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Sweetgrass reviewed in national magazine

December 24, 2007
By Dennis Grall -
ESCANABA — A golf trade magazine has provided a glowing review of the Sweetgrass Golf Course.

The article “How Sweet It Is” appears in the October edition of Golf Course Industry, a magazine geared to golf course superintendents. The four-page article includes three photos, highlighted by the island green and old Nahma bridge.

The course, under construction since 2005, is expected to open in July. Paul Albanese is the architect of the project, which has an estimated cost of $4-5 million.

According to the article, much of the project is covered from an estate left to the Hannahville Indian Community by Zoe Brazowski, who visited the reservation as a young girl in the 1930s.

Dan Grassi of Howell, who handled project construction that ended in October, detailed some of the unique characteristics of his assignment. Grassi, interviewed by The Daily Press in August, told the magazine about a special project that took two months.

Grassi and partner Dana Morrow hand chiseled about 10 feet of ledge rock to build a 10-acre pond and 200 feet of waterfalls fronting the conjoined ninth and 18th greens. They used excavators with three jackhammers rather than using dynamite that could have caused fissures leading to leaks in the ponds.

Working the heavy clay soil on the property was another challenge. The clay that came from mounding, bunkers and other course features now lines several ponds that were built.

The clay surface on the tees also had to be sandcapped, so when a 10-acre parking lot was built, Grassi took soil from that area to elevate greens and tees. He also used soil around 30 acres of trees that were logged, with the stumps used for fill.

Grassi also chose a state-of-the-art irrigation system from John Deere that improved installation speed compared to a conventional water system. The new Aurora Decoder is a two-wire system that has more than 1,000 irrigation heads and almost 22 miles of pipe.

It also allows course superintendent John Holberton to add more heads, which he has already done. The additional heads will help ensure adequate water to all sections, which is vital with the strong winds that sweep across the expansive course. He can also operate the sprinkling system with his cell phone.

A recent tour of the course indicated it will be a challenging yet player friendly layout, and will be quite forgiving off the tees, especially if you play based on your ability. Bite off too much and you will add strokes, but stay within yourself and you have a better chance at a rewarding round.

“We tried to create a golf course where you can have as much risk-and-reward challenge as you want,” Albanese said in the article. Depending on your attack style, he said “you won’t be overly penalized.”

With snow covering the handiwork now, July can’t come soon enough so this treasure can be fully revealed.

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