A lot of work goes into the greenest lawns in town

Ron Musilek rarely gets a day off during golf season.

“I am there seven days a week,” the co-owner of Prairie Pines Golf Course said. Musilek owns the course west of DeKalb with his wife, Diane, and several partners. “I have a couple workers underneath me, but I work every day.”

The Musileks have owned Prairie Pines, a nine-hole, par 34 course on 54 acres, since 2008. Diane manages the clubhouse while Ron maintains the courses and the equipment. 

“I’m a one-man crew at Prairie Pines,” Musilek said. “I do all the chemicals and I do all the preparation during the season.”

Every golf course, large or small, requires thousands of hours of labor to maintain its appearance. From the tees to the fairways to the rough to the greens, every blade of grass requires maintenance. Trees require occasional maintenance, and sand traps need to be raked regularly.

“We rake the traps three or four times a week and we roll the greens with a roller two or three times a week,” said Steve Tritt, assistant superintendent of the 18-hole par 71 Sycamore Golf Club.

Tritt is one of two full-time employees at the course, supplemented seasonally by five full-time and two part-time employees. Tritt works five days each week and every other weekend.

Greens are mowed every day unless it is wet or cool, Tritt said, and fairways are mowed twice each week – three times if rainy conditions cause the grass to grow faster. Rainy weather can lead to fungus problems.

“Today we are scouting for potential turf diseases,” Tritt said last week. “Certain weather conditions encourage certain diseases, so you have to be prepared to know when those are going to come up before they come up.”

During periods of dry weather, Tritt irrigates the tees, fairways, and greens but not the rough. Musilek irrigates the greens only. Granular fertilizer is spread on the fairways of both courses throughout the season.

Much of the work is done in the mornings.

“For us it’s a matter of getting in front of the golfers,” Tritt said. The crew starts work at 6 a.m. and golfers can tee off beginning at 6:30 a.m.

As temperatures drop later in the season, focus shifts from mowing to leaf removal, tree trimming, and replacing gravel on the courses’ paths.

A longtime golfer himself, Musilek gently reminds golfers not to take golf or pull carts on the greens, or take their putting frustrations out on the carefully-tended greens.

“I don’t think people realize how much work goes into keeping these greens looking the way they do,” he said.

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