I remember Garrison Keillor once describing winter’s last month as being equivalent to a hangover, which, if you think about it, makes a lot of sense.
The Anglo-Saxons called March the Hraed monath, which translates to rugged month.
Twentieth-century American author Hal Borland perhaps summed it up best when he wrote, “March is a tomboy with tousled hair, a mischievous smile, mud on her shoes and a laugh in her voice.”
Maybe the best thing you can say about March is that April follows it (not withstanding a particular basketball tournament that also takes place).
For golf courses – particularly cool-season and transition-zone golf courses – March is that month that never appears to end. It’s the month on the calendar that seems to have 45 gray days, not 31. Supposedly it’s the end of the winter, but winter usually doesn’t give up without a fight … an ugly, gray, cloudy, cold, rainy (maybe snowy?), windy fight. The month where you are so sick of winter that you would just as soon see some disease on your greens as you would another snowflake fall. OK, maybe I went too far there, but you get the point.
For many of us “Northerners,” March is a month of transition and of waiting. Going from doing (depending on your location, of course) absolutely nothing – or at least very little – to being busier than any other time of year.
But maybe March can be time better spent. Perhaps we don’t utilize the month properly. March could be considered an opportunity, I suppose – a final period for preparation, reflection and resting. It’s a month to make sure all of your ducks are in order before the big spring rush that is April.
I think I feel a list coming on! How about a half dozen things to double check during the month of March? Some things to make sure you are properly prepared to help that chaotic spring maintenance schedule a bit easier to handle. Here we go:
Irrigation system. March is a great time to reboot this puppy and make sure she survived winter in good working condition. Depending on your geographic location, it may or may not be possible to give it a test run, but if you can, by all means do. As we all know, nothing will be more important to us a couple of months from now.
Equipment fleet. Although servicing, sharpening, grinding and repairing should have been going on all winter, this is time to make sure nothing got skipped or forgotten.
Staffing. By now you should have not only your full-timers back and ready for the year, but you also want to make sure your seasonal workers are lined up. Good summer help is hard to come by these days and there is competition with other courses in the area, and other industries as well. Try and get those quality folks back for another year, or find yourself some new ones. The earlier you can line these people up, the better.
Winter projects. If you haven’t already, make sure those winter projects (tree removal, a new tee or bunker construction, etc.) are finishing up. Spring is hard enough for golf course maintenance staffs without having to worry about buttoning up these winter chores. You’ll have enough to do.
Summer schedule. What I’m referring to here is knowing when the big tournaments and events are taking place and planning accordingly. Knowing when you need to vamp up the conditions and when to peak quality-wise. Planning ahead makes these “quality surges” much more possible.
Goals. Every year should bring new goals for each golf course. And this goes for those who’ve been at their courses for 25 years and those going into their second year. Know what you want to achieve and have a plan to get there. Raise the bar but do it within reason.
For our final thought on the month of March, we turn to 17th-century English poet Anne Bradstreet, who wrote, “If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant.”
Good words to keep in mind when that next March storm rolls in.