Sunday, November 23, 2014

What do you do in the winter?

My kid's pediatrician asked me the other day, "What do you do in the winter at the golf course?"  Kind of caught me off guard with the question, just because I wasn't expecting to talk turf while taking my kid to the doctor.  The answer slid out after a moment of brief hesitation.  But then I started thinking how much I get asked this question come Fall, in different forms.  "Y'all staying busy out there?", "Too cold to be working today right?"' "What are y'all doing today?", "There can't be much to do over there in the Winter?" and many other forms of the same question.
Well, it's the week of Thanksgiving and I'm currently on vacation with my family at the beach and I still can't stop working.  I am taking a break from creating my budget for 2015 right now.  That is one of my big tasks for the month of November.  This also involves the process of early ordering chemicals for 2015, which means that I have to have an agronomic plan in place for 2015 by this point.  I'm not going to go too deep into what I, personally, have to get done. 
I will come up with ideas of things that I would like to change all year long.  Hopefully when I have that idea I have my trusty voice recorder with me so I can make a "note to self" and remind myself later.  Some of the things that we work on are carry over jobs that are just too big for our staff to complete in one season.  We also have repeat jobs that we have to do the same at a certain time every winter. 
I will try to outline the jobs that we will be doing this season excluding keeping up the golf course, which does not stop getting done,

Single Season Jobs
tree work
debris removal
opening up the traffic areas on #6
building new tees on #11 and #17
converting the monument Tee signs into flush in ground tee signs
fixing the maintenance shop ceiling
cut back the bradford pears in the parking lots
relocate and identify the correct teeing areas from the score card
adding new heat to pump station

Carry over jobs
clearing out the riverbank on #8, 16, 17, 18
rebuilding bunkers
repair poor sections of cart path

Repeat jobs
spray roundup and pre emergent on entire course 
repaint all tee markers on course
repaint all hazard markers on course
repaint all OB stakes on course
leaf removal in late fall/early winter
re seal wood products out on course benches, cooler stands, trash cans
reorganize the maintenance yard area
clean out and re insulate bird houses huts and nesting areas
working on repairing faulty wiring in the irrigation system
repainting the pump station

I know that I am missing a few in there but even with the amount of repeat jobs we have a lot to accomplish in an off season with a limited staff, not to mention working on the interior of the club house when it needs attention.  And I know that I will come up with more stuff that I want to complete because I do suffer from my eyes being bigger than my stomach frequently.
With all of that said, that's what we will be doing this winter.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Winter is around the corner

We have now had a couple of light frosts so far this month even though our temps have been awesome so far.  But, those light frosts are a sign of things to come.  I am hearing forecasters predicting weather patterns that mimic last winter.  We all remember the trouble that we had with the tees and fairways this spring, and we don't want a repeat of that scenario next year. 
One of the things that I will be doing is reducing the amount of cart traffic that we will be allowing on the turf during dormant periods.  We may even see some of the holes get restricted back to cart path only if the weather patterns get bad.  I encourage some of our members to partner up on personal carts to decrease the amount of cart wear during the winter months.  I know its nice having everything in your cart where you want it but may be pile in with your playing partner once in a while to help the course be better in the spring. 
As you know, Hole #9 is now cart path only all of the time.  I have had people comment to me lately "did you over seed that hole".  The fairway on #9 looks so much better and greener because of the reduction in cart traffic, so the proof in in the pudding so to speak. 
We have also fertilized much heavier in some of the areas that were hit hard last winter.  The height of cut is currently up to 3/4" on the fairways and tees.  3/4" is our normal HOC in the fall.  I just made sure that we got to it a little sooner this year.  Both of these issues should help our chances of getting through the winter in a bad season.
In the end I have learned that it is my job to understand what Mother Nature is throwing at me and know how to react to the conditions.  I cannot change the weather I can only react to it. 
Just remember when it seems like its dry in the winter but its still "Path Only" that I am trying to protect the turf better than I did last year. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Fairway Recovery 2014

It's been quite a while since I put anything on the blog.  I have been busy with many different facets of the golf course the last two months.

The last post I had was dedicated to the fairway damage from Winter Kill.  We tried seeding the fairways with Bermuda grass.  That was a big dud.  As soon as we finished seeding it rained for like a week and a half.  All of the low areas that were damaged from holding too much moisture continued to hold too much moisture.  My best guess is that the seed was either covered by debris and couldn't find the light of day, or it simply rotted in place.  After that experiment failed we decided to aerify a couple of the fairways and push the cored to the bad areas and use that vegetation to regrow the areas.  This was a successful method, very labor intensive but successful.  We had our worst fairway on #3 that had no grass on the front half of it, so aerifying was not an option.  We started cutting sod in house from rough areas that were going to be converted to native this fall.  This was even more labor intensive but at the same time productive.  In August we ran out of time and labor for cutting sod in house so we got 6 pallets of Bermuda for the biggest areas on #3 fairway.  Finally today we are laying the last few small spots on #3 to finish it up.  I am glad that the weather has been as cool as it has been this season.  The greens have been easier to maintain in this weather so that we could focus more on the fairways.

I think that one good thing has come from the Winter Kill.  We have seen what Hole #9 looks like when it has no cart traffic.  We actually have rough on the inside of the dog leg.  We have decided to keep the hole cart path only for the long haul to protect the character of the hole.

I know I've said it before and I'll say it again.  I hope never to go this long again without posting on this forum.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Bermuda Damage

As a golf course superintendent every season brings new challenges, and that is one of the primary reasons why I love my job.  I always have a new challenge to face.  No two seasons are alike.  It can be too hot, too cold, too dry. too wet, too cloudy, too sunny, too windy, too stagnant, too humid or not humid enough.  Mother Nature gives us all kinds of battles to fight.
Well we had an extraordinary battle this winter.  Remember the Polar Vortexes? The way we went into the winter with the Bermuda turf I would never imagined that we would have had a problem coming out.  But, unfortunately we are having a problem.  We have some areas that are struggling to survive.  This mornings 29 degree frosty start is not the best way to help them climb out of dormancy.  I say climb because I'm not exactly sure how deep the grass is coming from under the soil.  I have checked a lot of areas on the course and I am still finding good roots in the soil, they are not all good but there are good roots out there.  I'm sure in some cases its 3" deep to find a good rhizome.  Most of our damage appears to be in the tightly mown areas, Tees,,Fairways and Collars.  It may just take some time for us to see some green grass poking its head through but I know that there are some areas on thees that received excessive wear this winter that the turf will have to be replaced.
This post is going to be littered with pictures to show specific areas that I am concerned about.  I guess that I will start with an example of what a Fairway should look like right now.
#13.  This Fairway (Large Par 3 Approach) faces South and has a pretty good soil medium for our course.  It has been responding pretty well to the warmer weather that we have had.  Oh, and it is supposed to get no cart traffic.

#1.  This is just an example picture of the effects that traffic can have on dormant Bermuda turf.  You can clearly see a distinction where carts are allowed and where they are not.

#3.  This Fairway is probably the worst one that we have.  It is pretty flat, but it has rock within 8" of the turf.  Rock holds and radiates heat and cold.  It is kind of like having a large ice cube in a soft drink, it helps keep it cold.

#4.  This Fairway slopes North.  That is not the easiest way to green up.  The canopy on this fairway has always been thin and provides little insulation to the soil.

#6  During our first warm up of late winter I started to see some green coming out in this fairway but it cooled off again I'm hoping that that did not hurt it too bad.  This hole has a solid clay hard packed soil base. and just as #4 is, the cart path is routed to the wrong side of the hole and forces the carts to use the fairway as the path of travel.

#8.  The Tees on this hole have been used as a temporary teeing area this winter due to the construction project behind #1 Green.  They are small and have simply been over worked.

#9.  We need to put more drainage on this Fairway.  The landing area of this fairway is actually a bowl.  Whenever we get a big rain the area turns into a pond for a short while.  The drainage that we have will remove the surface water relatively quickly, but the soil will stay saturated for quite some time in this area.

#9 Tee.  This Tee is in between 2 mountains so to speak so It gets at least 4 hours less light than a normal area of the course.  It is also very narrow so the traffic is concentrated into a small area.

#10.  The first Fairway has a lot of the same problems that #3 does with shallow rocks in areas of the fairway.

#16.  This Fairway is tree lined and the soil medium is an old gravel drive in movie theater parking lot, so it is really tough to get a good fairway on this hole.  The turf is always thinner on this fairway with the shade and soil problems.

#17.  The Tees on this hole are tiny.  I have no Idea why they are so small.  They do not resemble any other teeing surface on the golf course.  They simply got over worked through the winter.

I have decided on a firm plan of action for this problem,  I am still in the wait and see mode.  I am going to give them a couple more weeks to respond and if they do try to fertilize them out of their current state.  We did use Ronstar as a pre emegent herbicide this Winter, so if we do need to sprig into or sod areas the chemical will allow rooting of the new turf.
Hopefully the cold winter and the isolated conditions of these areas have just slowed down the Bermuda and not completely killed it off.
After going out and pulling some profiles in the damaged areas I am confident that most of these areas in the fairways will come back.  I was seeing some good rhizomes remaining in the soil.  I am able to tie the problem directly to soil composition, Winter weather patterns and cart traffic stress.  I will be a little more aggressive with Cart Path Only restrictions in the near future.  Please remember I do this for the betterment of the course not to piss you off. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Another Aerification Article

Yep, We aerified the greens again.  I was trying to think of a different way to communicate this topic because I'm sure that I've beaten it like a drum in past posts. 
My staff and I have aerified, cleaned off cores, picked up cores, sanded, fertilized twice, brushed, and watered all day long.  This was my 13th time aerifying the greens here at IHGC.  The 27th time for my career.  Over that time period it gets pretty difficult to change your methods.  However, I did change some of the chemical and fertilizer methods that I used to hold true to.  I won't bore you with the details, but the generalities are, something to make the greens more firm and more fertilizers of different varieties. 
Normally on Aerification day we are still plugging away (literally) at the greens until 5:30 or 6:00 PM and wouldn't finish topdressing and dragging until noon on day 2.  But, my staff was clocking out at 4 PM because everything had gone so smoothly.  Still not exactly sure where the reduction in time came from but I like it. 
I will be posting a video of the process on my youtube channel before too long so that you can better see the whole process in action. 
We punched 4.6 million holes in the greens.  That's just shy of 250,000 holes per green on average.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Stump Removal

As you know from Playing the course or my previous posts on the blog we have removed a substantial amount of trees from the golf course for various reasons.  I'm not going back into the reasoning for removing the trees that was a different post.  The last part of the job was removing the stumps that were left behind.  The options were to dig them out with a loader and then fill in a large coarse hole on the course, or have someone come in and grind them up for us and leave a nice little compact hole to repair.  We removed about 35 stumps yesterday and got them all covered back up today. 
We used a company by the name of Stump Pro out of Jackson, TN.  The owner Shawn Westacott is the golf course superintendent at Jackson Country Club.  He did a great job.  The only problem was that I forgot 1 stump on #9 that was covered by a pile of wood.  So, we missed one. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Roundup Application

Some of you may have noticed the blue/green dye around the greens and in the club grounds.  This is a dye indicator that shows where our chemical application was made with the spray hawk bordering the greens.  We used the dye this year to try to make us more efficient this winter.  When we spray with the standard spray rigs we use foam marker to show where we have gone.  20 min later the foam is gone and no one knows that we were ever there.  The Spray Hawk device does not have a foam marker there fore we cannot see where we sprayed chemical very well.  We added the dye this year to reduce overlapping of chemical and missed areas in between passes.  I think that it really made the operation much more smooth.  The operators doing the spraying loved it.  I am still not loving the color left behind but I am a fan of the process being more efficient.

Coincidentally,  If you do have a yard that is Bermudagrass or are looking to start the process of cleaning up the weeds in your yard now is the time to make that roundup application.  You have through February to finish this task. 


Just an update for those of you who are interested in Indian Hills information or golf course agronomy information.  I have recently discovered the world of Twitter.  I love getting my news feeds there;  I also get a lot of different industry news there.  I am trying to put out additional information concerning golf course agronomy or Indian Hills information.  So, if you are interested in that kind of thing you can follow me @BradMarcy on Twitter.