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.