In his 41 years as a golf course superintendent, Mark Magee has seen cold winters; he's seen snowy winters. What he can't quite remember though, is a winter like this one.
And so as his Country Club of Lansing crew sharpens its tools in preparation of a thaw, it's hard for him to tell when he will be able to put the tools to use.
"We don't know. There's a big unknown this year," said Magee. "You just have to wait and see. We have tremendous damage in mid-Michigan, especially in Lansing because of the ice storm, so we know already we have tremendous cleanup to do in the spring."
Fallen limbs litter the frozen fairways at the Country Club of Lansing. Golfers haven't been there since mid-November, says Director of Golf John Lindert. And he doesn't know when they're likely to tee off again.
"It is day-by-day," he said. "We're left up to what the weather does and how fast this snow melts and then what the conditions of the turf are after the snow melts."
Heavy snowfall can actually be beneficial for a course. Snow serves as insulation that prevents the sensitive grass from freezing deeply. Without the blanketing the Lansing area has received, the effects on the course would be even worse, said Lindert.
"It could be a lot worse," he said. "If you had frost in the ground and temperatures like they are now and no snow, there'd be a lot of frost deep, deep, deep into the turf and that would take some time to thaw."
Plus, superintendent Mark Magee says the frozen ground prevents the grass from soaking up water. What's more, the warmer temperatures turn the top layer soft.
"Then when you walk on that it's mushy," said Magee. "You can feel it under your foot and you're actually displacing the turf, which displaces the roots, the shallow roots off from the deep roots."
Spring Sports Forced Indoors
The spring sports season starts March 10 for high school athletes, but hardly any of them are likely to be practicing outside when tryouts roll around.
"This isn't a new challenge for us," said Grand Ledge High School Athletic Director Steve Baker. "This happens every year, the only thing that we don't know when we start our spring season is how long we may be inside. It's rare that we do get outside on the first day of practice."
But what's rare could be the length of time athletes are confined to gyms and other indoor facilities.
"It's going to be tough on our teams because they're going to have to take those outside sports and continue to prepare inside and who knows how long we're going to be in?" he said.
Grand Ledge is fortunate, Baker said, in that there are plenty of places to put athletes, but still, it doesn't make indoor training any more desirable.
"Spring is already a short season," said Baker. "We already try to get as much stuff into a short period of time. And so we really count on that weather to work with us and not against us."