Friday, December 14, 2018

Forest Management Progress

Perfect early winter conditions has allowed us to complete this years planned forest management on the Greywalls course.  Early snow with a cold snap froze up the ground allowing equipment traffic with limited negative surface impact.  3 areas were managed. 
1) Our SE corner was select cut to thin out the tree stand and remove all undesirable species; Healthy hemlocks and maple trees were left with more room to grow.
2) The wooded section between holes 8/9 was select cut on the number 9 side to remove the many maple trees with canopy die back.  
3) A 1.75 acre site left of 18 green was clear cut.  In time we will remove all of the stumps and convert this location into a turf nursery that can also be utilized as a practice putting/short game area.  

Tree removal equipment utilized on property.  Quick and efficient.  

Large forwarder removed the logs and brush quickly.

Logs stacked in a landing area by 18 green.

Logs stacked in a landing area at the SE corner. 

Tree tops stacked in a staging area awaiting a chipper.  

Chipper blowing tops right into a semi-trailer for quick removal.  

Three roads in the rough are being plowed on the Heritage course to the last section worked on this winter.  Removing the snow allows the ground to freeze so it can handle equipment traffic.  We will be removing trees from the 5/6/7 ravine to regain shot options; we will also be removing some spruce trees that are in decline or negatively effecting turf and golf holes.  
We will have additional cleanup in the spring but the long term impacts this process will have on the courses will be very positive.  

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Property/Forest Management

I have had several conversations of interest in regards to a Property/Forest Management plan we are going to undertake here at the club.  Below is a summary of that plan and our goals going into it.  I want to make it clear that we do not hate trees, trees are a part of our environment; when trees are selected properly, managed properly and are growing in the correct location they indeed enhance the MGC property.  92 years of golf with very limited/poor tree management put MGC in this situation and the time is now to take corrective action.  The easy thing to do is ignore it and do nothing..... but I've never been known to go in that direction.  

Property/Forest Management

Property management of the MGC grounds has primarily been limited to the turfgrass surfaces; but the 350 acres owned by the club includes many wooded areas that can not be ignored.  We have been removing 20-60 trees a year in-house that have fallen from weather, suffered perimeter exposure dieback or have fallen victim to disease/insect issues; our effort are lagging behind the pace that needs to occur.  Twelve years ago the grounds department started the evaluation process of the wooded acreage and the need for Forest management was identified.  Years of discussion and brainstorming brings us to our current situation where forest management must happen. 

The goals of our forest management plan are simple:
1)      Reclaim the vistas, shot values and options lost on several holes from excessive tree growth plus remove trees that were planted in poor locations. 
2)      Long range plan of creating a better/stronger/attractive internal/perimeter forest.  Remove first growth trees (birch, poplar) plus diseased/damaged trees all with limited value.  Select cut other tree species to create room for horizontal growth on the trees left behind. 

These goals obviously can not be accomplished in-house and must be out sourced to professionals.  We formed a relationship with Holli Forest Products to accomplish these goals.  Five field meetings with their foresters and several table meetings has created a mutual understanding of our forest goals here at the Marquette Golf Club.  They have a clear understanding of our terrain and the sensitive nature of this property; the comfort level on both sides is good.

The outlined work will have the following property protective guidelines:
1)      The work will take place in the winter months so there is no disruption to the golf season and surface impacts are minimal. 
2)      Temporary roads will be clearly marked out in the fall prior to snowfall and all fairway crossings will be crane matted. 
3)      Roads will be rubber plowed in early winter so the ground can freeze to handle traffic.
4)      Brush and Slash will be chipped where feasible so the areas (especially the visible edges) are not littered with branches

The work will be divided into 2 phases.  Phase 1 will take place the winter of 2018/2019 and phase 2 will take place the winter of 2019/2020. 

Phase 1:
-Gully on the Heritage (Holes 5/6/7) – clearing the gully will restore all shot options off the teeing surfaces, open up lost vistas and eliminate the dangers that the trees growing in that gully currently possess. *All hand cutting and cable work*
-Removal of the many dead and diseased spruce trees on the Heritage (North side of Grove) These trees are all in major decline: a factor of age plus Needlecast/tip blight/canker diseases and Spruce Gall adelgids insect damage has left them dead or on the verge of death.  
-Select cut the SE wooded corner of the property behind the Greywalls Maintenance shop and number 12 green and extend into the back 9 internal wooded pockets if time allows. 
-Clear cut an area North of 18 green Greywalls to open up a location for a turf nursery that could double as a large putting green. 
-Select cut the wooded area to the right of number 1 fairway Greywalls

Phase 2:
-Select cut the largest wooded area on property located between the two golf courses extending into the internal wooded pockets on the Greywalls front 9 and down the back nine on the Heritage course.  *Extra care must be taken around the Orianna, cart barns and our pond fill line for the Heritage course. 

Both Phases are estimated to take several weeks to complete and we will see some pay back for the lumber.  The extra work involved in this project (because of our sensitive site and required chipping) cuts into our profits but must take place; protecting and enhancing the golf courses is the priority during the project.  Staff will be on site during the lumber process to make sure our objectives are met.  We will have cleanup and stump grinding to complete in-house after snowmelt; some degree of turf damage isolated to the rough will be expected. 

Spring into Summer

Spring was very late to arrive as we had snow cover for 180 plus days in many locations.  Both golf courses handled the winter well with the exception of the teeing surfaces on Greywalls.  We had significant snowmold damage on those surfaces but we were able to enhance recovery quickly.  Vertical mowing, fertilization and an additional fungicide application gave the tees what they needed to recover in only two short weeks.

Tees like this are now looking mid-season form.  

Irrigation systems were put back together and pressurized for the season.  We had 3 pipe failures on Greywalls from frost heave and 6 broken head on the Heritage course.  

Quick coupler on Greywalls #5 green releasing air/water as we fill the lines.  

A main line pipe failure discovered on the Heritage course.  The cause is a tent stake from an outing we hosted last season.  A clamp is on order to make the repair..... never wise to cut asbestos pipes if you don’t have to.

The new bathrooms on Greywalls and the clubhouse deck were given a fresh coat of stain/sealer to extend the life of the wood and enhance the look of the structures.  

Irrigation audits are in place to check the performance of the irrigation heads.  

We are now into our summer grooming season.  Putting surface management is our top priority as we complete vertical mowing and sand Topdressing every 3-weeks to keep the surfaces smooth and true.  

Sand Topdressing on Greywalls before a spike unit is run over the surface and we drag the sand into the canopy.  

After we drag the sand into the canopy new cups are cut and brush reels are run over the  turf to collect any large sand particles.  

Sand on the Heritage greens awaiting further work.  

7 green on the Heritage course with perfect sand coverage.

Mowing schedules, proper course inputs  and performing regular cultural practices will keep our surfaces in fantastic condition now and into the future.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Snow Cover

Digging out to the Greywalls shop Door after the Mid-April snow storm.  

Snow pack up to the lean-to roof line

The Mid-April storm event even filled the buildings with snow.  

This has indeed been a very long winter.  The MGC property was covered with snow on November 8th and we have not seen the turf below since that morning.  We are now over 160 days of snow cover making it the longest I have experienced as a manager.  Preventative snowmold applications that we apply in the fall can typically provide control for around 120 days; because we are beyond that time frame we should expect to see turf damaged from winter fungal pathogens when the snow recedes.  Most of the damage we will experience should recover quickly with the proper care and warmer temperatures.  
The weather has now changed into a spring pattern and snow melt is happening rapidly.  We will be prepared and we look forward to spring cleanup and course preparation.  

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Cutting Cups and Hole Locations

Hole Location

A top 10 hot Topic on every golf Course before/during/after a round is the hole location on the putting greens.  The 'natural law of ego' causes the individual holding the putter to cast words of blame immediately at the hole location after a missed putt.  Never mind the fact that there approach shot placement was poor, they read the green wrong or did a poor job with speed control... it is usually always the actual location of the cup that caused the miss.... A natural law I do not see changing anytime soon on golf courses everywhere.  There is always a desirable location to be when your ball comes to rest on the putting green after your approach shot.  It is up the player to figure out ball placement and gain that advantage over the course.  
With those points disclosed I would like to address the actual process we go through when selecting hole locations during our morning course prep.  

Priority Number 1
Keep it playable and don't put out any impossible hole locations.  
Yes this is the first point we focus on every single time we are out placing the hole locations during morning prep.  It is never our intention to upset anyone, we want everyone to have an enjoyable experience.  We want happiness and not anger.  

Priority Number 2
Move the hole location around so the wear is evenly distributed over the entire surface.  
Turf takes time to heal after concentrated traffic occurs around a hole for a day or two, if quality is important all areas on a green must be utilized.  
We actually keep a log folder that goes out every time with the set-up individual.  The past positions are reviewed at each green so we can ensure the positions are being moved around properly.  If the location is front it moves to middle, if its middle it moves to back, if its back it moves to front.  The right-center-left is then based off past locations and ease of the location in relation to other locations on that given day.  

Priority Number 3
Perfect plug replacement.  
When replacing the plug it must be completed perfectly.  High plugs will scalp off during the next mowing and cause unsightly rings, low plugs create a depression that will disrupt ball roll and over time turn into darker green rings as the turf growth thicker and longer in those areas.  There is a process to plug replacement and it is not as easy as most think it is.  

Priority Number 4
Make sure the cup is level so the flagstick rises up straightly.  
This is achieved while sinking the hole cutter into the soil; one must be observant so the cutter is not going in at an angle.  Only minor adjustments can be made with the cup to get the flagstick straight after the hole is cut, so it is important to get a straight hole cut with the hole cutter.  

Priority Number 5
Avoid areas of damage or potential damage.
When selecting the location we want a healthy area of turf around the hole so perfect ball roll can be achieved by players and more putts can be made if putted properly.  
We always try to avoid diseased locations, areas of turf wilt and damaged turf from equipment (like a hydraulic leak).  Winter kill situations can severely limit our location selection but that is usually only for a limited time in the spring of the year.  We also have to predict potential saturated conditions; if it is going to rain heavily we must avoid all low areas on the putting greens.  

Everyday is a busy day here at the Marquette Golf Club so the goal is to create variety in hole locations every day in our set up; most easy but some interesting that take a little more thought and skill.  

**Hole locations are changed 4-5 times a week during the peak playing season.  During the shoulder seasons we base location changes on daily round numbers.  

Found the Location and now Cutting the Cup

Setting the Cup and painting the edge white

Perfect Plug replacement is Essential 

Monday, January 22, 2018

Nitrogen and Topdressing

A solid 12 years of consistent data collection here at MGC has provided us an opportunity to look at a few trends.

One trend in particular that I am very interested in is the relationship between Sand Topdressing the putting surfaces and Nitrogen fertilization.  Sand topdressing the putting greens is a process we complete every 3-week throughout the golf season.  The goal of topdressing is to match the sand rate with turf growth so we can maintain a smooth firm putting surface for all to enjoy; establishing that rate is the art behind the science.  Daily turf growth is heavily influenced by our Nitrogen applications but is also dependent on climatic conditions (drought/rain/humidity/temperature), turf health and the use of Plant Growth Regulators (PGR’s).
I feel playing golf on your turf surfaces is the most important way to get an actual feel for how the ball reacts and rolls; we call that the playability.  Monitoring and recording clipping yield on the putting greens everyday is the next most important aspect to managing the surfaces properly.  Those data recordings coupled with playabilty help us dictate how much sand needs to be applied; it also helps make decisions on vertical mowing, depth of vertical mowing and if we need to brush the greens.    
Here at MGC we measure clipping yield by how many times the operator has to empty the collection baskets while mowing all 18 greens.  This measurement does fluctuate slightly between operators but the basic number is adequate for our needs.  Heavy flushes of growth can be observed in the spring or after Nitrogen applications, a soil temperature increase and after exhaustion of an applied PGR.  On the flip side growth reductions can also be observed after a reduction in air temperatures, a heavy frost, a drought condition or after a PGR application.
Our goal is always consistency with our turf growth so we try to eliminate any flushes by applying Nitrogen only when needed and only for normal plant growth so recovery from traffic can always be taking place.  We also apply PGR's based on growing degree models and we manage moisture on the dry side.  We triplex our putting surfaces; the goal is to maintain clipping yield at a rate that the operator is only emptying the baskets 1-2 times per 18 holes.  If the yield falls below 1 we typically roll or skip mowing the following day.  Growth rates higher than that level occurs during the spring growth flush (and explains slower green speeds at that time) but is avoided during the rest of the season by our management techniques.  

In these numbers you can easily see the reduction in Granular fertilization over the years.  Purchasing a large area sprayer in 2015 was a game changer as it allowed us to extend our foliar Nitrogen applications from the greens to all fine turf surfaces; fairways, approaches, tees.  Nitrogen can now be applied at a much lower rate giving us better growth control.

Our total Nitrogen use has reduced over the years but our turfgrass quality has increased.  More effective and efficient use with less waste and virtually no flushes like we experienced 10 years ago.

**For the last 3 seasons our only complete granular application on the greens has been our dormant Milorganite application.  High applications rates of Milorganite at this time decreases the time it takes for snow/ice to melt in the spring and jumps starts the turf immediately when exposed.  I do estimate that 1/2 of that Milorganite application is removed in the spring when we brush reel, vertically mow and mow for the first time in the spring.  The collection baskets are full of Milorganite so we recycle that fertilizer by spreading it on cart path wear areas around the two courses.**

A chart/graph again showing our change in application methods over the years and our reduction in overall use of fertilizer.

Looking at this graph helps summarize why we had more flushes of growth from 2006-2012.  Granular fertilization can give very unpredictable results with varying climatic conditions. 

How does Nitrogen relate to Sand Topdressing?
In-season sand use has decreased over the years but post-season (winter crown protection) use has increased so our over all sand topdressing has remained relatively flat over the last 11 seasons but I would like to just focus on in-season use.
In-season use is dependent on monitored clipping yield and playability so it truly reflects our ability to control flushes of growth.  In 2008/09/10 we made our highest Nitrogen applications to the greens so we indeed had more growth; which is directly reflected with an increased in-season sand use over that time period on both golf courses.  During those years we routinely set our topdresser gate at setting C to get the proper amount of sand into the canopy.  We now have such controlled growth we have no need to open the gate past the first A setting yet still get better results.
Along with reduced in-season sand use we have been able to reduce vertical mowing depth.  11 years ago (when we did not have as much control over growth rates) surfaces felt soft to me after 3 weeks so it was necessary to complete vertical mowing to a depth deeper than neutral to 'mine' out Organic Matter (OM) and add sand to the channels.  With successful controlled growth rates in resent years, surfaces stay firmer and vertical mowing does not regularly need to be completed as deep.

Heritage and Greywalls In-season sand use has trended down and has stabilized the last two seasons.  Sand use was a little low in 2012/2103/2014 but corrections were made.
I really like where we are with our putting surface management.  We are more consistent than we have ever been.

This summarizes the total sand depth that has been added to the putting surfaces through our regular topdressing over the last 11 seasons.

Management improvements over the last 12 years have had a tremendous impact on our ability to consistently manage our most important turf surfaces.  There is no text book telling you how much and how often; it is all site specific and based on experience, inputs, available equipment, time limitations and expectations.  We are always focusing on getting better and providing a better product to play on.... our efforts are working.

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