Brian Hoffman and Mark Newton: Local 1935, Keller Golf Course

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Brian Hoffman (left) and Mark Newton on one of the fairways under renovation at Keller Golf Course.

Many park workers can tell you how unusual this spring was – the late arrival, the persistent rains, the damaging storms. But few face the kind of upheaval Hoffman and Newton are dealing with this season.

They’re grounds keepers for Keller Golf Course, a public course that Ramsey County operates in Maplewood. This year, the 84-year-old course is being rebuilt. Under construction are a new clubhouse, tee boxes, greens, bunkers, ponds, irrigation, and more.

Hoffman and Newton are thrilled with the upgrades on what long has been considered one of the nation’s best public courses. Keller was “beat up,” Hoffman says. “Everything was just so wore out.”

Keeping a golf course up to par is far different from routine park maintenance, they say. Turf quality is crucial. That makes watering, mowing, and weed and pest prevention more intense.

“You have to pay attention to more details,” Hoffman says. “Keeping your eyes open and noticing little things. Getting on top of it before it spreads into worse things.” That covers everything from spotting weeds and fungus to relocating pins and cart routes to prevent turf from becoming trampled beyond repair.

“We’re on a watering schedule,” Newton says. “Every day, about 3 in the morning, we start the sprinklers. That’s a big part of keeping a golf course healthy.”

There’s also a rigid mowing routine, with as many as eight mowers going to keep the fairways, greens, and rough up to standards.

The hours and hazards are different on a golf course, too. “During summer, we start as soon as the sun comes up,” Hoffman says. “It’s a big timing issue.”

“I think the first tee time is 6:18,” Newton says. “So we have to do our best to stay ahead of the golfers.”

“Weekends, it’s pretty hectic,” Hoffman says. “You’ve got to keep your head up. You’ve got to be golf observant, not get in their way, not run their golf balls over.”

In case you’re wondering, neither is an avid golfer. “I play about four times a year,” Newton says. “I don’t take it too serious.”