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June 18, 2018   
Rancho Mañana: Keeping Up the Ranch of Tomorrow  February 07, 2007

In the heart of the high Sonoran Desert in historic Cave Creek, Arizona, you will find Rancho Mañana Golf Club. A few minutes north of Scottsdale and Phoenix, this popular destination features an 18-hole championship course as well as a resort that includes a two million dollar full service European style spa, luxurious 1,500 square foot casitas, and an expansive, outdoor swimming pool.

History

Once a supply depot for the US Cavalry in the 1860’s, early miners and cowboys slowly took root and settled Cave Creek. In the 1920’s, out of the desire of city-weary Easterners to experience the “Real West,” the first guest or “dude” ranch was introduced. Then in 1943, Rancho Mañana, meaning “ranch of tomorrow” officially became the resort’s name. Resembling a Spanish hacienda complete with casitas and a cantina, Rancho became more and more popular as a vacation destination, with movie stars and even royalty spending time there.

Today, 68,000 annual visitors take part in weekly golf and social events at the semi-private golf club. After taking some practice swings at a full length driving range, complete with chipping and putting greens, players can enjoy the par-70 course that is famous for dramatic elevation changes and a desert terrain.

The Landscaping Crew

The grounds at Rancho Mañana are kept immaculate, due to the hard work and dedication of Landscape Superintendent Shawnn Bergstrom and his team of landscapers. Since they need to get the course in tip-top shape before the day’s first players tee off, each crewmember arrives at 7a.m. during the winter months and clocks out at around 3:30 in the afternoon. Their alarm clocks are set much earlier in the summer however, as they are on the course at 5a.m. before ending their day around 1:30pm.

Spending the past eight years with the resort, Bergstrom has worked his way up from being an irrigation technician to become the Superintendent. His staff consists of three full time employees in the winter months, while a fourth is added in the summer.

A separate crew of 17 manages the golf course, which sometimes joins forces with the landscapers to clean the lakes or course after a big storm.
Additionally, when projects call for more labor, such as when they added two new trees at the #1 tee box recently, Bergstrom said, “We simply recruit some of the golf course’s other employees to lend a hand.”

Turf

With about sixty acres of grass, two acres of display beds, and only about one acre of paved area, keeping the grounds in top quality shape means the crew spends most of its time on turf care.

The turf on and around the golf course consists of perennial rye grass, which is consistently mowed twice a week. In October Bergstrom and his crew help over-seed the golf course and the front lawn with perennial rye along with mulch and compost.

Trees and Cacti

Additionally, Bergstrom’s team spends a great deal of their time performing preventative tree care. The course is lined with mesquite cottonwood trees, as well as desert areas that feature species of cacti, such as Palo Verde saguaro and barrel cactus.

“To make sure visitors always are greeted warmly, we spend extra time on the areas around the front office, pro shop and parking lot,” said Bergstrom.

Flowers and Plants

Since perennials such as alyssum, calendula petunia are planted in September and April, maintaining the flowerbeds around the golf course is an essential day-to-day component of the landscaping team’s duties.

In addition to the flowers, throughout the property a number of native and imported plants can be found as well. Those that are indigenous to the desert are brittlebush, creosote bush, ocotillo, desert fan palm, California fan palm, date palm, and desert spoon. Some that have come from outside of the US are Europe’s agave, and Australia’s silvery cassia.

Maintenance Schedule

Due to the consistently hot and dry climate, the week-to-week schedule does not fluctuate very much. Each day consists of using backpack blowers to clean the front sidewalks and parking lot, before moving on to the cart paths on the golf course. Then any preventive maintenance on overgrown trees is completed, dead flowers are removed, and unkempt desert beds are raked.
Finally, the turfgrass is watered between 2 and 3 a.m. each day to avoid golfers and cars.

When it comes to using fertilizers and pesticides, an outside contractor spray-tech administers chemicals throughout the year.

Equipment

With a yearly budget of $25,000 the Rancho Mañana landscaping team utilizes Toro lawn mowers as well as Echo hedge trimmers, backpack blowers, and chain saws. All equipment is maintained in-house by their own mechanics.
Any other work is done by hand using rakes, brooms, and hand clippers.
The irrigation system consists of Irritrol controllers, as well Rain bird sprinklers and valves. In addition, Rain Bird 1800 series 4” and 6” pop-up spray heads as well as Hunter 125 spray heads are positioned throughout the grounds. Furthermore, Rain Bird TBOS battery-operated controllers are utilized for the drip systems on the golf course.

Challenges

Bergstrom and his team are faced with a desert climate and the irrigation issues that come along with it, coupled with the fact that they do not have a real off-season to recoup and rebuild the course. Maintaining in the neighborhood of one hundred acres of total landscape is difficult in any climate, but when you take into account that Arizona receives only about seven inches of rainfall each year, the challenges that Rancho Mañana faces can be daunting.

Besides the challenges with irrigation, another problem unique to Arizona is the collared peccary, or Javelina. The wild, small southwestern cousin of the pig travels in packs and feeds on flowers, bulbs, and plants without giving a second thought to trespassing on a multi-million dollar golf course. The 50-pound devils look and act like wild boars, and while generally peaceful, can become very aggressive and combative when cornered. Needless to say, they are a thorn in the landscaping team’s side.

In addition to the arid climate and wild Javelina, frost is a major concern at Rancho Mañana. Because desert temperatures can fluctuate greatly between day and night, the team must plant perennials hearty enough to withstand the extremes. Furthermore, they must perform extra measures, such as covering flowers at night, to protect against early morning chills.

The landscaping team at Rancho Mañana is dedicated and meticulous. Their enthusiasm in maintaining the small details helps give the resort that special touch that has made it so popular and successful over the years. When asked what his biggest challenge was, Bergstrom replied, “to be the best.” There is no doubt that his commitment to excellence will continue to drive his landscaping team to improve and excel.

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