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.