October 27, 2011

Turf Slapped

I stole this video from another Superintendent's blog.  If only it were possible...

October 26, 2011

Concrete Cartpath!

While this is not a new phenomenon to most of the golfing world, here at the Grand Forks Country Club we are pouring our very first (at least as far as I know) section of concrete cartpath on the course.  While asphalt may be more cost effective on a larger scale, for the small areas that we are paving here on the course, concrete was the way to go because it was a do-it-yourself project for my crew and we didn't have the expense of mobilizing in all the large equipment necessary to lay asphalt.  I may not be a professional concrete flatwork installer, but at the course I was at in Montana we hired a contractor to pour 4 miles of concrete carpath at a cost of $1.6 million, so I am at least very familiar with the process!

A very generous member of the club offered to foot the bill for this process, and has been very supportive of us doing this project the absolute right way from the beginning.  That included adding a turnaround at the end of the tee on 16, and the only way to do that was to build a retaining wall in order to get enough flat area to turn around on.  The concrete will extend all the way to the front of 16 tee, and will also go down to the parking area for 15 green.  A drain basin will be added at the low point in the path to get rid of the water puddle that used to be there all summer.  The bunker by 15 green is being moved about 15-20 feet closer to the green to make room for the new path to exit the fairway at a reasonable point also.  All in all it is turning out to be a rather large project, but when all the grass is grown back in next spring the finished product should be remarkable! 

Now....we just need to get the golfers to realize that the cartpath is there for you to use, NOT the grass all the way around the rest of the greens and tees.  Below is a perfect example of one very well educated and considerate golfer utilizing the cartpath in order to preserve the quality of the rough in the green surrounds.  The other golfer in the group however would rather destroy the golf course in order to save himself the 6 second walk up to the green.  Now the next person that plays the holes will have to hit a chip shot out of matted down rough if their approach shot misses the green by only a few feet....

Adding new cartpath is a wonderful way to improve the flow of traffic on the course and to preserve the quality of the turf for all the rest of the golfers, but only if everyone USES IT!!!

October 17, 2011

Final days of fall...

So far we have been all over the weather spectrum this fall.  From a mid september cold snap that saw our first freeze on the 15th of the month at 31 degrees, to a massive high pressure ridge in early October that brought record highs (89 degrees on Oct. 5th) along with three straight mornings of record high minimum temperatures (64, 61, and 68 on the 5th, 6th and 7th.)  Those temperatures for the first week of October were very typical of what we should experience in the middle of July!  Furthermore, the amount of precipitation has also taken a nose dive since an extremely wet spring and early summer.  Since August 20th we've had only 8 measurable rainfall events totalling only 2.15 inches in the last two months.  I'm not sure what average is for that period but I'm pretty sure we're below that number by a bit...

Regardless, fall is still one of the best times of the year in my opinion.  Cooler days and nights allow me to sleep a little easier, football (or hockey season for those fans) is in progress finally, and the leaves start their annual signaling of cooler temps and shorter day lengths as well.  For those of you curious, at this point in October we are currently losing around 3 minutes of day light every day and will lose 22 minutes of daylight over the course of this third week of October.  Winter is starting to creep a little closer to the back door every day.

The staff on the golf course has dwindled a little more recently as the grass begins to grow less and the days are shorter, but there is still plenty going on out there.  Lots of tree trimming has taken place, and will most likely have to be finished up next spring.  I really had no idea that Ash trees were such droopy growers.  Furthermore, we are tearing into a large project of rebuilding the tee box on 16, removing, rerouting, and replacing the old cartpath from 15 green to 16 tee, as well as reshaping the bunker left of 15 green to make it a little more in play and to enhance cart traffic flow around it.  This is another project that we will be finishing up next spring.  Also, take a look at all the rest of the new tees that were seeded a week or two ago, lots of little greens hairs are starting to poke up all over the place.  Let's keep our fingers crossed for all of those little guys to brave the long winter and pop up fast next spring.

I hope everyone has had a change to get out and enjoy the course the last few weeks as the leaves were in their peak display.  It sure is tough to beat this time of year having the course to yourself on a nice warm fall afternoon.  Enjoy it while you can!

October 12, 2011

Starting over on tees

Unfortunately in life, sometimes things get so bad you just have to cut your losses and start over.  I think most would agree that our tee boxes at the club were at this point.  After 45 years of growing bentgrass without a single cultural practice (aerification, verticutting, or topdressing) the thatch layer beneath the surface has grown to an astonishing depth.  Some of the worst tees have well over an inch of thatch.  I had originally planned on agressively aerifying and topdressing our tees to try and coax them back in a moderately playable state, but after a little extra thought decided that would be almost impossible.

These cores were pulled from the blue tee on 17 back in July.  I realized at this point that
aeration and topdressing would be a 10 year process to get rid of this much thatch.

Not only were the tees buried in thatch (which is really nothing more than a layer of decomposing organic matter left over from dead plant material, which bentgrass produces rather quickly) but they are also horribly unlevel.  Most tees have an irrigation trench that runs underneath of them, and after years of settling and frost heaving have left some tees looking like a roller coaster (13 and 14 in particular come to mind)  Producing a more level teeing surface that is aligned properly with the hole will be as much of an objective in tee renovation as thatch removal will be.

After approaching the board this fall with the idea of starting the process of rebuilding some tees, the decision was made to try one or two this year to see how it goes.  I made the decision to start with #5 since it is a par 3 and tends to get hammered with divots.  Our new tees will be much firmer thus producing smaller divots that will also heal in much faster since the crown of the turf plant may be left intact in some cases.

We tore into hole 5 tee last week, the first part of the process was to completely remove the old tee surface and all the thatch so we could start over with a new rootzone.  A tracked skid loader was used to scrape off the surface and then haul it off.  I was absolutely amazed throughout the removal process of just how thick the thatch was in spots. 

Beginning of the surface removal process on hole 5

Close up of thatch depth, that's the soft junk that was allowing such massive
divots to come off the par 3 tees.

Every superintendent's dream: doing donuts on his own course before tearing it up for renovation!
On 5 tee also I decided that a tiered effect would break of the monotony of an otherwise long, straight, flat tee box, and would also provide better line on sight over the front edge of the tee from the very back.  With that, about 6 inches of soil was cut out of the front half of the tee and added to build up the back portion.  There is now about a 12" tier in the middle of the tee, that will still be mowed as tee height grass when all is said and done.

The next step would be to set the forms around the edge of the tee to place our new rootzone inside of and get the tee perfectly level.  After a discussion with some USGA folks and an agronomist, and sending in a sample of our bunker sand to a lab for analysis, the decision was made to utilize our old bunker sand as our new rootzone for the tees.  Doing this will allow us to kill the proverbial 'one bird with two stones'.  Not only will we be getting a better medium to grow quality bentgrass on for the tees, but we will then be able to put fresh sand in a lot of our bunkers, which is also something that was drastically needed.  Essentially we are only having to buy sand once instead of twice.

Forms set on 5 for the new tee rootzone.  This process was shot with a transit
 level to ensure a perfectly flat surface.

Removing old bunker sand by 5 green.  The sand depth after years of mechanical
raking was spread around between 1" and 12".

This is a close of the "ramp" into the bunker right of five green.  You can see that
the edge of the bunker has grown in about 2 feet from its original size and close to
8" of sand has been built up in the grass on the perimiters.

Spreading new rootzone sand on hole 5.

Our assistant superintenent, Andy Hokanson, discing in a soil amendement
into the sand rootzone.  This will give the sand much better water and nutrient
holding capacities.

The new tee surface was then spread around perfectly level (although a 1% pitch was provided to one side to allow for surface drainage, but I challange anyone to tell me which way that tee is pitched when you play off of it.)  After a good final grade raking, the entire area was fertilized with two products and then seeded in two directions.  A bluegrass/ryegrass blend was seeded on the outsides of the tee, while Penncross creeping bentgrass was seeded for the actual tee surface.  While all of these tees that we seed this fall will germinate and start to grow a little bit, I anticipate that it will not be until early next June 2012 that we will be able to play off of them.  Keep your fingers crossed for a nice, sunny spring!
Finished product on hole 5

Thus far the new tee on hole 5 and 12 have been completed and seeded.  Hole 12 tee was moved over to the right about five feet to allow for better line of sight past the trees on the left side of the hole, and a new cartpath will be added along the left edge of the tee for better access.  New red tee boxes on holes 2, 4, 7, 11, and 13 were also built this fall.  These par 4's were in desperate need of giving some of the ladies a little more advantage.  Furthermore, that will allow for more room for the remaining three tees (particularly the whites) to be moved around a little more on the rest of the tee surface. 
I will continue to update on here with the condition of the new tees as they grow in.  In the meantime, please be extra considerate of our temporary tees by filling all your divots on them!

October 8, 2011

A new blog!

After reading more and more about how a lot of golf course superintendents are communicating the dynamics of the golf course to their members via a blog, I figured it was time I give it a shot.  This is my first blog, and hopefully turns into something that will develop overtime to help answer a lot of questions about the conditions of and projects on the golf course before they ever even have a chance to be asked!  Furthermore, for those of you who don't know, I have a hidden love of writing and photography, and this just gives me one more avenue to express those with. 
A view of holes 1 and 10 in the middle of July from the chimney of the clubhouse,
the highest point in eastern ND that I could find...

Upcoming topics for this fall will include all of the course improvement projects we are undertaking such as tee renovation/construction, total bunker destruction followed by rebuilding in the spring, regrading and drainage installation on holes 6 and 11/12, and a variety of ongoing tree removal and pruning.  Other posts will most likely deal with the weather, as I am a bit of a closet meteorologist, which I think happens to a lot of superintendents when you work 80 hours a week in the outdoors and the outcome of your job is almost always 100% dependent on what mother nature gives you to to work with.  Lastly, we will probably be covering some of the ins and outs of winterizing and putting the course to bed in preperation for a successful start to the growing season in 2012!

Please feel free at anytime to leave any comments or drop me an email if you have a question about the condition of the course or our current projects.