Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Nor Cal PGA Junior Tour

It's very humbling to see a 10-year-old girl hit the ball as far as I do while swinging half as hard. I saw displays like this for two days straight when the PGA Junior Tour kicked off the season with a stop in Stockton.

The younger kids, some under the age of seven, were a real treat to watch. They really looked like tiny professional golfers with their mannerisms and golf apparel. They would step off distances, check the contours of the green from all angles, and most importantly, fix their ball marks.

The event was very well received by the membership at Stockton GCC. I believe it would be rare for a private club to give up the course to a bunch of kids on a beautiful spring weekend. Not only did they forgo their personal weekend tee-times, they also volunteered their time by marshaling, checking in guests, and helping to score the event.

The Nor Cal PGA pulled out all stops with this event. Everything looked very official with a brand new scoreboard, vests for the caddies, and banners, tents, and sponsors scattered around the entrance.

The putting green surround served its last tour of duty this weekend and was ripped out early the next morning. As you can see in the photo above, common bermuda has contaminated the turf and was spreading towards the green.

The new sod spruced up this area instantly and should hold up for a couple of years before foot traffic takes its toll. Laying sod is an art form and doing it correctly will save a lot of time hand watering and repairing bad spots. The crew is good about monitoring each others work and pointing out mistakes in a teasing sort of way. Every one of them is getting very good at laying sod, but nobody is begging me to buy any more.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Disease Profile: Waitea Patch

Most of the turf diseases I encounter have been around for as long as I've been working on golf courses. This one, however, is fairly new and has become our most common disease. Waitea patch or brown ring patch (I like Waitea because it sounds sexy) is more cosmetic than harmful.

The first time I saw this disease, I confused it for another common problem called yellow patch or cool season brown patch. Yellow patch is entirely cosmetic and disappears when temperatures warm up. For that reason, I let it alone and watched it grow in strength, size, and number day after day. The warmer it got, the uglier these rings became.

Now that we know what we're dealing with, all we have to do is spray the correct product to clean things up. That simple task gets tricky when the sprayer goes does with an electrical problem. The sprayer is brand new and under warranty, so we won't be billed for the repair, but it doesn't do us much good while it's sitting in the shop.

Our old sprayer had been converted into a weed and turf killing machine. All we have used it for since acquiring the new unit is herbicide sprays including a Revolver application on #11 fairway. Revolver is a product that kills cool season grasses and many weeds while leaving the bermuda alone to spread without competition. This is not the type of thing you want in your tank before you go treat the greens with a fungicide.

I let the Waitea run wild for over a week until the repair date was backed up waiting for parts. We cleaned the tank on the 1992 model very thoroughly and went out yesterday to fix the problem. There is little to worry about with this phenomenal weather and a ugly, but weak disease.

We can let it flex its muscle for a week or so and then put it back in its place. We have the technology.

I won't bore all of you with product names, rates, and specific control measures. However, if there are any Superintendents who want to trade notes, I would be happy to discuss our control program and hopefully learn some new tricks. I can be reached via email at sgccturf@sbcglobal.net
Monday, March 22, 2010

I love closed Mondays

Today will be a very busy Monday. When we get the course to ourselves, we take full advantage of the opportunity and tear things up. First off, we are removing all of the turf between the putting green and cartpath to be replaced with new sod arriving a little later today. The old sod will be used around the course in lower profile bad spots.

We are also testing out all of our aerifiers to get ready for the next month. The Wiedenmann will be punching the driving range tee, plugs will be broken up by a steel drag mat, and then we will hit it with some fertilizer to jump start the sleepy bermuda.

I have some many updates to post, but so little time to do so. Even now, as I'm writing this, I know my time is better served with a shovel in hand helping the staff around the putting green. Hopefully, I can sit down tonight and make up for lost time reporting some of our recent work and course events.

Here are some of the posts you'll be seeing in the near future:

    • The inaugural event of the Northern California PGA Junior Tour hosted the last two days at Stockton Golf and Country Club
    • Main line repair on #17
    • Brown ring patch (Waitea) on most of our greens with the sprayer out-of-order
    • Restroom remodeling in the maintenance shop (sounds exciting doesn't it?)
    • Update on Izzo including a vicious dog attack right in my office

So stay tuned for more Stockton Turf News, and grab your clubs and hit the course because spring is officially here!!!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patty's Day

No, these are not the new safety glasses for our employees. I bought these babies at Big Lots for $1.00 and I'm very satisfied with my purchase. Mario looks better in them than I do, so he volunteered to show them off.

I have to spend most of the afternoon and part of the evening spraying fairways, but I look forward to pint of Guinness and some corned beef later tonight.

Have a safe and happy Irish Day!!!

Home Lawns: Crabgrass Control

The time has come. If you live near Stockton GCC and have yet to put down your seasonal crabgrass pre-emergent, then try to get to it very soon. The recent wave of warmer days will raise the temperature in the soils around Stockton and crabgrass will be poppin' in no time.

I normally disregard the degree day model, going more on history and current weather patterns. I have applied pre-emergent as late as April 15th in some years, but this time around I'll be going a month earlier. Our long summers result in a long germination window for crabgrass so two applications may be necessary. Read the label of the product you are using and follow the instructions closely.

Crabgrass is very difficult to remove from your lawn, so prevention is the key.

Finally, be careful not to over-fertilize your lawn during the 'Spring Green Up' promotion at your local garden supplier. Two-thirds of the nitrogen applied to your lawn should be put out during the fall months. That is the time of year when the plant builds up its roots. Spring comes with a growth flush that is mostly top growth. The reserves are being used to push the plant up and most of the nitrogen will do the same.

Lowe's and Home Depot benefit from 'Spring Green Up' much more than your lawn. A little fertilizer this time of year will go a long way.
Friday, March 12, 2010

Morning workout

The other day, we outfitted one of our staff members with a pedometer to measure the distance travelled when walk mowing greens. Mario tried this out the first day and came back with 16,427 steps. We measured the distance of 25 paces and divided out to get 7.9 miles.

There is a lot of walking involved, but this number seemed to be very exaggerated. I hooked on the pedometer and drove two laps around the maintenance yard and totaled 32 steps without standing up. The vibration and bumping of the cart was enough to make a marathon runner out of anyone.

The next day we set Teddy up with the same device, however, he was instructed to reset the pedometer before each green and record the steps each time. He mowed six greens and totalled 4211 steps. Once we measured his walking style, kind of a thuggish-limp-along type of stroll, we came up with a much more realistic 1.9 miles.

In conclusion, walk mowing our relatively small greens every morning requires over 6 miles of distance in under 3 hours of time. Today, I reminded the crew how lucky they are to have an employer initiated health and fitness program that pays you while you exercise. They, in turn reminded me how lucky I am to have a crew that will put up with my lousy jokes.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Master Po, I hear the grasshopper

There's no better way to introduce a newly acquired machine than by referencing Kung Fu. Yes, young Caine, this is a Grasshopper unit and the front attachment is a Buffalo Blower. We are still working on last week's clippings and this machine is making quick work of the job.

Mario Estrada is on the unit blowing rough along the fairway of number 16. Monday, we had three people mowing rough, two people on blowers, and two more dragging fences and mats to break up this mess. By the looks of the photo below, we got to this section of rough just in time.

We got the Grasshopper unit in a trade for a broken down rough unit. We were tired of fixing the thing and it was sitting in our junk pile when an interested friend offered a trade. This little blower is packed with power and you will be seeing it frequently on the course cleaning cart paths, spreading clippings, and gathering fallen leaves.

Old man, how is it that you hear these things? ---------- Young man, how is it that you do not?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Squish, squish, squish

That's what it sounds like when you talk a walk on the course after all of the recent rain. Now that temperatures are climbing, the grass is out of control and the clippings have piled up. We mowed as much rough as we could before the latest rain storms and the clippings matted down like cow patties. We have no choice but to hand rake all of these areas before the clumps of clippings kill the turf beneath.

That is what happened in the winter of 2005-2006 which was even wetter than this one. We did not have a working blower and the staff had to keep mowing to stay on top of the spring flush of growth. The result was lush, 2 inch rough with pockets and holes of bare ground every couple of feet in every direction.

We will do all we can to prevent a repeat of that mess and we have the machinery and the staff to accomplish that. Also, the weather forecast looks very dry for the next ten days, so we should be able to dry out, get the mowers back to work, and trim down the fairways back to their regular height.

My best guess is we are back to good playing conditions by next Friday, so get your tee times in for next weekend; we're going to be busy.
Thursday, March 4, 2010

Preventative Maintenance

The irrigation system is the life and blood of a golf course in the arid western states. Since we typically do not record any precipitation for 6 months of the year, the health and aesthetics of the turf relies on a properly functioning irrigation system.

We are blessed to have a modern irrigation system and a pump house that is the best I've seen out of the seven courses I've worked for. Both of these components were installed in 2002 and are holding up very well. However, that is no reason to ignore annual maintenance of the system and wait for a problem before taking a look.

I pulled the following definition from Wikipedia and I think it describes the phrase very well.

Preventive maintenance (PM) has the following meanings:

1.The care and servicing by personnel for the purpose of maintaining equipment and facilities in satisfactory operating condition by providing for systematic inspection, detection, and correction of incipient failures either before they occur or before they develop into major defects.

Just like maintaining your car with regular service intervals, we must maintain our irrigation system before the problem arises.

Yesterday, Commercial Pump came out to the course to inspect and service our pump system and for the second visit in a row, they found a potentially massive problem. The hydraulic tube that senses pressure in the system was partially blocked and could mislead the computer to run the pumps until something ruptured or burned up. In addition, the computer system is water-cooled and that tubing was also partially blocked.

The pictures to the left show the removed filter that keeps most dirt and debris from entering the irrigation lines. The top photo is a good look at the brushes that periodically scrape the walls to remove buildup. The next pic shows the outside which is thoroughly washed before inspection. Finally, the last photo was taken inside the pump house. Here you can see the housing for the removed filter and the four pumps in the background.

We came through this checkup with a clean bill of health and a couple of problems resolved before disaster struck. Once the gentlemen from Commercial Pump finished putting the system back together, we needed to fire on many sprinkler heads to test everything. This is always tricky because I don't want to soak all of the golfers on the course. This time I had a different problem and that was explaining why I was irrigating during a storm that dumped over a half-inch of water on the already saturated turf.
Turning on the water during a rain event in late winter will definitely turn a few more heads than the ones sticking out the ground. Thanks for your understanding.