Friday, May 28, 2010

Invitational Pics

Remember looking at a book when you were in grade school and putting it down after realizing there were no pictures inside? Sometimes I still feel that way. So, here are a bunch of pictures to satisfy that visual craving:

The practice round included a "Big Break" like skills challenge to ramp up the competitive spirit.

After the practice round, Stag Night is the real kickoff to the event.  Nestled under the shade of an Ash tree, the members and guest gather for great food, fun, and a few rolls of the bocce ball.  I thoroughly enjoy helping set up the court, which is  in the right portion of this picture.

Each year, we are thrilled to have the Garibaldi Band as the musical entertainment for Stag Night.  Bocce ball is more fun with Italian music in the background.  Plenty of guys were tired of rolling balls all day long and sought some TLC at the massage tables set up in the background.

If all this was not enough, there was also a scotch tasting table and hand rolled cigars.

The scoreboard was looking good after round 1.
Hopefully, nobody gets upset with me for posting their scores on the Internet.  After all the fun on Thursday night, the players had to ready themselves for the the official rounds the next two days.  Of course the fun was not over as Big Valley Ford offered up a $1000 gift certificate for a post round 1 shootout on the 18th.  The horse race followed and what a spectacle it was. 

Congratulations to the overall champion, Claude Ourthiague and his partner Mark Casey.

Each year we get a couple new members due to their experience at the tournament and that trend appears to be continuing.  Thanks to everyone who participated and a special thanks to my staff and all the departments for the hard work and long hours.  This year's tournament was a very enjoyable event for members, guests, and staff and we can't wait until next year.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Irrigation Update

Even though the recent weather patterns have provided some unseasonal temperatures and precipitation, we are still looking ahead to warmer days and preparing the irrigation system for the long, dry summer months. Richard, our irrigation tech, has been diligently replacing the intermediate nozzle on all of our Rainbird Eagle 700's, starting with the fairways and primary rough.

We first discovered this new nozzle configuration in mid-summer 2009. After testing a couple of fairways, we are nearly finished with the replacement. Click on this link to check out the original post "The Nozzle Dance."

Another problem, one that is far more common than you would imagine, is clams clogging up the irrigation system. Somehow they get through the intake screen and grow in the pipes until they block the passage of water, reducing pressure and uniformity. I am still researching potential solutions, but this has been going on for years and I only know one effective method of treatment: blow out the lines. To do this, we simply dig up and unscrew the sprinkler head, open up a valve and send the clams skyward. This process is very time consuming, but necessary. Don't worry, if you come out for dinner, Chef Nico has declined my generous offer of free clams, so your seafood linguine will not be home grown.

There are some acidic products on the market designed to break up the shells so they can be flushed out. However, from what I've heard, the smaller particles clog up the screens in the heads and block up the nozzles creating a more difficult problem to deal with.

Preventative maintenance plays a part in everything we do, and irrigation is near the top of the list. When it does stop raining, it won't start again for months and we are as ready as we've ever been. So PLEASE, bring on the heat, we have grass to grow.
Friday, May 21, 2010

Disease Profile: Fairy Ring

This unsightly problem may be the most early recorded turfgrass disease in history. Stories in ancient mythology mention strange rings caused by a gathering of fairies who danced around a fire causing a dead pattern in fields of grass. I can assure you that we no longer believe fairies are the cause of the damage and that’s good news because they would be protected as a migratory species in California. Check out the Wikipedia fairy ring article to read about all the folklore and myths surrounding the strange rings.

Fairy ring is caused by a ring of mushrooms. Feeding on organic matter, decomposing tree roots, and thatch, the fungi causes the soil to become hydrophobic, repelling water away from the infected zone. The border of the ring is usually greener than the surrounding turf as nitrogen is released from the digestion of organics. The rings start small and grow outward in a sometimes, perfect circle. The turf within the ring normally recovers from the short lived drought.

When I arrived at Stockton Golf and Country Club nearly five years ago, the greens were a hotbed of fairy ring activity. This specific variety resulted in puff ball mushrooms that would stick out of the surface interfering with ball roll and ruining the aesthetics of the green. It took us two years to get this problem under control with increased aerification, regular topdressing, and verticutting to help reduce thatch. The greens have been fairy ring free for three years, but the rest of the course still needs work.

We are currently combating fairy ring in the fairway and rough starting with highly visible areas and landing zones. The funds we used to spend on managing disease on the greens have been redirected to improve other areas that need attention. The same strategy of wetting agents, fungicides, aerification, and topdressing are being employed to manage the disease.
These photos were taken 2 months apart, the second one was taken yesterday. The improvement is obvious as the soil is holding some more water and keeping the turf green. The trees also look a little greener (I thought I had the wrong hole for a minute). We will monitor these areas closely to keep the upper hand on the disease.

If temperatures ever warm up to get the bermuda growing, the fairy ring will become a turf conversion tool of its own. Bermudagrass tolerates the drying out as the cool season grass fades away. The 10 day forecast shows no sign of approaching our normal average high of 82 degrees, so we'll wait patiently for the arrival of summer.
Monday, May 17, 2010

Fox Pups

Right next to the maintenance shop and right of # 15 fairway, we have four new additions to our red fox population. These little guys were first spotted a couple of weeks ago and we've been regularly entertained ever since. Our Equipment Manager, and sports photographer for the Ripon Record, Gary Jensen took this great photo.

Izzo, as usual, has been making her rounds and doesn't seem to understand why the parent foxes have become more aggressive. She's got nipped on the tail a couple of times, but no harm, no foul.

Friday, after the first round of the invitational, I was heading back to the shop after an exhausting day. We started at 5:00 am to get the course prepared and finished around 6:30 pm after an afternoon mowing of fairways, tees, approaches, collars, and some rough. I was worn out, but I ended up sitting in my cart on and watching these playful characters for 30 minutes. Here is a good example of their behavior shot by Assistant Superintendent, Rob Williams.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Tournament Time

The crew and I have been busy, busy, busy.  Today is the first round of the Member Invitational, our annual blowout event.  Participation is down slightly this year, possibly due to the economy and personal time constraints.  That's too bad for those who couldn't make it because they are really missing out.

Every department in the club steps up to make this event something to remember.  The Pros in the golf shop go above and beyond with games, events, and attractions that far surpass the entry fee.  Yesterday was the practice round which included what we call 'Stag Night' once play concludes.  Start off with lunch on the range, a round of golf, and head back to the clubhouse for hand rolled cigars, professional massages, scotch tasting, bocce ball, the Garibaldi band, and a phenomenal spread of food.  Pictures are coming, but I don't have them yet.

Today, the fun continues for the members and the crew as we feed off all of the compliments on course conditions.  I've never been to a club with such an appreciative membership.  One thing I can't figure out is why they beg for faster greens after they tell me how many three-putts they had. 

The greens are rolling nicely, the fairways are firm, everything is trimmed, and so far, everyone is happy.  We have a couple more long days ahead of us and then we can take a break from working from dark to dark.  That doesn't mean that this is the high point of the season because we plan on improving conditions daily, little by little.  As long as we continue to hear, "this is the best the course has ever been" then we are doing our jobs.  With all that we have planned in the next year, I bet we hear the same come tournament time next May.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Shady landscape

A while back, I posted a few pictures of the course snack shack during it's much needed remodeling.  Now that the building is up to par, the landscaping needed a major face lift.  The tricky part of this location is shade on top of shade.  You could probably grow bats next to this building because there is so little sunlight.
This spot is very busy with golfers arriving at 6 green, heading to 7 tee, and six holes later, pulling in to 13 tee.  Traffic patterns have developed on both sides of the path so we've expanded to accommodate two carts side by side.  To do this we used decomposed granite which becomes extremely hard, but still accepts water.  The gold color of the DG contrasts the gray cartpath and adds a new color to the landscape.  I love using this material for its low cost, easy install, and minimal maintenance.
A shady location such as this will not support most plants you encounter in a California nursery.  Of course, we were able to find plenty of options by asking around at the local nursery.  We came up with a mix of gardenia, blue fescue, camellias, liriope grasses, a gorgeous rhododendron, and a ground cover called black ajuga.   The design was completed by two beautiful Japanese maples and a couple of tall podacarpus to hide the downspouts.  A generous member here at the club offered to pay for all of the planting material and picked out the maples and podacarpus himself.  A big thanks to MG for all of the help and his constant support!!
Planting went quickly and the finished product is ready well before the start of the 49th Annual Delta Classic.  We are going to wait to install drip line and a soaker hose for the impatiens for next Monday.  Right now we have a couple thousand trees to weedeat, fairway markers to polish, cartpaths to clean up, suckers to trim, ........... oh, and the bocce court to ready for Thursday night.  This event is a lot of fun and a great way to kick off the year.  We schedule many projects between the rain of winter and the start of the Invitational so there is always some improvements to see during the tournament.  The list grows longer every day, so we'll be just as busy after the trophies are awarded.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Super Tools: Campbell HydroSense

First let me introduce this new segment, ‘Super Tools’ which will highlight many of the devices I use to grow better turf. Every superintendent relies on more than than his or her eyes and ears to measure the health of the grass they grow. Visual interpretation alone leaves a lot guess work which will lead to mistakes and poor course conditions. If you walk the course thinking you’re clever enough to predict disease, stress, insect damage, and fertility, than prepare for a swift kick in the ass by all of the powers of mother nature. I’ve been kicked a few times before, and I’ve learned from the bruises.

Out of all the tools I have at my disposal, the Campbell HydroSense is my absolute favorite. This hand-held instrument measures volumetric water content by averaging the reading between the two prongs from end to end. We insert the metal rods at a slight angle to reduce the depth to four inches to mimic our root zone. From the reading, we can decide whether the green needs to be hand-watered, needs over-head water that night, or can go another day.

Many superintendents say there is no substitute for an old fashioned soil probe that pulls a plug that you can hold in your hand and put up to your nose.  Well, they are right.  That's why we will pull a plug on the green also in a few places.  However, I can take over twenty readings with the HydroSense in less than a minute and cover the entire green.  It is fast, effective, and removes any guesswork. 

Using a moisture meter has greatly improved uniformity on all greens from left to right, front to back, and low to high.  Inexperienced staff members dragging a hose around for the first time are given a baseline number that is directly related to our anticipated high temperature of the day.  Eventually, they become less dependant on the tool, but it sure is nice to have that extra security blanket.
Monday, May 3, 2010

Basic Training

The last few weeks, we've been training employees on new jobs, machines and responsibilities nearly every day.  There is a ladder to climb in most turf maintenance departments and for us, the bottom rung starts with filling divots and raking bunkers.  Other minor tasks include weedeating, tree work (without chainsaws), bunker edges, and so on.  When these tasks are mastered you are ready to move up.

The second round includes walk mowing on the greens and collars.  The cleanup pass around the green tends to be the most difficult part for a new operator.  A common problem is shrinking greens as the mower cuts slightly inside the collar bringing the edges of the green closer to the center by a fraction of an inch.  The staff here goes the opposite direction, (I love the aggressive attitude) widening the greens slightly each time they mow.  We periodically dot the greens with paint to get the collar back to the original position.

Once an employee can efficiently handle a tour of walking mowing greens, he/she can get off their feet and on to a riding unit.  In a perfect world, every employee would be able to perform every job we have.  Organizing the daily or weekly schedule becomes much simpler when multiple options are available. 

Today, for example, we are deep tining fairways, spraying for fairy ring in the fairways, putting in a drainage trench on #2, aerifying the remaining tees and approaches, slit seeding #13 tee, and starting the landscape installation at the snack shack.  Since we are constantly introducing the staff to new machines and cultural practices, the white board filled out very quickly this morning. 

New training assignments include Manuel on course setup, Dante on the fairways, Sal is spraying more often, Marvin on the roller, Arnold is learning some irrigation, and Teddy has been the understudy in the shop, helping out our Equipment Manager, Gary.  

Most of the above mentioned jobs were requested by the people learning them.  How can you say no to a guy that asks to learn setup almost every day?  A strong desire to learn says a lot about a person.  Either they want to broaden their horizons or they're really getting tired of bunker edges.