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August 2018


How do you beat the winter turf blues?

By Steve Donahue

Golf courses in winter climates have to handle the fall differently than golf resorts in warmer areas of the nation. Red Ledges (Utah) Golf Course Superintendent Pat Christoffer and Director of Golf Jon Paupore reveal how they handle the fall season as they get the golf course ready for the off-season.

PAT CHRISTOFFER: I’ve been maintaining golf courses in the high mountains for nearly 20 years. Through hard work and a bit of luck I’ve developed a program to prepare turfgrass for winter’s chilling nights.  But, winter preparation and agronomy, in general, requires a great team to implement what we have learned from experience.  Every fall day is a chance for us to recruit new employees and build our existing team to ready Red Ledges for winter’s inevitability. Utah has the world’s finest powder snow and the ski resorts within minutes of Red Ledges get massive amounts of it, and we also get a good amount of deep, soft snow blanketing our golf courses from December into early March. Interestingly, we have found the most effective way to get around the course to work during the winter is on cross-country skis. It is slightly humorous to watch golf maintenance employees in quilted, lined canvas jackets carrying chainsaws over their shoulders, skiing in a snowstorm to lumberjack downed trees. Winter turfgrass management certainly requires a unique form of frontiersman creativity. I have rarely been overly interested in waiting on winter’s final act of defiance against spring to start readying the course for the golf season. Our golf maintenance team is a hardy bunch. They are willing to grind away at prepping the course even as falling snowflakes pushed by an uncaring north wind melt on their eyelashes. Our team works hard and does a good job in the cold. They go to sleep tired but proud of the work they have done in preparing Red Ledges for the earliest opening of any private course in the area.

JON PAUPORE: There are quite a few things we do to get the golf course closed for the season, but the shop is a year-round operation. We sell several winter items in the shop, including ski helmets and goggles as well as winter apparel to boost sales in the off season. We run several holiday promotions around Christmas and Valentine's Day. Titleist always has a golf ball promotion that is really popular every year. We also carry a lot of gift items in the shop around the holidays that include Red Ledges logo Christmas ornaments and stemware. We do see an increase in sales from these promotions around the holiday seasons. We have four full-time staff members in our winter golf operation compared to 30 during the summer. I have also attended the PGA Show in January many times. This is a great way to see what is new and exciting for the upcoming season.  I do most of my merchandise buying for the upcoming season in October so that I can ensure the availability of all product lines. Our golf school is also open year-round so my instructional staff stays very busy giving lessons and club fittings throughout the winter months as well.
Steve Donahue is a Connecticut-based freelance writer.


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