Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Beauty of Dormant Turf

On this dreary winter day, the light brown bermuda on the 11th fairway is the brightest part of the course. This is the first year we've kept the poa annua from filling in this fairway and so far, so good. I have heard a few positive comments and no complaints on this new look. As far as playability, the brown turf offers just as good of a lie as the green stuff. By the end of the winter, worm castings and traffic might increase the percentage of mud to grass, but the thatch mat should keep some turf above the soil line.

The photo to the right was taken just yesterday after we recorded over 2 inches of the rain during this past winter storm. There is still the slightest tinge of green from a distance and individual green blades here and there if you look very closely. Last year, we had some areas greening up as early as February as I reported in a 2/23/10 entry. If that is the case this year, then we only have two months of dormancy to go.

Next year we will expand the program to include season long dormant turf on #10 and possibly #17. Each year it will get a little better as we increase the bermuda population and improve the drainage. The real benefit of warm season turf is the summer months when keeping ryegrass and annual bluegrass in top condition is extremely difficult and time consuming. The bermuda will welcome 100 degree heat and provide a consistent and dry playing surface with no thin or diseased portions.
Thursday, December 16, 2010

Tree Program: One Week Tally

The Green Committee introduced our new tree program only one week ago and already, we have received 89 donations for a total of $13,350.  I am truly amazed at the rapid and complete support of the membership.  With these funds, a new account will be formed to be put directly towards the Tree Program.  Our first load of trees has arrived and planting will begin whenever the rain subsides.

While each member was not able to pick out a specific tree to donate, each tree will be assigned to the sponsoring party.  I will send each contributor a letter with a photo of your tree and a map of where it is located.  Please be patient during this random drawing because it will take a while to plant so many trees. 

Congratulations to the Green Committee and Dr. Weldon Hess for this great idea.  I think it is very obvious that SGCC's members are more than happy to contribute their time, effort, and dollars to the good of the golf course.  As I've said before, these changes will impact the aesthetics and playability of Stockton GCC for many, many years and we could not have done it without you.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Soft and soggy winter conditions

Yes, it's that time of year.  'Cart paths only' is a common term and ball roll in the fairways has screeched to a halt.  This winter is predicted to be drier than average, but so far, we are in line for the wettest winter on record.  Take a look at this link showing a graph of the current year precipitation compared to previous wet/dry/average years.

The effect on the golf course is constant wet conditions because the tight soils and proximity to ground water limits the ability to firm up.  We worked on a drain yesterday and our connection point had ground water just 18 inches below the surface.  However, this is just part of the problem.

The other limiting factor is the fog.  If it isn't raining it is usually fogging.  I doubt that is a correct term, but it should be.  We've actually been recording precipitation at our weather station on foggy days.  Take a look at this cart path which was fogged on while we prepared the course in the morning.

The staff has been busy cleaning up the leaves without use of the larger equipment like tractor mounted blowers or our tow-behind sweeper.  The process is slow and time consuming, but it has to end eventually, doesn't it?  The sycamores are finished dropping leaves, the beech and zelkova are nearly done, and the ash and nut trees are about halfway there, with the fruitless pear (in the photo above) dropping all of their leaves within the last few days. 

With a substantial amount of rain expected over the next week, we are biting the bullet and mowing turf that should be left to dry.  This will result in some tire streaks and smearing of worm castings.  However, if we don't get the turf cut today and tomorrow, then we may not get our next opportunity for two weeks or more. 

On lighter and drier note, the greens are still rolling fine.  There is a lot to be said for proper drainage which our greens have.  So battle your way to the putting surface through the soft and the wet.  Once you're there, you'll have some solid ground to roll towards the hole.
Saturday, December 11, 2010

Tree Program: Trees for sale and going fast

On Tuesday, December 7th, Stockton Golf and Country Club held their Annual Election Meeting and introduced the Tree Removal and Planting Program to the membership.  Maps for both Phase I and Phase II were on display for members' review and a sign up sheet for tree donations was also available.  After the Tree Program was described in detail, the floor was open to donations and WOW!!!  The members came forward quickly, racking up the total to 33 trees within 15 minutes.

Cost per tree is $150 which includes tree cost plus delivery, tree removal, stump grinding, staking, and architectural fees.  Other costs (non-replanting removals and labor) will be absorbed in the Maintenance Department's tree budget.  The first load of trees is on the way and hopefully, if Mother Nature cooperates, we will begin some plantings next week. 

The goal of the program is obviously to improve and maintain the forested look of the golf course with mature and viable trees.  We also aim to recoup expenses with member donations and it looks like the program will be a huge success.  All of the members are part owners of the property and what better way to take ownership than sponsoring a tree that will be part of the club for many, many years. 

A huge thanks to the membership for stepping up and paying for this major improvement.  To date, we are up to 45 tree donations and more keep rolling in daily.  If you have any questions about the program, don't hesitate to send an email or call the office.

Check back often as I will update our progress on the tree program quite frequently. Future posts will include profiles on the trees being planted, updates on current course work, and explanations of design strategies.  Finally, for those of you checking the blog for the first time; take a look at the archive that includes over 120 short articles about golf course maintenance and Stockton GCC.
Friday, December 3, 2010


Tis the season for frost delays, yet another necessary evil in golf course management.  Last week, including a very busy Black Friday, the course was hit with long frost delays day after day with play starting at 8:30 or later.  Your understanding is much appreciated as we monitor the conditions and try to get you golfing as soon as possible.

Occasionally, we will work through the frost in the areas that have not been deeply frozen.  The greens are always the last portion to frost and also, the last to thaw out.  The maintenance staff might be working on changing cups or even mowing greens during a frost delay.  They've been trained to examine the turf before entering an area to avoid damage.

Last week, I think I encouraged working through the frost more than I should have.  We had a recap of the degrees of frost during our morning meeting.  The temperature continued to drop from that point on and the course had some hard frost here, some soft frost there, and no frost in many spots.  Eventually, we had to redirect our mowers to the portions of turf that were still workable.

Here is what happens when traffic meets frosted turf:
Notice how the tee is not damaged, however, the surrounding turf is black with tire tracks.  The taller turf, mowed at 1.5 inches will freeze well before the 1/2 inch turf on the tee.  The cold air surrounds each blade in a looser canopy and the cells freeze.  When feet or vehicles compress the turf, it breaks instead of bending.  That is the crunch you hear on frosted turf and the reason we have to wait to release play on a very cold morning. 

This occurred back on November 24th and we were back to all green turf by the 27th.  The individual plants were not frozen all the way to the crown.  The tips were killed, but the grass grew out of the damage with no lasting effects. 

The begonias were not so lucky:

Monday, November 29, 2010

Adopt a Hole

To improve course conditions and relieve the Turf Care Department of some burden, we are implementing a program to encourage golfers to take ownership of a single hole.  The tasks are simple; fix ball marks, fill divots, rake bunkers, and pick up stray garbage.  Holes are assigned on an alphabetical basis and divided amongst the membership. 

The main two items with the program are ball marks and divots.  The greens have been rolling really well since we healed up from aerification at the end of September.  Any bounce or bump your ball encounters on the way to the hole is a blemish caused by a ball mark that was not repaired.  After our frost delay last Friday, I blew off all the greens with a backpack blower and I could not believe how many ball marks were on these greens.  If I had stopped to fix each one, I would have to forget about cleaning off the leaves. 

There is currently one sign in the Proshop and there will be signs posted in each locker room with your hole assignments.  Know which hole is yours and take pride in making it the best hole on the course.  Encourage your playing partners to care for their tee, green, and fairway.  Complain to that person when your ball veers off course because of an ball mark.  Let them know, "This would not have happened on my hole." 

We appreciate the help with course maintenance and it goes a long way in increasing our productivity.  When our greens mowers are not stopping to fix 20 ball marks per green, they finish much sooner and move on to the next job.  Besides, a ball mark that is not repaired immediately will take weeks longer to heal than one that is properly tended to. 

As a final reminder, here is a picture of number 4 green with a flag on every ball mark that is not repaired.  This is from a few years ago and its been used on the blog a couple of times.  It does not take long for a green to get riddled with pock marks, so please do your part to keep the course at its best.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The new look 8th tee

One at a time, we dropped these 30 ft pines with no trouble at all.  Using a winch and a 5/8" bull rope, the trees went down exactly where we wanted them and landed very soft.  Cutting up and hauling away the wood and debris was very time consuming.  By day's end we had a couple tree trunks and stump grindings remaining on the slope.  The chainsaws were spent and so were our backs, so we packed it up to finish the following morning.

After dropping the first couple of trees, it was obvious how this project would affect the 7th green.  The primary reason for removing these trees was to open up the 8th tee and turn it back into a golf hole.  The trees had grown to crowd in the right side, just off of the tee.  Players were limited to using only the far left portion of the tee and a draw was still impossible.  The new view includes the entire green complex and sets up well from all parts of the tee.  More sunlight to the 7th green was a bonus in this renovation.  The green received limited morning sun and frost was a problem in the heart of winter.  Morning sun is major factor in the overall health and root density of turf and probably any plant.  Other on-course projects have proven this without a doubt.  Two "trouble greens," #6 and #13 both have improved greatly after tree trimming increased exposure to morning sunlight.  These greens went from being trouble spots that needed daily supervision to being the solid variety that you can count on to make it through tough conditions.

Before tree removal

After tree removal

Doesn't this look like a much easier shot now that the trees are gone?  For some reason, it's not.  The expanded view must get in a player's head because I've seen so many shots end up far right, almost in the lake that is behind the bushes and pump house.  Before the tree removal, these shots would have been knocked down by the pines and end up behind the 7th green.  Another change is the reduction of shots going left of the cart path and out of bounds. 

After the trees were out, we aerified the entire slope and back half of the green surround.  We had saved some ryegrass seed for projects just like this and used a couple of bags on spots that had not seen the sun for years.  Yesterday, we started to remove railroad ties that border the cart path on the 7 green side.  Golfers exiting their carts would occasionally slip on the wood, risking serious injury.  We are half way done, replacing the safety hazard with turf.

Further renovations will include moving the ball washer to the other side of the stairs, planting a short hedge to block toed shots from reaching 7 green, and eventually levelling the tee.  A few oleanders will need to be removed and the pittosporum bushes trimmed back just a bit.  As with anything, the 8th tee is a work in progress, but we took some big steps this week and created a better golf hole.
Friday, November 12, 2010

Tree Program: Phase I

The other night I took a shower and was surrounded by the scent of cedar.  It was pretty nice compared to how I sometimes smell after a full day of work at the golf course.  Poultry manure is an occasional scent, especially around aerification, and iron sulfate is a frustrating odor that lasts for days.  This time was soothing, but I'm not in it for the aromatherapy.

We have embarked on a major tree renovation throughout the golf course and the chainsaws have been buzzing for days.  We completed a hole-by-hole analysis of our current trees and devised a plan for future plantings and removals.  There are many species growing here that will not fare well with changes in the environment.  Sodium building in the soil is the main culprit and trees that can tolerate saline soil will be chosen to replace those that cannot. 

With any program of this nature, removal is step one in a long process.  In the five years I've worked here we have cut down or removed over 160 trees.  Nearly every one of these was dead, dying, or had fallen in a storm.  The new plan calls for removal of over 350 trees.  You might need a moment for that to soak in, yes, 350 trees.  Replacements are roughly estimated at 275, resulting in a reduction in total trees of 75.  Don't worry, we are not going to go cut down all 350 in a couple of weeks or even a couple of years.  The plan is comprehensive to cover every tree which may have a limited number of years to remain on the golf course.  The large redwoods throughout the property will all fail eventually, as they submit to the sodium in the soil.  We will wait to remove those trees until they have died which could be years down the road.

We are starting to remove other trees in order to clear space for the new species to be introduced and to mature.  Planting will begin today on the left side of #4 where valley oaks will take the place of small and struggling incense cedars.  All dead trees will be removed by the end of the year, which is in the neighborhood of 30 trees.  Most of these are small redwoods, not-so-giant sequoias, incense cedars, and a variety of pines.  Stump grinding will follow closely behind to complete the process ASAP. 

Other trees are being removed for the sake of playability.  A major renovation will take place next Monday, November 15th.  The upper tee box on #8 has been compromised for years by pine trees growing behind the seventh green.  About 15 years ago, these pines were planted to replace other trees that were removed for the same reason.  A right-to-left shot into the eighth green is nearly impossible from this tee box.  The tee is also being destroyed on the left side and untouched on the right.  Have you ever noticed how that tee is not level and much lower on the left than the right?  I believe this has more to do with over use than any sinking or settling on the levee.

Once we remove the pines, the entire tee can be utilized by a player whether they typically draw, fade, hook, or slice.  Turf conditions will improve on the eighth tee, the seventh green, and the rough on the slope near the cartpath.

It is sad to see healthy trees removed and I regret having to do so.  Therefore, the new plantings will be carefully planned to mature on the golf course without impeding a fair shot.  I have researched the tree species that grow well in our unique environment and calculated the height and spread of each one.  

Be sure to check back for frequent updates and explanations of current and future projects.  If you missed any of the past Tree Program posts, they are linked below:

Eucalyptus pests
Say Goodbye to the Redwoods
Thursday, November 11, 2010

Lots O' Updates

Seeding Update

Nearly all the seeding is done and our new plants are doing very well.  The seed on the tees, approaches, and green surrounds has been down for 2 weeks and all of it has been cut multiple times.  We are currently mowing the tees and approaches at an increased height of cut of 3/4 inch.  We will go down to 5/8  tomorrow and drop in down to 1/2" by the end of next week. 

As of last week, the seedlings have everything they need.  Immediately after the first cut, we sprayed Primo and iron to darken it up and improve the growth habit.  All these years of overseeding have taught me that growth regulator is just as important, if not more important, than fertility.  This product will reduce upright growth and send the turf sideways and down to increase density and rooting.  The benefits are huge and the cost is reasonable and worth it.

We are still running around with the seeder, both the walker and tractor-mounted unit to improve thin and compacted areas.  As long as this weather continues and the fog stays away, we can make the most of the opportunity and improve winter playing conditions.

Red Fox Update

I haven't mentioned these little fellas for quite a while, but there are still roaming the grounds early in the morning.  This morning, Marvin was mowing greens and pulled off his hat to cool off his head.  He dropped it by the flagstick at the side of the green and minutes later, a fox was heading down the 10th fairway with Marvin's hat in his mouth. 

Bert came to the rescue and chased the fox until it was startled enough to drop the hat.  Lucky for Marvin, Bert got there before the fox marked his prize with a trademark scent.  Every lost glove or clubhead cover that spends the night on the grounds will get marked by the fox and the odor is pretty powerful.  Nice work Bert!!

Fairways and Approach Expansions

This is a great time of year to adjust some of the cuts and contours of the turf.  We've fixed up the tee lines, adjusted the collar widths, and expanded multiple areas.  The most noticeable changes will the fairway on #2, the fairway on #14, and the approach on #9.  #2 is similar to our work on the first hole a couple of summers ago.  The forward tee on #2 was moved up for a short duration, but did not last because of safety concerns (from the range), and a renovation to the underlying septic fields.  Until we devise a plan for a new forward tee, the fairway is being drawn back towards the tee.  A 70 yard carry over rough will be more like 40 which will make a difference for those first couple of shots.

The 14th fairway is known for a single hated or loved tree; a leaning cedar that is propped up with a metal "T".  This tree is a major penalty and so is the fairway on the other side of the fairway.  That is why we decided to trim down the rough beneath this leaning tree to fairway height.  If you manage to hit a drive this long and avoid both the tree and the bunker, then I think you deserve a nice lie for your next shot.

Finally, the approach on #9 has always been a strange angle, entering the hole from a severe right to left turn.  We widened the approach well to the left for aesthetics and playability.  A ball landing on this slope could trickle down to a more level ground or bounce up to the green.  We will be aerifying this area today and topdressing to even up the firmness with the original approach.  In this picture the turf is only at 1 inch, so it still looks like rough.  By next week it will be down to a 1/2".

Tree Program

There is more to come by tomorrow on this topic.  We are in full swing and have started in on a major tree renovation.  Many trees that are dead or dying are being removed and new ones will take their place.  Yesterday we cut down 12-15 trees that have stopped serving a purpose on the course.  An outside company came in and ground 25 stumps to finish the removal process.  The first of many plantings will take place tomorrow when we plant the beginnings of a beautiful grove of valley oaks to the left of #4.  I will post an extensive update tomorrow that will tell you where we are and where we're going. 
Friday, November 5, 2010

Haunted House 2010

The F & B staff outdid themselves once again with this year's Haunted House.  The Turf Care Department helped out with supplies and a few implements of terror including a chain-free chainsaw.  The walls are constructed out of PVC pipe and 4ml black plastic to form multiple hallways and rooms in a rather small portion of the banquet room. 
 The graveyard scene was improved from last year.  This time the tour went down a narrow path weaving around graves while the wait staff, dressed up to fit the part, jumped out to scare the members they normally treat with a little more respect.  The small coffin in the foreground did not make it through the night.  A startled young lady sat on it when a staff member caught her by surprise.

Ron and Shelby worked really hard on making this successful.  As soon as it was over, all of these decorations had to be broken down and moved out of the banquet room to prepare for the next event.  Next year we are considering a Haunted Golf Course with tractor drawn hayrides.  Helping out with this setup is a nice change of pace for everyone involved and each year it gets a little better. 

Happy Halloween!!
Thursday, November 4, 2010

The USGA Green Section Record

I have a hard time keeping my desk clean because of bills, paperwork, and most of all, magazines.  I must get 10 to 15 turf related publications each month and I usually do not find the time to read more than a couple articles.  There is one that I look forward to, and have since college when I would grab a copy outside of the Turf Science office at Purdue.  If you read the title, you already know that I'm speaking of the USGA Green Section Record.

Just a few months ago, the USGA sent out a notice that they would discontinue printing the Record and begin to offer it online.  I was very disappointed because I knew I'd forget to check the website and would no longer have the luxury of holding the magazine in my hand and taking it where I please.  They proved me wrong very quickly.  Instead of a size constrained paper edition that only arrives monthly, they've gone to weekly email updates with more content and an updated, professional look.  The new format includes regional updates from around the country, a searchable archive of past issues, links to webcasts, and very interesting stories.  For example, the October 12 issue included a story about Superintendent Paul Chojnacky and the crew at Pasatiempo Golf Club in Santa Cruz, California using goats to clear vegetation on the severe slopes of the golf course.  Everyone should know about the work of great courses and great superintendents like Paul who is solving a problem in a cost-effective and environmentally friendly manner.

I encourage all of you to sign up to receive the USGA Green Section Record.  It does not cost a penny and it will not clog up your inbox with ads and solicitations.  Just go to the first link on this post, scroll to the bottom and click on the icon.  No personal information is needed, just your email.  Enjoy.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Overseeding Methods

Our yearly overseeding program has drastically decreased from what it was a couple of years ago.  We used to put out over 20,000 pounds of seed and spend about $35,000 on the practice including the fertrilizer, growth regulators, and amendments to make it work.  The last two years, we've stopped seeding the fairways and primary rough.  The ryegrass we put out is limited to the tees, approaches, green surrounds, and a few lawns near the clubhouse.  Besides that, we let the poa annua come in and provide a playing surface for the golfers.  With a monthly application of iron sulfate, we keep the turf fairly green and most people can't tell the difference.  The real appeal of this change in turf management is a financial savings of $30,000 plus a reduction in course down time.  Rounds are up and so are outside tournaments.  From an agronomic standpoint, I prefer to battle poa annua rather than ryegrass when we attempt to burn it out and promote our bermudagrass.  It's been a win-win so far, and I think it's here to stay.

There are many different ways to get your ryegrass going and it can be as simple or as complicated as you like.  My favorite is the simple broadcast method that takes no time and little effort while producing great results.  The crew at Stockton Golf and Country Club taught me this simple technique of blasting out ryegrass through a fertilizer spreader and dragging it in with a metal fence.  We open up the spreader all the way and spread seed from the green collar to the rough to spruce up the green surrounds.  This is also a great method for your homelawn and is really as simple as spreading some seed and keeping enough moisture on it to germinate.

I took the above picture last weekend on #10 green surround.  This area is primarily common bermuda and would be brown once the first frost shows up.  Two weeks after broadcasting the seed, we have some thin, yellowish leaves emerging.  After a shot of fertilizer and some more time, we will have dark green turf around all the greens.

 For the tees, we used a walk-behind seeder called a Mataway.  Marvin and Richard stopped going to the gym for a few weeks and got their excercise seeding the tees in three directions.  This is a lot of work and a lot time, but the results are worth it. 

The approaches endured a much more aggressive treatment with a tractor-mounted slit seeder going in 3 directions.  This ripped out a tremendous amount of thatch and bermuda stolons.  This work should firm up the approaches and improve the drainage.  The seed will take a little while to fill in, so please be patient.

Assistant Superintendent, Rob Williams seeding on #7 approach.

Here is the result on a bermuda approach. 

Geronimo, Mario, and Ricardo cleaning up the mess and chasing after Rob.

On all the tees and approaches we follow up the slit seeding with an additional broadcast seeding and a layer of sand.  Once the sand is in place, we drag the area with a steel mat to work in the sand and smooth the surface.  Finally we hit it with some fertilizer and water it all in.  Irrigation is handled differently during germination.  Normally we will water deep and infrequent.  The seed requires the exact opposite so we will water multiple times for just a couple of minutes.

Here is #13 approach after it is all said and done.  2 weeks from now should look better.
 More updates to come in the near future.  Other projects going on include flower beds and landscape work, manually cleaning duckweed out of the ponds, renovating the native area on #2, and getting ready to embark on the new tree program which will be fun.  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

2010 Ladies Invitational

This tournament is always a nice change of pace because priorities for the condition of the course are much different than most male dominated events.  Nobody is expecting or wants greens to be rolling 12 on the stimp meter.  They don't expect the course to be so dry, it is near death, making playing conditions more difficult.  They want an enjoyable round on a well kept and well decorated course.

I learned this lesson the hard way during my first Ladies Invitational.  I double cut and rolled the greens and spent more time on creating tough conditions than polishing the place for all the guests.  Next time around, I understood what was expected.  We focused on presentation and tried to make a few special spots throughout the course.  The members really are the ones who deserve the credit, spending many hours decorating the course to match the event's theme.

This year, the tournament followed a nautical theme with small sailboats as tee markers, the proshop looking like some kind of fancy golf marina, and even hand-sewn flags strung onto the flagsticks. 

I really wanted to get a few sailboats to float in the lakes and maybe one to park on the driving range tee, but I never got it done.  However, we were able to make our own with halfway decent results. 

The tournament went very well in every aspect and I think the members were proud of the course, clubhouse, staff, and their own hard work to make everything excellent.  Down in the maintenance department, we're looking forward to next time.  I wonder what the theme will be?
Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Chasing the seasonal wet spot

When I first arrived at SGCC in 2005, I remember a comment at a Green Committee meeting about the irrigation system.  It was something to the effect, that the system should be pretty well dialed in since it has been in operation for three years.  Now that it is 2010, I can honestly say that it still is not dialed in and never will be for a sustained period of time.  Irrigation is a constant battle with adjustments being made on a daily basis and we only stop tweaking the times when we can turn the whole thing off.  We are about 2 months away from that exciting transition when we'll finally record some consistent rain.
We are lucky to have single-head control with our Rain Bird irrigation system.  That means that every one of our 2500+ irrigation sprinklers and valves can be set with a tailored percentage.  This is an incredibly valuable feature that helps us manage variables on the course such as soil type, slopes, shade, elevation, and wind.  The most difficult variable at our location is shade, by far.  The shade pattern is constantly changing and so is the wet and dry spots below the trees.  An east to west fairway will be much wetter on the south side if we watered the whole area equally.  Of course we don’t, and slowly adjust times to keep moisture and firmness consistent from one side to the next.  
The thought of saving last year's settings for each month and loading them as the temperatures and seasons change is always tempting, but I’ve never had it work.  Every spring, summer, and fall is different from the previous and from the next.  This summer was much cooler than last, so loading last year’s percentages would have produced a wet course.  Also, we frequently renovate the system to improve efficiency.  Full circle heads become part, some out-of-play areas are turned off, and new stations are added for landscaped locations.  All of these changes to the system must be reflected in the central control and redoing them every time you load last year’s data seems counterproductive.  
Many of the wet spots we have this time of the year are near cartpaths, especially near tees and green surrounds.  These areas have a high percentage of sand in the profile and must be watered frequently.  Some of that irrigation hits the cartpath or runs off slopes to accumulate in traffic-compacted areas.  Cart tires are extremely attracted to these wet pockets so we try to rope them off, although very reluctantly.  I hate rope, stakes, and signs that clutter a beautiful view, but sometimes they are necessary.  
We continue to reduce wet spots on the course with a new nozzle design and will move on to some primary rough after completing fairways this season.  We will get back to raising heads that are sitting a little low and trim some tree branches that interfere with proper coverage.  We identified a few more low spots along the cartpaths and will install drains to catch the misplaced irrigation.  We have the technology to catch it, so we just need to find the time to chase the wet spot.   
Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A few pics, fall maintenance

This is some pretty dense stuff, so we'll take a little out to loosen things up.  When this soil dries, it is hard enough to break glass. I've demonstrated in the shop once or twice, but glass shards are not worth the entertainment.
The process gets a little smoother each year and so do the fairways.  Have you noticed the reduction of bumps and bounces?  Our fairway mowers have and so have their lower backs.
Sometimes things have to get worse before they get better.  This hydrophobic area lost some turf shortly after aerfication, but it will get better now that water can penetrate the soil.  Please be patient, improvement is a process.

Any guesses?  Yes, this is an obliterated cup that was painted the day before we punched the greens.  Nice pic, Rob.

Once again we used small tines and close spacing which we've been doing for three years now.  Great change for the greens and the membership.  We pull out more material and heal in a fraction of the time.

We finished in one closed day, Tuesday, after punching a few greens on Monday night after a tournament.  Long days this time of year are to be expected and the payoff is well worth the effort.

Here is Ricardo going out for the first morning mow on Monday, 6 days after punchin' the holes.  We mowed up some sand during the weekend and now we're cutting some shaggy turf.

Fairway fertilizer going out with Bert on the tractor and Ricardo flagging.  This is an organic source of fertilizer that will smell unpleasant for one short day.  A little water and the smell is gone.

Here is Richard manning the irrigation control box and putting out a small shot of water right behind the fertilizer application.

September brings quick healing and we can start to lower the mowers to get back up to speed.  This pic was 6 days after aerification, the same day as our first morning cut. 

With all this behind us we are still finishing up aerification on the approaches and some spots in the rough.  Seeding should have already been done, but a heavy dose of tournaments have filled our maintenance days and we'll have to finish things little by little.  The weather still looks good, so our limited overseeding should germinate and fill in before it gets too cool. 

As you can see, we've been busy and the blog has been quiet.  We'll keep the camera with us because there is still plenty more to share. 
Thursday, September 30, 2010

Time to Fertilize

If you only fertilize once a year, then this is the time to do it.  The plant starts to grow differently because the days have shortened up, the sun is losing its angle, and temperatures have started to slide.  Energy is sent to the roots to strengthen the system for the upcoming winter.  I was always taught that 2/3 of your nitrogen should be applied during fall applications.  However, that was in Indiana with a 8-9 month growing season, so the numbers may be a little different in California. 

The basic principal holds true that creating a stronger plant this time of year will result in better turf in spring and even in summer.  I hate the "Spring Green Up" campaigns that flood tv's just when the turf starts to release it's stored energy.  If you build a strong plant right now, you will not have to throw out fertilizer to promote more topgrowth.  Just like any other plant, turf is trying to get as much leaf tissue as possible in the spring.  More fertilizer during spring months means more mowing.  I hate mowing.  You should see my lawn right now. 

So fertilize now and benefit later.  That's what we are doing today, now that aerification is wrapping up and we can rotate machines on the tractors.  We've been very busy, but everything is going really well and the course will be back up to speed and rejuvenated in a few short weeks.
Sunday, September 19, 2010

Logistics of GC Maintenance

Each and every day at the golf course, we stand in front of the dry erase board and determine how we will accomplish the most with what we have to work with.  The first thing we take into consideration is the schedule of play for that day.  What time does play start?  Is it a shotgun or tee times?  Front 9 or back 9?  Who's on first?  All these are pretty easy to answer and have been sorted out days in advance so we know how to instruct our staff. 

The next thing to consider is, 'what do we want to accomplish today.'  What needs to be mowed?  We mow certain items on certain days alternating most of the time.  We always mow greens when there is play and we've been rolling every day for the last two months.  The collars will need to be mowed at least twice a week, the green surrounds 2 or 3 times, the tees and approaches 3 times also.  Other jobs that are assigned every day include sand bunkers, course setup, irrigation duties, tee divots, and leaf blowing. After the initial course setup we will assign second jobs that include weedeating, mowing collars, tree work, cleaning restrooms, dragging fairways, and many more. 

There is a slew of jobs on the list every day and we have to pick and choose which we will do while keeping our priorities in check. 

Another factor is the personnel we have to work with.  If someone is off on vacation or calls in sick, we need to re-arrange our pieces to accomplish our highest priorities.  Obviously, we need to mow greens, change the cups, and complete our basic setup.  Many of our employees can handle all of the tasks here.  Some of the newer guys can only rake bunkers and mow greens.  If we have any special projects or cultural practices like fertilizer applications, that will take Rob or I off of irrigation so Richard will have to check the greens.  Somebody will have to fill in for Richard on a greens mower and that might take a person off of rough.

Does any of this make sense?  Sometimes when I stare at the board and cross off the staff I won't have or the machines that are down for repair or the split tee tee times with play before hand, I can't make much sense of it either.  It sure is fun though, and keeps things interesting.

Equipment is a major limiting factor for us especially without a mechanic.  We are accepting applications if you know anyone with golf course experience in Northern California.  We currently are down to one rough unit so we change the height on our green surround mower on the off days.  The hydraulic pump blew it's seal and was finished being repaired Friday so it will be nice to get that back in action. 

Every day at the course is a small logistical battle to make the most of what we have.  The upcoming weeks leave little room for error to maximize our efficiency.  We will start aerifying greens on Monday night and finish all of them on Tuesday, opening for play on Wednesday.  I was on the phone a lot this past week making sure everything would be here like fertilizer, aerification tines, sand, seed, repair parts, and staff to do all the hard work.  We also will coordinate the rest of aerification on fairways, tees, approaches and many areas in the rough.  Tees, green surrounds and approaches will need to be seeded.  Everything will get a shot of fertilizer.  Flower beds need to be cleaned, amended, rototilled, and planted.  The tree program will be put into action once I finish identifying which trees can be removed in-house and provide prices and plant selections to the committee.  The native area on #2 must be renovated and .............. 

Well there's more, but you get the picture.  This is one of the best parts of this job.  There is so much to manage and a never ending list of work that you're always busy and so is the crew.  We'll work very hard, have a bunch of fun, and have a great cookout when we get a chance to relax.  A month or two from now, when you're lining up your putt on 15 green and you smell the sweet scent of BBQ drifting out of the maintenance yard, swing in to say hello, there's always extra food. 

Thank you for your understanding during these few weeks that interfere with play.  We would not do any of this aerifying, sanding, or seeding if it was not completely necessary to achieve a better golf course.  Conditions will be back to normal quicker than you expect. 
Monday, September 13, 2010

Aerification 2010

It's that time of year again.  Time to open up the soil and rejuvenate the plants we've abused all summer long.  This year was good to us and we encountered very little disease or stress on the greens.  While the rest of the country suffered through brutal weather conditions, we enjoyed the coolest August in 20 years.  I would prefer a little more heat to help with growing the bermuda fairways, but a summer like this one has to be appreciated, it sure has been nice.

The fall aerification is essential to next year's conditions.  As summer winds down, the salt in our irrigation water continues to accumulate in the soil.  It's been months since we had some decent rain and flushing the greens with dirty water does not provide a long term solution.  The surface begins to seal, compaction increases, and localized dry spots pop up along with a little fairy ring.  The greens do not drain as well as they had been, so it's time to open them up.

This year, green aerfication will take place on Tuesday, September 21st.  The course will re-open to play on Wednesday and the greens will be healed up in about a week's time. 

Sorry for the lack of updates lately, we've all been on the course tearing things up to improve conditions.  Fairway aerification is in full swing and 60% completed.  We are waiting for a repair part and will finish within the next couple of weeks doing our best not to interfere with play.  I'll post some pics and explain this year's process and future plans for fairway improvements. 

After all this aerification is finished up, we will move on to the task of overseeding tees, approaches, collars, and green surrounds.  We only use 25% of the seed we used in 2008 when we seeded all the fairways.  The savings in seed cost and fertilizer combined with 7 additional outside tournaments will have a very positive swing on the bottom line.  We'll also be able to keep the course in top condition since we're not growing in a new crop of seed.  Expect a very enjoyable fall season as we say goodbye to an extremely comfortable summer. 
Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Green Report-Consistency Part II

Last Monday, the Turf Care Department verticut greens for the first time in a couple of months.  This practice uses vertical blades to cut lines in the surface of the green.  As this occurs, thatch is removed and sideways growth is reduced to produce a smoother surface.  The blades can vary in spacing and depth.  Currently, we've set ours at 5/8" apart and a depth of 1/8 inch for a verticut that isn't too aggressive. 
We micro-manage this process and plan how to attack each green on an individual basis.  For Monday's event, we skipped the putting green and double cut #'s 8, 9, 10, 11, 16, 17, 18.  The putting green has very little thatch and we would not want to remove what we have because of constant traffic.  Thatch is not always a bad thing as it helps to protect and cushion the plant against the weight of golfers and equipment.  The other greens listed have more thatch and need to be thinned and smoothed out.  Many also have more poa annua, especially 8 and 9.  As with any of our work, we are trying to even the playing field and true-up the greens to the same conditions.   

Much of the differences between these greens can be attributed to the micro-climates in which they each grow.  Micro-climates throughout every golf course complicate management techniques and keep the staff on their toes.  Our 4th green sits back in a corner of the golf course that has restricted air movement and poor surrounding drainage.  No matter how many times we roll it, this green is usually slower than the others .  The higher humidity in this location causes the turf to puff up and slows ball roll.  However, just put this little bit of info in the back of your mind and you'll have a slight advantage over visiting competition.  Besides the 4th, most other greens roll very close to each other on the stimp meter.  Firmness is another matter and this recent verticut aims to combat the variations between greens. 

Irrigation is another micro-managed practice to promote consistent playing conditions.  Overhead irrigation greatly limits our control of water placement.  There has never been a perfect irrigation system unless you count rain, and we won't see that until October.  Hand watering is a daily chore and we all know which spots to check on and what percent of moisture each green and turf type needs for the expected high temperature.  The task is made simpler with soil probes and moisture meters and each year we reduce wet spots and manage the dry ones. 

In golf course management, aerification is the mother of consistency.  I know that sounds ridiculous, but I think it's true.  Our fall aerification will take place on September 21st and it will be one of the most important days of the year.  Out with the bad and in with the good as we remove thatch and open the surface.  The "good" is fresh sand, fertilizer, and amendments to improve soil fertility and structure.  This day of work will go a long way in maintaining the health of the greens and bring us closer to our goal of consistency. 
Saturday, August 28, 2010

Pink Flag Sticks for a Special Day

Just a few weeks ago, Stockton Golf and Country Club hosted over 100 pink clad golfers for the Susan G. Komen Rally for the Cure Tournament.  This year's event was a great success in raising donations towards the fight against breast cancer.  Congratulations and thank you to all the attendees, volunteers, staff, and contributors.  What a great day!!

The Turf Care department (I'm tired of calling us maintenance) found a new way to add some color to the setup.  Last year we simply dyed some white flags to pink and put them on our striped green/white sticks.  It wasn't the best color combination so this year we went all pink.

Flagsticks are not cheap and spending a bunch of money on a one-day-a-year tournament doesn't make sense, at least not financially.  However, converting old, borderline useless sticks into brand new with little time, effort, or money sounds great.  While visiting Turfnet, a very useful website every superintendent should belong to, I saw an ad for a product called VinylGuard. 

I gathered up some very old flagsticks that were worn out, chipped up, and pretty darn ugly.  All I had to do was cut a length of the tubing, slide it on the old stick, and warm it up with the heat gun.  It took about 7-10 minutes per flagstick and worked exactly as advertised.  Next time we will try this stuff on our bunker rakes when the handles begin to fade or splinter.  Fiberglass slivers don't feel too good after you blade a shot out of a bunker.  Of course, green might look better than pink, so we'll have to re-order.

On a side note, the tee markers for the event were also a special item designed by some of the women at the course.  Our assistant, Rob Williams, suggested we place potted pink flowers as the tee markers, but they beat us to the punch with pink golf shoes, complete with sequins, ribbons, and bows.  It turns out they were too attractive to resist and one of our resident red foxes stole a shoe from the 5th tee minutes before the morning shotgun.

Rob radioed in the news and I forwarded it to the tournament coordinators who personally set the tees that morning.  Expecting disappointment, I instead received laughter and approval of a great little story.  If you see a red fox donning a hip, pink shoe, now you'll know she's just trying support the cause. 
Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Green Report-Consistency

Every Green Committee meeting, I update the members with the current condition of the greens.  Our highest priority at the club is the greens and most would agree that a good putting surface is the centerpiece of a great course.  So I will begin to write regular updates on green conditions to the blog to keep readers informed.

Consistency of greens from the putting green, to number 1, to number 18 should be pretty close in speed, firmness, and condition.  That is a goal here that we have yet to achieve, but we keep working towards year after year.  The problems we are working to correct involve different turf species, different soils, and varying levels of thatch.  Our maintenance practices are specifically tailored toward each green's specific needs.

To start with, the practice putting green is a massive headache which throbs year round without rest.  I think most superintendents would agree that their practice greens are some of the most difficult to manage.  Our main problem is limited space, and like a family in a studio apartment, this green is less than 3000 square feet.  Tournaments with over 100 people mark up this green quickly and a putting contest, with two hundred feet wiggling into alignment in the same spot will result in two yellow foot prints in the morning.

To speed up construction and open sooner, the green was sodded and we are still trying to encourage roots to move past the sod layer.  The turf species of the putting green is Dominant Plus bentgrass, which is the same as the 1st green.  I am not overly thrilled with this variety in this climate because it shuts down in winter and is not very competitive against poa annua.

Both the putting green and the first green have little poa, so we are treating them with a growth regulator that gives bentgrass a competitive advantage.  Last winter, we used this product on all the greens with great success and will continue that practice starting in October.  For now, only the putting green and #1 will receive this treatment because the other greens have much more annual bluegrass and it's way too risky to try this time of year. 

The growth regulators we use on the poa annua cause it to sink slightly and result in an uneven, sometimes bumpy green.  The bentgrass can out-grow the sunken spot and get us closer to solid bentgrass greens.  Patience.  It takes some time. 

So how's that for consistency?  I've only mentioned two greens and they're already very different compared to the rest and they can play differently too.  On that note, the first green is much firmer than any other green on the course because it has 9% silt in it's structural makeup.  This has improved over the six years since construction, but changing the makeup of soil is extremely slow when aerification only takes out 5% of the surface at one time. 

So that does it for the first Green Report and it gets the two odd-ball greens out of the way.  Both have been healthy and growing well this year with no disease or major stress.  Next time, I will share some of the other inconsistencies around the course on the other 17 greens and describe what we are doing to get the speed of each one as close to the next as we possibly can.
Friday, August 13, 2010

Tree Program: Eucalyptus pests

Have you seen these little plastic capsules protruding from the base of many eucalyptus trees around the course?  These are used to treat the lerp psyllid which have been a chronic problem at SGCC for many, many years.  The insects cause leave drop, dying back of leading shoots, and a sticky, wax coating which can lead to mold on the leaves.  
We do not treat these trees regularly because of very high costs and only moderate effectiveness of the pesticide.  We did have a case saved up in the shop, so we treated the trees that were most important to aesthetics and playability.  We will continue to monitor the problem and care for the trees the best we can. 

The trees throughout the golf course are going through a major transition.  The redwoods are fading out, other trees are growing too old, and some are not adjusting to the sodium in the soil.  I am pleased to announce that John Harbottle has been hired as the designer of a tree master plan and will begin work in early September.  Golf course architects are an integral part of any construction or renovation project.  They see things that superintendents, golf pros or members would not consider.  I am excited about the possibilities and look forward to playing a role in improving an important part of this fine club.