Sunday, December 27, 2009

Ball marks are your responsibility

This past Saturday, I walked mowed greens with the crew since we were short on help with many staff members on vacation. Walk mowing greens is like riding a bike so I enjoy the opportunity to get behind a GM1000 and stripe up some turf. More importantly, it gives me a really good look at the greens and forces me to see every square foot of the surface.

Saturday, I was disappointed to see many unrepaired ball marks on some of the greens that I mowed. The number of these blemishes really varies over the year. Winter time is one of the worst periods since the fog and precipitation keep the greens soft and the cold temps reduce the healing ability of the turf. If you don't repair the ball mark right away, the turf will die and may lead to other problems like moss, algae, or snow mold. We will get to those problems in another post.
Back in 2007, I placed a flag on every unrepaired ball mark resulting in over 85 flags on one green. We actually ran out of flags, but this photo definitely makes the point. If there are this many bumps and bruises on the green, you can forget about the ball rolling smooth and consistent on the way to the hole. A bouncing ball is not always a result of the dreaded poa annua or a thatch problem. Sometimes it is caused by poor golfer etiquette and unrepaired ball marks.

Luckily, we have many members that will repair every mark they see. I truly do not believe that golfers intentionally skip their portion of course maintenance, they just forget or have never got into the habit in the first place. I occasionally will be paired up with a golfer that is oblivious to this task. They don't look for a mark when they get to the green, they don't own a ball mark repair tool, and in many cases, they don't think that they make ball marks because they don't hit the ball that far, high, or hard. When you point out a ball mark to an owner of this variety, they are honestly surprised to see it. After you provide them with a spare ball mark repair tool, this person will make up for lost time and repair multiple marks during the rest of the round.

Your playing partners may need a little encouragement to clean up after themselves by raking traps, filling divots, and fixing those ball marks. Don't be afraid to be that person that reminds them of their responsibility because they probably won't mind, they just forgot. If they do mind, then tell them on every hole, right before they putt, and their etiquette will improve just to shut you up.
Sunday, December 13, 2009

Frost on the Fairways

When frost like this greets us in the early morning hours, we can forget about working on the course until 9:00 am or later. The frost varies throughout the course due to the wide variety of micro climates. On a very cool day, like the one pictured above, the entire playing surface is covered in a thick white blanket.

The first bit of frost will occur when our weather station registers 34 degrees or lower. The specific cause for frost is when surface temperatures drop below the dew point of the surrounding air. A light frost is common on a cool morning and many times will not interfere with our work. The staff is well trained to determine the severity of the conditions and make a judgement call of where they can drive, walk, and mow.

The first portion of turf to turn snowy white is the rough which has more air space within the canopy of leaves. The fairways are much tighter and they will require a deeper drop in temperatures before they are bitten by the frost. Finally, the greens will be frosted only when the mercury drops below freezing and settles in for a number of hours.

Once the sun rises, the frost actually gets worse as air temperatures continue to decline. This is when we can get a feel for the day and communicate with the proshop with such predictions as when can we set up the range, when is the first tee time, and will the putting green be open today. A portion of the putting green does not get any sunlight all winter long and sometimes will be roped off to protect it from foot traffic.

Now that we know we have frost, and have determined the severity and length of the delay, we now work backwards waiting for the greens to thaw last. The greens are always the last area to freeze and unfortunately are the final spots to open back up because of the tight turf and lack of air movement between the blades.

When a golfer, or in this instance, a staff member, jumps the gun and drives onto frozen turf, the result is brown streaks that can last all the way till spring. When foot or vehicular traffic meets frosted turf, the frozen cells within the plant are crushed. Sometimes only the leaf tip is damaged, but during a heavy frost, when the entire plant is basically frozen, the turf can be crushed from top to bottom including the crown. The crown is the growing point of a turf plant and lies just above the soil. If the crown is lost, so is the plant.

So if you get to the course a little early and see a blanket of white where there should be green, grab a cup of coffee and some breakfast and enjoy the view. A frost covered golf course is a winter wonderland, but certainly a 'look don't touch' situation.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Winter is here, but I am not

A cold snap of weather has finally made it to Stockton just in time for my wife and me to leave for vacation in Barbados. No cell phone, no appointments, and no problems. Of course we couldn't even survive without Internet so we brought the laptop and I'm updating the blog on our first 75 degree sunny morning. Meanwhile the staff is sitting through another frost delay in Stockton, CA.
This radar image is from last Monday when the club hosted the December meeting of the Sierra Nevada Golf Course Superintendents Association. As I am sure you all know, the blue is snow and it is extremely rare for that shade of precipitation to stretch all the way across the central valley. Even so, 26 brave members of our association came out to play golf in the cold after dusting the snow off of their vehicles. The staff and I enjoyed the few flakes that fell on Stockton early that morning and the local meteorologists were downright giddy of the strange weather. However, I would much rather drive 90 minutes and see some snow than have it fall on my head.

That's all for today as I head out to enjoy this wonderful island. I can't help myself and will probably post a few more comments rubbing in the fact that I'm here and you're not. Also, I have some heavy frost pics to share and I will update the course conditions now that the bermudagrass has been put to sleep for the rest of the winter. Stay warm Stockton.
Sunday, December 6, 2009

Training by Committee

Last week provided yet another opportunity to learn a new skill from somebody who knows what they are doing. There are so many odd jobs that come up at a golf course property, than many times, I have no experience doing the work and need to look for help. Lucky for me, the instruction I need can often be found right in our own maintenance department.

In this instance, we needed to frame, pour, and finish a concrete basin to collect water near the storm drain. The original placements of the drains were less than perfect and the small plastic catch basins we had installed were subject to frequent clogging and became a maintenance nightmare. I have minimal experience working with concrete, but I knew that Teddy, a two year member of the crew, came to us from a small concrete company. All I had to do was paint the area for the concrete to be installed and walk away.

On top of Teddy's leadership, we also received some instructions from Jim Worrall, a member who is always willing to help and is an avid reader of this blog. The support network at a private club is pretty amazing if you're willing to accept some advice and constructive criticism. There is a lot of knowledge in our club and we frequently use it to our advantage. While I may get a little more advice than I sometimes need, the portion that is useful makes it very worthwhile and the rest still shows an interest in making the course the best it can be.

So, just like I tell the staff, keep sharing your suggestions because they won't hurt my feelings. The maintenance crew occasionally has to be put on the spot to share their thoughts on the maintenance of the course. I encourage them to take ownership of their work and if they feel there is a better way to get the job done, by all means let's investigate all of our options. After four years they are starting to warm up to the idea and now we have brand new members of the staff leading projects that show their individual expertise.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Green Speed Management

The trend of golfers wanting faster greens continues to pick up pace and popularity regardless of the golfers' skill levels. Players whose game is better suited to greens stimping 8 still want to be challenged by green speeds of 10 or more. The faster the better. So we do whatever we can to keep our greens rolling at their best.

Starting in late October we decided on a major change to our maintenance program and the results have been spectacular. Good ball roll is not as simple as choosing the right height and mowing every day. We also must verticut to relieve thatch, topdress on a frequent basis, water properly, fertilize properly, roll the greens, and aerify. Consistency is the key to translating a good maintenance program into smooth, fast greens.

Another key component to good green speeds is the use of growth regulators. We have always used a product called Primo on our greens to reduce upright growth, improve density, conserve water, provide better color, along with other benefits. Growth regulators pay for themselves and in my opinion are the key to consistent quality greens. Our major change in October was switching from Primo to a product called Trimmit.
Trimmit is another growth regulator that limits the growth of poa annua slightly more than it limits the growth of bentgrass. We had been using Trimmit on two of our greens with low percentages of poa throughout the summer and started on all of the greens when the summer heat had passed. The use of this product at our course is slightly unorthodox due to the make up of the greens, nearly 50/50 poa/bent.

Since we have started we are getting stimpmeter readings of close to 12 each and every day. We also have decreased our mowing to 4 times a week with rolling on the other days. When summer rolls around we will probably back off the Trimmit and return to Primo to avoid any problems with our annual bluegrass. However, the use of Trimmit through the fall, winter, and spring will help to limit the increase of annual bluegrass and should result in a healthier stand of bentgrass. The long term possibility of returning to solid bentgrass is something to hope for, but is far from likely.
Sunday, November 29, 2009

So this is what the flu feels like

Wow. I have never been so sick in my life as I was the past four days. Now I know why people are so anxious to receive the flu shot that I pass up every year. After at least 15 years without getting the seasonal flu, my lucky streak has now come to an end without a shred of doubt.

I spent this holiday weekend with a fever of 102.5 to a high of 103.7 with Thanksgiving Day being the worst of it all. On the bright side, I can now be thankful of just feeling normal again and I'm really excited to get back to work and out on the golf course. I think I remember how spoiled I am.

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and enjoyed your Black Friday activities whether that be shopping, golfing, or just eating leftover turkey sandwiches. Historically, the Friday after Thanksgiving is one of the busiest days of the year at SGCC with many out of town family members coming out to enjoy a round of golf. This year was no exception with a packed tee sheet and beautiful weather. It's a good time of year to be a superintendent, flu-ridden or not.
Saturday, November 21, 2009

Back to the Grind

Over the next week, we will work on cleaning up the remnants of some old trees that don't stand as tall as they used to. Bert is only half way done with this monster and there are probably 15 more throughout the course. This is a long and slow process.

The small machine in the background is a homeowner variety stump grinder. We've ground a lot of stumps since I've been here and this little machine has made more sense in the long run. The larger type stump grinder can power through wood at a much faster rate, but comes with a host of draw backs.

First off, the price is over twice as much as the smaller version. We can rent this guy for a full week for a bargain price and have some flexibility in our schedule. The larger unit is also difficult to transport requiring its own trailer that is pulled by a truck. Finally, the small one is always in better condition than the one we used to rent due to the inexpensive teeth that come fresh every time we pick it up.

We will shave down these stumps to 12 to 15 inches below the soil line to provide some room for new grass to stretch its legs. However, this will not be the end of stumps on the course because there are easily 30 dead trees that need to be removed. This seems like a staggering number of trees but on holes with 200+, this is just a drop in the bucket. Most are small pines and cedars that didn't belong in Stockton in the first place.

In a future post we will dive into the tree program that we are currently planning. There is a tremendous amount of work to do in this portion of our landscape and the impact will remain for decades.
Monday, November 16, 2009

#2 Leach Field Repairs

Setting priorities at golf course property is always up for debate. A top priority for one superintendent or a member could be very different from the next because everything on the 'to do' list is important, although some tasks are more critical than others. In this instance, there is no debate. The decision is pretty clear that a leaking septic field is priority number one. Water features and bunkers are fine, but overflowing septic is one hazard that doesn't belong on a golf course.
The original leach field was at capacity and needed to be enlarged to handle the increased use of the clubhouse. After a thorough planning and bidding process, a local contractor was chosen to install two trenches 10 feet deep, 2 feet wide, and 204 feet long. They finished in 5 days and the leach field has returned to normal operation.
The maintenance staff was certainly busy at this job site prior to and after the work of the contractors. To prepare the site, we cut the sod on the forward tee, cut and capped any irrigation lines, removed all heads that were near the path of construction, and set up the maintenance road for the trucks and tractors. I stayed in close contact with Paul and the guys from Central Valley Septic to make sure we were on the same page and to offer our assistance when needed. The project went very smooth and they finished in less than 5 days.

In the top photo, the staff is removing sod to reuse after the trenches are installed. The lower pic shows the final grade with the forward tee removed. The gold tee will be replaced in a different location, closer to the fairway. Since its construction in 2007, this tee was in harms way with long and left shots from the driving range. The new location, 25 yards closer to the green, will be out of reach and also, well protected from approach shots into #1.

Two weeks after the new trenches were complete, we are finally wrapping up this job site. The old tee required four days to move to a soil storage area. We will use the same soil to build the new tee and look into other projects including target greens on the driving range. Irrigation tech, Richard Rivera has reinstalled all of the sprinkler heads in their original positions. All leftover rock has been cleaned up, the old sod has been laid back on the ground, the entire area has been graded, and we will put down some seed and water today to get things back to normal.

This project went as well as could be expected, but all along we couldn't help but joke, "I don't like the smell of this one."

Friday, November 13, 2009

The SGCC Haunted Clubhouse

This post is a little late, but I wanted to share with you some of the other projects we involve ourselves in besides golf course maintenance. Stockton Golf and Country Club is just as busy inside the clubhouse as out and nearly every holiday includes a well organized and well attended social event.

This year’s Halloween celebration included a children’s party, a costume party and dance for the adults, and the second annual haunted house which was open to everyone. The maintenance department pitched in everywhere we could help. This year we contributed wood forms and sand bags to hold up 10 ft lengths of PVC pipe which were used to make walls with black plastic sheeting. We also haul in some dirt and leaves for the graveyard scene. The real work is done by the F&B staff who have surpassed expectations for two years in a row.

My favorite addition to the haunted house this year was the golf cart scene. Two golfers, well past their prime, had a little accident and this is what is looked like. If you see a twosome heading your way that resemble these guys, it may be best to let them play through.
Thursday, November 12, 2009

So much to blog and so little time

The last three days, I've been in Raleigh, North Carolina visiting with the fine people from Bayer Environmental Science. The long trip from Sacramento to Raleigh gave me ample time to write a few articles on course updates among other topics. I planned to upload these posts during my return flight from Dallas to Sacramento. That's right, during the flight. American Airlines is currently offering wi-fi on some of their flights. Pretty sweet deal, isn't it? Not really.

When you go to log on to 'gogoinflight' you're welcomed by a sign up form that requires you to create an account and of course pay $9.95 for access to their wonderful Internet. They must not have raised enough money by charging $20 for your first checked bag. A young lady that I sat next to told me that the price was $15 on Saturday and it jumped up to $20 just four days later. Perhaps it has something to do with the weak dollar.

So, to wrap this up, I blame the lack of recent posting on the greedy folks at American Airlines. They tricked me into waiting for the ride home by promoting this amazing offer of Internet in the sky, only to stick me with a bill that was never mentioned in the many pamphlets found in the seat jacket in front of me. I decided to wait to update the Turf Page until today, but forgot to forward any of the posts to my work account. I would like to apologize on behalf of American Airlines and promise to update on a more frequent basis regardless of my travel plans.

I'm really not as bitter as all of this sounds, in fact I think it is hilarious. $20 per bag, that's funny.
Thursday, November 5, 2009

Topdressing by Hand

Normally we conduct our light topdressings on greens with a Tycrop and Progator. However, the Progator has been broken down (nothing serious) for a week awaiting parts and time for repair. So yesterday, we opted for the manual topdress and I was quite pleased with the results. I normally avoid this method due to time restraints, but we finished in the same time as usual with the help of one more person.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the sand helps to smooth out inconsistencies in the green and actually speeds up ball roll. Light topdressings are roughly scheduled for every other week, much to the dismay of our mechanic who knows that sand on the greens results in dull blades that need sharpening. That is a small price to pay for smooth and firm greens.

The weather is still beautiful and the greens are rolling as good as ever. I hope you take advantage of this time of the year before the Stockton fog settles in.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Izzo, Our Course Dog

As the saying goes, a dog is a superintendent's best friend. Our loyal companion has lived at the course for over 5 years. She was found by Billy James, the previous superintendent in a rain soaked parking lot in Stockton. Billy and his girlfriend spent over twenty minutes coaxing the confused pup into their car. She acted like she had been abused and was extremely skittish and emaciated. As you can tell from the picture, she now has plenty to eat.

Izzo took some time to adjust to her new environment, but has become much more comfortable over the past couple of years. She used to startle very easily at loud noises and cower whenever someone pulled out a golf club, hose, or rake. That attitude has been replaced by the arrogance of a dog who sits in your way when you're parking a rough unit and jogs in front of Bert's cart during course setup.

Bert Ryan, our course setter, is nearly inseparable from Izzo. The above picture must have been taken on a cold morning when Bert had the day off. He spent some time, a few months ago, snapping glamour photos of Izzo to gain her admission to the annual Turfnet Dog Calendar. She did not make the cut, but we did receive a coffee mug with the photo on the side. Bert proudly showed off the mug during the next week at work to all the staff and probably half the members. Unfortunately, we might need a better camera for the calendar and a pure bred in exchange for this sweet mutt.

Izzo, by my best guess, is half Rottweiler and half Beagle. She was named by Billy after Tom Izzo, the head coach of Michigan State's basketball program. Billy graduated from MSU and said it was part of my contract not to change her name, since I graduated from a Big Ten rival, Purdue.

Of course her name remains the same and we are very glad to have her around. Many members also enjoy visiting with Izzo on a regular basis and know how to get her attention by carrying milk bones in their golf bag. She rarely turns down anything that is edible. Lucky for her, there are 125 acres to explore each morning while chasing down the sound of Bert's cart in the morning fog.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Here we go again

This probably looks like another picture from that storm 2 weeks ago, huh? Nope. Different storm, different trees, and a new mess to pick up. We had just finished cleaning the course when a new wind storm swept into town. This time we lost about 5 trees and many large branches. We even got to do some road work, clearing a large tree that fell on a levee road, trapping all of the residents from Riviera Cliffs.
The crew swarmed on this tree like ants to chocolate. I think they liked working with the audience standing around; a line of nearly thirty cars waited for the road to open. Especially fond of our efforts was the Highway Patrol Officer that was called in to direct traffic. Very little direction was needed since a tree was blocking the road, but he was helpful in keeping curious bystanders and eager volunteers from getting too close to our tractor, chainsaws, and rake wielding crewman. We devoured this tree in roughly 3 minutes and headed back to the course, past one lane of patient motorist. Many of the waiting applauded as our caravan drove past. We tend to have a lot of fun at work, but I've never seen the crew so energized by 5 minutes of work. One employee, Abel, said, "We were like a NASCAR pit crew out there, less than 5 minutes."

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Drain Line Renovation on #7

The image on the left is an aerial shot of the course that is part of our irrigation system's central control. I've edited this portion to highlight the drainage and to explain our most recent project.

The yellow arrows are drain lines that run away from the lake and empty into the main 6 inch line. This pipe follows the cartpath and then turns up the fairway, straight at the front, right corner of the tee. The pink section has been missing for a few years and we are nearly finished installing the replacement.

When the irrigation pond was built, concrete trucks drove across the fairway and crushed the drain line. The pipe was never replaced and the drain clogs up very quickly, forcing us to rope-off the fairway from 125 yards out, all the way to the green. Also, the front, left greenside bunker will fill with water every time we have rain or flush the greens. Without the drain line properly connected, the bunker is the lowest point on the hole and the easiest place for water to surface.

The staff is working very hard on this drain line to make sure it is done right and it is done once. I think this is the first time I've had a drainage project where I am content with having six people working the same line. Sometimes, more than two people will just get in each other's way. This hole is 170 ft long so that is plenty of room to stretch out and grade the trench.

Today we will install the pipe, back fill, and get the sod back on top. This is another day of backbreaking labor, but well worth the trouble. We know the solution to many problems on the course and must wait for an opportunity with the labor, budget, weather, and time to attend to them. Little by little, we keep working towards a better course. It always feels good to put a perennial problem to bed and move on to the next one.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Thank You SGCC Seniors

Stockton Golf and Country Club has benefited from multiple contributions by the various golfing divisions. The most recent donation comes from the Senior Men's Club in the form of a very sharp yardage sign. This replaces our old setup, the Laser Link Distance System, which didn't hold up very well and required players to shoot the distance from behind the tee line. With this new piece of art, the Golf Staff is doing the dirty work for you. Just head to your pyramid and start banging away.
This is only one example of our members' generosity. I will highlight some of the other course improvements once I get a couple of photos to show them off. I am a huge fan of this yardage sign and look forward to trying it out myself. My sorry golf game could really use some work and maybe this is a good starting point.
Thursday, October 22, 2009

Golf Course Superintendent Association

Today, I would like to share with you some information on the local Superintendents chapter I belong to. I have been a member of the national Golf Course Superintendents Association for eleven years starting back in my 1st year at Purdue University. The membership paid off, as I traveled to Atlanta to seek a job and through various contacts, landed an assistant position in California.

Since becoming a head Superintendent, I've felt the need to give back and generally enjoy participating on the Board of Directors of my local chapter, the Sierra Nevada GCSA. I am also the editor of the newsletter and spend some time writing for our members. I have been the Treasurer/Secretary for two years and am running for Vice President in 2010.

There's something about this profession that I feel is very different from most. Although the course down the street and the one I work for are direct competitors, the superintendents are not. We share advice on disease control, fertilization, staff management, and everything else. We borrow each others equipment and share products if one of us runs out. I don't think you could find this relationship in many other industries.

I always describe like this: the chef in the Italian restaurant downtown is not going to go across the street to ask his competitor, "Your marinara sauce is delicious, what is the recipe for that?" Two superintendents will do that, "Your greens are phenomenal, what are you fertilizing with?" The wonderful people that make up my association would share that information without question.

It feels comforting to have this support network just a phone call away. Not to mention, the benefit you receive as the golfer. Just think if we can locate the turf manager with the perfect program in place. Greens rolling 14, rock hard fairways and not a blade out of place. Oh, wait, I'm thinking of the magic of television.

If you would like to see a little more on the Sierra Nevada GCSA, please visit the website. There is a digital version of our last newsletter.
Monday, October 19, 2009

Still Cleaning

I know, three posts about one little storm is a little overboard, not to mention repetitious. I agree, but this is one hell of a mess. The pile of debris in the photo below is one of six piles in a grove of eucalyptus along #5 fairway. There are 25 eucalyptus trees in this area spread out over one acre and a similar wooded section just a fairway away.

I'm very proud of the staff for their hard work in cleaning up the course. Tree work is very labor intensive and after a storm like this, feels never ending. Yesterday was the Couple's Invitational and we did not have much time to clean things up. This morning, I was pleased to receive a couple of emails praising the crew's effort to prep the course.

It feels good to have such a hard working crew and such appreciative members. It would also feel good to have 25 less eucalyptus.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Yo ho, blow the trees down

A wonderful rain storm passed through northern California on Tuesday and left us with a mess to clean up. The 24 hour rain total as recorded by the course weather station was an impressive 2.42 inches. We sure could use the rain and the greens will be much happier after a 12 hour flush drove the sodium out of the soil. We are now focused on cleaning up the leaves, branches, and fallen trees that litter the course. Here are a few pictures that Mike took the first day of clean up.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Somebody start building an arc

Alright, maybe we don't need a huge boat to save humanity and all of earth's creatures, but this is pretty wild. The last five years, as long as I've lived in California, we've never had a storm like this in early October. This radar image is at 3:00 pm after we already recorded 1.25 inches of rain. I'm not complaining because the course could use a good flush and the state really needs the water. On top of that, we get some free tree trimming.

Gusts have barely crested 50 mph and I'm sure the foothills and mountains are getting hit much harder than the valley. We've already lost 4 trees and many branches, but like anything else, we will use this situation as an opportunity to improve the course with new plantings. So, enjoy the rain and check back tomorrow for some tree damage pics and a rain total from our weather station.

The President's Cup

It has nearly been a week since my last post, but this gap is for good reasons. Assistant Superintendent, Mike Nee and I were privileged to work the President's Cup at Harding Park in San Francisco. Superintendents and assistants from Northern California, Oregon, states back east and students from Oregon State were on hand to help the crew with bunkers, divots, hand watering and the ever-important fluffing of the rough. To the left is a photo of my handiwork, the greenside bunker on 18th just before the start of play on Friday.
The course was in tournament condition with rock hard fairways and approaches and rough over four inches in some areas. I had never been to a major tournament before and it was a treat to get so close to the best players in the world.
Another benefit of this experience is networking with many other turf managers to pick up a few new tricks of the trade. Each tournament, meeting or conference helps me get a little better at managing your course.
Cameras and cell phones were not allowed at Harding Park, but the maintenance staff seems to get away with a few things that spectators would not. Having a separate entrance with a single security guard made it much easier to snap a few pictures. This is probably my best one from the bleachers of the 15th green (Tiger putting for birdie). Woods and Stricker halved this hole to remain one down to Weir and Clark. Two holes later they would square up the match on the 17th before taking the win on 18 with an eagle.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Poppin' up nicely

Yesterday we put the first cut on the tees using the Sidewinder set at a height of one inch. The tees were seeded about 2 weeks ago and have grown to 2 inches in most locations. Today we will spray the tees with a growth regulator called Primo to help thicken up the new rye grass. This product reduces upwards growth and will promote new shoots and root growth. Density is the main goal of this application and other benefits include darker color, less mowing, and lowered water requirements.
The tees and approaches will be left a little longer than normal until the grass has matured. This will only take another week and then we'll be set for the rest of the year. Other spots on the course will start to green up as the seedlings emerge. The tees were seeded first, followed by the approaches, collars, and green banks. I'll be running around to check the progress of each location so we can get back to optimal playing conditions as soon as possible.
Friday, October 2, 2009

Why do we topdress greens?

Look no further than the above picture to find the answer to that question. This plug was cut out of #12 green just before we mowed down the turf with the fresh blades I mentioned in the last post. Notice how the very top of the soil profile is lighter than the rest. This is fresh sand that is clean of organic matter and it serves more than one purpose.

1) Sand works its way into the turf canopy and settles in between the crowns, or growing points, of each plant. The crown is partially buried and therefore protected from scalping by the mower blades. If we see scalping on the green we know we need to topdress before disease and thinning begin.

2) Sand helps to break down organic matter by increasing porosity and helping the soil breathe. This is why you do not see any distinct layers from top to bottom. We try to topdress every two weeks with a light dusting and apply twice at heavier rates during our spring and fall aeration. We fill all the holes to improve drainage and porosity, but keeping some sand on the top is also very important.

3) Faster, firmer greens. Sand fills in slight imperfections to allow better ball roll and firms up the surface since sand holds less water than organic material in the soil below. I know many golfers feel that sand on the greens equals slow greens. I have a stimp meter that would disagree with you. After a light dusting, the greens are slightly faster than before because a smoother surface is achieved.

I could probably list 3 or 4 more reasons, but I think you get the idea. A little sand every few days keeps the pathologist away.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Fall Progress Report

If you've played lately, you've probably noticed all of the mess around the course. The tees and approaches are getting shaggy, the collars are a little tall, and the fairways do not look as groomed as normal. The main reason for this lack of cleanliness is the recent sand topdressing.

The greens were aerified on September 15th and 16th and are now two weeks healed. The time between aerification and the first mowing varies from course to course depending on personal preference and the rate of growth and recovery. Personally, I do not like the turf to get too much taller than our regular playing height. If it does, we will have to adjust the mowers down between mowings to avoid injuring the plants. This time around, the greens were growing so fast that we cut them three days after punching holes. From then on we mowed everyday to keep up with growth. So what does this have to do with sand?

The topdressing absolutely destroys the blades of a mower. Each of the green mowers has a reel with 11 blades and a bedknife that completes the scissors action as the reel spins around. Each bedknife costs around $25 and must be replaced after mowing sand for a week. The reels can be sharpened and four mowers will take a full day to get back into shape. Obviously, we do not want to repeat this process more than once for each aerification. We closely monitor the amount of sand that each mower collects and decide when it is safe to put on some fresh blades. The difference is like night to day as a sharp edge will get more turf with a clean cut and leave a very crisp surface for your putting enjoyment.

The same is true with the fairway units, the tee mower, and the walk mowers used on the collars. We have to wait for the sand to settle down before we can start cutting with sharp reels.

Currently, the green mowers are sharpened, the fairway unit should be ready for tomorrow, and the tee mower is scheduled for Friday. Fall aerification and overseeding are always messy, so hopefully this helps to explain some of the time involved.
Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fairway Topdressing

On Wednesday, September 23rd, we topdressed all of the fairways with 400 tons of sand. That sounds like a lot, but it is less than 1/8 of an inch. Over time, multiple topdressings will add up to make a difference and improve the soil and playing surface. I've scheduled two of these applications for next year, one in June and one in September.

We shot a little video of the topdressing process in all of its glory. We contract Reece Spray Service to do the job with this giant green truck. This is one of the heaviest vehicles I've ever put on a fairway, but the large tires spread out the weight and keep turf damage to a minimum. Assistant Superintendent, Mike Nee is shooting the video and trying his best to keep his little finger out of the shot. I'm commentating from inside the rig as we roll down down fairway.

The whole process took five hours to complete compared to 2 weeks for the in house application.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Aerification Update

Since my last post, the staff has put over 1 million holes in the playing surface. I wasn't counting, but who's going to argue after we've aerified all the fairways, tees, and collars. Today we will focus on punching the approaches and then move on to some high traffic areas near the greens.

Another project for today is the slit-seeding of the tees. We will walk slit-seed in two directions and follow with more seed, sand, and fertilizer. This tends to be a little messy as the tees will be de-thatched during the seeding effectively accomplishing two jobs at once. This is the most extensive seeding of the tees we've attempted and I expect wonderful results.

Tomorrow, Wednesday the 23rd, we will apply over 10 tons of sand per acre on the fairways. This is the most sand we've topdressed with and will work to improve drainage, decrease worms castings, and improve fairway firmness. These positive results can take years to develop as fairway topdressing is a slow process. Even at 10 tons per acre, we are applying less than an 1/8 inch of sand. Little by little, the composition of the soil will change by a small amount. Increasing the percentage of sand, even by a small fraction, can lead to a better playing surface.

The greens have all received their first mowing since being aerified only a few days ago. The back nine was a day ahead of the front and we mowed on Saturday, after only three days of healing. We should be completely healed well before the weekend as we start to get the course back to optimum playing conditions.

As always, thank you for your patience during these messy periods that are so vital to the health of the turf. I've received nothing but compliments and understanding from the membership and the staff and I definitely notice and appreciate the support.

Happy golfing.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Another Beautiful Day

As the summer comes to an end, the golf course begins to look very needy. It's spent the last few months struggling to survive heat, traffic, drought, and salty irrigation water. Basically, the plant is spent and needs some tender loving care to get back into shape.

Unfortunately, that means it is time to punch some holes. Aerification is one of the most important practices for maintaining good turf, but is totally despised by the majority of golfers. I assure you, if we did not have to do this, we would not. Nobody on my staff is really excited about aerifying the greens because they are going to wake up the next day with worn out legs and a sore back. The greens, on the other hand, will feel like they've been reborn.

A few of us on the staff pulled two 14 hour days in row. Normally we would limit this to one long day after finishing 6 greens the night before. This time, our aerifier went down and we were forced to stretch the work into another day. Now I like my job and I'm willing to put in some long hours, but it does wear on you a little bit. Getting 'burned out' is very common among Superintendents and I think I was pretty close over the last couple of weeks.

Lucky for me, I work at a golf course which can be a very beautiful place to come to work and it is pretty difficult to be burned out when you start your day looking at this.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Drive Thru Now Open

It is my pleasure to introduce the newly opened overflow parking lot. The entrance is easily accessible as long as you're going 80 mph down Alpine. Make sure you lock up your brakes 30 yards before the stop sign and slide through the intersection. Once you've made your landing, grab your sticks out of the trunk and head out to the course. Feel free to drop a ball or two on #5 fairway and take in a few practice shots before beginning your round on #6 tee.

Of course, I'm kidding. This fine piece of automobile crashed through the fence on #5 last Wednesday after a police chase that originated on the freeway. While I have not confirmed any details, I'm told that the gentleman ran down the 6th hole, jumped the fence, and ran towards a vacant house. He posed no threat to golfers, he was not dangerous, or intelligent. I unplugged the stuck horn when I reached the car and noticed his cell phone was still on the driver's seat. That is probably something you want to take with you when leaving the scene of an accident. I overheard the Sheriffs talking about the guy's record including a few charges and current warrant which explains why he was fleeing in the first place.

I almost forgot, this is the 'Turf Page' so I better talk about some turf. We are going to seed the area where the car slid in and install a new section of fence to repair the damage. Every golf course endures some form of vandalism or property damage because it is such an appealing target. In this instance we are an innocent bystander and barely inconvenienced. However, everyone knows about the donuts that were turned on #6 green over 5 years ago. We also have tee markers and flags disappear and the occasional mess of beer cans littered on the course. Compared to other courses, we have very little vandalism because of our location. There are only a handful of houses that border the course on two holes with fence and water protecting the rest. Think of it like a castle and a mote, but watch out for hostile barbarians driving in Buick Regals.

Friday, September 4, 2009

No overseed for 2009

To overseed or not to overseed, that is the question. The answer this year is not to overseed for the good of the course and to save $30,000. In the four winters I have been here, we have always overseeded all of the fairways, tees, approaches, green surrounds, and select areas of rough. At the same time, we were trying to stimulate bermudagrass in the summer by keeping the course dry. The problem is the bermuda has to compete with a new crop of perennial ryegrass every year and cannot fill in and mature before being hit by the following winter. This leads to thin and spotty fairways during the warmer months of the year.

A second problem with overseeding is compromising the best playing weather of the year. Fall is a great season to play golf, but an overseeding program will make it much less enjoyable. Here is a summary of the cons of overseed from a golfer's standpoint.

• Course is closed for two weeks in September(one 9 each week)
• Fairways are not mowed for 3-4 weeks and become pretty long, then fairways are maintained at 1.5 inches for 2 weeks, and down to 1 inch for another 2 weeks before arriving at .75 inches
• Very wet course with afternoon irrigation during germination 4 weeks total
• Carts on path for 3 weeks after 2 week partial closure
• Summer months will thin stand of ryegrass and fairways will be spotty (like now)

During the period of grow-in that includes wet conditions and long grass, I often hear the remark, "This place is unplayable." I agree. 2 inch fairways do not offer much enjoyment. By not overseeding, course conditions will be fantastic all the way through November. Of course, there is a trade off with poor conditions to follow later in the year.

As we approach late November to December, you will see the dormant grass begin to show its brown color, but playing conditions will still be very good. Finally, in mid-December the rains will begin to impact playing conditions and there will be some muddy spots. So, continuing through the season, January and February will be the worst months to play the course. Doesn't that make more sense than ruining late September through early November with the disruption of an overseed grow-in? The last few years I've been left to wonder who we are doing this seeding for, because very few people play during the fog and rain of January and February.

Once March arrives temperatures will slowly begin to climb. The bermuda will start turning green in mid-late March, but will not do much growing for another month. This time of year is the question mark and really depends on Mother Nature. If we get a few warm days in a row, the bermuda may be jump started.

This spring I played multiple courses that used to overseed, but no longer do including Woodbridge GCC and Yolo Fliers GC. I was jealous of how great their fairways looked and how well they played. When warm temperatures arrive at an overseeded club, the water gets turned on a little earlier. An overseed really beats up the bermuda, so you have to maintain the ryegrass until the mercury really gets going. Then the painful process of transition begins and the goal is to thin the rye, stimulate the bermuda, keep the course dry, and prevent bare spots. GOOD LUCK!! It is not going to happen in Stockton because this city is in the San Joaquin Valley of California, not the desert of Arizona. Our climate does not support the type of overseed we have attempted.

In a past post about lake buffer edges, I mentioned that I get to make unpopular decisions as part of my job. While I did not make the final call on this matter, I fully support the decision to suspend the overseed program. I am sure that this is an unpopular decision with many members and I want to answer any and all of your questions regarding the impact on the course. Please do not hesitate to contact me by email.

I will be posting more updates on the overseeding debate in the future and throughout the fall, winter, and spring seasons as the bermuda and the course changes with the temperatures. So check back for those updates and if this is your first visit to the Turf Page, please take the time to look back at previous information.
Monday, August 31, 2009

The Nozzle Dance

Golfers that venture out on the course at the crack of dawn sometimes comment on wet conditions, soft spots, and mud on their balls. Obviously the superintendent has been over watering the course. If he/she would just turn down the water or shut off a couple of heads, the wet spots would disappear and the course would be firm, green, and uniform. I truly wish it was that simple.

I try to water as little as I can, just enough to keep the grass growing. I don't care if it is green, as long as the turf is playable and not wet, I'm happy. Well, I'm not happy, but I won't have to drink myself to sleep. I used to think it was as simple as turning down the water and letting things dry out. As the irrigation is tightened up, you'll begin to notice some areas dry much faster than others. Some, against everything that makes sense in this world, remain soft and on the damp side. Other spots absolutely roast and leave me wishing that I watered the night before because wet grass might be better than no grass.

So then you move on to fine tuning the system by adjusting the percentage of water each head (sprinkler) puts out on a nightly basis. Each head irrigates a slightly different microcosm with varying soils, slopes, grass species, wind, sun, and traffic. It takes a long while to dial things in and the adjustments always need to be made.

Then, if you still have a problem, perhaps the soil needs some work. Well, the soil here does need some work and we've been going at it with wetting agents, aerifiers, and subsurface drainage. These items helped, but the uniformity is still not what it should be.

So on to the Nozzle Dance. Our sprinkler heads are fairly advanced and they better be with a price tag of nearly $150. There are 3 nozzles in most of the heads: one large main, and two smaller back up nozzles. Some of the fairways have shown a uniformity issue, but I've been reluctant to start switching nozzles. I've gone down this road before and wound up returning the original nozzles after making a mess with every other arrangement. Hopefully, this time around will be different.

We recently installed some new secondary nozzles that seem to target the dry rings around our heads and to minimize the water that's delivered near the source. In the test plot we've had the wet areas around each head firm up without stressing out. The dry portions have greened up, but are still very firm. This is exactly what we are looking for, so the results have been positive.
Below are two photographs of a sprinkler head. The one on the left is spraying with the three original nozzles while the right is using the new configuration.

In both photos the main nozzle points to the right and the backups are spraying left. The new nozzles, in the photo to the right, are achieving a better spread and distributing the water evenly over the entire area. At least it looks that way now. That is why I call it a dance. Many times a new problem develops that will have you dancing around with a new configuration. The test plot has been monitored for over 3 weeks, so I think we can skip the dance and move straight to the after party. If this simple fix improves the fairways the way I think it will, we will all have something to celebrate.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Rally for the Cure

Over 100 ladies took to the course to raise money for the Susan G. Komen Foundation and help in the fight against breast cancer. Participation was overwhelming in an event that is sure to become an annual tradition. The pink shirts, hats, ribbons and balloons that decorated the clubhouse and golf course were complimented by pink flags that were dyed by the maintenance department. Next year will include many other 'small details' that make a tournament a little more special. Congratulations to all of the golfers that took the time and effort to contribute to such a worthy cause. If you are interested in hosting an event of your own or donating to the foundation, more information can be found at:
Thursday, August 20, 2009

Home Lawns Part II: Five keys to a healthy lawn

Maintaining a home lawn can be relatively easy if the home owner consistently follows a few basic rules. I honestly put very little work into my lawn. After a full day at the golf course going home to mow is not that appealing. However, the lawn looks good because I consistently give it what it needs, no more, no less. I don't have to work too hard and I get a thick and full lawn with no weeds. Here are some checkpoints for your own lawn care. If you haven't been following the proceeding suggestions, implementing them will improve your lawn.

1. Always mow with a sharp blade

I cannot over emphasize the importance of a sharp blade when cutting turf on a golf course. Your lawn will also appreciate a clean cut when you give it a trim. Dull blades will tear the end of the grass leaving a frayed tip. This poor cut is an avenue for disease and for water loss. The leaf can also turn light brown, diminishing the aesthetics of your lawn. If you have never sharpened a mower blade, consult the Internet to find many tutorials that will lead you step by step. It is not very difficult and a fresh cutting surface will save you water and effort in your lawn chores.

2. Maintain the proper height for your species of grass

First step for this tip is to find out what type of grass is growing in your yard. The previous 'home lawn' post referenced a website hosted by the University of California: This is a good starting point to identify your species and its recommended growing height. Once you know the height that your lawn prefers, all you need to do is put in the work to keep it near that height. A basic rule is not to cut any more than 1/3 of the leaf. So if you are mowing at 2.5 inches, it is possible to wait to mow until your grass is 3.75 inches. Some grasses will tolerate infrequent mowing quite well. My lawn is a tall fescue blend and I only mow every three weeks at most. My strategy is not to fertilize any more than I need to and avoid fertilizer when the plant does not need it. That brings us to our next tip.

3. Fertilize with proper amounts at the proper time

A pet peeve of mine is the annual 'spring green-up' commercials that entice homeowners to kick start their lawn. You are being advised to hammer your lawn with fertilizer at a time when all of that nitrogen will go to leaf growth. Get ready to mow twice a week, because that is what you just paid for. A better time to spend that money is in the fall when turf is programmed to carb load that energy in the roots. This will build a stronger plant that can survive the harsh conditions of winter and be ready to grow in spring. The stored energy will release as temperatures rise and spring green-up fertilizer is not really necessary. I was taught to put down 2/3 of my nitrogen in the fall when dealing with cool season grasses like perennial rye, bluegrass, and fescue. Bermuda is a different animal and fertilizer should be applied during the warmer growing months of summer.

4. Return those clippings to your yard

If you bag your clippings, you are removing free nutrients that need to be replaced by store-bought fertilizer. Clippings are over 80% water and do not contribute to thatch. By recycling the clippings into the yard you will reduce the labor and cost of maintaining your lawn. To avoid clumps, always try to mow when the grass is dry.

5. Water wisely

These tips are not in order of importance so do not take this one lightly. As a Superintendent in warm Stockton, CA, water is the most important input I apply to the course. As a homeowner, water is also important, especially considering it is a domestic water supply and we are currently in a drought. Every morning when I leave for work at 4:15 am, I see water streaming down my neighbors' sidewalks and down into the gutter. I've turned off a valve before, but I felt bad when their lawn turned brown after a week without water. On the bright side, I bet their water bill was a little lower than the month before.
Lawns do not need to be watered every single day. Every other day should work fine in the middle of summer and every third day when it cools down. Please turn off your water when it is raining. I am amazed at how many home lawns, municipalities, and commercial properties still have their irrigation running during a rain event.
Irrigation timing is also very important. Never water in mid-day heat. This can damage your lawn by transferring the heat of the sun to the root system. Water is a great conductor and you don't want to boil your grass. Additionally, much of the water will be lost to evaporation when you water during the day. The best time to water is just before sunrise when the plant is covered with dew and about to be dried off by the morning sun. This limits leaf wetness to a handful of hours in the morning and decreases your chances for disease.

Does it seem odd that a Golf Course Superintendent is telling you to conserve water. After all, aren't golf courses the biggest wasters of water in the world? Actually, that is a very common misperception. The truth is golf courses are the most efficient irrigators of all. Systems normally do not leak any more than 2-3% which is unheard of compared to agricultural settings and city plumbing. Check out this article from New York Times about Golf Course Superintendents teaching their states how to water wisely.

If you actually made it all the way through this gigantic post, I congratulate you for sticking with it and apologize for assigning homework at the end. As always, thanks for reading.
Friday, August 14, 2009

Lake edge buffer strips

When you're the Superintendent of a golf course, much too often arises the opportunity to make a unpopular decision. Aerifying, topdressing, and deep flushing the greens are all examples of necessary practices that most golfers do not care for. Everything seems in good shape and I go and tear it up, or decrease playing conditions. Of course these practices are meant to maintain good conditions in the future, even if the course must take a step back for a day or two.

Lucky for me, the membership at Stockton Golf and Country Club is more understanding than the average membership. A prime example of this understanding is very easy to see growing next to the course ponds. I sometimes field the question, "When are you going to cut that down?" I try to be as honest as possible and respond, "never." We have grown up this buffer area for a number of good reasons which have all came to fruition this summer.

Tall grasses next to a pond will have a greater impact than you may think. Perhaps, most noticeable is the reduction in Canada Geese in all of the ponds with a buffer strip. Geese hate to be impeded when moving from water to their feeding source and a couple feet of unmowed turf is enough to do that.

The buffers not only discourage geese, they also filter out fertilizer and pesticides before they make it to the pond. From an environmental standpoint, this is the most important benefit of this practice. We haven't put down any pesticides near the lake edges, but we do fertilize in close proximity. The tall grasses slow down surface drainage toward the ponds and the massive root systems suck up any product they can reach.

Another related benefit is the reduction of algae. Fertilizer in the ponds will make a algae bloom within days if not hours. Besides fertilizer, grass clippings and leaves also contribute organic matter and nitrogen to a pond. Constant weed eating, which means more grass in the pond, will provide a food source for the algae as nitrogen is released from the decaying clippings. The algae, and chemical control costs, have been significantly reduced just by growing up the edge of the pond.

Another consistent problem in all of the ponds on the course is the erosion of the edges. Since the banks were always weedeated extremely low to the ground, there were no roots to hold the soil together. The roots of a grass plant are directly related to the height of a plant; longer grass, deeper roots. This might explain why it is so difficult to manage a putting green that is cut lower than an 1/8 of an inch. Now that the grasses have been allowed to mature, their root systems have done the same and stabilized the pond's edge.

The final benefit is the reduction in labor. Weed eating the ponds requires four people to work eight hours each. To really stay on top of it, this should be done at least every two weeks and more frequently before tournaments so the ponds are not filled with clippings. Then comes the increased labor and chemical costs to clean up the water that's been fertilized with grass clippings. This year we have spent less on labor than any year after 2002-2003. Many courses are facing the same type of budget cuts that we have endured. Some areas are easy to cut from the labor expense, such as pond edges, which are much better off regardless of the financial impact.

So thank you for your understanding of this course-friendly maintenance practice. Hopefully, the long list of benefits will outweigh any loss in aesthetics or loss of golf balls.
Friday, August 7, 2009

Bermuda Encroachment

In this photo, Richard Rivera is using a Mataway seeder to verticut the 1/2 inch collar and cut some of the bermudagrass stolons. Over the next 3 months, we will perform this practice regularly in an effort to damage the common bermudagrass and discourage its movement into the greens. In mid-late September, we will also use some chemical applications to kill the bermuda that is actively growing inside the green.

Our two-collar system is designed as a buffer between the bentgrass greens and the common bermudagrass that makes up our green surrounds. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to reason with bermuda that is enjoying a triple digit heat wave. Our previous efforts have led us back to the drawing board more than once and we are still experimenting with a useful solution. There is little you can do in the middle of summer because bermuda is bulletproof when it gets this hot. However, as cool temperatures approach, the bermuda begins to store reserves for the winter and becomes susceptible to damage. Chemical sprays and invasive practices, like verticutting, will weaken the plant, making it less likely to survive the winter months. When the heat returns, the bermuda does not. This sounds very similar to overseeding in the fall. All of the bermuda is weakened and some of it will not be alive in the spring. That is the price you pay when you want green fairways for a few months in the winter, but more on that later.

As we work on decreasing the bermuda population on the collars, we will also seed in our desired grasses. The inner 1/4" collar will be seeded with Alpha bentgrass and the 1/2", outer collar will be seeded with perennial rye. We will repeat this process frequently until we have a very dense and uniform stand of turf. Next spring, we will evaluate the results of this program and adjust accordingly.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Home Lawns Part I: Resources

It is not important if you know the answer as long as you know where to find it. I have always been good at finding answers because I'm never afraid to ask a question. It often feels like I have unlimited resources when it comes to golf course maintenance. I have the phone numbers and emails of countless superintendents, salespeople, and consultants. The solution to a turf problem is just around the corner because I know somebody who has dealt with this before.

Turf is my profession so it should work this way. When it comes to fixing my truck, I am completely lost. There are some numbers in the phone book, but I don't know any of those people. I don't trust people I haven't met, especially when they hand me a bill.

When I graduated from Purdue University, my professor made the class stand up and take an oath. He said we had knowledge that others do not. Most people don't even know there is such a thing as a Turf Science degree. He told us it was our duty to provide our friends, family, neighbors, and course members with advice to improve their home lawn. I am not making this up. We actually stood up and raised our right hand. I've taken that oath seriously and I'm always happy to give advice on home lawns and landscapes.

So please allow me to be your number one resource for your landscape. I am happy to answer questions over the phone, email, or in person. I have even stopped by a few houses to see things first hand. I am not trying to sell anything and I do not take side jobs. I made a promise to my wife and myself to focus on one job only. However, I do have some wonderful contacts that I can put you in touch with. Whether it's gardening, irrigation, tree work, or general lawn care, I know people that do great work at a great price.

This post is getting long, so let me sum up some resources:

1. Me. Yes the number 1 resource is me. I know it sounds cocky, but it's true.

2. A website hosted by the University of California. I just found this recently and it's pretty slick. Tips on turf selection, fertilizing, watering, pests, renovation, and many more focused on different California climates.

3. Your local nursery or landscape supply dealer. Specialized stores tend to hire knowledgeable people that can provide good information. My local favorites are Ewing Irrigation and Horizon.

Part II in the Home Lawn series will highlight five key points for having the best lawn on the block.

Until next time, may your lawn grow thick and green and may your neighbors become ripe with envy.
Friday, July 31, 2009

Fairway Expansion on #1

The first fairway was recently expanded to shorten the distance from the tee. Players on the gold tees faced a 90 yard carry that has been reduced to 45 yards.
After we mowed, the turf turned brown due to the shock of cutting half of it's length at one time. Normally, you should never cut more than 1/3 of the leaf blade. With common bermuda, there isn't much need to worry. The turf is already very thick and playable and the brown color should fade to green in the next 2 weeks.
You may have noticed a few other areas that have been cut a little shorter. #8 approach, facing the lake, has been expanded to improve aesthetics and playability. Every time a shot landed on the false front it would roll down and stop a foot inside the rough cut. Now there will be a little more variety as the ball might come to rest in the short stuff. You then have a few more options to play including putting up the hill. #9 fairway is being widened towards the levee to provide a fairway lie for balls that kick off the slope. We are also maintaining the slope at a 1/2 inch less than the normal rough to discourage a side hill lie. The final spot is #4 tee. We are mowing most of the upper portion at tee height to provide a hybrid bermudagrass nursery. We will use this turf to fill in bad spots on tees or fairways. Please bear with us while the turf recovers from this aggressive cutting. All of these spots will green up in a short time and will compliment the rest of the course.
Saturday, July 25, 2009

Turf Days at SGCC's Junior Program

Two years ago, I asked Director of Golf, Rich Howarth if I could teach a portion of the Junior Program. I planned on showing them how to repair a ball mark, fill a divot, rake a sand trap, etc. I should have known that that the instructors had already covered these topics during the etiquette section. Rich, in his infinite wisdom, suggested that we roll out the equipment and show these young golfers how this course is maintained. This practice has worked very well and over the last three years I've had the privilege of teaching a very attentive and curious group of students.

Multiple members of the maintenance department have participated in the class and each year they are eager to join in. Bert Ryan, our course setter, is especially popular with the kids during his demonstration of cup cutting. The attendees also get a first hand look at some of our newest equipment. This year we featured the walk behind greens mower, the new Wiedenmann aerifier, and the sprayer.

In the photo to the right, I am letting the kids smell a fertilizer that is made from molasses. Most of them liked the smell of this product unlike the next fertilizer I showed them which is made from algae off the coast of Ireland. Needless to say, that one was less popular, but everyone still wanted to smell it. Many of the golfers in these groups were repeats from last year and the interest in what we do had grown. I was amazed at the knowledge they retained from last year's presentation. They all knew the answers to the questions I asked last year such as: How many sprinkler heads are on the course? How many times a week do we mow the greens and change the cups? and Why do we aerify? By having a better understanding of maintenance practices they will be more likely to accept course conditions and do their part to keep up the course.

Each year, a few members will join the Juniors during the maintenance presentation to hear the information for themselves. Eventually, I hope to have a similar function for the entire membership. Please give me your thoughts on an open house for the maintenance department. The program would show off the equipment, the maintenance shop, the irrigation system, and of course, the staff. I would also like to present future needs and plans designed to improve the course.

If you would like to comment on this, or any other post, just click 'comments' at the bottom of the entry near the time stamp. You can also email the post to a friend by clicking on the envelope.
Thursday, July 9, 2009

Fairway Aerification

As promised, here is a couple of videos of the Wiedenmann Terra Spike XF in action. Fairway aerification went very smooth with only a couple of rough spots. #'s 6, 12, 13, and 16 were roughed up a little more than the others. The soil on this course is very tight and needs to be opened up multiple times. Each time we aerify, the soil will improve and so will the results. Notice in the videos the speed of this machine. Each of the heads hold 4 tines that penetrate the ground to a depth of 8 inches. The second video is shown with the cover up to give you a better look at the moving parts. Sorry for the shaky hand, I must have been nervous.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Foot traffic

This is one of my favorite photographs. The footprints you see here highlight the traffic patterns of a four person group of golfers. Imagine how this green looks after a full day of play. The area near the hole is practically covered with footprints after just one foursome. All of this foot traffic can stress out the plant and compact the greens resulting in reduced drainage, less pore space, and a weaker plant. The average human foot has a ground pressure of 9-12 PSI (pounds per square inch). In comparison, our greens roller is between 4-5 PSI. I've always found ground pressure interesting. A massive tractor with flotation tires might only reach 15 PSI while a 125 lb woman in high heels is nearly 2000 PSI. By the way, Stockton Golf and Country Club is a spikeless and heel-less facility.
This visual aid helps to explain a few of our maintenance practices. First off, the cup is moved every day the course is open to play. You wouldn't want to play the same position every day, and I don't want you walking around the same area either. A few times a year it is necessary to aerify the greens to relief this compaction and fill the holes with loose sand. Another strategy we use to reduce compaction and protect the plant is frequent light topdressing. We put a small amount of sand on the green every two weeks to protect the growing point of the grass. Believe it or not, it also speeds up the greens by smoothing out the surface.
So, in order to help out the maintenance department and to improve the health of the greens, please chip in from off the green whenever possible. This would greatly reduce the amount of footsteps needed to complete the hole. Besides, how hard could it be.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Red Foxes

Have you ever tried to get a red fox to hold this still for a picture? The real trick is getting enough starch in the flag to mimic a strong breeze. While this does make for a nice photograph, this little character has caused me a few headaches. For two weeks straight, this fox and six of his/her friends have been digging in the north bunker of #8. The tunnel extended at least 5 feet into the face and possibly under the green. Each morning we would fill in this hole and pack the sand the best we could. Of course, each night, the fox would dig out the same hole and leave us with another morning task. We consulted with wildlife control and received very few options. Unfortunately, red foxes are considered pests and cannot be relocated.
Just two days ago, Robert Bosworth suggested sticking a paint can in the tunnel to block the path. We had already tried a large rock, chicken wire, and wooden stakes to no avail. Apparently, a fox cannot figure out a paint can and did not dig around the obstacle. They have given up in that area and we will watch out for new locations. Hopefully, they return to the native area on #2 or move off the course completely. I will keep you updated, so check back soon. The easy choice would be to shoot the trouble makers and eliminate the problem all together, but I would have a hard time taking that photograph without any foxes.

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