Tuesday, August 19

The Well's and "not-so wells"



What has been such a great summer is starting to make me pull my hair out.  By now, we had hoped to be elbow-deep in our new range/pump house by now with sights set on completing our irrigation upgrade by fall.  As always seems to happen, small changes, permits, and people just being busy has thrown a couple of delays into our process.  Rest assured, we are still on-track and moving forward.

As I spoke of awhile back, the unexpected yield on well #2 demanded we change the type and horsepower of our well pumps.  This change required some minor re-engineering and tweaks to the new electrical infrastructure to accommodate the higher horsepower. Being as our range house is a commercial structure, this electrical information was required to submit for our county building permit, which required our zoning permit, which blah blah blah blah. In other words, there hasn't been any mistakes, it's just taken a little longer to get all the necessary paperwork in place.

As of today, everything is moving forward - more or less.  The building permit is "pending" and we should have it in our hands soon.  The problem we are running into is that our masonry contractor has other work scheduled for late August.  Since our project was scheduled to take place late July/Early August, we are running out of time.  We are working diligently to ensure there are no further delays, but time will tell.  I will keep everyone posted.



Friday, July 25

The aftermath...

The Marathon Classic is in the rear-view mirror and yes, I am glad.  While I do take great pride in making sure this club shines in the local and national spotlight, I am happy to get back to my #1 job of making the club shine for the membership.  As many of you noticed, the tournament was a great success this year.  Record attendance, lots of birdies, and a great champion coupled with the best July weather we have ever had made for a great event.  From our perspective, the weather was the star of the show.

As most of you know, this tournament has been plagued by heavy rain, severe floods, extreme heat, drought and for the first time this year a guy in a bear suit. All of these things have caused problems for the tournament, but more importantly, some pretty tough conditions to recover from.  Walkways reduced to mud, turf "cooking" under bleachers, and what seems like miles of mulched paths are not to be seen this year, and the outlook is great for a speedy recovery.  Instead of having to re-grow acres of turf, we should be able to get great recovery from our existing stand.

Crosswalk on 10 fairway is straw colored turf instead of mud.  We will look to recover instead of re-sod.


Still lots of little green plants battling back.  A little TLC, patience, water and fertilizer should have things popping back in a few weeks.

With the course left in relatively good shape, we hope to have things back up to snuff in a few weeks instead of the usual 2-3 months.  If the weather stays mild and we can get one or two soaking rains, it should lead the way for some great late-summer golf.  Be sure to read this months Highlander where I attempt to debunk some common tournament myths.

Friday, June 27

Preamble to the real summer season




I know this is a bit of a "cop-out" but this is an early sneak-peek at my July newsletter article.  I spent enough time writing this article and it contains a good deal of information I get asked to write about.  From the water project to divots to cart traffic, I tried to cover all of it as a "preamble" to summer heat and stress season.  With the frustrations we battle over the summer I will try to address as many as I can in advance.  Also I hope everyone will read my comments regarding worker safety in hand-watering season.  As a reminder, there are a couple of useful links on the main blog page with information related to some of the topics below.

Cheers to you all!



“Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs”  -Henry Ford

July in the Grounds Department always brings a slight shift in priorities.  Having completed several larger projects this spring including drainage, road building, and large tree removal, we now must focus on the proverbial “little things”.  With a busy golf course, summer heat and humidity and the Marathon Classic looming, we can’t get distracted from our primary goal of producing the best day-to-day conditions we are capable of.

One of the aforementioned “little things” that you will start to see more of is the “in-play” watering of greens, tees and fairways.  Some players get frustrated that water is applied to surfaces (especially putting) during their round.  Unfortunately, the longest days of summer combined with heat and heavy member traffic often require a quick mid-day watering to help our greens survive the day.  Members have asked why we don’t just “put on more water at night” and the answer is again the often lamented Poa annua.  Poa is a short-rooted turf that doesn’t handle heat very well.  During heat stress, roots contract and are often no more than 1-2 inches long on greens during the peak of summer.  It doesn’t take long for those 1-2 inches to dry out in July which forces us to get out the hoses.   You could put a million gallons on the grass at night and water the soil 10 feet deep, but it’s often just the top 2 inches that matter during the summer. 

On fairways, tees and in the rough, we try to maintain a balance between firm conditions, available labor to hand water, and conserving our often limited water resources in the creek.  This leads to extra daytime watering to keep from losing turf.  We will do everything possible to limit interruption of play for watering purposes, but please be as courteous as possible to the workers out there.  It only takes a couple of minutes to syringe a green and they will soon be out of your way.  There were a couple of close calls last year with groups hitting into workers, and we don’t want anyone to get hurt.  Thank you for your patience.

Speaking of water, our little water project is nicely on-track.  The well was tested and deemed to be officially  over 1000 gallons per minute which is triple the flow of our first well!  This is more than we could have hoped for and has thrown a “positive” monkey wrench into our plans.  We are finalizing some necessary adjustments to pump capacities, pipe sizing and some other boring stuff to accommodate the extra flow.  These little adjustments are adding a little time, but we are still set to have this project mostly complete by this fall.  By the end of July, we should have our permits in place and begin work on our new range house. Electrical work and plumbing should happen shortly after.  When we get things moving, be sure to check my blog for pictures and updates as we proceed.

Finally, by popular demand, a few reminders about the things you can do as a member to help keep the course in shape during the heat of summer. 

1.       Cart Traffic – As the summer play increases, regular cart traffic creates a great deal of wear and tear especially around greens and tees.  In the heat of summer, grass doesn’t grow or recover nearly as quick as in the spring.  Make an effort to spread your traffic out and avoid driving where the turf is obviously discolored, weak, or dry.  Also, keep you carts as far away from greens and tees as possible (at least 30’) while using the available cart paths.    During wet periods, extra attention to roped-off areas and course signage will also help minimize damage.

2.      Fix ball marks and replace your divots…properly!Whenever possible, replace your divots and give them a firm stomping to achieve the best soil contact.  Don’t forget to try to replace on the par-3 tees.  If (and only if) the divot is shattered and unusable, fill the hole with sand and seed if available and smooth with your foot or club.  With around 26,000 rounds of golf played here every year - assuming a generous average score of 85 (subtracting 35 putts/chips and 20 non-divot shots/drivers) that’s still almost 800,000 divots that could be taken on the golf course during the course of the season.  With a little help from our members and guests, we can help them heal as quickly as possible.

3.      Range tee usage - Our range tee is incredibly undersized for our quantity of play.  In order to keep the grass tee usable during the summer, make your divot pattern on the tee as concentrated and efficient as possible.  Many of the professionals have started using a “straight line” method starting forward and taking the next divot directly behind the first.  This leaves a nice straight “trench” of divots and uses the least amount of turf.  If they run out of room, they start another trench adjacent to the first, leaving a little turf between.  This is easy to fill and heals much more quickly than a large, random assortment of divots.

4.      Bug Spray – Bug spray will discolor and damage turf.  Please apply on the cart path only!


Keeping the golf course healthy and playable through July is one of the biggest challenges we face each season.  With a little help from you all, we will be more successful.

Wednesday, May 28

Makin' Water

It's been nearly a month since my last post, and for good reason.  Good weather has put the maintenance staff in "catch up" mode as far as getting the golf course in shape.  Also, our well project is in full swing.  Over the last four weeks, a lot has happened and there have been many questions.

First off - What the hell happened to 11 green?  Essentially this is an experiment to see if we can regain portions of our greens that have been lost to decades of overly careful mowing practices. During spring flush growth, employees that may miss as little as a quarter of an inch when mowing the cleanup pass around the edge of the green.  Then the next employee, the next and the next make the same honest error in an effort not to "scalp" the edge of the collar.  Over time, the green shrinks inward.   Consulting with our master plan architect, we surmised that there were several areas the green needed to expand to get back to its original shape and size.  Number 11 has become very short on "cuppable" space and getting the green back to size will create more plentiful and interesting pin locations.  The usual way clubs correct this "shrinkage" is to do much like Inverness Club has done recently.  A costly "gassing" and re-grassing of the greens.  Also, some clubs grow large sod nurseries and re-grass with sod.  Both of these methods are costly, labor intensive, and disruptive to play.  We are attempting to simply "scalp" or my preferred term - "hack" the grass down to height, aerate and compact it, sand topdress it, and grow it back in from the grass that is there.  Looking at the old collar, it was all Poa annua and bentgrass.  I saw no reason why we couldn't try.  If this works, look for several areas next spring where we will expand the greens.  It will be ugly for a little while, but we hope to have it blending in better by mid-summer.

After we "scalped" it down to green height, the collar was core aerified and gone over with a plate compactor (sorry no picture) to help alleviate the scalp.

Very large holes and tight spacing to really loosen up the sub surface so the area can be smoothed.
While that was going on, the well drillers moved in.  Taking advantage of the closed range, we decided to get our portion of the project going - the road to nowhere.  Many have asked why the road is necessary.  Essentially, Toledo Edison requires that a service road be installed to allow for the installation and servicing of our new transformer that will be located next to our pump house between #9 and the driving range.  We tried every angle in hopes of getting around the road requirement, but to no avail.  At least they didn't make us pave it, which was their original specification.  Gravel will be just fine.  Seeing an opportunity to cut costs, we decided to tackle the road "in-house".  We also took advantage of the time to correct some serious drainage issues that would create major problems for the road.  We were lucky enough to find an old culvert that ran under the range.  Once we tied into that, we installed several basins and repaired an old drain line.  Long term, this will be a great foundation to improve our drainage on the range and save thousands of golf balls that get "squished" into the soggy turf and soil every year.

We first cut sod to clear for the road.  The sod would be used to repair the bottom of the range after the drainage was installed.

The "road to nowhere" begins.

A mini-excavator and our dump truck was all it took.  The spoils were used to fill and repair decades of flood damage at the bottom of the range.
Fortunately, we were right on top of bedrock which made the excavation easy and will provide a good base for the road.
This is what the bottom of the range looked like.  Flood damaged and exposed soil with no drainage.  There were these range-ball eating mud monsters all over the place.

12-inch basins were installed connected to a 6-inch mainline to catch water at the bottom of the range.  Spoils from the road were used to repair flood damage mud holes and re-grade for drainage.

Sod from the road is laid to complete the work.  







Mostly completed.  We need a little more sod and some seed to get things completely buttoned up.  Not bad for a weeks work though.


The topic on everyone's mind is "how much water?"   We are in week two of the drilling and hope to be completed by the end of the week. Thank you for your patience with the range closures as we try to complete this project without endangering our contractors or employees.  Look for "irons only" this week (unless anyone is naughty) and full open ASAP.  After drilling is complete the well will be tested for flow.  So far the results are promising.  Compared to well number one, number two is much more "spunky". Importantly, it is getting "different" water.  The drillers track the flow layer by layer and foot by foot.  Well number two is tracking differently than well number one.  On well number one, we didn't see significant yield until below 300 feet.  This new well showed tremendous promise as shallow as 160 feet.  We will continue to drill downward in an effort to "marry" the wells for maximum yield.

I am biting my tongue and knocking on wood fairly hard right now, but it looks as though we are well on our way to independence from the creek, the quarry and finally be able to get our dam, our pumps, and our dangerously installed electrical supply out of the floodplain and out of our worries forever!  I will talk more about this once the test results are in.

"This is a S***-load of water" - Jim Watson

Tuesday, April 29

Busy Busy Busy

It's been quite awhile since I've run my mouth but it's been for a very good reason - we are BUSY!  While the weather has not been the best for golf, it has been just fine to get caught up on our spring tasks.  Being a week or two behind our usual spring schedule due to the long winter, the last two weeks have really helped us catch up.  Aerification, tree removal and general clean-up have been our focus as well as addressing some minor damage from the extreme winter.  We still have a ways to go, but we are getting there.
      
First off was aerification.  As you may have noticed, we did things just a little differently this year.  Instead of the heavy sand application, we went with a more moderate sand rate.  We followed that with a solid, deep-tine (over 7 inches deep) aerification (no cores).  This was not nearly as disruptive and should heal quite quickly.  We chose to scale back this spring due to the cold temperatures and late start to the golf season.  As long as we remain consistent with our normal practices of topdressing, we should be fine.  We will have to be more aggressive in the fall to make up for not getting quite as much sand in our profile as we usually do.



Sand was applied ahead of punching

With a few frosty mornings under our belt, we have also begun our spring tree removals.  Over the past several years, we have been forced to spend most of our time and money removing dead trees.  The emerald ash borer and the bark beetle have killed numerous ash and pine trees on the course and more significantly on our property lines.  With the safety of our members, guests, and neighbors the priority, we spent our time in these areas.  Now that we are caught up with those necessary removals, we can begin addressing trees more in play that are causing problems.  IMPORTANT NOTE:  ALL tree removals were first reviewed and planned by our master plan architect, reviewed 'on-course' by the grounds committee and approved unanimously.  They were removed thoughtfully and not without thorough discussion by professionals and our members.  This will be our policy moving forward regarding the removal (OR planting) of any live trees.  Our thought process was simple .  First and foremost, we want to encourage good growing conditions for the in-play areas with greens as the priority.  You have already noticed the trees adjacent to #8 green and 9 tee have been removed.  This has accomplished several goals - More sun and air movement for our worst performing green, better conditions for the thin rough around the green and #9 tee, and after removing them the very large tree next to the bunker really becomes a stand-alone gem that isn't hidden by the other trees.  Also, it is obvious to see how the smaller tree only a few feet from the largest tree was negatively affecting the shape and growth habit of this great tree.  Same goes for the large maple on #9 tee.  Once the smaller, misshapen tree was removed, the larger and more impressive specimen is now on display.

Looking at the shape of the maple on 9 tee, it is easy to see that the smaller of the two was struggling to compete with the larger cousin to the left.  It had a terrible shape and was generally unhealthy.  As a bonus, we should get better conditions, thicker turf and help the area better withstand cart traffic.  
Now with the smaller ugly maple gone, the larger specimen can stand out on its own.
With the removal of these three trees, the corridoor for air and sunlight has increased dramatically.  Should get thicker rough around the green and better conditions on the green.


You can see the trees really competing for their own sun.  The branches of the larger tree curving around the smaller one. We will continue to remove trees that interfere with more desirable specimens.

Now with the smaller tree gone, the larger specimen stands alone and can branch in all directions and hopefully turn into a great specimen.  You can see the void where the smaller tree used to reside.
One final word about trees.  I love trees.  I think they add a great touch to an old country club when properly placed, minimally used and not relied upon for strategy or "toughness" of the course.  They should be complementary, not domineering.  The death or necessary removal of a tree should not "ruin" a hole.  Any good architect will tell you that.  The fact of the matter about Highland Meadows is there are too many trees too close together in the wrong spots.  For example the groves of maple trees (maples are very shallow rooted and difficult to grow grass near) planted around this place have made it impossible to grow good turf in some very key areas (right of 16 green, left of 8 fairway, right of 2 landing area, right of 1 green etc etc) and that is not what trees are for on a golf course.  Many great courses are lined with trees but they should not be integral to how the hole is played. 
One of my favorite quotes from Jack Nicklaus.  
That being said, I would like it on the record that we do invest time, money, and effort to maintain the trees we do want to remain.  Just this week Rich Savory from Savory tree service was out to look at some distressed pines and spruces on the course.  We are going to do some trunk injections on the spruces behind #9 green and some fertilizing on the white pines that took it in the chops from the rough winter.  







Wednesday, April 9

Opening Day Approaches!

Our official opening day will be this Friday the 11th!  While the use of carts will be dependent on the Thursday rain forecast, I am confident that at least walkers should be able to play without too much difficulty.  The crew will be out stirring up the last few bunkers that have been underwater for the last few days as well as getting all the accessories back on the course.  We should be ready, but please bear with us as there is still much to do to get the course where we need it to be.

First of all, please recognize that the greens just woke up from a long winter.  We are mowing a little above our normal mowing height to keep from picking up the sand we applied in the fall.  They may not be as firm and fast as we like, but with a little more time and dry weather we should be there soon.  I think they will be quite playable.

Secondly, we haven't had enough dry days to get things as clean as we normally like them.  With wet weather and the rough not really growing, a few leftover leaves and sticks (plus the occasional goose turd) may sully the area until the rough grows up and we do some mowing.

Given the winter we had, I am VERY pleased with how the course handled things.  With some warmer weather coming (and hopefully less rain), we should be up to speed in no time.

See you all out there!

PS - Blog follower's privilege - The pins will likely be in the greens Thursday afternoon.  If you happen to decide to play the temps Thursday, they will not have pins in them so I guess you may just have to use the greens.


Friday, March 28

Waiting....

There is much anticipation around the club these days.  Opening day seems to be stretching further away and the renovation work and pending vote seems to have "stirred the masses" quite a bit.  Between these things, the air is thick with a palpable combination of excitement, confusion and hope.  The vote will be sorted out Monday, but I don't have any good news at this point about opening day.

Taking advantage of the warm morning, I took a walk around.  Overall, the course is coming out in decent shape but we are still at least a week or more away from opening.  Right now, I am hoping for Master's weekend (April 12th-13th).

Unfortunately, it's not a matter of work needing to take place.  The course is fairly clean and there was very little tree damage or limb debris to worry about.  The worst winter damage is on north-facing slopes and low areas in the rough that are suffering from snow mold.  We just need things to dry up and firm up before we open the floodgates of spring play at The Meadows.  There is still a good deal of snow, standing water, and in our shady areas the frost line is still just an inch or two from the surface.  Also, there hasn't been any growth yet anywhere on the golf course.  Until we get some favorable temperatures and a few days of above-freezing nights, it will be difficult to get the course ready.  I will be keeping you posted as conditions change.

The rough in front of #6 tee is peppered with large areas of snow mold.  Also, look at #18 hill from Erie St. and you can see the large pockets of diseased turf.  

#4 green still snow around the banks and frozen ground in the shade.

A great example of why new sod on the green banks is a great idea.  Look at the stripe of fresh bluegrass we installed around #2 last year.  It is handling the winter much better than the contaminated bent/blue/poa/rye mix to the left.


Even some of our tees are still struggling to thaw out.  This is #3


I could only get the probe about 2 inches in the ground before I hit frost on #15.
I would like to thank all the members that took the time to come to the informational meetings on the 24th and 25th.  It was great to speak to you all and answer your questions about the water project.  If you haven't returned your ballot, please get it in by Monday morning.  Even if it's a "no" we need your vote and your voice!

Have a great weekend.

-Dan

Monday, March 10

Trees causing problems for greens in winter too???

With just a few more greens to go, we are very nearly done with removing excess snow cover from our greens.  So far, things are looking good.  The temps have been just warm enough to melt most of the ice off of several greens.  With partly sunny and 50 degrees today and another 40 degree day tomorrow I am confident the greens should get a good breath of air (at least before they go under another 6" of snow Wednesday).  However, during my survey of the golf course, one interesting thing has been well illustrated.

I have whined at length year after year about the overabundance of misplaced trees especially around our greens.  Trees inhibit sunlight, air movement, traffic patterns, and steal water from surrounding turf making it difficult to grow healthy turf in shady areas.  What I have never been able to illustrate is the effect trees are having on our ice accumulation and our ability to remove it.  We have had normal to mild winters my entire tenure here and snow and ice has never been a problem worth banging my gums about.    Enter the winter of 2014.

Ice layers on each of our greens have been in the range of a quarter-inch to 1.5 inches.  I will give you one guess where the 1.5-inch ice layers have been - our shaded/ low air movement greens.  Numbers 8, 2, 4, 5, 15 all have distinctly thicker layers of ice and have not melted nearly as quickly as the remainder of the greens that have been uncovered.  Number 1 and 11 had the thickest layers of ice on the entire golf course due to their low-lying location on the property.  However, once we got the snow off of 1 and 11, the thick ice melted almost immediately due to the increased amount of sunshine.  Number 8 was THE FIRST green we blew off and has yet to thaw even a little.  We have tossed some sand on it today in the hopes of accelerating melt today.  That, of course, will only work if the sun decides to come out.

 #8 was blown off THURSDAY MORNING and has thawed not at all
Tossed a little topdressing sand on #8 today in hopes of attracting some rays of sunshine.

#7 Green was blown off Friday and melted quickly.  Should be clear by this afternoon.




#15 was blown off THURSDAY as well but the lack of air movement and shade have inhibited thaw quite a bit.

#3 used to be one of our shadiest greens until we removed several trees to the south last year.  Nice quick thaw.

#17 was blown off Friday afternoon and looked like this by Friday at 4pm.  Thank you full sun.
We are pushing snow off of the last few greens today in the hopes of exposing as much green surface as possible before they get covered up again by the coming storm.  Local forecasts are anywhere from 1-8" of snow Wednesday followed by another cold snap.  I know what you are thinking, and it's actually not as bad a thing as you think.  Yes, we just spent a lot of time and effort blowing the snow off and now we are getting another blast.  But remember, our objective was to get the ice layer off in order to get some air to the greens.  By wednesday, we should have accomplished that.  While it is frustrating to add yet more snow to the golf course, the coming blanket of snow will actually protect the grass through our last few freeze-thaw cycles of winter, which can also be quite damaging.  Right now

Thursday, March 6

Too much gray hair.

This winter has added at least 10% gray to my hair.  With the unseasonably cold temperatures persisting well into March, superintendents throughout the Great Lakes/Upper midwest region have been worrying, pulling hair out, drinking, and debating about what to do with the growing layer of ice on our Poa annua greens.  With the rain, thaw, and snow cycle we had two weeks ago (which we all hoped would thaw things out much more than it did), our ice layer has grown.  We are now approaching nearly two months with between a 0.5 and 2-inch solid ice layer on our greens, which is very near the threshold that Poa annua can handle. As I've mentioned before, solid ice seals up and traps toxic gases that plants can only tolerate for a certain amount of time depending on the species.  After much consideration, research, and collaboration with other superintendents and scientists, we have decided to go out and remove the snow cover from our greens.


The picture isn't the best illustration, but this is solid ice about 1" thick on 8 green.

The decision to exert this effort was not taken lightly.  We aren't particularly well equipped or staffed for this task as this level of snow management is scarce in our part of the country.  With a little help from a couple of dedicated employees, some snow shovels and the snow blower from the clubhouse, we have set out to get as much snow off as possible.  We begin by using our skid steer loader to make a "cart path" to access each green.  After that we use our skid steer loader and snow blower to remove as much snow as possible.   Sand pro blades will push the last of the "crusty snow" off down to the solid ice.  While driving such aggressive equipment onto greens may seem potentially damaging, keep in mind we are on over an inch of solid ice over frozen ground.  I don't think we could damage the greens if we wanted to. We will experiment with some sand applications or other things to add color and create heat to help melting further.
Winter "cart path"

Blowing snow off of #5 green.  
Blowing, pushing, and shoveling off 15 green.



Our goal is not to completely remove the ice layer ourselves, but merely remove the insulating snow atop it.  We took a careful look at the upcoming forecast and it looks like we will finally see daytime highs at or above freezing for a few days along with some sunshine.   This will hopefully help the ice melt more quickly and allow the greens a fresh breath of air sooner than later.

By no means will this guarantee we have no winter ice damage on our putting surfaces.  I am only trying to help the greens see the light of day just as soon as Mother Nature will allow.   For a great article from Michigan State University Extension about this issue, please follow the link below.

http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/what_lies_beneath_ice

Monday, February 24

Snow and Ice - the USGA's take

A noticable ice layer under all that snow on #3 green.
By far the number one question of late has been "is this snow cover good or bad?"  Most of you have heard me lament about snow mold and various issues that can arise with extended snow cover, but it hasn't been a concern in recent years due to warm winters.  This year is a different story.  We have been under snow cover for the better part of 2014.

Snow itself isn't really much of a concern.  In fact, it has likely been a help with the record low temperatures we've had this year.  Much like an igloo, it provides protection and insulation from wind dessication and extreme temperatures.  Snow mold pressure is definitely a concern, but with the plant protectants we applied in the late fall, we should still be ok.

The thing we worry about is ice.  Since our greens are between 50-90% Poa annua, continuous encasement in ice can be a worry (bentgrass can handle winter much better).  Toxic gases can build up and cause damage especially after 40-60 days of continuous coverage.  Our greens were quickly thawed and refrozen by a rain storm during the brief thaw and rain in mid-January followed immediately by more snow.  This created an ice layer on our greens between a quarter and three-quarters of an inch.  The more shaded the green, the greater the ice (add this to the long list of why we don't like trees around greens).   I was hoping the thaw we just got through would take care of the problem, but as you can see, it didn't really do much at all.

The problem also is that going out and removing the insulating layer may do more harm than good.  Speaking with other superintendents and turf scientists at Ohio State, the snow melting and constantly re-freezing on an uncovered green can be even more of a problem than a few extra days in ice coverage.  Looking at our coming weather and temperature pattern, I would be more worried to remove the protection as of now.  There have been superintendent's out already (mostly at higher-budget well-staffed facilities) that have been blowing and shoveling off their greens all winter long even using aerifiers to bust up ice layers for removal.  I don't believe this is necessary and could even be detrimental in some cases.  Most people in our area are adopting a "monitor, wait and see" approach.

I am not too concerned.  I have been out to several greens and chipping through the ice and sniffing for the distinct sulfur smell that could indicate trouble (see article below).  As of now, I haven't detected any.  Should the ice coverage last too much longer, we will continue to be diligent and monitor conditions.

Below is a link to an article from the USGA Green Section that explains their take and gives a few more details for consideration.

Click Here - Our USGA Regional Agronomist gives his opinion on snow/ice removal

Click Here - USGA Article on snow cover


Friday, February 14

Water Project Update - Everybody's grumpy.



I haven't written about our water project in awhile because quite frankly everybody is grumpy.  This long cold winter is taking its toll on people and the last thing I want to do is provide more "fuel" for the "grumpy fire".  However, Spring is sneaking up on us and it's time to put out the grumpy fire and start a fresh conversation on this important project.


Last summer, when test well number one was being drilled, there was excitement and curiosity throughout the membership.  People were into the project and the energy was positive and inquisitive.  After this long winter, the time people have on the conversation seems embroidered with more skepticism and second-guessing.   It's also tough to have a serious conversation about sprinklers in the dead of a snowy winter.   It may sound weird but I honestly feel we will be in a much better frame of mind in the spring to look at our project with a positive and optimistic light.  The course will be open, Vitamin D will be coursing through our veins from the sun, and people will be back in their optimistic and inquisitive frame of mind like last summer.

I'm not going to lie, things are going more slowly that we had hoped.  I had dreams of getting the plan finalized and off to a membership vote before the end of 2013.  Unfortunately we were unable to pull that off and the reason is simple.  We (myself, the board, the contractors, the committees) want to get it right.  The worst thing we can do is rush the process and not get as many answers as possible to all the questions people may have.  There are a lot of entities involved in this planning process and a lot of "cats" to herd and quite frankly, it's going to cost a good amount of the club's money.  This is the biggest and most important project the club has taken on since the building of the pool.  If we are going to move this project forward, we need to proceed carefully and thoughtfully and we are doing that.

All that being said, here's where we are.  The plan has not changed.  We will dig a second well, hope that there is as much or more water than well number one, plumb it into a new pump house with a new pump station and hook it up to the sprinkler system.  Install a new electrical supply that is safe and true to code.  Simple.  No more damming the creek, no more wires in the creek, and an endless supply of fresh, clean water that will serve the golf course for decades without being at the mercy of the quarry.  Simple.

What has changed are some options available to us through Toledo Edison.  With help of a former member who knows the electricity business, we are exploring some options with Edison that could potentially save the club thousands over the years with an increase in up-front cost.  Unfortunately, as I have lamented in the past, getting concrete information from Edison can be like trying to squeeze apple juice out of chicken turds.  Despite this, I feel it is important we do our due diligence and fully explore the option.

We are approaching this the right way.  I hope that as a member, you would appreciate a methodical approach  knowing that we had the best plan possible before seeking approval from the membership.  This is an important, necessary, and expensive project and we are doing our best to make sure we do it right.


Monday, January 27

Your Favorite Topics

A sincere happy new year from your grounds maintenance blog!  With yet another winter storm, or polar vortex, or whatever the hell nasty crappy weather has been bestowed upon us, it was finally time to dust off the blog for a new year.

I'm going to admit it is getting quite difficult to come up with interesting topics in the winter.  I hate repeating myself, and chances of me taking an interesting photo of our current goings-on is zero. For new readers, check out the archives of previous winters for a more detailed look and lots of pictures of our winter activities.   The crew is busy doing their usual winter routine.  Our shop looks like a fairway mower exploded.  The usual winter cacophony of spinning grinding wheels, whirring air tools, sparking welders, and loud swearing is proceeding normally.

As for the golf course - it's snowy.  It's cold, and I have yet to see anything remarkable as of now.  Once the current cold blast finishes, I will venture out and check on things.  Mostly, I will be checking for ice on greens.  With the record temperatures and freeze-thaw cycles, we will have to be wary of keeping the greens encased in ice for extended periods.  Winter-kill and ice damage can be brutal, and with extended snow cover, snow mold could be an issue when we get towards the end of our fungicide coverage window.  As of right now, however, we will stay inside and stay out of the forecasted -20+ windchills thank you very much.

I did make one little tweak to the page to start the year.  On the left-hand side of the page, there are a handful of links to popular and useful golf sites like the USGA Green Section but also there are videos on proper ball mark repair and divots. Even during the winter, I get requests to put information on ball marks and divot repair on the page.  I have written and blogged about these many times and will continue to speak on these topics regularly but I am still hounded constantly for more information across all forums on which I rattle my gums.   They have been there for over a year and I have moved them up for better visibility.  Old members and new members alike can use these links to get a refresher course any time.



That being said, I would like to speak about a few myths regarding ball marks and divots.

Myth #1 - "This membership is terrible about their ball marks."  I would love to have a nickel for every member that claims they are the only one fixing ball marks out here.  Truth be told, of the 7 facilities I've worked at in my career, this membership is the BEST at repairing ball marks I have seen.  Other places I have worked the crew would spend up to a 20 minutes per green repairing marks prior to mowing.  Here, it's usually about a 5-minute job to pick up the hand full left for us in the morning.  Most of these are on edges of greens.  If you want my best tip for you all, it's remember to fix your ball mark when your ball ends up OFF the green.

Myth #2 - "The LPGA doesn't fix their marks"  Actually, they repair all of their marks, but you need to keep in mind that those players just hit the green a lot more than you all do on average.  Plus, with the tournament in the middle of the summer every year, the post-tournament recovery that time of year is much slower under our normally hot, dry conditions.  You are seeing more marks, but from mid-July onward, they just don't heal as quickly.

Myth #3 - "Sand and seed is just as good as replacing a divot" - REPLACING A DIVOT IS THE ONLY WAY TO "REPAIR" A DIVOT.  Sand and seed is not a repair but a re-seeding which is starting from scratch.  Now I understand that not all divots are able to be replaced and that hot dry summers don't help divots repair well for a few weeks, but I would bet that 60-80% of divots are replaceable.  I see players, usually those in carts, hit a shot and reach straight for the sand and seed without even considering replacing their divot.  ESPECIALLY on par-3 tee boxes.  Honestly, I'm starting to think I should rip the sand and seed buckets off of the golf carts and not even give you the option. SAND AND SEED SHOULD BE A LAST RESORT OF REPAIR!

Myth #4 - "The maintenance staff doesn't repair ball marks or divots" - Actually, we repair leftover ball marks every morning and sand and seed un-repaired divots (especially par-3 tees) fairly frequently throughout the season.  When I first got to Highland Meadows, we would go through about 2-3 loads (~22 tons each) of divot material each year.  Now, we go through between 4 and 5 loads a year.  That's around 100 tons each season.

The most important thing you need to remember is that this is a busy golf course.  At many other private clubs in town, you won't see as many divots.  A busy weekend day at Highland might have 200+ rounds of golf.  Yearly we are doing around 25-27,000 rounds.  That's a lot of pelts.

Since I promised more communication on ball marks and divots, I should stop now to avoid using up all my good material.  Expect more to come and maybe even a reposting of this.  I think these are important points to remember.  You all do a better job than you give each other credit for, and since it appears to be such a source of frustration, I hope debunking a few myths might help you not be so frustrated by it!

Monday, December 16

Wrap up

The recent heavy snows have served as a nice hint that it's time to start tending to our winter shop work.  The last couple of weeks have allowed us to get started on some much needed pruning as well as the last bit of work to put the course to bed for the winter.  Dormant fertilizer has been applied to greens and tees, while the last few dead trees have been dropped, stumps ground and filled.

Cody with a heartfelt "goodbye" to the season cleaning up some limbs.
We get as much done from the ground as we can and will rent a bucket next year to tackle some of the higher jobs.  Much pruning still to do.



A little "dormant feed" that will help things come up kicking in the springtime.

While we all head into the peak of the holiday season, I would like to wish you all the happiest of times with you and yours.  It has been a rough season, but we came out the other side in pretty good shape.  I couldn't have survived without your support and encouragement and I look forward to a great year in 2014.  I will be back with updates on our water project after the new year.  We are still haggling with Toledo Edison to get the details hammered out and should have a proposal in place shortly after the new year.

Also, I would like to thank you for your contribution to the employee holiday bonus fund.  While it is difficult to find and keep good people in a seasonal business, your support goes a long ways to help us out.

Happy Holidays to you all!

Thursday, November 14

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night....

Contrary to popular belief, your maintenance crew actually "takes advantage" of the crappy weather we are having.  With golfers huddled around the gin tables or on a plane to Florida, we are taking this chance to catch up on some course projects, most notably work related to trees.

Whether it be cutting dead ones down, pruning live ones, or picking up the damn leaves that fall off of them, we are still hard at work getting the place cleaned up for the winter hibernation.  All-in-all there is still a few weeks of work to be done before we can put this place to bed and I strongly doubt we will get everything on my list finished.

A lot of dead or dying trees have been removed with several yet to be cut down.  With committee approval, there are just a couple of live trees coming down that were either an aesthetic eyesore or a safety concern.  Mostly, however, 2013 was a bad summer to be a tree.  Lots of saturated conditions and continued insect pressure are taking out our weak and misplaced species.  Sadly, a couple of perfectly fine trees such as the mulberry by #6 cart path (disease) and the maple formerly on the corner of 14 (lightning) have had to come down.


The Large Mulberry By 6 Cart Path.  Not happy we had to get rid of it but honestly won't miss the mulberry mess on the cart path every year. 

The leaves seem to be falling at a slower pace this season for some reason.  Still a couple good weeks of cleanup left.
Also, I did have a couple of complaints about the course not being open this afternoon.  Unfortunately, since this is the first afternoon all week with some decently above-freezing temperatures, there remains some frost in the ground here and there on the greens.  Some greens still have snow on them as of 10 am today.  Letting golfers walk on frozen to part-frozen greens could result in some damage and bruising.  If temperatures tick up as they are forecast, then we hope to have the course open by tomorrow afternoon.  I apologize for any inconvenience.

#4 Green at around 10:30 this morning.  Still frozen underneath as well.  Perhaps we should cut some trees down and let a little more sun get in there hint hint.......

Wednesday, October 30

Budget Season

As fall moves into winter, I am always in the preliminary stages of putting together my budget and purchasing plan for the next year.  I was browsing through the USGA Green Section again and found an article from 1922 that explains how to maintain an acceptable course condition for around $1500 a year.  It references courses from Ohio and Michigan including Inverness which made it especially interesting.  Also, I had a pretty good laugh how times have changed.  At least you don't make me provide my own horse.

Click Here for Article


Monday, October 21

Hint hint...

Below is a link to this months USGA Green Section Record.  I have gotten away from posting these because of late they have been more for people like me (turf geeks) and less for people like you (normal clear thinking people/golfers).  This months installation did have some interesting articles on maintenance facilities, equipment, and bunkers.

With equipment capital spending season upon us, I thought a few of you may be surprised at the amount of equipment we stuff our building with just to keep this place going.  If you've ever wondered why we spend at least a little capital each year to maintain our fleet, this should give you a little insight.  Also in the Golf Course Maintenance Equipment 101 article, the picture of the "substandard" maintenance facility bears a striking resemblance to the building behind #8 green, where my office is.........

Click Here for USGA Green Section Record

Monday, October 14

Fall Round-up

As I seem to do on every post this year, I must begin by apologizing for the fact that I haven't blogged in some time.  We have been very busy of late, and we are currently running on a skeleton crew.  Turns out there may actually be some economic recovery in our area as my seasonal workers seem to be finding better full-time work.  What nerve!

Staffing woes aside, we have been accomplishing a great deal the past few weeks.  Greens have been aerified, topdressed, fertilized, and de-thatched.  We used the same "coreless" technique as the past few years with great success.  Greens are recovering more rapidly than I can ever recall with our fall punch. I hope to have the greens back to speedy and smooth with another week of good recovery weather.  I hate to boor you with the same pics of punching every time, but I get so many questions from members about aerification I will share for their sake.  Below are a few snapshots of our process.

We start with an aggressive verti-cutting of the greens which serves to de-thatch and open up the canopy to receive sand.

The grooves from verti-cutting.


Add Sand - lots of sand

This year we punched it in with 3/4" solid tines.


A good rotary brushing and a little handwork later and we are done.  Lots of rolling to follow.

Aside from the greens, we have also deep-tine aerified tees and fairways over the past two weeks.  We will begin verticutting this week and hope to be done soon.  Unlike the greens, fairways and tees will be a little different this fall.  Normally, we have a very aggressive, wide-tooth verticutter head that rips large channels of thatch creating large grooves and a terrible mess.  Due to excessive worm activity (yes you heard me - worm activity), we will be unable to perform that this fall and will wait until spring.  We will do a light de-thatching similar to the greens, but will wait for better conditions before ripping fairways and tees stem to stern.

Worm castings are the classic "double-edged sword".  On occasion we have levels that cause some pretty serious disruption in fairway and tee conditions.  If you have noticed 18 fairway, 4 fairway, and isolated areas on just about all others, you've seen small, muddy mounds of soil that seem to be smearing into the turf creating a muddy appearance.  These are deposited by worms and made worse by the heavy rains of a couple of weeks ago.  While they may cause some temporary playability issues in areas, they are in-fact a form of fertilizer.  Also, the worm activity acts to do some of the soil aerification for us by creating small channels and depositing fertilizer.  In past years with bad earthworm problems, the most affected fairways always green up sooner in spring.  Look at #18 fairway around march.  Despite the fact that it faces north, it will green up quicker than the rest.

Worm castings.

A closeup of a fresh worm casting before it gets squished

And lately, if the worms aren't getting us, the raccoons are.  With 2013 being a bad year for grubs in our area, the raccoons are out trying to dig them up.  While not as bad as past years, the activity seems to be starting a little earlier this year.  Offenders will be "relocated" as the fall progresses.


A raccoon buffet in front of 12 tee.

And finally, now that I've likely bored you to death, a reminder about our bunkers.  Our bunkers have not been rebuilt in almost 90 years.  While this is not news, it is important to remember that as a result of not rebuilding them, the edges are built almost entirely on old bunker sand from decades of sand splashing up onto the grass banks.  It is important to remember never climb out of a trap on the green side as the edges are not stable.  Over the last few weeks our edges have been badly damaged by people stepping on the steep edges and caving them in.  While I hope to have bunkers rebuilt in the not-too-distant future, it will be important to avoid walking on the edges in order to keep them as nice as possible and keep you from busting your ankle.

Now bring on the leaves!



#11 greenside trap after a busy saturday.

The sandy edges on the steep side present a danger to players.  Always enter AND exit your traps on the low side.