March 31, 2020

Grounds Department gearing up for Spring

I figured the members of the Grand Forks Country Club could use something to read about other than the Coronavirus, so I’ll provide a quick update from the GFCC Grounds Department. 

February and March have been busy months in the shop. Our rough mowers have gotten the most work during this time. We typically mow the rough at the country club four days during the week, for at least 8 hours each of those days. With that being said, they go through a lot of rough terrain mowing and get a hard workout. Every part gets inspected from bearings to bushings to hydraulic fluid and filters to engine parts. 

Our 2009 Toro wide area rough mower was long over-due for a mower deck overhaul. The decks had begun to rust, the belt pulleys and the shafts had begun to wear, bushings and bearings in all moveable parts were worn out and our quality of cut just wasn’t where it needed to be. 

This is a photo of our Toro wide area rough mower as we began the process of rebuilding the mower decks. As you can see, the paint is chipped and faded and there is a lot of rust present.

Here are the two wing decks completely stripped of parts. 
This is the middle deck taken off of the mower and in the process of parts removal. 

We did most of the work in the shop at the golf course, but some of the work was outsourced. We had Grand Forks Welding help us rebuild and weld the belt pulley shafts, AJ’s Sandblasting did the prep work to the decks, and Pro-Tec Powder Coating put on a fresh Toro Red color to finish off the decks. We were able to salvage some parts for the decks, but had to replace a large portion of worn out pieces. 

Freshly powder coated decks

Decks being rebuilt

Here the decks are nearly completed. We have also added LED lights for early morning mowing. 

During the past two months, we have also put a lot of work into our triplex greens and tee box mowers, our debris blower, and our greens roller. Our triplex mowers got fully serviced with fluid and filter changes, as well as reel sharpening. Two of our three triplex mowers had light kits attached to the mowers, so we added an LED light kit to the third triplex. Our debris blower received a full service and carburetor replacement. On our greens roller, we had to replace a few broken bearings, a transmission seal, and we replaced the 13 year old engine. 

LED lights installed on our triplex mower

Lastly, we completed a few other small projects in the shop this winter to make life “a little bit easier” when it comes to maintaining the golf course. For about $25, we added an LED light bar to our sprayer as we complete many applications in the dark, early mornings. This will make mixing and spraying easier for us. All of the tee markers and yardage markers have been repainted and varnished and the rest of the course accessories are ready for the season. 

LED light bar installed on our sprayer

In other news...

The mighty Red River is rising quickly this season, and we are spending the week preparing for the fight and clean up. Four of our irrigation satellite boxes have been removed, and we waiting to see if our pump station needs to be disassembled. I am optimistic for a quick rise and descend of the river, meaning our clean-up will be minimal compared to last year and we will have more turf survive the elements. 

I look forward to seeing everyone out on the golf course swinging clubs soon!

Remember, this will be here before you know it!

February 12, 2020

Winter Grounds Update

Is anyone getting anxious to swing some clubs?? With an early October snow storm and record fall flood, it seems like we haven’t been able to enjoy our wonderful golf course at the Grand Forks Country Club in a long time. I am trying to be as optimistic as I can with the upcoming spring thaw situation. I have my fingers crossed that the rest of February can cooperate and we don’t receive too much moisture in March. 

What in the world does the superintendent do all winter?? 

Well, we have been very busy in the shop this winter preparing all of the equipment for the upcoming golf season. We have 38 pieces of equipment to maintain all year round. This does not include multiple string trimmers and gas powered water pumps that also need attention each year. All of these pieces of equipment are extremely important to the success of our golf course and are used heavily during the golf season by many employees. 

This our our 10' cut rough mower that is currently in the shop for full service. The brakes have been inspected, tires rotated, fluids and filters changed, castor wheel bearings replaced, and machine fully cleaned.
All of our winter equipment preparation begins the day the golf season ends. Every piece of equipment is pressure washed, brought into the heated side of our shop to fully dry and then every movable part gets greased. This prevents parts like bearings and seals from freezing from the pressure washing process and then cracking or breaking if frozen. Each individual piece is then parked in the cold side of the shop and rotated into the warm shop for a full service throughout the winter. 

We change the oil and filters, hydraulic oil and filters, spark plugs, air filters, fuel filters, remove and clean the radiators, inspect brake parts, replace any worn or broken parts, and touch up paint where needed. 

The above two photos are from the rear axle of our other 10' cut rough mower. We found a broken bearing and leaking seal in the rear axle that needed to be replaced before more damage occurred in the axle.

We have 23 reels and bedknives that complete all of the cutting on our low mowed turfgrass. Each reel comes off of the mower and needs to be inspected and sharpened on our reel grinding machines. 

Here is a photo of our fairway mower reels. Each one is taken apart for inspection and sharpening. 

I have been extremely fortunate during my time at the GFCC for the commitment of replacing old equipment on a financially responsible time frame. There gets to be a time where the parts and work that a machine needs gets to be more expensive than what the machine is worth. Although it is still typically less expensive to fix equipment rather than to purchase new, some of these pieces of equipment are broken down in the shop more often than running out on the golf course. I believe we have done an excellent job replacing those few pieces of equipment that fall into that category. 

Other than equipment maintenance, we are busy in the shop rebuilding, painting, and staining course accessories. Last winter we were able to build new tee markers for the golf course. By building our own tee markers, we saved roughly $3,000 and only spent $300 with the tee marker design that we chose. Anything that we are able to build in-house usually saves us large amounts of money. 

In addition to maintenance, I typically get to attend a few turfgrass educational opportunities in the area. These opportunities are excellent for keeping a fresh mind for maintaining a golf course, new ideas to improve course conditions, and networking with other turfgrass professionals all over our tri-state region. One other exciting opportunity that I get to be a part of this winter is the Master Planning process for the Grand Forks Country Club provided by Herfort Norby Architects. With a plan in place, the future of the GFCC is very exciting. Stay tuned for updates!

Lastly, he may only be 6 weeks old, but I see this guy on a greens mower in the future!

Meet Everet Cannon

June 19, 2018

Cruising into Summer

It’s hard to believe that it is already past the middle of June and we are well into our busy tournament season. The grounds crew pushed hard the last few weeks to edge our 49 bunkers, get the entire course string trimmed, get all of the flowers planted around the property, as well as keeping up with all of the mowing and greens maintenance practices. I am very proud of the work they have done and now we will continue to keep the course in tip top shape.

It is a large task to keep all of our bunkers in excellent playing condition. After edging each one, we spend at least one day a week pushing the sand up from the bottom edge to the top edge of each bunker. Irrigation and heavy rainfall usually pulls the sand down to the bottom. We will also add new sand to some of the bunkers that need it the most.

We decided to replace the aged flower pots in front of the clubhouse main entrance and pro shop door a few weeks ago. These pots will be out all season and we hope to place the larger ones inside during the off season to display some winter foliage.

The board, finance committee, and golf and greens committee approved a few new pieces of equipment for the grounds crew this past month. We have purchased a used greens mower that will allow us to verticut the greens on an every other week schedule. Although, there are many other uses for this greens mower. We now have an extra set of cutting units if we get into a situation where our other reels are dull.  If we have a mower broken down, we now have a backup machine. Also, we have the option to double cut greens or send out another mower to get ahead of early morning play.

Our new hydraulic greens mower

The other piece of equipment that we purchased was a new aerator. This is a walk behind machine which will be much more efficient and “gentle” on our greens. This machine replaces our tractor mounted aerator. It typically took 10+ hours to aerate all of our greens and with our new Procore, it should take between 5-7 hours. This machine will allow us to core aerate or needle tine aerate our greens and tee boxes.

Our new Procore aerator

We would not be able to purchase these pieces of equipment without the support of our membership, so thank you to all of you!

We will begin needle tine aerating our greens on Tuesday, June 26. Behind aerating, we will very lightly topdress the greens with an 80/20 Dakota peat sand mixture. We will then roll and water the greens behind that process. Needle tine venting allows oxygen and water down to the roots of the turfgrass plant and helps reduce localized dry spot. Lightly topdressing the greens will also help firm up our greens and produce a smoother, quicker ball roll. We will continue this process every other week throughout the season.

We have started our every other week spray application on greens, collars, approaches, and tees and also included a 1st cut around fairways this week. 

The grounds crew will continue to be busy on a daily basis mowing the entire property, maintaining the bunkers, trimming up trees, and much, much more to keep our magnificent North Dakota golf course looking as sharp as can be!

May 13, 2018

Grounds Update and Irrigation System Upgrade

The nice weather has finally arrived and the grounds crew has been busy out on the golf course. I have had about half of my staff working the past few weeks and we are getting into the swing of things. With school wrapping up at UND, most of the grounds staff will be started within the week. We have a long list of tasks to complete to get the golf course in tip top shape, but we will get there very soon!

A few weeks ago we had 47 stumps ground on the course and they have been leveled and seeded. Some of the larger ones may be sodded as we have more staff on hand. The greens have been consistently mowed at least every other day, and rolled on the other days. We have been able to mow tees, collars, and approaches. The fairways have gotten a few haircuts and with the moisture and heat that we've received, you can watch the rough grow. As more staff starts filling in this week, we will be on a more routine mowing, rolling, and bunker raking schedule. We will also begin the long process of pushing sand around in all of the bunkers and edging every single one of them.

As most of you noticed, we had some action going on at the irrigation pump station last week. We had VFDs installed on our pump motors. A variable frequency drive regulates the speed of the pump motor. The VFDs start our pump motors up slower and only runs the motor at the speed that it needs to supply 100 psi to our irrigation lines underground. These VFDs will save our irrigation lines from water hammering and will lengthen the life of our pumps and motors. It is also an energy saving device as we are only using the amount of power that we need vs. wasting energy when our pumps used to start up at full speed all of the time.

These are the VFDs that now run our pump motors

We removed the old butterfly valves that controlled the flow of our water and now will be able to allow more flow through our pipes. I should be able to water one or two more zones at a time during a water cycle.

We may still have some irrigation breaks this summer as our lines underground are 30+ years old and overtime, PVC becomes brittle. Although, installing these VFDs will reduce that number of breaks that we have been seeing the last few years and save us some money.

We verticut and slit seeded number 1 and 2 greens last week. We will be lightly topdressing them once a week as we go forward. I have already seen progress in both greens, and I believe we will continue to see these greens improve. We are busy working with Todd Daniels of ProTurf Systems on a plan for our greens and other various areas of the golf course this season. We plan on core aerating the greens on May 24th.

We've got an exciting and busy summer ahead of us!

April 18, 2018

Is anyone anxious to start golfing??

The temperatures are rising, Cole Creek is flowing, and the grass is showing through all of the snow at the GFCC. As of today, most of the greens are about 75% melted and they appear to have come through the winter in good shape. I plan on meeting with Todd with ProTurf Systems next week sometime, so I will have a report and our plan going forward for the care of our greens.

We have been busy out on the course taking ropes down, helping water move down towards the creek and continuing with our tree removal and trimming. We have removed the line of ash trees on the left of #13 fairway that were a few feet away from the cottonwood row. This will allow for better golf shots, less time mowing and string trimming, and hopefully help the health of the turf in this area. More than 50% of these ash trees were declining in health as they were growing directly into the cottonwood trees.

We removed about 8 other trees around #4, #12, and #14 this past week. All of this tree removal will require stump grinding, which will take place in a few weeks here when the ground dries up more. 

It's hard to set an exact opening date at this point, but the extended forecast has excellent snow melting temperatures in it and we aren't far away from the golf season. The course will take a few days to soak in all of the water once the snow is gone and then we will be ready for play. I will keep everybody posted on our progress and I hope that everyone is excited for a great season at the GFCC!

April 2, 2018

Trees and more winter

It appears that winter has decided to stick around a little bit longer, but that hasn't kept us from getting some work done around the golf course. We have removed snow fence from the greens and have continued to limb up and remove some trees around the course.

We finished cleaning up the ash trees that we cut down on the left side of #4. This will help the turf thrive in this area as it has always been very thin from all of the shade. It also will be much easier for our rough mowers to mow in this area. We also limbed up the cottonwoods as high as our pole saw will allow us. 

On #11, we limbed up and removed a few trees on the left side at the dogleg. This area was way too crowded with trees. Many were showing signs of it as half of them were starting to die.

Another area that we have spent quite a bit of time trimming trees at is on the right side of #9 along the cart path. There were a few large ash trees hanging over the cart path and fairway that needed to be limbed up. One of them had a large split in it that was an accident waiting to happen. This trimming should help golfers from the tee box see where their ball lands if they hit off to the right.

We will continue to work on our tree trimming list along the golf course as the season goes on. We are just about finished up with sanding, branding, painting, and staining all of our course accessories and we are getting anxious to get out on the golf course on a daily basis. I see 50’s in the near forecast, so we aren’t far away!