Monday, November 21, 2011

It's drainage time

Installing new drainage on a golf course that is partially below sea level is limited to few options.  If the grade is right, we can attach to an existing sump pump or tie into one of the lines that connect our lakes.  If all else fails, we dig a giant hole, fill with crushed rock, top with landscape fabric and some sand.  This type of drain will handle some wet spots and light rains, but will do little to remove water from a major winter storm.  Anything more than an inch is probably considered 'major' when we only average 16 inches per year. This place can get wet in a hurry.

This past weekend we recorded about .35" of rain and the course was CART PATH ONLY for one day.  Today we are back open and checking out our new drain lines to see what else needs to be done.  Over the last three weeks, we have installed over 300 linear feet of drains.  175 feet of this was installed on October 31st on the driving range.  We've been forced to close the range during wet periods in the winter and hope to stay open year round with some new drainage.

We went with a french drain since this is out of play and the gravel will not be visible from the tee or from the 18th fairway.  Towards the trees in the background, we have some more wet areas to attend to.  Next Monday, we will fire up the trencher and add some new lines to the ones you see here.  Our outlet is positioned at the lowest point of the range, so we can drain everything to one central point.  The water then heads to the sump pump at the back of the range and is pumped to the pond on #2.

When we installed this drain, we cut through three old drain lines.  We found a large, 10" concrete drain line that was filled will soil.  We found another clay drain tile that was heavily deteriorated.  The last one was corrugated plastic, the same material we are using and a modern marvel compared to the other pipes we encountered.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Monster Day

I'm falling behind with some of these posts, but Craig keeps snapping pictures to remind me that we have plenty to share.  On October 30th, the club hosted it's annual Monster Day to punish participants with a brutal course setup.  A member of ours, Dr. Weldon Hess, has assisted with torturing the field for the last three years and for the second year in a row, I skipped town during the event to visit GCSAA and avoid the backlash from unsuspecting participants.  This is the only day that Bert is encouraged to place the pins in the toughest location he can find, legal or not.  Every year we come up with some new ideas of tee locations, course routing, and unusual obstacles.

New additions to this year's tournament included a flop shot over our 'Big Break Wall' on the par 3 11th hole.

Most holes had pin locations on slopes such as the worst of the worst, the false front of #8 green.  There is a maximum number of strokes on this hole to keep things moving along.

#3 featured 3 pins with one large hole, one small hole, and one standard hole.  Players were instructed to choose their pin before playing to the up-hill green.  However, I heard that many groups decided, "we'll go for the big hole" instead of choosing a flag; left, right, or center.  Go figure.  I'd take the big hole too.

 We have a lot of fun with this tournament and this year, a couple of our own guys, Bert Ryan and Charlie Cariati, played in the event.  They heard a lot of playful complaints towards the brutal setup, but it was all in good fun.  If you sign up for Monster Day, you know what's in store.

A Post on Cart Traffic Exit Posts

For traffic control, we've tried our fair share of options.  We've roped off all the approaches.  We've pulled those ropes and tried signs.  Some people did not like the signs because they were too close to the ground so we elevated them on green stakes.  We then pulled those signs due to more complaints and since then, we've had very little traffic control anywhere on the course.

My attitude towards this problem is...... or maybe was, "They aren't going to follow it anyways, so we might as well keep it clean."  I hate ropes and stakes mucking up the golf course.  Do you ever see a golf calendar with a shot of a beautifully manicured green complex surrounded by plastic stake, rope, signs, and other traffic control garbage?

To combat the compaction near the greens we started to aerify more, fertilize more, and use wetting agents.  This micro-management worked well, but we still have our trouble spots.

With the encouragement and direction of the Green Committee and Senior Men Board of Directors, I made some cheap exit posts and placed them in the fairway just before the approach.  I really didn't think people would pay any mind to these things, but it was worth a try at little expense, time, or effort.  To my surprise, most people are observing the slight restriction.

Traffic control is similar to insect control on the golf course.  The goal is not to eradicate all possibility of cart traffic, because that would require way too much rope and cause problems with aesthetics.  Eradicating all insect activity would require way too much pesticide and hurt populations of beneficial organisms. So just like we handle insects we are trying to limit traffic to the damage threshold.  As long as all the golfers are not driving up to the edge of the green, the turf will be fine and I will not go crazy.  85% of our members are trying to follow the new exit posts, that is pretty good control. 

Thank you to those of you who are trying to keep this course in good shape.  Those who choose to ingnore our traffic control are not reading this website and hopefully will not complain that I compared them to nuisance insects.
Thursday, November 10, 2011

Bunker renovation greenside #1

I'll be the first to admit to this problem: our bunkers are bad.  The sand is contaminated with silt and other fines creating a hard pan in most of the hazards.  Others have small rocks or pea gravel and many are not graded properly to keep balls away from the edges.  Finally, and most importantly, most bunkers do not have drainage and you'll never have a good bunker without it.  We want good bunkers, but bad bunkers make sense to me (they are hazards after all) and we have bigger fish to fry with limited funds, staff, and time. However, there is a plan in place.

The Green Committee recently created a priority list of bunkers which need work. We will attempt to renovate some of the worst bunkers, in-house, one at a time. It is not the best way to renovate bunkers, leading to inconsistency, but it is a viable option at this time.

To start with, we are renovating the green side bunker on #1 for the following reasons:

  • The bunker has existing drainage that works-- so less time and money
  •  This is the only bunker for this green complex, one and done.
  •  The bunker is void of sand, pretty much hard pan.
  •  Pea gravel from original drain lines has contaminated what little sand there is
    •  Not good for your clubs
    •  Not good for the green mowers
The next targets are both bunkers on #9, right side of #13, and the front left bunker on #7. It was pretty easy to agree on these few, but there are many more that need work.

Here are a couple of pics of the project:

 Charlie is digging away the odd lobe which is too severe and out of place

We spent about 4 hours hand grading and removing the old material from the bunker

New shape and clean drain lines.

A local red fox was kind enough to check the depth the night after installing the sand. 
We cleaned up the pea gravel and dirty sand and repacked this hole.  Luckily, the fox left it alone after the first excursion.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

2011 GCSAA Chapter Delegates Conference

This past weekend I had the privilege of joining nearly 100 golf course superintendents from across the country at the annual Chapter Delegates Conference.  As a first time delegate, representing the Sierra Nevada Golf Course Superintendent Association, I traveled to Kansas City and boarded a bus to head to Lawrence, KS, home of GCSAA’s headquarters.  This my second visit to the headquarters, the first being a Leadership Symposium in 2008.  The facility is an impressive place with an equally impressive staff that is dedicated to serving the needs of member superintendents and the golf industry as a whole.

Here are a couple of pics of the antique maintenance equipment displayed on the first floor.

Saturday is a full day of meetings, evaluating the state of the Association through presentations, breakout sessions, and open forums.  Delegates are invited to share their questions and experiences with staff members, board of directors, and most importantly, fellow superintendents.

My favorite part of all of this is meeting other superintendents.  I easily made 30 new contacts during the two day conference and acquired contact information from every single attendee.  This is a group of well educated, professional, and devoted managers that drive this industry and produce the conditions that benefit you, the golfer.  I am still impressed by the professionalism of the men and women that make up this industry. 

While Bill Murray as Carl Spackler is a great character in a hilarious movie, he does a poor job in personifying the people who are real superintendents.  Notice how we all are wearing suits, not stained shirts and floppy hats.  Like the machines pictured above, we’ve come a long way.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Small project, big difference

I hesitate to post this one because the renovation is not quite complete.  The exterior of the restroom adjacent to the 7th tee box has improved drastically over the last two years.  I couldn't find a photo of the original, I take enough pictures of ugly stuff, so I must have skipped that one.

The remodel was completed at the same time as the snack shack, which really improved first impressions when entering the property.  Here is a link to that post, snack shack facelift.  The landscape was renovated later that year and has matured very well.

Craig Heitman, our Assistant Superintendent, has joined our team full of ideas.  My favorites are the low cost, simple projects that can be completed quickly as a side job.  During aerification and overseeding, we don't have staff and time to commit to a large project so the smaller jobs not only fit our budget, but fit our timeline utilizing one or two afternoons with a couple of experienced staff members.

As we've done a few times before, we removed the railroad ties that border the planter and replaced with some stackable Basalite bricks.  We will add some new plants to the landscape in the near future, combining the order with trees to continue work on the Tree Program.

The staff made quick work of this one during tournaments that prevented much work on the golf course.  The landscape will be finished up a little later this month to put this project to rest and move on to the next.