Thursday, November 13

It's still fall right?!?

On the bright side, the unseasonably cold temperatures seem to make everyone work just a little faster.  ProPump and Controls, Liebold Irrigation and your maintenance staff are working hard to tie up all of our fall projects as well as putting the finishing touches on our new irrigation source/pump station/range house.  All the while, we are still grinding away on #14.  We have never been so busy in November, and we love it!

"Project Water" (sounds better than 'water project' to me) is moving along nicely.  ProPump and Controls/Liebold Irrigation are installing our new main lines and doing battle with the bedrock on the driving range.  There's been digging, welding, grinding, and every manner of physical labor involved to get that new pipe in the ground.  Our electrician has been busy with staging materials and there has even been a Toledo Edison sighting as they decided to finally install our new transformer and pull the remainder of our underground supply line.

Carl, "The Wizard" prepping our well heads for new hardware.
The new valve assembly goes on.  The pumps have still not been installed, but we are trying to get the infrastructure set asap.
Custom fixtures for our main line drops.
The trench line headed to the new range/pump house.  

When you work with one of the most highly regarded irrigation companies in the world, you get a really nice result.  Trench backfilled, compacted, sod laid and cleaned.  Pretty clean result for the amount of disruption burying a 10 inch pipe over 2 feet below the surface.
Carl started work setting the portion of the main line that will run through the pump station.
By day four they were digging on well #2.  Here comes the bedrock.......
A little in the field metal work getting the custom pipes just right.
Even Toledo Edison made an appearance to install our new transformer and pull the remainder of the underground supply line.
While all of this is going on, we have been busy trying to get #14 as close to done as we can before everything decides to freeze.  There is finish work, bunker sand placement, drainage work, and cleanup to do before the bitter cold comes next week.

Getting the drainage installed for the front bunker.  The last of the three to be drained.  Hope to get finished and dump sand in tomorrow.
With the depth of the bunker, we had to trench pretty far to get the necessary fall needed to drain the bunker.  A perfect example of how many corners were cut in the construction of the golf course over the years.  Nobody wanted to handle this much work to do things right before.  Now it is done and done correctly.
The back left bunker finally getting filled.
A little fine tuning and compacting.  We are pushing the sand up to the edges of the sod to protect against dessication.
Also, you may notice a fresh sand topdressing on the greens.  With colder temperatures approaching fast, we wanted to ensure we could get some protection down before the ground freezes.  If there is another day of golf available before we put out temporary cups, we will make it as playable as possible.

Overall great progress despite the weather.  Very pleased thus far but still a long way to go.

Further updates as events warrant.

Friday, November 7

The anatomy of a bunker

While "Operation Agua"  plods along, we shifted our focus temporarily to tackle the renovation of #14.   After much debate, consideration, research, and a little yelling, we have moved forward and rebuilt, tweaked, and even added bunkers to our toughest par-4.

Obviously, there has been quite a few opinions on the plan.  Thank you to all who attended the informational meeting to voice said opinions.  My own opinion is irrelevant, but frankly I think everything came out great.  Some classic features of the hole were preserved, updated, and accentuated, and some new features were added to give the hole more modern, strategic (and even penal) value.  Aesthetically, there will be rolling lines and shadow faces which will offer tremendous visual appeal.  From a playability standpoint, there are some great new features and nuances that will add some new strategies and options for higher handicaps and our better players.  Yes, I said my opinion was irrelevant, but this is my blog, so you have to listen.  

The one opinion of mine that is relevant and most important is this: We performed the work correctly.  Regardless of your opinion of the placement and design, the bunkers were built, drained, and shaped properly.  They will be better to maintain, more consistent, and infinitely re-buildable.  Grades were shot on every contour to make sure surface water moved in the correct direction.  They were done right.  We have an excellent professional golf course architect and hired one of the best golf course shapers in the business today to do the dirt work.  Your maintenance staff did the rest, with great attention to detail.  If there is one upside to doing a great deal of the work in-house, we are really good at trying not to create extra work for ourselves down the road.  In other words, we strive to get it right the first time. 

So if you have been avoiding the cold weather and haven't made it to the club in awhile, below are a few photos of the process and the result.  I evidently suck at taking cohesive photographs showing a natural progression of work, so enjoy these semi-random photos of the work and I will explain them as best I can.  

So far, those that have seen the result have reacted positively.  I know I did.

The BEFORE - Our goals were to 1. Renovate the bunkers with drainage, new sand, and rebuilt faces 2. Open up this narrow approach in order to offer strategic options and improve playability.  3.  Make the hole more aesthetically pleasing

Another "BEFORE" - you could drive a Mack truck between the green and approach.  We wanted to get the bunker up next to the green where it belonged.
When Shawn saw this natural "valley" on the back left, it was just screaming for us to punch a bunker here.  It would offer improved aesthetics as well as protection for dicey back left pins.
We decided to work counterclockwise around the green.  Step one- the maintenance staff removed all sod from the area of disturbance.  Step 2- fill in the front right bunker and create the new "bailout"/collection/run-up area. 

Once the bunker was filled, Shawn and our construction super developed a strategy.  Javier and I worked together on my last golf construction job over 10 years ago.  He is one of the best in the biz and it was a pleasure working with him again.   
Once the right bunker was filled in and collection area completed the front right bunker was turned into a back-right bunker.  It's objective is to collect errant run-ups and protect the newly expanded back right corner of the green.
The shaper Fernando was one of the best operators I have ever worked with.  He was fast, efficient, and paid great attention to detail.  I hope he will build every new bunker we ever do here at HMGC.
The new collection area where the bunker used to be and the new bunker location.  This low area will become fairway that will offer some really fun and new shots to be played on the hole.  Also, the fairway will run dangerously close to the edge of the bunker which should swallow up errant or overly aggressive running shots.
While all the shaping was going on and once the sod was stripped, it was time for our crew to start cutting in drainage.
Your maintenance staff hard at work doing all of the detail work.
The biggest obstacle our bunkers face towards being consistent is lack of drainage.  No more problems here. 
In the blink of an eye, Fernando had the back left bunker knocked out too.  The crew had it compacted and ready for sod.
Time to remove the sand and get going on the front bunker.  This was only day two and 1 bunker was gone and two new had already been finished.  I cannot say enough about the proficiency and care with which this crew worked.  

Another blink and the front bunker is shaped.  Notice that the high face was kept and moved closer to the green.  An homage to the old bunker but closer to the green and a little deeper.

Compacting the bunker bottoms.

What would a blog post be without comments about trees.  My glove is in what is about to become fairway.  Those sticks around my glove are tree roots from the pin oak in the background.  We are well outside the drip line of the tree.  These roots would cause havoc for this part of the fairway were it to remain.  Not to mention it hides all our work on the left side and someday will obstruct the green itself.  Also, positioned right next to the cart path, it makes an already stressed, high traffic area struggle even more.  It's gotta go!  
With the rough sod laid it was time to start rebuilding the new fairway lines.  Sod was removed from the start of #10 fairway.  There is no reason a fairway should run all the way up to the front of the tee box.  We have about 50 yards of unnecessary fairway cut.  Using it will have an added benefit of opening up traffic paths for the Marathon.
This sod is where the old bunker used to be.  We added about 8-10 feet of flat run-up.  The intention was to protect the left side of the green from the spine to the left edge.

This is thursday.  It was miserable, rainy, cold, and just plain wet all day.  Your maintenance staff busted their ass transplanting almost 6000 square feet of fairway sod from the start of #10.  NOTE how the fairway runs right into the bunker!  Should swallow up some failed recovery or run-up shots.  And you thought we were making it easier.
You used to be able to drive a Mack truck between the green and the bunker, now you can barely get a golf cart in there.  Also, the collar is pitched towards the green which will punish short shots to tight front pins.
Another look at the BEFORE.  Narrow neck, bunkers almost pushed up in an unnatural look and few strategic options on our longest par-4.

The AFTER :The end of Day 4.  There is no sand in the bunkers yet, so their aesthetic impact can't be fully realized just yet.  The new collection/run-up points straight to the new back bunker.  Once sand is added, I think the back left bunker will jump right out.  Check it out in person and you will see all the small contours, creative lines, and natural feel.  Much more nuanced, strategic,  and aesthetically pleasing.

We did get a tremendous amount of work done in only 4 days but we still have quite a bit of finish work remaining to complete the project.  Unfortunately, the cold weather looks like it will be bearing down on us soon.  We will tidy things up as soon as we can in hopes you may get to play it before the season is over.

I hope this is the start of a great journey for our club.


Tuesday, October 28

Water project update and fall testing

It's been awhile since my last post, but honestly, I can only talk about leaves and fertilization so much.   Fortunately, there is some nice progress to report on the water project.

 Over the last few weeks, the walls have been erected, the directional boring has been completed to install conduit across the golf course for electricity, and Toledo Edison has made an appearance to begin their work.  A few snapshots of the progress below.

It took just a handful of workers about a week to get the basic walls in.

Beam being set for the large range house door.  This was a bit dicey at first balancing a 700 lb beam on a couple of scrap blocks on my light duty skid-steer, but it got the job done.

The "bones" complete, By the way I got a kick out of watching you all sweat thinking we were going to paint it white.  
The roof went up over the weekend and a refreshing coat of paint set to match the rest of the facility.
With the bones complete, the electrician was able to begin his work.
Edison setting the service pole for our new electrical lines.  Thanks to former member Doug Bahrs for not pitching a fit when I told him they were going to put it in his back yard.

Had to help this equipment onto the course to pull wire from the splice box to the pole. 

The coming weeks will see the concrete floor poured, the transformer pad completed, and the rest of the installation by Toledo Edison.  Next week will begin the pipe installation.  Heads up to expect closures of the driving range while this work is going on.

With all this going on, it has been a busy month on the golf course.  Winter is fast approaching, and it is the time of year where we take a little focus off of daily conditions and try to prepare for the long dormant season.  Mostly we are trying to assess and correct any issues that could impede maximum root growth and plant health.  Through this process, we also gather information that guides agronomic planning and strategies for next season.

Before we punched the greens early this month, I have a soils and fertility guru independently evaluate our soil and turf conditions.  Through extensive chemical and physical testing, we can make assertions on the success or failure of our current cultural practices.  We get answers to many important questions:  Are we developing thatch?  Are we accumulating too much organic matter in our profile? Do we have sufficient air space (aeration) in our soil?  Does water infiltrate our greens surfaces sufficient for plant and soil health?  Do our mowing, rolling, and fertility schemes cause plant health issues?  All of these questions and more are important to answer on a regular basis.  My hope is that we are constantly moving in a positive direction.  We have to improve a little every year in order to make the greens better, firmer, faster and healthier.

A close look at our soil profile.  We are looking for several things here.  1.  Aerification holes are completely and properly filled.  Proving YET AGAIN that using a solid tine instead of "pulling a plug" is adequate to incorporate sand into the profile. 2. The depth of sand layer is increasing from year to year as we religiously sand topdress. Sand is a much better media for greens to grow in due to increased water infiltration, soil oxygen and root penetration.   3. Look at the nice "puncture" at the bottom of the sand channel.  Our aerification process is doing a great job fracturing lower soil layers.

The tools of the trade from left to right - 1. Soil infiltrometer measures water infiltration,  2. Agronomic consultant 3. Firmness meter

This is the first time I have used a firmness meter on our greens.  Simply put, this thing makes a ball mark on the greens and measures how deep it is to evaluate how firm the greens are.  Our greens were of a firmness of a tour event on this particular day.  
The results are in and I am pleased.  Overall we have made great progress in amending our soil pushup greens to perform at a higher level.  They are firmer, faster, and healthier than they were when I inherited them.  Our regular topdressing is paying off and our unique aerification strategies seem to be working great to increase the sand in our profile.  We will stay the course next season with a few chemical tweaks and continue to monitor.

Finally, thanks to all that attended the "evening with the architect".  It felt good to put our golf course master plan back out for consideration by the members.  While there was some errr.....passionate concerns, I am confident that the improvements and plans we have in place will be an absolute success.  I intend to prove this with the #14 bunkers we are doing this fall which should begin next week weather permitting.  I'm sure I will have more to babble about as that project moves forward as well.

Enough from me for now.  See you on the course.  Bring a leaf blower.

Tuesday, October 7

Aerification Update

Greens aerification began yesterday.  Unfortunately, Mother Nature didn't get my email and decided to rain on our little parade.  In an effort to get this unfortunate task out of the way, we began sanding and punching yesterday morning as planned.  Relative to years past, it hasn't gone quite as well so far, but we did accomplish a few things.  13 holes are de-thatched, sanded and punched, and the north side of the golf course (1, 11, 9, 17,18, practice greens) remain only dethatched.  

First of all, the below-average temperatures combined with continuous cloud cover made getting our sand dry nearly impossible.  Greens with more shade and less air circulation (4, 5, 15, 8) did not dry out at all while greens in full sun got a much better result.  By 2 pm, the light rain began and pretty much ended our day entirely.

We can aerify in clouds and even cold weather, but the key for us is being able to get the sand to dry once it is spread on the green.  Moist sand does not get swept into the holes and tends to clump on our brushes and brooms.   Yesterday our sand was far more appropriate for sand castles than for topdressing greens. 

There were little bursts of blue sky that gave us scant amounts of hope for some decent results so a-punching we will go.  Ben and Dave working in tandem to speed the process.

Normally the first brushing would get most of the sand in the holes.  As you can see here the wet cool conditions prevented a good drag.  We continued to work them as the day went on.
The wet sand just "bridged" the majority of holes but did start to smooth out a little better.  Drier early afternoon air did allow us to get most of the sand in later with mixed results.

The greens with more shade and less air circulation dried out the least leaving less than perfect results.  YET ANOTHER reason too many trees around greens can be a problem.  This is #4 right side which is quite shady.  We will rework the sand on these greens as soon as it dries out.  Hopefully no later than wednesday.
Greens with good air circulation and less shade fared much better.  Near perfect hole fill and a smooth surface.  This is #13 green which is in full sun and gets great air circulation.  Go figure.
A little rolling to smooth things out for play and lots of hand work to be done.  Not as good as past years but not awful.

Unfortunately, the weather today looks even worse.  Storms are headed our way and will be in our area around lunch time.  In order to ensure we get good results on our remaining greens, we will not sand or punch the remaining greens until Wednesday.  The golf course will remain open, but expect to skip around us at least once during your round.  We will do our level best to try to get things finished and playable as soon as possible.  

Thank you in advance for your patience.