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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Grinding

The grind is on in the shop.  
By spring all the reels will be ready to go with a factory finish.  
Set up is critical to get the perfect grind.  Measurements within a thousandths of an inch are critical to get the results I demand.  
Our number one defense against disease and number one component to plant health is a sharp mower blade.  Clean cuts to the turf blades is critical and that can only be achieved when using sharp equipment.  
Plant health in 2015 starts now
Never a dull moment at MGC 

I had a brake rotor literally snap in two on the plow truck.  I managed to get in back to the shop lowering the plow to slow down.  

After lots of heat, pounding and PB-blaster I got the rest of the old rotor off and the new parts installed.  

Back in business.  
My favorite activities during the season on the course is our cultural control program.  I have been doing these tasks on golf courses every couple of weeks for 20 years now yet I still get excited.  I think it must be that fact that I know how important it is to a quality playing surface to complete these jobs properly that gets me so fired up.  
Topdressing applied every 3-weeks following a vertical mowing or spiking of the surface.  

Sand on the surface after spreading

Upside down plug on the Heritage course shows the drastic modification that is happening to the surface as the sand layer increases in depth.  This is a very wet plug cut after a night of rain.  The 4 inch sand cap is much dryer and firmer than the lower saturated native soil below it.  Without topdressing this green would be saturated and unplayable.  

The sand cap we are creating increases in depth around a 0.3"-0.4" a season.  This plug is from the edge of the putting green next to the clubhouse.

A core from the 13th green on Greywalls.  These greens were constructed with a 16" root zone of pure sand.  Sand topdressing must take place to dilute the accumulation of thatch and keep the surface firm for premium ball roll.  The darker surface on this plug is an area filled with sand and roots.  If topdressing did not occur consistently and effectively this surface would be soft and bumpy with disease issues and poor playability.  We topdress at a rate to meet the growth of the bentgrass plants on the surface.  

Having a sand cap on the greens from consistent topdressing, controlling plant growth by not over fertilizing and vertical mowing allows use to reduce the quantity of traditional core aerification on the greens.  Instead we can utilize a solid tine program using small tines (as seen above) that does not effect ball roll.  We still core (pull plugs) on some areas that have addition traffic or fairy ring fungal growth; but these areas are minimal.

A picture of a nice deep vertical mowing after cleanup.  Vertical mowing must take place on the Greywalls fairways starting ASAP as organic matter accumation is at a level requiring management.  A machine needs to be purchased that can complete the task efficiently.  

Vertical mowing on the Tees

Brushing the approach turf after vertical mowing helps create a more upward growth to the plants and reduce grain.  

Monday, December 8, 2014

Denmark

In September I had the opportunity to travel to Denmark and Sweden with my wife as she presented her research at an international conference.  
I took the time to educate myself on local turfgrass management while my wife was busy.  
Denmark has strict regulation on inputs allowed on golf courses as compared to our country; because of these strict regulations there is obvious blemishes.  These flaws in surface life would be considered unexceptable at many clubs found in the US yet the playability was wonderful with no negative effect on the game of golf.  
After studying these conditions and playing on them with local golf enthusiasts I now have an even stronger negative opinion of the 'perfection' image some believe this great game must achieve.  
As long as Natural flaws do not negatively impact the game of golf they should not be managed to extinction.  Weeds scattered with in the fairways turf has no impact on playability and only add texture to the surface.  Dry patches add length to a golf shot and a point of reference while locating a shot.  Those two areas in general are over managed in our country and that does nothing but drive up the expense of the game.  A lot can be learned by traveling over seas and playing golf on a course that is managed as intended; at one with Mother Nature.  
Castle on the Sea

One of the courses that I had the opportunity to play with some local folks. 
 
Everyone walks in Denmark.  Golf is a physical activity and a form of great exercise.  Even old men and women walk the course while playing; our country needs a big wake up call in this area.  
The courses have compressed air blow off stations next to the parking lots so players can clean off after early morning rounds or on damp days.  

Practice areas are all built utilizing artificial mats to reduce wear and maintenance of a practice centers.  Each golfer actually carries their own rubber tees in their golf bags to use on the artificial mats.  When I asked about this I was told by an elderly man "Why would I want to pay someone to fill thousands of divots a day on the practice area when mats are available."
Case and point taken :)

Even the Royal Copenhagen Golf Club had nothing but artificial mats as a practice option.  This double decker facility can be used rain or shine.  

Raining this day so all practice was being completed on the lower level.  

Fine fescue was the predominate species of turfgrass planted on the entire golf courses I was playing.  Fairways, Tees, Rough and even the greens were fine fescue; although the green did have creeping bentgrass within the mix.  
A clover patch is seen above growing in the fairway, it does not impact playability. 
 
Dandelions also grow within the fairway turf of Denmark.  

Poa annua can be found in the low areas of the fairways that stay wet when compared to the rest of the surface.  

A low valley filled with Poa annua growth.

Fine fescue growing wonderfully under low input conditions.  

A great day to play a round fog followed by drizzle.  

An old field stone fence row erected hundreds of years ago could not be moved while building the course because it once belonged to the King.  The fence is now a part of the course and becomes a hazard to avoid on several holes.  

The old fence row again, it is a very interesting design element.  

Fine turf again found in a very minimal input growing environment.  

Minimalist design and minimalist management at its finest .  

Take-all patch was on fire on many of the green surfaces but it did not negatively effect ball roll when compared to the roll on the rest of the putting surface; which was not fast but it was very firm and true.  

Some extreme turfgrass management taking place at the gardens of Frederiksborg Castle.  These extreme geometric banks have been hand cut for hundreds of years.  

Triplexed putting surfaces with lots of movement and interest made for a very enjoyable rounds .  The speed did not matter because the firm surfaces rolled true and consistent from green to green.  

Sink holes

Sink holes have been forming on the Greywalls property in areas that were stump burial grounds during construction.  These two areas are around the two forward tees on 11 and the hill side to the left of 18 green.  
At some point in the near future we will have to get a bull dozer in to drive on these areas and settle them back down.  

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Winter traffic

It feels and looks like mid-winter but indeed the 14/15 winter is still young.  Our turfgrass has a long road ahead before spring and for sensitive areas like greens and tees to survive, all winter recreation traffic must be eliminated from their surface.  
Activities like snow shoeing, skiing and snow biking are heart healthy winter activities that I encourage everyone to partake in but please do not traverse over the roped off greens or within 20 yards of the staked tees.  
The MGC property is almost 350 acres and the greens/tees only take up about 10 acres or 2% of that area leaving plenty of acreage to enjoy.  Winter traffic on these sensitive areas packs the snow and that packed snow turns into ice esp. on warmer days.  The longer the ice sits on the 1/8" plants the more likely it is to cause winter kill; which negatively impacts the course performance in the spring.  
Get out and enjoy winter but please avoid greens/tees while doing so.  Spread the word.
Traffic on 5 green
Traffic on 5 green
Traffic on 6 green
Traffic on 6 green
New additional ropes and ribbon added to 5 green

Ice build up on 5 green

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Winter is definitely here with a big 25"-35" snow storm settled over us right now.

I can't say enough about my staff the last several months especially my core guys left to help over the last few weeks, their effort at putting the courses to bed 'right' was phenomenal.  We are weather hounds and we knew this storm was fast approaching so we put things into overdrive and completed every essential task in the nick of time.  

-Playing surfaces were maintained for play up to our closing dates then the greens were aerified utilizing solid tines.  
-Both courses were properly treated with the appropriate fungicides to control Snowmold.
-Drains were all flushed and several new drains were installed.
-Both Irrigation systems were winterized properly.
-Our extensive and time consuming Leaf mulching and blowing was efficient and effective.  
-All native areas were mowed down
-Greens were buried in sand for plant crown protection as usual and we even heavily topdressed the Greywalls tees. 
-Shop water lines were winterized.  
-Milorganite was spread on top of the sand on the greens to help melt snow and ice in the spring and activate an earlier spring green up on the putting surfaces.  
-Putting surfaces were roped off to eliminate winter traffic issues.  The Greywalls Tees were also staked this year to mark their winter location so I can monitor any traffic issues near them.  
-Snow fence was erected around several historically wind swept greens to help build up a protective snow layer on top of them.  
-All equipment was detail cleaned and properly winterized before being parked for the winter months.  
-Inventory was completed on all left over fertilizer and chemical products so they can be factored into 2015 planning.  Any liquid products are moving into a heated location to avoid freezing.  
-All out buildings were organized and prepared for winter.  
-Mower reels and equipment that need service were moved to the Heritage shop and parked accordingly.  
-Reel grinding has been started and will continue all winter.  
-Our Plow truck was serviced and repaired in-house and all snow removal tools are staged for use.  
-Signs/tee markers/all other course assessories are all hauled off the course and moved to the Greywalls shop to be refurbished over the winter months.  

Every aspect of this list is essential for a smooth spring and a successful 2015 season.  

Fall is the busiest time of year for us because in Marquette Michigan we have one shot to get this list completed before old man winter arrives.  If we fail in any aspect it will effect the entire operation the following season.  My staff takes these processes very serious and I am proud of my core guys of The Marquette Golf Club grounds department as we got it done yet again as a team!

Irrigation blow out
Compressor used for irrigation winterization
Heavily Topdressed green
Close up after the sand and Milorganite was spread on the greens
Additional drain line installed by the rear door of the Heritage shop to collect spring runoff water.
Winter is here to stay, get out and enjoy it!!