Friday, January 28, 2011

Equipment Maintenance & Refurbishing Progress

As the cold and snowy conditions continue, at this point in the winter we have made good progress on both outdoor projects, our equipment maintenance and repair activities,and our course furnishings refurbishment. Over the past month and a half we've spent several days outdoors working on tree management tasks (as mentioned in previous post) but on the many bitter cold days we've all been indoors preparing all of our equipment and furnishings for the season ahead.
Our general servicing tasks for every powered equipment unit includes: oil changes (engine & hydraulic), all filters changed, drive belts/chains adjusted and/or replaced if worn, wheel bearings checked and repacked with grease, electrical wiring & lights checked, brakes serviced and pads replaced if needed, and body components checked, repaired, painted as needed, and finally waxed prior to spring use. Additionally, reel mower units are sharpened (replaced if badly worn) after bearings are checked and replaced if needed, bedknives (the stationary "blade" on a reel mower) are replaced and ground and "trued". Height adjusting rollers are checked, bearings replaced if needed, cutting drive and traction drive belts are checked and also replaced as needed. Also for many reel units (all green, tee, approach, fairway, intermediate, and range tee mowers) an additional attachment is incorporated called a "groomer". It's a spiral vertical blade arrangement used to stand the grass blades up, prior to cutting, similar to as a barber combs one's hair to stand it up before clipping. Groomers require additional bearing, housing, seal, and belt checks and often these precise and high speed rotation components require many part replacement needs.

 Mike, our new ace Equipment Technician, puts the finishing touches on this tee mower, one of nearly 25 such units used on greens, tees, approaches, range greens, chipping areas, and more.

 A few greensmowers (background) and fairway mower cutting units (foreground) ready for spring

Additional equipment servicing includes the traction units of all of the above cutting units, (diesel fairway units, triplex riding units and all other mower and special use powered units such as: Greens Rollers, Rotary Rough Mowers, Mid-sized Utility Vehicles, Fairway & Green Sprayers, Aerators, Topdressing Spreaders, Tractors, Skid-Steer Loaders, Pick-up Truck and Dump Trucks.  There is indeed a significant amount of equipment (valued over 2 million dollars) required to maintain and improve the course and grounds and as well, a significant amount of preventive maintenance and repair required. Keeps us quite busy all year long!
 One of four fairway units serviced, sharpened, and ready for action. Many larger units such as this require significant time and effort during our winter maintenance period.

While all this equipment servicing is in progress, our course furnishings are also being refurbished. Our furnishings include: tee markers, ball washers, flag poles, tee benches, trash receptacles, some tables and chairs (around half way house), flower boxes, and all of our wooden bunker rakes. Cleaning, sanding, and painting or varnishing tasks are performed on all of these items and readied for use in early spring.
 Tee Bench refinishing - completely sanded and a fresh coat of varnish is applied
 Wooden Bunker Rake - Over 150 are hand sanded and a weather sealer stain is applied

So hopefully the above gives a little insight into what we've been up to inside the Grounds Operation Center over the past month and a half or so. We still have plenty to do but we're making very good progress. I'll post again soon about our progress on the Tree Management Activities, mentioned in my previous post.

Hope you are enjoying your winter, wherever you may be!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Recent Tree Management Activities

As the new year begins, and favorable weather conditions exist for our planned tree management activities, I'd like to provide an update on this work. Before doing so however, I want to show a couple photos of some snow removal work we performed on a couple greens on Dec. 31st. As you may recall in each of the past two years we have come out of winter experiencing turf damage (due to ice encasement) to a couple greens and our #8 fairway. Given this repeated situation we keep a watchful eye on the greens and will remove accumulations when in place for extended periods. This snow removal is necessitated by the fact that trees on the South, Southeast, and Southwest sides of greens #3 and #11, block sunlight, (which is lower on the horizon during fall, winter, and spring) preventing snow melt and potentially leading to ice accumulation and possible injury. 
 No. 3 Green - One of only two greens on the course, (the other was #11)  which still had snow remaining after a year end thaw and rain event. The next day, Jan. 1, temps were forecast to drop well below freezing, so we cleared snow and slush to prevent otherwise certain ice accumulation. 

 Surface cleared - Note heavy tree growth behind. A few trees closest to green have been removed (consistent with our planned 2011 Tree Management) to improve sunlight quality throughout the lower light periods of fall - winter - spring, providing benefits such as helping plants harden off and prepare for winter dormancy, melting of snow and ice, and enhancing spring warming and green up. Summer sunlight is of course essential as well, as it drives the energy producing process of photosynthesis. Many trees still exist off property in Forest Preserve, so we will still need to keep watch on this and #11 green, but maximizing sunlight can only provide valuable turf health benefits, and improved playing conditions, year round.

 No. 3 Green, early October, nearly half of green is shaded. The tree removal recently conducted will improve sunlight during this important time when turf is manufacturing and storing carbohydrates and preparing for winter stresses.

Before I continue this update on other recent and planned tree work I want to remind all Skokie members to be sure to refer to the Jan. issue of the Skokie News where an article was written by our Grounds & Greens Committee Chairman. In October last year we had a complete review (after a decade) of our Restoration process, procedure, philosophy, white paper, continued efforts, and more. We also had our Restoration Course Architect, Ron Prichard, tour the course, address the G&G Committee and provide recommendations for continued course improvements going forward. Please be sure to read our Chairman's letter as within it details the reasons behind one of the accepted recommendations, that being some tree removal.

The objectives of our current 2011 Tree Management include:
-Thinning crowded growth areas to improve quality of remaining trees.
-Thinning poor quality specimens to accentuate premier quality specimens.
-Thinning trees in certain areas where light and air movement has become limited compromising turf quality.
-Removing trees in certain areas where root competition has diminished turf quality.
-Removing trees that may interfere with a recovery shot from a hazard. (Eliminating the "double-hazard")
-Thinning trees in crowded areas where traffic is forced to confined areas, leading to thin and heavily compacted turf areas very difficult to play from. 
-Removing trees that fall within our 5 "D" guide (see Tree Management Archive)
The 5-D’s that guide our tree removal actions:
• Diseased - significant infection that is untreatable or too costly to treat.
• Decayed/Dead - significant decay, or complete death, resulting in structural weakening and hazardous conditions.
• Damaged - significant structural damage from high winds and/or lightning.
• Disfigured - Unattractive shape from over crowding of adjacent trees or from damage.
• Disruptive – Affecting playability. Causing traffic concentration, excess turf loss from shade, root system impacts to turf and drainage tile systems.
A few examples of these conditions follow:
 Diseased - Nearly half this apple tree is damaged by Fire blight 
Decayed - This Silver Maple could have come down by itself in the next wind storm
Damaged & Disfigured - these two Silver Maples have little, if any, value and only drain funds by having to prune, trim around, manage leaf drop, and root cut/jet nearby tile lines that fill with roots diminishing drainage effectiveness.
 Disruptive - Many trees behind 5th green creating ever increasing shade which will ultimately reduce putting surface quality. Several have now been removed and will be replaced by a low berm with natural grasses similar to berm visible on right side of above photo.

Disruptive - Shade and Root Competition gives little chance for turf survival.

An example of the volume of roots that can enter tile lines and compete against turf for water and nutrients.

So hopefully the above shows a sampling of what we consider prior to making any tree management / removal decisions. Other factors considered include: play strategy; cost/benefit of poor quality specimens; disease and insect control cost/benefit; (example: Do we continue to treat a poorly shaped spindly American Elm for Dutch Elm disease or an insignificant Green Ash for Emerald Ash Borer?)  and enhancing vistas throughout the course. Many factors indeed, are considered into our decision process. I'll post more information and photos soon regarding our current tree management progress.
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