Or what about deftly handling agronomic issues when developers are involved (page 20). Or waiting 12 years to receive functioning bunkers (page 26)? Or enhancing a property that once harbored Cold War weapons (page 34)? Or a municipal course becoming a golf hub in a state dominated by pricey private clubs (page 42)?
Superintendents played integral parts in fostering the creativity. Let’s hope they all paused for a few minutes, admired the activity and experienced their own pure moment.