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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/TOOLS/TURF/ 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. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/06/science/earth/06golf.html?_r=2&hp
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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