Tuesday, March 29, 2011

By the end of the week

Hopefully, we will have this place back to normal when the weekend rolls around.  Since the 16th of March, when all this rain first showed up, we've accumulated 2.79 inches of precipitation at our weather station.  That is a lot of rain to move through this soil or pump off the property.  Last Friday, for example, the back of the range was knee high water, fairways 2, 7, 10, 11, 13, 14, 17, and 18 were all partially covered with standing water and curious water fowl.  Surprisingly, one week later, we may be back to good playing conditions.

The improvement, compared to past winters, is mainly due to aerification practices and a few new drains.  We will continue to aerify the fairways at least 3 times per year and hopefully, fill some of the holes with sand when we have the funds to do so.  It is a slow, gradual improvement, but after a few years the results are obvious.

In the next few days, we will be mowing, blowing, raking, and sweeping as we try to chop down the tall grass and clean up the mess at the same time.  Izzo and I just finished a course tour in an effort to find locations that were ready for the weight of a mower.  We are in better shape than I expected.  Izzo spent most of her time chasing geese off the course because the flood is over, we are going to be a golf course again.

We may look like a patchwork quilt as we mow the dry spots and skip the wet.  Today we will mow the far left rough of #2 and leave the rest to another day.  Please be patient while we jump around, we'll get it all finished soon enough.
Monday, March 21, 2011

Storm Report

I really don't want to follow a post about too much growth with a post about too much rain, but that is what we got.  Since last Wednesday, we've picked up 1.24 inches of rain according to the weather station located in the right rough of the 14th hole.  This might not be much rain for some golf courses, but it sure is for us.  Stockton's average rainfall is 13.95 inches so we picked up nearly 9 % of that in 4 days with much more to come.

There isn't anywhere for the rain to go with the ground water pushing closer to the surface.  Reservoirs are releasing at a feverish pace and the deep water channel is as high as I've seen for some time.  When the storm finally breaks, the turf is going to take off with excessive growth.  We will not be able to mow until the surface firms up for the equipment. 

The staff was worried last week that they would not have any work to do and paychecks would suffer.  No need to worry, the wind provided days of work and took care of some trees that were scheduled for removal.  Two trees were lost completely; a eucalyptus near #12 approach and an old, overgrown bush of a tree near the path on #1.  I won't miss either of these.  Multiple redwoods were damaged in the storm with the tops breaking off of a few.  Of course, the entire property is littered with large branches, twigs, and leaves. 

#13 next to maintenance road, making for easy cleanup.
Cleanup of Euc near the 12th approach, the rest will come down soon.

In a storm of this magnitude, at this time of year, everybody suffers together.  The golfers can't play in decent conditions, the golf course takes on more water than it can handle, the trees get smashed, the maintenance staff is wet and cold, and even the poor fox has to leave it's flooded den.  I am really looking forward to summer, aren't you?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Grass is Growing, way too fast

Spring is a beautiful time at every golf course.  The grass greens up all by itself without a boat load of fertilizer, the trees are in bloom, and everything looks a little brighter when the temps pop up by a few degrees.  On the flip side, we can barely keep up with all the growth, especially the rough.  We have yet to ramp up to a full staff and have been short a few employees since the first of December.  They are scheduled to return towards the end of this month and I am sure they will be busy from the very start.

We currently are mowing down the rough as often as possible.  During the regular growing season, 2 staff members dedicating a total of 80 hours of labor can keep the rough maintained at a reasonable height.  We currently mow the rough at 2 inches as decided within the Green Committee in our Golf Course Standards and Objectives.  This is a good height and offers the best compromise between playability, penalty, and health of the turf.  However, between rain days, tournaments, and time constraints, the height of rough can vary between 2 inches and 5 inches.

This time of year, all the stored energy in a grass plant's root zone is releasing directly to leaf and eventually seed growth.  The "Spring Green Up" ads you'll start seeing on television any time now are best ignored.  The plant is going to grow whether you fertilize or not.  Crabgrass control is another issue and should be conducted in the next 3-4 weeks.

We will do our best during the spring flush to keep the course in top playing condition.  You will find varied heights of the rough here or there, so stay in the fairway.  See, it's just that simple. 

To keep the clippings under control we utilize backpack blowers, walk behind blowers, and our big, tractor-mounted blower.  Not only does this help to maintain a manicured appearance, it also prevents clumps of grass from matting down and killing turf.  Another practice you'll see is two employees dragging a hose to disperse morning dew and clippings on the fairways. 

These growing conditions will persist for the next month and then we'll get back to normal.  I often tease our Assistant Superintendent, Rob Williams, that this place is "too damn green," as if it's all his fault.  I like a little brown, a little blue, and a little stress.  Were months away from attaining the lean, mean, firm summer conditions that we are most proud of.  But if you're going to be super green, then this is the day to do it.  We even dyed a few flags green and fly them for St. Patrick's Day. 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Tree Program, Phase I Update

It sure is nice to have a major project to latch on to during the slow growing months of winter.  Whenever we have a spare moment, our attention is directed towards the Tree Program.  To date, we have planted over 50 trees and removed close to the same number.  Feedback from the membership has been positive and most people share the excitement the crew and I have for improving this course.

If you've played the course in the last couple of months, you've probably noticed the new additions to our Forest.  In case you were wondering about the species of trees we've selected, here is a short rundown of what we've planted so far.

The cork oak has become one of my favorite trees for it's strength, structure, and attractive bark.  We have many of these growing very well throughout the golf course, so it was an easy choice to add to the program.  They seem to do fine with the high water table and like many oaks, they are tolerant of saline soils.

A mature cork oak in the left rough of No. 16
 All of the trees we are planting come in 15 gallon containers.  There is some data that shows smaller container trees to catch up and surpass the larger (24-48"box) in three years.  The reason is that the smaller tree is introduced to it's new soil at a younger age and can adjust while the large tree has been growing in the nursery's soil for a number of years. 

That being said, it comes as no surprise that the trees we've installed are pretty small.  Be patient because there is a price to pay with instant gratification.  Landscape design involves the same principal of patiently letting your plants grow into their space.

Here is some additional info on the cork oak if you are interested in planting one yourself or if you have a bunch of wine bottles to plug:
Cork Oak Wikipedia page

The 6th hole received the greatest influx of new trees of anywhere on the course.  The goal is to frame the hole and buffer the fence line, street, and houses.  Here, we tried to select species that would not limit the very important, morning sunlight from reaching the fairway.  One species, newly introduced to the club is the goldenrain tree.  These, like all of the trees we are using, are saline soil tolerant and grow well in our area, as proven by a couple of sites just down the street.  Goldenrain trees do not get very large, so once the sun is above the houses, it will most likely be shining on the fairway.  Also, as the name suggests, the trees have a burst of yellow in late summer to give the course some much needed color.  Here is a link to learn more: Goldenrain Tree, NC State Plant Fact Sheet

I'll run through a couple of more tree profiles in the upcoming post including 'Shademaster' honey locust, plum, and sycamore.