Future bright for Glenwood Golf Course

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By Joel Stevens, Associate Editor

    A year of troubles behind it, the Glenwood Golf Course is open and looking to a strong future with new turf and clubhouse management at the 48-year old golf course.
    The Glenwood course opened officially on April 15, following a two-week delay to get the course in playing shape. New turf superintendent Ben Starkel spent most of the spring getting the course in shape and, hopefully, preventing a repeat of last year’s problems.
    Last year, the course closed April 19 to deal with green and maintenance issues and re-opened in mid-May. The course shut down for the season in mid-September last year.
    The course was scheduled to open April 1 this year, but an unseasonably warm spring actually would have allowed the course to open a month early, meaning six weeks of play was lost last season.
    Starkel said the course is greatly improved from last year, especially in the fairways, but the greens still need work. On a scale of 1 to 10, he’d give the course a grade of 5, currently.
     “Everything, other than the greens, are in good shape and the greens are getting there. It’s going to take some time,” Starkel said.
    Starkel said the issues at the 2,700-yard course last year was a result of “wet wilt,” which occurs when very high soil temperatures and low oxygen levels (due to wet soils) damage grass root function. Thus, on hot days with low humidity levels and high wind, the turf begins to overheat, wilt, and eventually die, despite the fact that there is adequate water in the soil.
    “The grass gets completely soaked and the temperature gets to 95 or 100 degrees and it just bakes the plant, in simple terms,” he said. “The grass was choked off, it got hot and it died.”
Starkel said the greens on the course continue to battle the wet wilt. But it’s likely never to go away completely.
    “The way the greens are built, they have the same profile they had when they were built in ’63,” Starkel said. “It’s the native soil. The sand has accumulated over the years but there’s still only about a four inch profile and little  or no drainage. They hold too much water and we just have to keep battling that.”
    Starkel is the course’s first full-time turf superintendent in five years. He’s already heard a few compliments on how improved the course is.
    “People seem pretty happy with how it’s coming along,” Starkel said.
    Starkel and clubhouse and golf operations manager Jesse Schellen were both hired this spring. Starkel holds a degree in golf turf management from Rutgers University and previously worked as the assistant superintendent at Quarry Oaks Golf Club. Schellen, who will be offering adult and youth golf lessons in addition to managing the clubhouse, is in the process of obtaining his professional golf management degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and is a certified golf instructor. The course has four full-time staff, including Starkel and Schellen, and five part-timers.
    Schellen said memberships were slow to come early this spring but have picked up lately. He said the course has retained about 70 percent of its members from last season and is hoping those numbers improve as more people realize the course is open and in good shape.
“Up until a couple weeks ago, I was getting a few calls a day asking if we were open. I’m not getting as many now so I think people are realizing we’re open and are coming out,” Schellen said. “The way Ben has been going out taking care of the course and getting it where it needs to be, I think people will feel a lot better and the membership will pick up a lot. We’re hoping to get those members back who didn’t come back because of what happened last year.”
Currently three leagues play at the course and Schellen runs an ages 10 to 14 junior golf league on Thursday mornings. More than a half dozen tournaments are already schedule for the course over the next three months.