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.  

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Let me grab a jacket

That's something you don't normally hear during August in Stockton.  However, most of us have probably been saying that lately.  While the majority of the country is sweltering with hot weather these last few weeks, the unseasonably cool conditions in Northern California will continue for the next seven days at the very least.

Normal highs this time of year are around 93 degrees with multiple triple digit afternoons to be expected.  Instead, we can barely hit 90 and evening temps are below sixty.  We've been lowering irrigation times and shutting off heads to prevent wet spots which is exactly the opposite of what we've been programmed to do in mid-August.

The greens only received one night of overhead irrigation with spot watering by hand getting us by.  This gets the greens a little quicker, but the sodium in the soil wicks up the profile and interferes with the health of the turf.  Tonight, we've scheduled what I'd call a mini-flush of the greens with about an hour of irrigation for each sprinkler head.  We turn off 1 to 3 heads for a few greens if they overlap a bunker or if they put too much water on the rough or approach.  The heads run for a portion of the total time and then stop to let it soak in.  When the green can handle more, it comes back on for the next cycle.

Washing sodium through the profile is made easier with wetting agents.  Simply put, wetting agents are glorified soap that helps soil get wet.  There are a ton of these on the market and they all work a little differently than each other.  I tried 10 or so before I found the best one for Stockton's greens.

When I hand watered greens on Saturday, I noticed the water infiltration had really slowed down.  The greens were not draining as well as they did just a few days ago.  So Sunday, I came in dark and early and sprayed a wetting agent before the mowers and roller prepared the greens for play.  The golf course is a really interesting place at 3:30 am, but please don't come see it for yourself at that time, just take my word for it.

The application went fine and I have yet to receive any complaints from the few homeowners who live adjacent to the 1st and 3rd greens.  The morning was very still.  It was dark, misty and very cool so I'm glad I grabbed my jacket.  Tonight the heads will be turning more than usual and sodium will be one less thing to worry about for a few weeks.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Oil + bentgrass = bad morning

  This is the first oil leak on the greens in a very long time, at least five years.  We've been lucky and also took some of the potential leaks off of the greens by going to walk mowers every day.  Streaks of oil on the rough and fairway seem to happen 3-4 times a year when hoses burst under pressure.  Our fairway units have over 30 different hydraulic hoses to keep track of.  Owner's manuals suggest replacement of hoses every two years, but that is cost and time prohibitive. 

In this instance, the broken hose was on our Salsco Greens Roller.  The operator did not see the oil in the morning dew until multiple stripes were laid down on the green.  Rob called Richard over immediately to wash the oil off of the leaf blade to minimize injury.  He used some wetting agents and a bunch of water to try to wash away the damage. 

So far, we've been happy with the limited damage in the four days since the event occurred.  There is some yellowing and we'll probably have some turf loss, but nothing too major. 

The staff handled this problem very well while I was enjoying the start of a three day weekend.  The oil was watered to minimize injury almost immediately.  The roller was taken back to the shop, repaired and out rolling again in no time.  The Proshop was informed promptly with the location, description, and projected damage to pass on to our golfing members.  The day continued like any other after this small disaster took place. 

So a big pat on the back to Rob and the staff for all of their hard work.  Sometimes the most important work a maintenance staff does is not evident by beautiful conditions, instead it's the lack of horrible conditions that were avoided.