Thursday, October 6, 2016

Fall course update

Fall is in the air and many might think things are slowing down in the shop at Northern golf courses; the opposite is actually happening.
Now is when we prepare the golf courses for a successful 2017 season.  What we do now makes or breaks next golf season in our tundra climate.  When the snow flies we don't get a second chance.  
Seasonal staff is gone and back to school so many tasks are left to myself and the limited numbers of employees we still have.  
We must continue to mow the turf in addition to finding time to complete these extra tasks.
-Aerification grns/tees/fwys/Approaches and wear areas
-Vertical mowing/thatch reduction 
-Fall fertilization of turf
-Mowing down all native/natural areas with rotary mowers and weedeater/brushmowers 
-Leaf blowing and clean-up (daily)
-Weed control
-Irrigation system Winterization 
-Equipment detail cleaning and Winterization plus organize equipment for winter repair work and reel grinding
-Haul all course supplies off the course and store/organize for winter revitalization
-Preventative Snowmold fungicide applications to all Grns/tees/fairway/Approaches  
-Heavy sand topdressing greens/tees/Approaches
-Stakes/rope off greens 
-End of season projects.... Everything we can squeeze in before the snow flies
On agenda this year is the front 9 bathroom on Greywalls, a new red tee on 11 Greywalls, pumphouse roof repair, well house interior repair, 1/2-way shack renovation to replace floor and reorganize.  
-On top of field work the 2017 Budget needs to be completed and products needed for next season must be organized to take advantage of early order discounts.  

Winterizing a golf course properly is no easy task.

                14 Green Heritage
I have received many question about the aerification of 14 green on the Heritage course.  We have been using small diameter tines early season and/or solid tining greens after we close so the membership has forgotten what a typical greens aerification process involves.  
It comes as no surprise that 14 green Heritage is the wettest green on both courses.  Its location is low and it holds water.  We installed an approach drain system several years ago and that has worked wonderfully; our sand topdressing program has also had very positive results.  The excessive rains the last two consecutive falls has me reaching for more solutions on this water soaked location.  
What we did on 14 green was solid tine the surface to a 4" depth using 3/4" tines, we then buried the green in sand.  After the sand had time to dry we worked it around the with our Groom-it drag brush followed by a turbine blower.  Our goal was to create 3/4" columns of sand to help get water off the surface quicker.  

3/4" solid tine holes and one layer of sand

Sand layer number 2

Final sand layer before working it into the holes

Post drag/blow- holes all filled with sand
We will attempt to complete this process on 14 green every fall.  

A lot of fall aerification on two golf courses for one machine.  The Procore has been working overtime.  

Excessive rains again this fall has made less than ideal playing conditions.  The courses are indeed green but the ball roll has not been what we strive for.  

Mother Nature has been pruning on her own this fall.  Several high wind days had us cleaning up the mess.  

Pink Snow mold has already started to appear.  Pre-Snowmold applications are made to the greens to keep them free and clear before the final spray.
A patch of Poa annua on the greens getting attacked by pink Snowmold while the Bentgrass is healthy

Proof in the picture
Our growth regulating Paclobutrazol applications still hard at work on our Greywalls fairways.  Poa on the edge of a 4 fairway in the rough (in an over spray area) totally suppressed while the KBG and fescue around it is allowed to grow.  

Sunday, August 28, 2016

THE 3 R's

Golf is a self governing sports that relies on your honor and honesty for it to be played with equality; respect for the golf course and fellow golfers is a major part of the traditions within the game.  These kind and honorable acts attracts many to the game and the industry....... but we are facing a growing problem as a lack of proper golf course care and etiquette is becoming a serious issue. 

The decline in etiquette and course care has me searching for reason why?
Is it generational?  Are we not passing down the importance of course respect?
Is it our fast paced society?
Is it Social Media?  Stupid acts caught on camera and trying to be outdone?
Regardless of the reason, I feel the only way to combat it is through education.... many of these folks that complete or don't complete proper golf etiquette may not even realize they are acting in a disrespectful manner.  

Knowledge is Power so here is my attempt at passing on the proper information.  

Repair Ball Marks

This one is simple... If you hit a shot onto a green in the air chances are good you left some sort of mark on the surface... Look for it and repair it properly with the proper tool.  Ball marks affect the true/smooth ball roll we strive for everyday on the Putting Surfaces.   

Doing the math (as this sign indicates) really explains the need for proper ball mark repair.  This is a serious issue at our facility; we have to send a staff member out every single morning to repair the ball marks on every green.  Some marks are not repaired properly but most are left completely untouched.  Take pride in the fact that you hit the green with your ball and repair your indentations. 

Replace Your Divots

Divots are part of the game and we as managers expect everyone to take them as they make a swing with their clubs on tees or in the fairways.  Proper golf etiquette requires you to fill the void after striking the ground.  Some Courses fill divots with sand/seed and some request that you replace your divot- Marquette Golf Club is a 'replace your divot' facility.  We live in a climate where divot survival rate is high so I favor replacing divots... Either way one must 'fill the void'.  Repairing damaged turf allows it to heal much quicker, so others playing behind do not have to deal with their ball coming to rest in a depression on the surface.  
Properly replacing the divot is simple: Go pick it up, walk back to your strike zone, put it down green side up and in the same direction that it was torn out then tamp the turf with your foot.  

We utilize signs on the property to increase our communication.  It is always frustrating as we make our morning rounds and see signs surrounded by divots that were not replaced properly.  Many of these signs are placed in collection areas where many balls tend to end up making it is especially critical to repair these zones.  

When divots are not replaced a depression is left in the surface that other will have to deal with, plus mother nature is now given an opportunity to fill the void with undesirable plants.  Pictured above is a thistle seizing an opportunity in a divot that was not replaced.  Weeds add to the cost of the game because they need to be managed with a herbicide application. 

Respect the Course

Walk properly on the putting surface by lifting your feet and not dragging your spikes across the turf; as seen in the picture above.  This scared turf redirects rolling balls away from the intended target and takes weeks to heal properly.  

Metal spikes are a thing of the past but I must say these new aggressive so call 'soft spikes' can also create some serious issue.  The twisting and dragging we see on our putting surfaces is very upsetting.  We witness more of this damage after periods of heavy rains and high humidity.   These issues can be avoided if more care was taken by golfers wearing these aggressive spikes. 

Never take a divot out of the putting surface; these areas are reserved for rolling the ball with a putter and everyone that learns the game should knows this fact.  Many daily hours and lots of money is spent on putting surfaces to maintain them with the high quality required for rolling the ball.  Anger after missing a putt must be controlled in our honorable game.  The ruthless act pictured above interrupted every single golfer that played behind this individual; this person made many enemies after their selfish act of rage. 

No matter how hard you smash the green with your putter after missing a putt I promise you it will not take a stroke off your total score.
Remember this kind of temper is not needed and affects every other golfer that is playing behind you.  Calm down, let go of your ego, smile and have fun.... The game is suppose to be fun.  

If you hit into a sand bunker you must always Enter/exit the bunker from the low side and rake your tracks smooth as you exit as pictured above
Climbing up a high side loosens the sand on the banks that we try to keep firm.  Entering from the high side risks personal injury and usually results in damage to the bunker liners.  If your ball is up there... by all means walk up and hit it, but if it's not... Stay low.  

Lay the flagstick down gently when pulling it out of the cup before putting- the top prisms used for range finders are very expensive and letting a flagstick slam to the ground can knock a prism loose and out.  Repeated drops will also break the epoxy bond holding the flagstick/feral together.  

Golf Cart Issues
The biggest issue we see in lack of Respect comes from reckless or careless cart driving habits.  Destructive behavior while operating golf cart should never happen and should never be tolerated; reckless driving is damaging to the turf and the carts plus it is very dangerous to your health; you can be severely injured. 
Locking up the brakes on steep slopes because you are traveling to fast for conditions can and does cause the carts to tip over.  Damaged turf, broken bones, cuts, bruises, broken carts and broken clubs are just some of the potential results.  Drive with care and watch your speed. 

Traveling fast and locking up the brakes while turning sharply does not impress anyone; remember this is a golf course that some people work very hard to maintain for all to enjoy.  Golf has no room for individuals that purposely damaging the playing field with carts. 

Golf carts were originally brought to market so those with physical limitations could enjoy the great game of golf.  Since that time carts have taken on a new life form in America and now dominate the golf landscape.  If rules are followed by cart operators negative impact to the game is reduced; unfortunately most cart operators think rules are for others and not them. 
The next four photos were taken in one single 10 minute trip through the golf course.
A group of golfers in carts that ignored the stakes/arrows at the approach line and drove their carts right up next to the green on number 1.  

A group of golfers in carts that ignored the stakes and 'cart path only' sign on number 8

A group of golfers that ignored the stakes/arrows way back in the fairway on 9 and entered a restricted cart area. 

A two-some that felt the need to drive their cart right past the stakes/arrows and right up next to the green to putt out on the final hole. 

All critical areas are marked with signs, stakes, arrows (or roped off) to eliminate traffic issues that golf carts can cause to critical playing surfaces
We do not want to completely rope off every critical areas for several reasons
1) It is unsightly
2) It does not allow access for handicap individuals (that have a proper blue flag on their golf cart) and need to enter these areas
3) It creates more maintenance costs and decreases mowing efficiency

Respect the course, respect the staff and follow directions  

We also ask that you please do not make your own paths through the natural/native areas on the golf course.  Tire tracks destroy the look of these areas and can also be very dangerous; you do not know if there are holes, stumps or large rocks hiding within the longer vegetation. 

Cart Speed
One very important fact that must be pointed out is the damage cart speed does to the golf course especially our cart path ends.  I'll never understand the need for speed while driving carts; especially on our busy days when all your doing is driving fast to go sit and wait to hit your next shot.  Carts that are going full speed off the asphalt and onto the turf bounce; that repeated bouncing in these traffic concentrated transition areas causes potholes that get bigger and bigger over time; after years these areas extend further and further out into the turf surface and have become a source of complaints. 
We attempt to repair these areas by closing them off, sodding or filling and reseeding.  None of these repair measure are sustainable unless cart speed is drastically reduced at these asphalt/turf areas.  Just because your automobile can go 120 mph when the pedal is to the floor does not mean you drive that fast.... the same applies to a golf cart so slow down, especially at these as traffic concentrated turf/asphalt transitions.  RESPECT the course

A couple other very important course rules to follow while utilizing carts on the property
-Two carts per foursome... Zero exceptions!
-Keep all 4 tires on the asphalt paths when on them (especially around green/tees) as this helps keep the turf alive along the edges.  If a cart arrives behind you let them pull around your cart.... don't assume that a cart is coming from behind while you are on a green or tee, because there is a slim chance that it will especially on the Greywalls course.  

What the game and all of our hearts really need is more groups out walking the landscape.  The true health benefits of golf are not taking place if your behind a wheel driving from shot to shot; if you can do yourself and the course a big favor and walk. 

Following proper golf etiquette so everyone can enjoy the game even more 
Be a friend!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Fairway fertilizer changes

With the purchase of a 300 gallon sprayer I was able to make a switch to a much more pin point accurate fertilization plan on the fairways.  I can now get away from having to apply granular products every time we fertilize.  Three reason I wanted to get away from granular for every application are:
1) The lowest rate I could go with and not get a speckled appearance was .4#N/M
2) Granular fertilizer always gets thrown in places you don't want it no mater how carful you are.  
3) Granular fertilizers cause a flush of growth for a week or two after application creating a need for extra mowing.  

Spraying at a rate of 0.9gpm I can cover 7.7 Acres with one tank.  Five tanks covers my fairways and Approaches.  I can spray these areas in one day now; where as before it would take me 3 days with the old smaller sprayer.  

Another benefit of spraying is my ability to add the growth regulator Paclobutrazol to the tank.  This product provides vertical growth regulation and suppresses poa annua growth more than the other grasses.  Our low mow bluegrass and fine fescue plants now have a competitive advantage over poa.   I am also adding Ferrous Sulfate to the tank for a quicker green up and as another poa irritant.  

Foam blops marking my lines to prevent overlaps or misses in my application.  

The spray line from the approach tank is already obvious from the morning spray.  

Here is a good picture of a spray line on 14 fairway.  The instant green from foliar fertilization is always amazing to me.  This is after only a few short hours.  
The products used to spray fairways are:
Urea (46-0-0)
Ferrous Sulfate
Blade Fe (15-0-0)
Tide Paclo
Total cost to spray all fairways is $1500

Total cost to use a granular product on fairways is $1600

A more accurate application with the benefit of a growth regulator for basically the same price.  
Two applications in and I am very pleased with the results so far this season.  

Grooming Greywalls

Greywalls course grooming:
After the first few years of play on Greywalls we began to establish a 'groom' list.  
This list is prioritized in the following order and outlines locations that:
1) effect pace of play and cause unwanded golfer frustration or has a high potential of golfer injury (hidden rocks)
2) have excessive weed/sapling growth and can not be sprayed with herbicides because of the extreme terrain.  
3) aesthetically need to be cleaned for visual appearance or has a site line issue.  

These areas typically are located on the perimeters just outside the turf areas that get maintain daily to weekly.  Over the years our list has evolved and grown.  

Some of our clients would like to see the course mowed wall to wall others would like more hazardous conditions everywhere; we are left with the task of creating that balance between the two ideas.  
I would like to share pictures outlining our thoughts on grooming Greywalls  

This is the tree location to the left of 1 green.  This area was extremely thick with fescue and was a hot spot for ball hunting. A groom every 4-6 weeks has been very helpful.  
On the other side of 1 green we removed 8-12 trees and extended the maintained rough line about 15 yards.  
Other areas on 1 that we groom are along the rocks that boarder the fairway.  These areas get extra thick because of excess water and fertilizer from fairway maintenance.  Weed growth on the rocks will become overpowering if left alone.  

The right side of 2 is a very popular location for all of the slices coming off the tee.  Mowing this area every 4-6 weeks at a height of 4" with an old rotary mower has really helped pace of play.  Before we started grooming this area a ball entering this jungle zone was next to impossible to find; yet everyone wanted to spend 5+ minutes doing so.  Now a ball hit in here can be identified easily and hit back into play.

The left side of 2 is another ball hotspot and it was slowly being taken over by broadleaf weeds making ball location difficult.  We decided to mow this area down this year so we could treat it with a herbicide.  
The rock dome before 2 green is groomed for safety and aesthetics.  Many miss hit balls end up here and it is nice to see how near the rock is to your ball.  

We groom this area on 3 short of the approach for pace of play.  Excessive growth of many different plants makes it very thick in here yet people want to find their ball and spent a good amount of time looking.  Now it is an easier task.  
By 3 green we groom this thick area back left to help pace of play we also pushed the weekly maintained mow line 8-10 yards back on the right side of the green to fully open that ball collection area.  

The left side of 4 is a very difficult area to groom, loose rock and extreme slope makes it a challenge.  I am exploring the option of a wide areas boomless nozzle for the old spray rig.  With the right set up I might be able to spray this area with a herbicide for weed control.  
For now We do what we can here with hand cutting to keep weed growth under control. 
The center fairway rock is groomed for safety and aesthetics.  
Many areas like behind 4 green are groomed to expose irrigation valves and controls.  
The right side of 4 fairway is groomed along the edge to expose the irrigation heads and to help balls release out and roll onto shorter cut turf.  

We groom along the rock edges on 5 so balls do not get lost as often in these thick location.  
Grooming the turf in these areas also helps golfers see the rock below or behind a poorly struck ball.  

The rocks on 6 are groomed for aesthetics and weed control.  We wish we had more time to focus on this hole.

The center fairway rock on 7 is groomed for safety and aesthetics and pace of play.  If left unchecked the turf around it would gobble up golf balls.  
We extended the weekly mow line on the left side of 7 green.  This area was very long and thick; which because a pace of play issue.  We did the same to the right side and pushed the hazard stakes back 5-6' along the green.  

We groom around the rock edges along 8 for safety and aesthetics.  
Behind 8 green is groomed for weed control.  If we can get these weeds cut down before they go to seed we can greatly reduce their numbers the following year.  

The rocks on the fairway line are groomed for aesthetics and a visual aide for tee shots.  
All bunker banks are groomed every 4-6 weeks to minimize balls from hanging up on them.  
9 green surround is groomed for aesthetics and safety.  Many balls get chipped out of here and it is nice to see rock location around your resting ball. 

The left side of 10 is groomed along the rock for pace of play.  
The left of 10 green and around 18 black tee is groomed for pace of play and weed control.  Many long hitter pull their balls into this areas and it was causing pace issues.  Now golf balls can be easily identified and hacked out.  I must note again these large areas are cut at 4" every 4-6 weeks so it is no walk in the park getting the ball out; we just want to eliminate the need to hunt for a ball for 5 minutes and never find it. 

11 tee area is groomed for weed control.  This entire area is a topic of another blog post outlining its issues with stumps buried below.  
The amphitheater bank behind 11 green is groomed for pace of play and weed control.  Lots of balls go long into this hill behind the green.    
The collection area below and to the left of 11 green is groomed along the edge for pace of play.  If a ball misses left with a right to left ball flight it would usually find its way into the fescue edge which was excessively thick.  

The natural patch between 12/13 is groomed with our rotary grooming mower.  This area obviously created a pace of play issue with balls off 12 and 13 tees.  

The valley on 14 and area between 14/16 is marked lateral hazard but is groomed 1-2 times a year for weed and sapling control.  

The front hill on 15 and the rocks are groomed for weed control.  Pace of Play and Safety is also a factor along the rock areas.  

The area off 16 tee is groomed as a site line issue.  When the natural area is left to grow to its full potential height the fairway can not be seen from the tee surface.  By just cutting the area to 4" a sliver of the fairway can be seen on the tee; which gives mental ease to a first time player.  

The area by 17 tee is now being groomed with our old rotary for several reasons.  The weeds were out of control here and a single spring herbicide application would not control them all.  Mowing will allow turf to re-establish after spraying.  The second reason is we need to slide traffic coming off 18 tee over before the path edge there gets worn down to the fairway.  

This middle right area on 18 is now being groomed at the request of our lady members.  It was pointed out that many of them hit into this very thick edge off of their tee and it was causing pace of play issues on many league nights.  
This location is Further proof that member Feedback has a positive effect on course playability.  
Hill left of 18 green pre-mow
Hill left of 18 green post mow
Grooming This areas is all about weed control.  There is a very high population of spotted Knapweed growing here.  Mowing it down before it goes to seed is key for keeping this noctious weed under control on the golf course.  

We do mow the entire course (natural areas) down starting in mid-September.  This complete mowing takes care of many sapling growth areas and keeps the grass under control and alive.  
These are low maintenance areas because we do not maintain them all on a weekly basis but they are not 'no' maintenance areas.  A balance must be reached because our number 1 overall priority on the grounds department is managing the playing surface for the game of golf.  

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