Thursday, December 30, 2010

Winter Beauty

With a year marked with weather extremes (and at times a rather frenzied pace!) now coming to a close, I found these following photos to be a nice, quiet, calm way to end it. They had this affect on me when I took them, and I thought you might enjoy them as well.

Best Wishes for a Healthy, Happy, Peaceful New Year!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Free Skate Style Ski Trail Open

I know its been a while since I've posted and I'd like to say it's because I've been golfing or biking in some warm clime or hitting the slopes out West, but no, just been busy in the shop, dealing with snow removal, and working on a few things out on the course when weather cooperates.
I'll post again soon to update you on our course activities and our equipment maintenance and accessory refurbishment activities. Equipment maintenance is indeed our main emphasis at this time of year and our new Equipment Technician, Mike Gavinski, whom joined us just a few weeks ago, has been making great progress on some badly needed repairs and has a good start on cutting unit sharpening. I'm really pleased with Mike and with a little help from Jacob, Steve, and Ryan, I'm confident that all of our equipment will be ready to go come spring. More on this work later.

We've had a bit of snow this winter but it wasn't until recently that we had enough to permit any trail grooming activities. We do not have any specific ski trail grooming equipment, but on Monday we hooked up our fairway rollers and developed a loop around the perimeter of the course. It's a 2.7 mile loop and approximately 12 feet wide. The roller has packed the snow fairly well and grooming it a few times has made it firm enough (along with the nice 12 foot width) to skate ski. I much prefer the downhill style but I might just have to give cross country and the free skate style a try this year.
Jacob begins trail grooming process. Roller packs snow quite well.

First pass complete. Future grooming included a brush attachment which eliminated the tire marks and better smoothed the surface.
If you're so inclined to try out our trail you may want to get out soon. The forecast is calling for warmer temps and possibly rain. But should this occur and disrupt the trail, we'll be sure to get the roller back out when more snow falls.

Enjoy the trail, or off trail if you prefer, but please if you do go off trail, avoid skiing and/or snowshoeing on the greens and tees. The packed ice that can develop could lead to turf damage next spring. Thank you for staying off these areas!

Now, come to think of it, maybe I need to take a trip somewhere to better learn about the art and science of ski trail grooming!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Whirlwind of Activities Completed

It's been a week (or I should say less than a half week) of frenetic pace as we completed several "winterization" tasks. The forecast is showing temperatures to fall into the teens overnight Thanksgiving into Friday, and remain below freezing thereafter, for at least a couple days. These extended low temperatures will likely begin to freeze the soil surface and so in essence, it was time to "put the course to bed".
In the last three days we've accomplished:
  • Deep, Solid Tine Aeration of Greens
  • Rolling to Smooth (Greens)
  • Sand Topdressing & Brushing (Greens)
  • Plant Protectant Applications for Snow Mold Diseases (Greens, Tees, Fairways, & Bunker Faces)
  • Late-Season Nutrient Applications (Greens, Tees, Approaches & Fairways)
  • Covering of Greens and several Tees
  • Winterizing Irrigation System
  • Renovation of Tee Surrounds at No. 10. (near completion)
 Jacob (on #2 Grn) and Rafa (on #13 Grn) performing Deep Aeration (1/2" dia. x 10" deep)
Having second tractor/aerator unit (our much older unit was down for repairs several times during process) was compliments of  Lake Shore Country Club and Supt., Jeff Frentz. This was a HUGE help and we couldn't have completed all we needed to this week without, "getting by with a little help from  our friends" !

 Channels created will aide moisture movement off surface and provide oxygen and gas exchange during winter months, and help allow deeper root growth in spring.

Rolling followed Deep Aeration and then Sand Topdressing (shown above) followed. Applying sand now helps protect the crowns of the turf (the point where shoot growth originates) throughout winter.

 Brushing, (to smooth and incorporate sand) followed Topdressing.

 Plant Protectant Applications followed to guard against Snow Mold Diseases. All Greens, Tees, Approaches, Fairways, and Bunker Faces were treated.

 Ryan applies Nutrients (mostly slow release for early spring availability) after Plant Protectant App. had dried. Similar nutrient applications were also applied to Tees, Approaches, Fairways, Green and Tee Surrounds, and high traffic areas in the Rough.

 Final Greens task was placing and securing Greencovers.
Staples are used to secure them and they cannot be installed once the ground is frozen. Hence the urgency this week, as temps will soon be falling sharply!

 Winterizing Irrigation System - Compressed air is used to "blow out" all lines, sprinkler heads, pump station equipment, and pond fill lines.

It was a little cold outside the last couple days! 
Ice formation from a nearby sprinkler being activated to blow out water.

 Sneaking in an improvement project before the ground freezes (and sod becomes unavailable)
Replacing contaminated sod on slope surrounding No. 10 tees. 

Old tie steps and dated landscape was removed to provide a look more similar to all of our other tees. A small set of rough timber steps will be installed if deemed necessary in future.

Greens "Put to Bed" and ready for a long winter's nap!

With it being Thanksgiving today I can't help thinking about the many things I'm thankful for, but one for sure is my terrific Grounds Operation Staff. Time and time again during this challenging year, they have answered the call. Whatever the situation; from ice in the winter; to floods in the spring (and again in summer); to heat in the summer; to tournament preparations and recovery tasks; to completing myriad special projects; and now to multiple winterization tasks in a few short days, over and over again they have answered the call of duty!
I couldn't be more thankful! 

Happy Thanksgiving to All! 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Drainage, Drainage, & Insuring Drainage!

Coined after the familiar saying in the Real Estate business, "Location, Location, Location", in the Golf Industry, when asked what three things are needed to have a great golf course, the common response is, "Drainage, Drainage, Drainage". Obviously it's an over simplified response but it does underscore the significance of moving water off the course in a rapid manner to allow turf to remain healthy and play to proceed. With the mild weather of late, we've taken full advantage, repairing a significant drain collapse, adding additional drain pipe in another area, and insuring fall, winter, and spring drainage in certain areas, through high pressure line jetting.

Earlier in the year following the heavy rain during the Western Am. Championship, we discovered a near completely collapsed drain line which helps move water off certain areas of both #3 and #13 fairways. We used our jetting equipment to open the line as best as possible but we knew then that the line would have to be replaced.
Jacob truly getting "into" his work during Western Am. rain, finding submerged (and collapsed) line so jetting could proceed
Excavating collapsed line
New pipe and vertical "clean-out" in place, back filling and compacting underway
New tile line (and others existing) will help move flood waters like these off course more rapidly

There are many areas throughout the course where additional drainage pipe is needed to intercept water flow, and move excess off the course more rapidly. One such area is between the 8th fairway and the range. In heavy rainfall events water flows down the slope in front of the range tee, flows south around the first target green and deposits on No. 8 fairway. We do have drain tile and drop inlets or basins in the fairway area, but extending the existing line and adding additional basins will bode well for future water interception and removal.
Overview of new drain line layout at #8 fairway & range
 Tying in to existing 6" line, changing a restricted portion from 4" to entirely 6"
Trenches dug
Pipe prepared
Basins installed and pipe trimmed 
Back-filling and tamping following gravel addition to "blanket" pipe.
Project near completion with only sod replacement and clean-up remaining

We have several other areas where additional drainage is needed and hopefully we can do more before the ground freezes, but some additional drainage "insurance" we've been working on lately has been high-pressure jetting. Equipment purchased earlier this year allows us to jet out lines, cleaning soil, debris, and roots with nozzles that "jet" water up to pressures as much as 3500 psi. This has helped us open partial blocked lines as well as find where pipe or tile line deterioration has occurred. With the miles of drain lines we have throughout the course, this unit will in short order become one of our most valuable equipment investments!
Jetting Machine in use near Range Tee
Jacob jetting a line near #9 Tee - No underwater work needed here!
One more aeration session on greens (deep tine) is planned for next week and then winter preparations follow including: winterizing the irrigation system; applying late season nutrients and disease protectant products; and before long,covering the greens. I'll post as we complete this work

Friday, November 5, 2010

Dry Weather Allows Special Course Work To Continue...

Mother Nature's continued weather balancing act has been in full force this fall. After damn lousy hot and wet conditions, through much of the summer, the past two months have been an especially nice reprieve. It's been particularly dry (and a might bit windy a few days) in October, with only .9 inches of rain, and in fact the driest in 39 years, but this certainly is preferred to last October, when the month rainfall total then was 6.79 inches! What a difference a year makes! The only thing certain is that this too will balance out again at some point, perhaps in a colder and whiter winter, or a soggy spring. I hope neither is extreme, but whatever it brings we'll try to make the best of it. For now though, the favorably dry weather has not only allowed a nice extended period for fall "fast and firm" golf, but also has allowed us to continue with a number of course tasks including:
  • Daily leaf processing. (blowing and mulching)
  • Fairway Topdressing on select fairways (includes solid tine aeration).
  • Bunker edging (I call it rip-edging as shown below).
  • Drainage repair and additions.
  • Fairway repair (a few small remaining spots).
  • Winterizing tennis court irrigation system.
  • & Applying nutrients and plant protectants to prepare turf for winter.  
 Rafa & Javier performing the daily leaf processing ritual.
Only a few summer heat/moisture damaged fairway spots remain.
Same location as above photo showing our "home-grown" sod in place. Sod should blend nicely by next golf season, once rooted and well established.
Note 3 divots in same location...Imagine if everyone did this throughout the course! 
(Remember you can "click" on photos to enlarge them for better viewing, then use your "back" browser button to return to post)
1-800 Call Otto, completes repair job in this area.
Between repairing ice damaged spots in spring and heat/moisture damaged spots this fall, he's become an expert in playing surface repair! 

 Turf areas surrounding our bunkers encroach rapidly and as much as a foot or more in some areas, over a growing season. We do not frequently edge our bunkers, preferring to allow a more natural edge to develop. Walking on these edges causes them to flatten and promotes even more rapid growth into the sand, creating a shelf which can lead to very difficult lies. Walking in the sand, rather than along the base of the grass face, helps slow this shelf development. This will be a topic I'll add to the Course Etiquette Page prior to next golf season.

Bunker Rip-Edging in progress. 

Encroaching turf is "Ripped" away (and sand shaken out) to retain original bunker shape. 

 Ripped material is gathered and removed.
  A photo "before" Rip-Edging Process
Same shot "after" Rip-Edging
Rip-Edging is an on-going process in that as long as turf is growing, it will continually be encroaching into the sand. Sand is an excellent growing media as the multiple pore spaces are ideal for root growth. We have 92 bunkers with roughly half green side and half fairway bunkers. Last year all green side bunkers were edged as well as several fairway bunkers. Our goal at present is to complete all fairway bunkers this fall and then all green side bunkers in spring prior to the golf season kick off. We're currently about half finished with fairway bunkers. 

Aside from this work, we're addressing a few drainage issues, topdressing select fairways (a second time), and performing various winterization tasks. I'll post about these next week. 
The Low temperatures are forecast to be fairly cool but High temperatures are expected to be near 60 over the next several days, so it's not too late to get in a few more rounds! Enjoy the weather while it lasts!


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Extreme Winds Subside - Tree Damage Minimal?

Unless you remained indoors these past couple days you no doubt experienced part of a wind storm system that was historic for the Midwest.

On Tuesday, over southern Oregon, the wind speed at the level of the jet stream was recorded at near 220 mph. It was this powerful jet stream energy that fueled an intense low-pressure system over the Midwest on both Tuesday and Wednesday dropping to historic levels in northern Minnesota and Chicago as well. When verified these pressure readings will likely go down as the lowest ever recorded on the mainland U.S., from a non-tropical storm.

A National Weather Service pressure gradient map from about 1 p.m. Tuesday, just a few hours before the storm reached its lowest pressure at Bigfork, MN.

Information from The Weather Channel stated: 
This was a storm stronger than the infamous "Edmund Fitzgerald" storm in Nov. 1975 and an even stronger version almost exactly 23 years after that in Nov. 1998. 
The central barometric pressure was also on par with the infamous Superstorm of 1993, and is lower than the last 4 hurricanes of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season. 

Our on-site weather station recorded wind gusts of 49 mph, which was surprisingly less than I thought it would be. I guess I wouldn't want to experience winds greater than that! At one point while driving my cart back to our Grounds Operations Center, to get off the course for fear of flying objects, I felt like the wind was lifting under the cart's canopy nearly making it airborne! Visions of the movie Twister came to mind but thankfully no actual twisters developed.

Today, with the storm past, we began the cleanup process and we were pleased that damage was remarkably minimal. I expected trees down but there were none. Only several large branches fell along with a littering of small branches throughout the course. It was likely the fact that many tree species have already dropped their leaves and therefore did not act as huge sails, that limited the damage.
 Some of "Nature's" pruning

 A large broken branch on #6

Typical small branch littering throughout course

We were indeed fortunate that the damage was less than other locations throughout the Midwest but I do feel it may be some time before the full assessment will be known. The strength of these winds could very well have cracked or weakened significant structural portions of trees that we haven't seen yet or may not see until trees leaf-out (or lack such) next spring. Time will tell and I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Greens Aeration Complete - More Topdressing in Progress

After delaying and then postponing greens aeration due to beautiful weather and fast and firm playing conditions over the past several weeks, we did finally conduct our first session. For this aeration session we used small coring tines (approximately pencil sized diameter) with a very close spacing using our multi-tine coring head.
 Small diameter core aeration on greens now completed

Our typical processing of these cores is to drag or brush them to loosen the desirable sand material from the core allowing it to incorporate back into the turf canopy. What remains is essentially a small mass of roots and the attached turf which is then blown into piles and removed. This year though, we collected the cores and planted them in our turf nursery to re-establish this depleted  area. Between the ice damaged areas coming out of winter and the flood and heat damaged areas in late summer, most of our nursery was used in various fairway areas and replanting was necessary.
 Preparing Nursery Rootzone Medium
 Collecting Cores
 Placing and Leveling on Nursery Rootzone Sand
 Completed process showing tracked in or "dimpled" appearance of surface

The desirable outcome of this planting process (using cores) is that once established, the varieties of turf that we will have will be the same as those from which they were harvested. This allows us to replace turf, should it be damaged by ice, disease, heat, floods, lightning, equipment malfunction, vandals, or any other reason, with turf that is nearly identical in it's properties. In this manner of turf replacement both the appearance of the turf and the playability characteristics are retained compared to importing commercially available putting green or fairway type sod.

Following aeration the greens have been sand topdressed, broomed, and rolled (several times) and are reasonably smooth in spite of all the surface disruption. Our next aeration session (planned for mid Nov. will be Deep Tine Aeration using larger, solid tines. I'll post about this when we get a bit closer to beginning the work.    
***If you are a first time visitor to this blog and would like to view our Welcome Message, which includes the 2008 Year in Review slide show, click HERE.