Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Winter Wonderland

The golf course is truly a thing of beauty, not just spring through fall, but in winter as well, when quieted by a blanket of fresh snow. Hope you enjoy these few photos as the year comes to a close.

 Hole No. 1

No. 2 Green

No. 3 Tee & Channel

Hole No. 4

Hole No. 8

Hole No. 9

 Hole No. 15

No. 16 Approach & Green

Your Grounds (&Snow Removal) Crew!

From all of us on the Grounds & Greens: We wish all of you, a very Merry Christmas & a Healthy, Happy New Year!

All Covered Up

I started this post a few weeks ago and then had a few difficulties getting pictures uploaded but now these issues have been resolved. At the time we had just covered (thinking we were just in time for that matter!) the greens, as the temperatures were dipping below freezing, snowfall was predicted, and accumulation was likely.

 Green covering took place on Dec. 2nd &3rd

The date of our annual green covering, and the closing of the greens until spring, varies from year to year (dictated by freezing temperatures) and is preceded by several tasks including; deep tine aeration, topdressing, setting temporary hole locations in the approaches, nutrient applications (designed to be available for plant uptake as soon as the grounds thaws in early spring), and a final plant protectant application.
This final plant protection, which helps control fungi that cause snow mold diseases, is applied as late in the year as possible, and as close to what we believe (a little weather prediction involved) could be a lasting snow cover. A good hard freeze prior to, and then a nice blanket of snow, is always preferred, since snow falling on unfrozen ground can actually insulate it and provide an ideal environment for certain snow mold fungi, but we can't control this.  What we can do is apply protection products before snow is expected and this was completed just prior to our placing of the greens covers.

For the twentieth year now we have used greens covers which are a permeable material made with a double layer, woven, translucent polyethylene and bonded with a unique lace coating. I believe they have been very beneficial for the following reasons:

  • Protect against the desiccating affects of cold dry wind should it be an "open" low snow cover winter.
  • Protect against debris and other undesirable accumulation and damage from geese, deer, and coyote.
  • Protect against walkers, cross country skiers, joggers, etc., when greens are frost covered.
  • Enhances soil warming in early spring leading to earlier root growth, and earlier dormancy break and spring green up.   
  • Allows late season aeration versus more common immediate post Labor Day timing, providing a longer period, well into late fall, of undisturbed putting surfaces. 
  • Should damage occur due to disease or ice (covers allow air and moisture to pass so ice can still accumulate) the covers will enhance new seed germination from overseeding and general plant recovery.

 All tucked in for winter!

Well, as it turned out, our covering process was indeed quite timely as the ground froze and has remained frozen since then. Snow cover has been nearly continuous, at least in the shorter turf areas (greens, tees, and fairways) where the soil is not as well insulated by the plants as it is in longer turf (rough) areas. Yesterday a new blanket of the fluffy white stuff fell and more is falling as I write this, so Mother Nature has the entire course well covered at the moment and it appears as though it will be this way for some time. It's quite nice for Christmas and it protects in much the same way that our green covers do, but a mid-winter thaw often occurs and the green covers will then, and continuing on into spring, provide the many valuable benefits that they have for many past years.

Mother Nature's Natural Covering!

      Tuesday, November 24, 2009

      Pressing On...Deep Greens Aeration, & Project Activities.

      While the weather appears to be rather rapidly deteriorating we're not letting it slow us down. This week we're performing our second greens aeration session (deep tine aeration), finishing a dormant seeding project at #12 tee, continuing the construction of additional paddle parking, and beginning the extension of #17 championship tee.

      Deep Aeration
      In October we conducted our first greens aeration session with small diameter tines which extracted cores of sandy material (from years of sand topdressing) which we then reincorporated for a number of important benefits. (See October Aeration post). This week, typically at this same time every year, we conduct a deep aeration using solid tines which provide different but equally beneficial results.
      The equipment used is a Verti-drain aerator and the solid tines we use are 3/4" in diameter and penetrate the soil 9-10" deep on 4" center spacing.  These channels that are created aid oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange deeper into the soil profile, provide avenues for deeper root growth, allow the incorporation of sand (from follow up topdressing ) improving rootzone characteristics, and help drain excess moisture from late season rain or melted snow off the putting surfaces. Additionally, moisture that fills these channels will freeze, expand, and in the process fracture the rootzone creating cracks and fissures that further improve all of the aforementioned aeration benefits. So, should we have some nice weather and you get a chance to play, you'll find the putting surfaces rather disrupted (even with several rollings) but at least you can take some solace in knowing that the benefits are highly valuable and help us to provide the quality putting surfaces you enjoy during the golf season.

      Verti-drain, Deep Aeration in Progress

      Aeration Channels 3/4" x 9-10" deep
      (with 1/2" tine added in between for good measure!)

      Grassing Improvement Project
      A few weeks back we used a product (Roundup herbicide) to control several unwanted grasses and broadleaved plants adjacent to the regular tee and alternate tee (across the bridge) and pond at #12. One particular grass that we wanted to control is Switch grass which is a native plant, and originally intentionally planted, but has proven to be too aggressive and invasive.  With these areas controlled, the soil was prepared for re-seeding and the species sown was fine leaved fescues along with a "smattering"of the less aggressive native grass, Little Blue stem. This dormant seeding was covered with a straw blanket to protect the seeds and keep them in place ready for germination in the spring. In time we will continue this same vegetation control and re-grassing around the entire pond at #12.

      Blanketed Fine Fescue & Little Blue stem seed awaits spring germination

      Paddle Parking Extension
      Over the last few weeks we have been constructing an area, adjacent (west side along Forest Preserve) to the entrance road to the Paddle Area and Grounds Operations Center. We first removed all the vegetation (mostly buckthorn trees) and then added 30 or so truckloads of fill material to elevate to the proper grade.  After leveling and compacting the fill material we're now adding, leveling, and compacting approx. a dozen semi-loads of base gravel. When complete, likely next week, we'll have an asphalt company apply a "base layer" which will allow parking and plowing capabilities.  Next year a final "top course" will be applied smoothing and leveling any settling that may occur over winter.  This project will add nearly 50 additional parking spaces, sorely needed on many days during heavy paddle play.  This additional parking will also come in handy next year during the Western Amateur Championship.

      Gravel base (6-7") being spread for Paddle parking extension

      Northern end of new parking area awaiting gravel base

      #17 Championship Tee Expansion
      Plans have been in place for many months to lengthen the championship tee at #17, and with other tees and the new bunker complex at #18 now complete, we are moving ahead with this work. It's a fairly straightforward extension (or should I say straight back!) which will add 10 yards to the back of this tee.

       Lengthening of #17 tee begins

       It may not seem like much distance but it will surely add a bit more challenge from this tee. I'll keep you posted on our progress.          

      Monday, November 23, 2009

      Winterizing the Course

      We certainly had a bonus regarding the weather this past weekend. Aside from a little frost delay, the days turned out sunny and mild and it was great to see a good bit of "late season" play. Was it the last good weather weekend? Time will surely tell, but as Thanksgiving approaches, the inevitable cold, snow, and frozen soil, looms on the horizon and our focus this past weekend turned to preparing the course for winter.

      A frosty start to a beautiful weekend. Hopefully not the last! 

      Winterizing the course actually began a few weeks ago with nutrient applications targeted to extend photosynthesis (which improves energy storage) as well as strengthen the turf plants aiding cold stress tolerance. These applications were completed on all turf areas (greens, tees, fairways, rough) and while they are very important, our activities over the weekend were essential and included clearing water from the irrigation system, the tennis court sprinkler system, and drinking water lines, and applying plant protection products to greens, tees, and fairways to prevent winter disease activity.
      The process of clearing the irrigation system and other water lines involves attaching an air compressor capable of producing a large volume of air to the main line pipe at the pump station and then actuating every head (nearly 2000 now) individually, until all water is "blown" free. Additionally, manual coupling valves are cleared and the pump station is thoroughly drained.

      The big "Blower"...a 750 Cubic Feet / Minute Compressor 

      Adding some mist to the almost clear sprinkler 

      All clear...until next spring 

      Our other critically important "winterization" task is plant protectant applications to prevent two potentially damaging diseases. There are fungi that can cause disease at any time of the year, and the early winter through spring period is unfortunately no exception.

       Plant Protection in Action

      A very common disease active during our current cool and damp conditions (and continuing until warm temperatures return next spring) is a disease called Microdochium Patch.

       Microdochium Patch (photo fortunately not from SCC!)

      When snow cover eventually occurs, another less common but more destructive disease is called Typhula Blight, or more commonly known as Gray Snow Mold. Snow cover actually provides an insulating layer for this fungi, preventing it from drying out.

      Typhula Blight (photo fortunately not from SCC!)

      Microdochium Blight - (this one is from #17 at SCC -now treated!)
      These two diseases are generally our main off season concern and the primary targets of our late fall/winter preventive plant protectant applications.

      Additional winterizing tasks include deep tine aeration and sand topdressing of the greens (which began today) and covering of the greens and several tees prior to freezing conditions. Hopefully these "freezing conditions" are still several weeks away!

      Thursday, November 19, 2009

      Finishing touches completed on #18 Bunker Project!

      In just a little over a week the combined efforts of Wadsworth Golf Construction and Skokie Grounds Operations Staff have completed the Bunker and Mound Project at #18.  With great weather and a few very long days we just may have set a record for building and grassing this new complex!
      Over the weekend the bunker shapes, shoulder elevations, drainage, irrigation modifications, mounded ridge shaping, topsoil placement, and most of the sod installation was completed.

      Irrigation and shoulder (face) sod being installed 

      Drainage in place and shoulder sodding progressing

       Topsoil replacement on mounded ridge 

      Monday the sand was installed, final sodding of the mounded ridge completed, and the haul road (where all traffic was confined during construction) was tilled, leveled and seeded. Also, with areas where the fairway has now shifted from original, we replaced all fairway sod that was lifted prior to construction. There was a net increase in fairway width, and rather than bring in sod that would not match the existing fairway turf varieties, we used our "home-grown" sod, planted from cores at our nursery, which will much more closely match the existing turf varieties in the adjacent areas on #18 fairway. This is the same method as we have used with other fairway expansions (see last post), but in this case rather than grow in place we used sod available at our nursery.

      Shoulder sod complete, fairway expansion begins 

      Sand installed, fairway replacement and expansion complete

       Haul road tilled and prepped for seeding

       The few final details were completed on Tuesday and included smoothing and compacting the bunker sand, fertilizing and applying wetting agents to aid moisture retention for the new sod and seed, and covering the seeded, former haul road with a straw blanket. This late seeding is what's considered 'dormant seeding', and germination will not take place now but the seed will be in place and will do so as soon as the soil warms in the spring. With these final few items addressed today, I guess I can say for this project,...that's a wrap!

      Straw blanket in place to prevent erosion and protect seeds

       Fairway expansion at first bunker, sand smoothed and compacted

      A few details about the new complex:

      As I mentioned in an earlier post, the new bunkers approximately split the location of the former bunker. The new far bunker is approximately 10 yards further from the tee, and the new closest bunker is approximately 10 yards closer. A low shoulder or face separates the two, and a formidable shoulder on the far bunker gives true meaning to the term "hazard"! An off line shot entering the first bunker will have a much more manageable recovery shot. If a player challenges the far bunker and is skilled enough to carry 295 yards he'll be rewarded by a nice "kick" off the back slope, where fairway lies beyond, receiving a good amount of additional yardage.
      The mounded ridge short of the bunkers is a continuation of the ridge that was existing between the former bunker and the existing grass bunker on #1 side. The sloped areas of the mounded ridge will add challenge to shots hit wide right off both #1 and #18 due to potential uneven stance. There is a generous amount of fairway and flat rough in these areas and this should only affect shots hit rather far off line.
      I believe this entire new complex looks very attractive (and will of course be more so when fully established) and with design similarities of that of many of our other bunkers, these "new" bunkers blend well with our overall bunker style.

       Complex complete - Attractive but.."A hazard to be avoided"!
       Enjoy the view but remember bunkers are hazards, and in the words of architect Donald J. Ross, "Regardless of where a bunker may be, it is the business of the player to avoid it"!

      Sunday, November 15, 2009

      A Quick Fairway Expansion

      As part of the Master Restoration Plan of year 2000, one of the original goals was to bring fairway turf closer to many of the bunkers to, "make them more integral with the fairway", as well as where appropriate, provide fairway behind bunkers, where a carried shot challenging a bunker, would be rewarded with additional roll.

      This fairway expansion work (beyond larger re-contour expansions during the implementation of the Master Restoration), as you will probably recall, has been recently done in locations on fairways #3, #4, #7 and now this week on #8.

      The former bunker on the right side approach of #8 green was a large, long, parallel bunker. The restored hazard became two bunkers which were turned more perpendicular, "stacked", (one above the other), to make up the elevation rise, and brought much closer to the putting surface. This left a rather large area of rough which was a perfect location for fairway expansion to "make them more integral to the fairway" as well as to visually enhance this area.

      So this week, with weather still cooperating, and both sod (some from repositioning of fairway and rough in this area, some from #18 project) and cores available, (#8 is our last fairway to core aerate) we addressed this expansion.

      Fairway removed in foreground (was under Oak Tree) -
      Expansion area prepared for sod & cores

      Fairway sod repositioned to area closest to bunkers

      Harvesting cores-soon to be the new fairway

      Cores spread and leveled - Seeding and Rolling will follow

      Completed project with intermediate rough repositioned
      in foreground (slightly darker green), and new expansion
      area closest to bunker

      There are several other areas throughout the course where we will eventually implement this same fairway expansion work, both on the leading side, as well as the sloped, back side of bunkers. I'll keep you posted!

      Friday, November 13, 2009

      Bunkers Take Shape

      With perfect construction weather this week and a combined effort from both Wadsworth Golf Construction and Skokie Country Club Grounds Operations Staff, the bunker project at #18 is taking shape at a rapid pace.
      My last post showed where we had removed the sand from the old bunker and began to remove sod so that the new bunkers could begin to be shaped and molded into the new planned designs.
      I also showed fill material being stockpiled to be shaped into what will be a the 'bony ridge' or mounded area on the west side (#18 tee side) of the new bunkers.

      Original bunker ready for modifications to begin

      With most of this work completed prior to this week, Wadsworth mobilized and began to shape the new dual bunker complex and build the support mounds or shoulders surrounding the bunkers. By Tuesday the bunker shapes were taking on their new shapes and by Thursday the shoulders were in place and very close to what will be final elevations and shapes. The 'bony ridge' was also beginning to be rough shaped.

      Shoulder shaping of furthest bunker begins

      Bunkers "roughed in" - getting closer to final shape

      Hand cutting of bunker perimeter

      Trenching and drain line installation

      Rough shaping of material for 'bony ridge' begins

      Much progress will happen today. While Wadsworth puts the finishing touches on the shoulder heights and shapes, hand cuts the perimeter edges of each bunker, trenches and installs drain lines in each bunker floor, and further shapes the 'bony ridge', we will be re-routing and installing irrigation, installing one new section of drainage near the 'bony ridge', and final smoothing and preparing the bunker shoulders for sod. Late morning we're expecting our first sod delivery and by the end of the day we should have a portion of the bunker surrounds sodded.
      Looking forward to a good day!

      While this is all in progress we have (at least) four other projects in the works including:
      • Fairway expansion at #8 (the approach area near the "stacked" right green side bunkers).
      • A drainage collapse at #11 (18" clay tile line, left side rough) where we've added additional tile in this area (desperately needed), and planning to add more, while we're making the repair.
      • Repairing (sodding) some of the haul road area adjacent to the Forest Preserve west of hole #13. Much of this sod is the harvested sod from #18 bunker area.
      • Removing brush along side the Grounds Operations Center/Paddle Complex entrance road, placing fill material and grading in preparation for additional Paddle parking stalls.
      I'll blog about these projects, and more about the new bunker complex at #18 as soon as possible.

      Wednesday, November 4, 2009

      Rains End Finally! - Bunker Project Underway

      You'll see (or may already have seen) some of this same information in my 'Clippings' column in the Nov. Skokie News, so some of this may be a repeat, but there is certainly other information that is exclusively covered here.

      The rain this month has made it quite miserable for trying to get our fairway aeration finished (just 2 to go though), leaves mulched and processed, a small drainage project on No. 11 addressed, and the bunker and mounding modification project on 18 underway.

      One word pretty well describes October. Saturated! Yes, that about sums it up. But if you’re interested in the details for the 31 day month, according to the recordings of our on-site weather station, the total rainfall was 6.79 inches, and we received measurable precipitation on 22 days. Evapotranspiration, which is the process whereby a plant (turfgrass, etc.) uses water for general growth and cooling processes (it’s similar to our perspiration process), was at a mere 1.35 inches so the “excess” moisture that was available to thoroughly saturate the course was 5.44 inches! This is a lot of extra water considering that the average rainfall for October is a low 2.7 inches (the only drier months are January and February) and to add further insult, with rain 75% of the days, there surely wasn't much opportunity for any significant drying!

      As November begins we've finally had a few sunny, breezy days and Tuesday this week we were able to return to preparing for the planned modifications of the No. 18 fairway bunker area. We previously removed sand from the existing bunker and began some sod removal but then the rain began and saturation followed delaying our progress. Hopefully a bit cooperation with weather will allow us to make some good progress in the next couple weeks.

      No. 18 Bunker & Mounding Project

      Last month the Grounds & Greens Committee in consultation with our Golf Architect, Ron Prichard, (and after final approval from the Board of Director’s) decided to move forward with a modification of the fairway bunker area on the right side of No. 18. This area I am referring to is the bunker and the area west and between No. 1 and 18, where you may recall we lost several trees in a storm two years ago, and is now wide open and rather uninteresting. After much discussion it was decided to rebuild the existing bunker (moving it closer to the green about 10 yards), adding an additional bunker west of it (just slightly closer to the tee) and placing a series of small mounds or a “boney ridge” (as Prichard calls it) west of this bunker in the current wide open space. These bunkers and mounding or low ridge, will provide better hole separation, better visual direction, sufficient challenge to all levels of play, and should improve the aesthetics of this area which has change so markedly since the storm.

      The complete construction process includes:

      * Removing existing sand from bunker
      * Stripping all sod from entire work area
      * Isolating irrigation lines and drains in construction zone
      * Strip and stockpile topsoil
      * Shape bunkers and place soil filled bags for perimeter shaping
      * Install bunker drainage
      * Haul fill material for mounding or low ridge (approx. 25-30 semi-loads needed)
      * Shape fill material
      * Replace and final grade topsoil
      * Restore irrigation and drainage
      * Sod entire area

      Sand removed and hand stripping of bunker face Sod begins

      Sod removal continues & re-used on course wh
      ere needed

      Stripping and stockpiling topsoil for later use on mounds

      Importing of 'fill material' for "boney, mounded ridge"

      As additional fill material is imported for the "boney, mounded ridge" we'll soon be shaping the bunker faces or shoulders and the general perimeter outlines of the two bunkers. In general the first bunker will start at approx. 250 yds out (from the championship markers) and extend to approx. 265. The second bunker will start at approx. 270 and extend to approx. 290 yds. The distances from the regular markers are 237 - 252 for the first bunker and 257 - 277 for the second. These are approximate distances and may need to be slightly adjusted due to large drain lines in the area that we need to retain in their current location.

      I'll keep you posted as progress proceeds.
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