Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Mild Weather allows Late Year Projects

I thought by now it would be 'Beginning to look a lot like Christmas', but not just yet! After finishing leaf processing (mulching), winterizing the course (irrigation system and winter disease protection), covering the greens, removing all course furnishings, and finishing a few minor items related to the Paddle Project (drainage and site clean up) we thought it would be time to come inside and begin our winter equipment maint. and repair activities. The mild temperatures and lack of snowfall (one of the five lowest snow records to this date - only a half inch) have delayed that for now and this past week we've been able to work (or continue work) on a few outdoor projects.

A couple weeks ago we topdressed all fairways with sand (a program we began a couple years ago but just this fall expanded to include all 18) and aerated with shallow (4" deep) solid tines. Shortly thereafter we began a second fairway aeration but with larger tine sizes capable of penetrating up to 9-10 inches.  This depth helps break up compacted areas deeper in the rootzone aiding water penetration and root growth. The mild temperatures (no frozen ground yet) and snow free fairways, have allowed us to continue this process and our goal is to finish all before freezing conditions set in.
  Rafa continues the Verti-drain deep, solid tine aeration (minimally disruptive on the surface but yielding valuable soil compaction relief below) hoping to complete all fairways before it gets too cold!
As I've mentioned in earlier posts, the record flooding last summer, and then near record temperature and humidity that followed, caused turf thinning and some turf loss in several low, slow-to-drain areas in a few fairways. Throughout the fall and early winter we installed additional drainage pipe in these damaged areas and our goal is to ultimately add pipe and drop inlets (catch basins) in all such areas. The mild conditions we've had lately have allowed us to continue this work (on #18 fairway at the moment) and hopefully we'll have several more days before we have to rest the trencher. 

Hard to see from photo but this trench is less than 4 inches wide and allows our 2 inch flexible pipe to fit nicely followed by a covering of gravel and then an 8 inch finish layer of rootzone mix. The narrow cut will heal quickly in the spring with a little seed and normal encroachment of adjacent turf. I selected this process (narrow trench, small pipe) as opposed to typical 4 inch pipe (larger trench and scar) to minimize recover time and eliminate need for sod cutting and replacing. More trenching and pipe installed, and less repair, with this method.

Chances are pretty good that at some point our weather is going to become more typical and drop below freezing and stay this way for some time. It's a pretty safe bet. Unfortunately, some might say.  But for those whom enjoy the cold and snow (which also will likely come) we plan to once again flatten some tracks so that skate style skiing can be enjoyed. And speaking of skate style, this year we are adding another winter activity option (for those whom really like it cold and even freezing) and that is ice skating.

Nearly every year we are asked if we would allow skating on the ponds and we have always resisted due to the hazardous potential of dangerously thin ice. Also, several of our ponds are aerated (oxygenated for fish health) and so the ice never completely forms on these ponds. This year however, in looking at the area just north of the Paddle Facility, in the rough west of #14 fairway, we determined that an ice staking area could be developed. After doing some research we decided to go forward with it and so an ice rink is now in the works! We purchased a simple to erect, reusable ice rink kit that includes shallow walls (plastic panels), supports, a durable plastic liner, liner protector for walls, and an ice resurfacer tool. It's a nice size of 40 x 96 and we'll likely add some lights for your evening skating pleasure. It's our first time at ice making and rink maintenance but I think we'll figure it out and hopefully have a nice place for you to skate with family, then kick off the skates and go inside the Paddle House to warm your toes by the fire! Hopefully you'll have some fun!

Ice Rink walls (supports and panels) begins after leveling a few low areas with sand.

Ice Rink walls up and we now await onset of consistent below freezing temperatures so that we can place liner, kick plates, bumper caps, fill with water and begin to make ice.

By the way if you are wondering if the turf area beneath the liner will be damaged by ice, that was one of the first things we wanted to know too and from our research we found that with this being rough grasses (bluegrasses, fescues) they are quite tolerant, and in fact the area under cover may emerge greener and healthier next spring. So with that, here's hoping for a good cold spell after next week!  I'll post again when we get ready to finish the "Rink at Skokie"!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Greens Aeration - Session 2

In mid-October we conducted our first fall greens aeration session utilizing small diameter tines which allowed for rapid healing. The purpose was many-fold and included: compaction relieve (from a summer season of mowing and rolling); aiding topdressing sand incorporation; improving air exchange; and creating open channels for new root growth which follows the summer stress period of minimal root growth. Small tines were used at this first session to minimize healing time so as to retain quality putting conditions during this early-mid autumn period, which can often be some of the best playing conditions all year. The period was in fact quite nice with firm and fast surfaces through much of October and overall very high quality putting conditions.

As we now move further into autumn and the days shorten, temperatures begin to drop, and moisture is likely to increase, all leading to diminished play, I want to complete a second aeration session utilizing larger, more conventional sized tines for the primary purpose of managing the natural increase in organic matter accumulation. We began the process this week and it simply involves aerating with approx. 5/8th inch diameter tines, removing the cores, applying a heavy amount of topdressing sand, and incorporating to fill the core holes.
 Core Aeration with approx. 5/8th inch diameter cores. 
Yes, I know it's not popular... but it's essential! And it is November!

 We're removing cores this session to manage accumulation of naturally developing organic matter which can lead to excessive moisture holding and surface softness.

Heavy application of sand is needed to fill core holes as completely as is possible.

Over years of frequent sand topdressing in conjunction with the natural accumulation of organic matter (as stems and roots naturally slough and decompose) a 4-5 inch layer of sand/organic rootzone now exists. This sand/organic layer is indeed desirable and many times when we aerate the greens we re-incorporate this mixture. Too much organic material accumulation however, could eventually cause surfaces to hold excess moisture and lead to anaerobic (lacking oxygen) conditions and therefore periodically I like to remove the material completely and then re-fill all the core holes with fresh sand. We do "recycle" the removed core/sand material by using it to propagate putting green nursery sod, for use should we have any damage to our regular greens.
Profile shows twenty-one years of frequent light topdressing on top of former heavy soil / organic material. The light colored column is a recent core hole filled with fresh sand. Color contrast shows how organic matter (from naturally occurring, continually decomposing, plant parts) darkens the sand. Our management practices includes the periodic removal to prevent excessive accumulation.

With this aeration - core removal - heavy sand topdressing - brooming process requiring more time to conduct and days being shorter and frost delays now quite common, this task will likely require several days to fully complete. At this time we have completed the back nine holes. Next week we will tackle the front nine. Thank you for your understanding of this vital, putting green, quality maintenance task

Friday, October 14, 2011

Course & Projects Update

I know... It's been too long since I've posted, but not because I haven't had much to write about. Much to the contrary for sure! Last time I left you we were thick in the process of repairing/restoring turf cover to areas damaged by the late July record flooding and record temperatures. Also we've been active assisting with various items related to the Paddle Project, installing drainage in several fairways, and lately addressing several typical fall tasks such as; deep tine aeration (fairways), core aeration (tees), fairway topdressing and solid tine aeration (select fairways), and daily leaf blowing/mulching throughout the entire course. It's been a very busy couple months for sure! The following photos and caption information will hopefully give you a little recap and update of many of these tasks/projects:

Remember the flooding in late July? 12 inches of rain in a 10 day period...
 It resulted in many "bird bath" areas (low spots which held water for long periods) dieing and requiring re-grassing efforts such as sodding and/or this aerification and overseeding procedure

 The small aerification holes provide improved soil drying and ideal locations for...

 seed to be planted and protected during establishment.

 A light covering with a sand/peat mixture further helps to provide good seed/soil contact and aids moisture holding during critical seed germination period.  Unfortunately additional heavy rain occurred after several areas were complete and the entire operation had to be repeated. And actually due to even further untimely rain events, in some cases we repeated this work three times!

 but...eventually we had good germination and today these areas are filling in and recovering quite well.

 We picked a bit of bad year to perform several green expansions, locations where we are recapturing former putting surface areas which had been lost over many years due to cautious mowing practices. These areas were very gradually lowered in height from approach height, down to green height, over the entire early spring through mid-July period. They were beautiful until the 100 degree day of July 22nd, and the flooding and extreme high heat and high humidity period that followed for many days, at which time we saw significant thinning. This wasn't all together unexpected, as in 1999 and 2000 when we did similar expansion, we had similar turf loss. Fortunately the following year these areas had little to no thinning. I'm hoping this is the situation next year!

 In the past I experimented with this technique whereby we aerated a thin area and removed cores, then aerated a good quality area to serve as healthy stock cores which we then inserted into the thin area holes. This provides some improvement in appearance and eventual spreading and recovery, but mainly so that mowing equipment (we still need to regularly mow these areas) would be supported such that seed, we also plant in these same areas, is somewhat protected from compression damage. Above is an example where we employed my "core transplanting" technique. Why not? They do it with hair, why not with turf? It works!

Projects: We've had a few!!

 An earlier project, after we completed installing a new cedar shake roof, on the Half way House, was replacement of the tired fencing and landscape on the south side.

 Paddle Project site work...installing storm drain lines (shown), and sump pump discharge drains (not shown) between courts.
 Paddle Project site work...saw cutting area prior to trenching, from Grounds Operations Center to new Paddle House for data, phone, and cable lines.

 Plenty of concrete rubble beneath the pavement made this a bit of a challenge!

 One thing that this years flooding showed us was the exact locations where we need more drainage!
Our goal is to place additional lines and drop inlets in all these areas...there are many and this will take us a year or more to complete, but we'll keep working at it as long as it takes to help prevent, or at least significantly decrease, flood damaged turf in the future.

 Here we are working on #18 fairway (the same location as above photo)... We've installed about 1000 ft (in 3 different fairways) so far and hope to do at least as much before the ground freezes.
 An earlier location (#13 fairway) nearly fully recovered from flood damage and subsequent drainage installation and then seeding and core planting procedures. Drainage works!

 It's that time of year...Aeration. Tees aeration is complete, fairway core aeration and greens aeration will begin next week, October 24. Tine size of greens will be 3/8th inch so putting quality will not be terribly affected.

 Core processing includes dragging to reincorporate the desirable sand mixture that exists and then blowing and removing the small turf/mat remains.
 Several of our fairways (lower, slower to drain) have been sand topdressed over the past couple years. This practice has begun to show benefit such as surface firmness, surface smoothness (improved mowing quality), surface drainage, and divot recovery. Other benefits will occur over time.  We're applying sand to these fairways again at the present time. 

Solid tine aeration post topdressing. Another benefit... With sand topdressing we do not want to remove cores (as we will soon do on many other fairways) and as such we do not have the core processing issues (nor mud mess issue should damp conditions occur during process!) that conventional core aeration has. It's a much cleaner, less potentially problematic process compared to conventional methods. More later on this...

I think the above brings us to present on special projects and special tasks underway. I'll try not to keep away so long before the next post!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

July Recap in Pictures

The last month or so has been challenging in many ways (a nice way of saying cruel!) with record rainfall, extreme and prolonged humidity, wind storms, power outages, paddle project site work, tournament and event preparations, turf disease, flood damaged turf, mosquitoes, flies, cart recovery from channel, and probably a half dozen other "challenges"! With all this fun I haven't had much time to blog. Each of the above could be an entry on it's own but I thought today I would recap the past month in photo/caption form.
 Mid-July, Mowing and more frequent rolling in early preparations for Derby

Bunker prep with sand depths of all checked, sand redistributed and added as needed, surfaces smoothed, runners (turf that has encroached into sand) removed, edges compacted and smoothed. They were all ready for Derby.

 Rafa and Javier perform annual pre-Derby "harvesting" of cattails at pond #18 
(and other ponds too)

 Jacob, Carlos, Alo, add fabric and stone and then level in areas which will be under the five new paddle court locations. Gravel helps melt water drain better, keeps area (and heaters beneath) cleaner and drier, and makes heater servicing more accessible.

 Believe it or not irrigation was needed through first 3 weeks of July. We had only approx. 1" of rain from the middle of June through the third week of July. Hard to remember it being dry huh?

 On this day we were seeing a nice dry sheen and a little spritz was needed to limit any wilting and potential mower injury.

 Jacob adds just the right amount of water, only where needed, to keep surfaces fast and firm.

Then the rains came and in about 12 days (July 23-Aug. 3) we were left with 10+ inches.
 Here in afternoon on July 23rd I'm turning on a few sprinklers in the flooded areas to add cooler water to the rapidly warming water. Perhaps it helped to lessen the damage, as in these areas the resulting turf loss is minimal.

 As the waters receded this was a familiar sight. Here Urbano squeegees on #3 fairway.

We put a lot of wear on these this year! 

 This guy's wondering where the water went? It quickly drained in this bunker on #2 but the sediment that the flood waters left behind would need to be hand scraped and discarded to prevent contamination and potential future diminished drainage.

 By the way... It's been damn hot at times! 101 degrees in the shade!

 With all the water gone (and hopefully heavy rain and extreme heat past) we now see areas were turf is damaged. Repairs have already begun and include additional drain pipe installation where needed, and one or more processes such as aeration, sand topdressing, spiking, seeding, and sodding.

 This goes in the category of "Anything is possible on the golf course!"
 It was a miserably hot day so Jacob didn't mind jumping in to secure a tow strap to the front bumper. We pulled it out with our 4X4 Dump Truck and now Ed has a new bridge railing project!

 Back to the Paddle Courts. Here I'm digging for the main electric feed from the Grounds Operations Center. We've got some additional drainage to add near the courts too and landscaping to install before long.

 Mornings and sights like this help us forget the many "challenges" we've faced this year.
Looking forward to a long, mild fall!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Derby Storm

It's getting all to frequent that at some point in a multiple day tournament the skies open up, or the winds whip up, or the air and humidity heat up, and we are left with some form of damage to... clean-up!

Last night's storm dropped another 5 inches of rain on top of the Day 1 Derby total of 1.5. You can do the math but suffice is to say it was enough to put portions or entire fairways, of nearly every hole, underwater.

The photos below give a reasonable picture of what the course looked like this morning. Some haven't changed much moving into the afternoon:
Hole #10

Hole #13

Hole #3

Hole #6

New Duck Pond on #8  
-This was after a much larger area had drained

Holes -4,11,3,13 - From 4 Tee to 13 Green underwater this morning

Brick Cart Path at #17 Tee

Crushed Brick Path near 18th Green
- completely washed down to lower approach

Fun stuff huh? We're pumping, squeegeeing, replacing sand in bunkers (only a couple though), raking debris and in general prepping so that, hopefully, the first round of Derby can be completed and a second round can be started and completed as well. More on Derby...Pre-prep, storm, and storm repair, later.
We go 30 days without much rain at all and then just when we don't want any we get 6.5 inches! I guess next time we're in a long dry spell and need some rain, all we'll have to do is hold a tournament! Chances are it will rain! 

Things could be much worse. There was a flurry of activity at a home near the 15th green this morning with several fire trucks blocking our entrance.
Firefighter putting out remains of a probable lightning induced fire that burned the entire roof and likely destroyed much of home content. Fortunately the family was gone on vacation.

Puts things into perspective... We'll have a delay in our tournament, and may lose some grass due to standing water heating up and suffocating it, but this family probably will lose their home!
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