October 1, 2014

The Annual Autumn Mess

Leaf season.  In the world of golf course management, it falls just after aeration season, and right before the deep-freeze winter, golf course is closed season.  While we are all certainly very happy to enjoy the break from the barren plains that our heavy forested golf course provides, it is nothing but one huge headache for the grounds department this time of year.

Fortunately this year the leaf drop seems to have held off an extra week or two compared to years past.  The only thing worse than leaf cleanup, is a long and drawn out leaf cleanup season that slowly tortures us to death with just enough leaves falling every day to cause a mess.  Right now we are in the peak of the leaf drop and I expect that to last for the next 3 weeks.

While the leaves are certainly a headache, no one is complaining about
the beautiful mornings we enjoy on the course in the fall.

It doesn't take much of a small breeze however to turn
our morning view into something a little more daunting

We have two main tools with which to fight the leaves.  The first is our
turbine blower.  This piece of equipment runs everyday during the fall,
sometimes for 7-8 hours a day.

Our second piece of equipment we utilize heavily in the leaf battle is our large
rough mower, which also runs everyday for 8 or more hours.  It is fitted during the
fall with mulching guards under the deck that help chop up the leaves better.

The easy part is getting the leaves cleaned up off of the greens, tees and fairways and mulched up in the rough.  Our biggest struggle however this time of year is keeping the bunkers cleaned up and in some sort of playable condition.  The wind tends to collect leaves in the bunker lips much the same as snow drifts during the winter.  Furthermore, in our effort to blow leaves off of fairways and greens, quite a few inevitably end up in bunkers.

The real issue is all of the problems we cause by cleaning the leaves out of the bunkers.  Everytime we use a blower to clean the leaves out, we end up blowing a bunch of sand out in the process.  Sand coming out of bunkers is never a good scenario.  We are essentially blowing all the sand off of the faces and out into the grass along the bottom edge of the bunker.

Because of this, and the fact that our staff size is dwindling quickly this time of year, we only clean the leaves out of the bunkers when they get really bad.  Furthermore, we cannot rake the bunkers if they are not cleaned out first.  I have learned the hard way that piles of leaves that get raked into and mixed in the sand is not a good situation to deal with.

The bunkers nearest the cottonwood trees are always the worst

The deer are another part of the problem with the bunkers in the fall.  Lots
of bunkers that would otherwise still be raked and smooth are completely trashed
and cannot be raked until we have a chance to clean the leaves out first.

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