Bridging turf and trees at Bucks Run

Bridging turf and trees at Bucks Run

Text: R. Collins // Photography: Bucks Run Golf Club

Among improvements to its property this past year—in anticipation of another active spring season—Bucks Run Golf Club in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan has used its longstanding selective tree removal program to rebuild a rustic bridge through the protected wetlands on the third hole. Besides improving playing conditions, the selective tree removal pulls the double duty of improving overall health of the surrounding turf. It can also support the building of new features that possess the understated, sensory properties of natural wood material.

“The bridge was built when the golf course was originally built in 1999 and we needed to replace it. When they built the property, they cut down oak trees to make the golf course, so they had it rough cut and built the bridge,” said Craig McKinley, golf course superintendent at Bucks Run Golf Club.

McKinley helped oversee the tear down and reconstruction of the original and new bridges during the winter. While the club had originally been planning to replace the bridge since mid-summer in 2020, lumber prices skyrocketed as a result of COVID-19. They decided to return to a more sustainable approach for rebuilding the approximately 300-foot-long expanse of the bridge and harvested the bulk of the lumber from the course itself, utilizing a local hydraulic sawmill to process it into two-inch rough-cut oak planks for building.

“Golf often gets a bad perception of being wasteful. People think of golf courses being green and that we use water and too many pesticides, so we think it’s important to put it out there that we’re good stewards of the environment by doing projects like this, using the resources that we have, and using less,” McKinley said.

It was also important for the team to leave the protected wetlands on the third hole as undisrupted as possible, so they avoided bringing in heavy machinery for the project. While initially stripping the decking and siderails from the original bridge, the team also salvaged its existing hardware such as bolts and washers to use in the rebuild.

Next, composite pucks were set under new and usable posts for stability in the wet soil, and during the construction, center support stringers running the length of the bridge were added for extra support and longevity. From there, the rough-cut oak was integrated into the bridge framework, and the project was capped by installing side-rails made from maple trees on-site. In all, the project took about two months to complete among its team of mechanics, millworkers, and course professionals. For McKinley, it held a special gratification.

“I just enjoy spending the time with the guys and seeing the work unfold. It’s kind of instant gratification,” McKinley said. “That’s the best part about this job: you get to turn around and see something you just did and watch it take shape.”

Experience the new bridge at Bucks Run and the rest of the property’s 290 acres of bentgrass blanketed scenery in the heart of Mt. Pleasant when you book public or private tee times through their site. Coming up, the club will host several events to round out the late spring, including Memorial Weekend rate specials and Glow Golf on the club’s own Putting Island in May, and Brews on the Greens in June.

Bucks Run, final bridge | Bucks Run Golf Club