Like everyone else this time of year, I’m making preparations to open my personal nine-hole golf course. It’s a rite of spring, and although we’re all anxious to just get out there and start mowing the greens, allow me to offer the following tips on how to best prepare your golf course for the coming season. As sole groundskeeper for The Royal & Ancient Chappaquiddick Links (yes that is a real place), these practices have served me well over the past two decades.

First, take inventory of all your tools and equipment. Is everything neatly in place where you left it? No? Are your metric and non-metric sockets accounted for in their appropriate slots? No? Are they maybe just mixed up in a bucket? Is the 14mm socket you use most often completely missing? Did you check the pockets of the jeans you last wore in the fall? Still missing? Someone must have taken it.

Spring means opening your personal nine-hole golf course. — Ray Ewing

Next, be sure to remove all snow from your power equipment before using, and then replace the missing boards in your maintenance shed roof. Consider reversing these steps (and perhaps eliminating one step altogether) next fall.

Now that you have your tools in a pile, and your equipment is drying in the sun, you’re almost ready to really get to it! But remember, it’s always best to approach your work well rested. That’s something we take seriously at The Royal & Ancient Chappaquiddick Links. Golf is the sport of walking, after all. And standing briefly. Or not walking at all and just sitting in golf carts. And standing briefly. So take a nap. Or watch six or ten episodes of Forensic Files. Then nap.

Okay, now you’re ready to get to work! But first, take a walk on the golf course to assess the conditions. After a few hundred feet, lie down on your back and look at the clouds. Think of that girl in the sixth grade that you went sledding with behind the Pittsfield Country Club, and the smell of honey, pine and lemon in her ice dappled hair. Now you’re most likely hungry, and everyone knows that most accidents happen when you’re overly famished. So run, don’t walk, back to your house for lunch. Or dinner. How long were you lying there, anyway?

And after eating, don’t rush back to work. This can be very dangerous. It’s equally as foolish to work on a full stomach as it is to swim on one. Remember, safety first. I can’t stress this enough. Sometimes a nap will accelerate digestion.

Ready for work now? Not so fast. This isn’t June yet. That sun may have already clocked out. And you’re no owl, so rest up, tomorrow is another day.

Okay, day two of spring prep. Time to get down to business for real. Because there’s an awful lot to do, isn’t there? Let’s make a list. Let’s find a pen. Let’s make a list later. First things first, let’s send those soil samples that you gathered last year (or was it the year before?) to the lab. Where did we put those samples anyway? Maybe under that box of old pictures. Oh, look, that’s you in first grade. How cute. Let’s just take a quick break and look at those pictures. Then we’ll find those samples. Or maybe just take a look at the greens first. You can tell an awful lot just by observation, can’t you?

Ready for that walk? Make sure that you’re wearing the proper socks. Maybe do a quick laundry so that you have you’re favorite light wool ones. You can nap while they wash and dry. Okay, let’s go walking! Or maybe we should get the greens mower out there, and we can investigate the greens as we go. Two birds with one stone. Should you buy seed for the feeder? Maybe you should go to town? No! Focus, people! Let’s get these greens mown!

Being well-rested is taken seriously at The Royal & Ancient Chappaquiddick Links. — Ray Ewing

It’s a good idea to first check the height of cut adjustment on your mower before embarking on any serious mowing. This can be achieved by the simple loosening of the set bolt and a few turns of the nut. If you haven’t lost that particular socket.

All right, let’s take that walk. We’ll mow tomorrow after we’ve gone to town and bought a 14 mm wrench. And some birdseed. And coffee. Yes, this might be a good time to take a quick break and get a cup of coffee. It’s important to stay alert. Most accidents happen when you’re under-caffeinated. I suggest six cups and a couple for the road, but you should decide what is best for you. Everyone is different. You should write a story about that.

So, now that you’re fully prepped, let’s take that walk. Open your senses. Take it all in. What do you see? Goose poo, probably. Lots of it. All over the greens mostly. Maybe it’s the circular shape of the greens that reminds the birds of a toilet. But don’t worry, this is good organic material — consisting mostly of recycled newspaper pulp and Gerber pea mash from the looks of it. Still, it’s a good idea to remove it from the greens before mowing. Try kicking it with your foot. Or if you have a nephew handy, get him to do it. How? That’s his problem.

Now might be a good time to check to see if you remembered to open all the irrigation valves for proper draining. Last fall would have been a better time, but no use crying over spilled milk. The grass most likely will have grown over the irrigation box access, but a simple screwdriver will pop open the top with ease. If you had one. You could walk back to the barn, but that’s a long way. Try digging your heel into the earth to push aside the sod. There, almost. Slice up a fingernail while prying open the lid and you’re really good to go.

If you love mice, then this is the place for you. The tenants that you evicted last November from your irrigation boxes will most likely have turned the lot into rodent condominiums. But don’t worry, they won’t bite, because you’re not going to put your hand anywhere near the little devils. Let’s remember to check those valves later.

Speaking of biting, it might be of value to note that Chappy skunks seem to disregard their nocturnal nature. Rabid? Probably not. Unafraid of you and your shouting? Definitely. But before you become overly disparaging of these critters, remember that they perform a valuable service by removing unwanted chunks of sod from the surrounding area of your greens. Not necessarily unwanted by you, but all the same, unwanted. By them. Make a note to buy topsoil to fill these new voids. Where’s that pen?

So, by now you’ve already inspected one of your nine greens, and that’s a great start! No need to push forward anymore today, there’s still all week to aerate, slice seed, order supplies, fix equipment, repair broken down barns, clear debris, cry, prune deadwood and mow mow mow. And it looks stormy on the horizon. Most accidents happen when it’s stormy on the horizon.

There you have it. A few easy-to-follow steps to get your backyard golf course off to its best start ever. Or if not its best start, good enough. Right? I mean, really, you’re just one man for goodness sake. Maybe everybody should cut you a little slack. Did they just have a baby? No. No, they didn’t.

And don’t forget to check out the July issue for my tips on spring cleaning. Happy golf course taking-care-of.

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