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.