February 27, 2012

The Need for More Maintenance Vehicles

I came across this video today looking through some of my pictures from last summer.  I find it fun to do that this time of year, the thought of green grass is so far out of mind right now that you start to need a bit of a reminder that there actually is a golf course out there, and summer really does exist!

Anyway, I shot this video last July after we core aerified the putting green.  We needed to use our buffalo blower to clear some of the debris off before we could topdress it, and low and behold, all of our maintenance carts were being used out on the course by the rest of the crew.  Fortunately, Andy rose to the occasion and was literally the "workhorse" of the crew that day.

That being said, we do need an additional utility vehicle for the maintenance fleet here soon.  If anyone has a line on an old 70's jeep or something I wouldn't be too picky...

February 24, 2012

Hole 4 green sample update

Just as I had hoped, our plug from under the ice from the snowmobile tracks on 4 green has come back to life nicely.  It has been sitting in the window of my office now for about a week and is ready to be mowed.  I may have to get out a pair of scissors and give it a haircut just to have that smell of fresh cut grass in my office in Feburary....

February 16, 2012

A Look into the Future

I'm sure we can find a way to squeeze a few of these into our budget...

Are the greens still alive?

Sounds like an odd question, and the answer is a 97% "definitely"!  However, one thing that has me concerned is the ice layer that formed on some areas after our little bout with the snowmobile traffic back in the beginning on January.  The ice that formed on some areas of the greens that received significant traffic has set up into a variety of different layers.  Some ice is not very thick, and is still kind of porous and faceted, allowing oxygen exchange between the turf and atmosphere.  Some of the ice however has set up a little thicker and denser in some spots, and those are the areas that concern me.

4 green for example took a heavy load of sled traffic across the left side, and a few isolated spots have set up into 1/4" to 1/2" of dense ice.  I went out this week, chipped off the ice in one of the worst spots, and took a 1 1/2" core sample of the green with a hole saw bit in a drill.  The plug thawed out inside overnight, and is now planted in a container of sand, watered, and sitting in the windowsill of a south facing window in my 70 degree office.  It definitely should not take too long to find out if this turf is alive or not. 

My guess is that the turf is just fine.  However, if that plug doesn't start to green up in a week or so there is a pretty good chance you'll be seeing a follow up blog post with pictures of Andy and I out on some of the greens with a snowblower, ice picks, and shovels....

February 13, 2012

Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program

There are without a doubt a lot of myths in today's society about the negative impacts that golf courses have on the environment.  Almost all of them are untrue.  In a world that focuses more and more on the "green" aspect of almost everything, there are a number of golf organizations that are working together to get our business segment on board. 

Audubon International has put together a program with the help of the USGA called the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program (ACSP).  Golf courses that choose to participate start by filling out an environmental self assessment.  The ACSP then makes certain recommendations the course must enact in order to attain certification as an Audubon Certified Sanctuary.  Areas of evaluation include:  environmental planning, wildlife management, chemical use reduction and safety, water use reduction, water quality management, and community outreach.

While creating an environmentally and ecologically sound golf course is the right thing to do, it is only a realistic goal if it makes business sense as well.  Fortunately, a lot of the initiatives that the ACSP recommends are things that we are already implementing here at GFCC.  As one may (or may not) expect, a lot of environmental initiatives also tend to go hand in hand with the efficient operation of a golf course.  It kind of has the tendency to be "less is more".  All the tangibles that tend to go into the operation of a golf course (fuel, fertilizer, water, pesticides) all cost money to utilize.  The ACSP seeks to find the balance of using only the amount of those that are necessary to obtain the desired level of aesthetics and playability of the golf course, and not an ounce more. 

A perfect example of this was the amount of fertilizer applied we applied to the golf course this year.  Compared to 2008, 2009, and 2010, we used approximately 40-50 percent less fertilizer in 2011.  Did anyone notice that the course wasn't very green or that the turf was unhealthy this past summer compared to years past?  I wasn't here in past years to make the comparison, but my guess is that probably no one noticed a difference.  That amount of fertilizer saved us approximately $7,000 this year, and also saved a countless amount of nitrogen and phophorus from going into the Red River.  And guess what?  Fuel usage dropped as well (less fertilizer, less top growth, less mowing!)  And to go along with that, less mowing means....less labor used to run the mowers! 

The above example is only a small portion of the types of things we can do to not only improve our environmental performance, but to improve the bottom line.  I made the decision to enter the GFCC into the ACSP program this winter for the simple fact that since we are on the path toward doing all the right things environmentally anyway, we might as well gain a little recognition for it.  There will certainly be a fair amount of work to go into gaining certification, but most of that will simply involve a lot of recordkeeping and documentation and will involve no real output of financial resources.  I really feel that in the long run, involvement in this program will continue to help the course become a more efficient operation.

The Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program has certified over 2,000 golf courses across 24 different countries around the world.  The neat part about this, is that there isn't ONE single course certified in the state of North Dakota.  We could literally claim to be the first!  Everyone involved with the GFCC knows that without a doubt we lay claim to a very rare oasis in the vast agricultural plains of the greater Red River valley.  Let's do our part to take care of it and let everyone else know in our community how special the place really is.

Also, I've attached a neat video about all the wonderful things turfgrass does in our world.

February 9, 2012

New stuff

 A few new things for everyone to look for this spring once golf season gets underway:

First off, the old red/white/blue 150 yard stakes indicating pin placement depth on the greens will go away.  All the stakes will be left white, solely as a yardage marker.  The golf carts will be fitted with a new information sheet holder on the inside of the roof of the cart that will hold our new pin placement sheet.  I went out last fall and drew a detailed sketch of each green, and then located six general zones where we tend to place our pins.  Some greens end up with lots of front placements, some greens have a lot of middle placements, but most don't have a lot of back placements due to the severe slopes on the backs of the greens.

Pin placements will be chosen at random throughout the week, by either myself or Andy, who are really the only ones who ever cut new cups during the golfing season.  The nice thing about this pin sheet is that I designed it myself in photoshop, so if we ever decide to rearrange the pin placements I can just pull up all my files and a get new pin sheet put together in an hour or so.  I would assume that at least annually we will re do the placement sheet just to mix things up some.

Along with this, I decided it would be good also to display some sort of sign around the 1/10 tee area to notify golfers which pin location they will be playing that day.  As some of you may have noticed, the old green wooden holder that the extra sand bottles get stored in by the cartpath at 1 and 10 tee is in rough shape.  I figured it made sense to combine a new sand bottle holder with a sign for the pin locations.  So last week I spent a few days working at home in my wood shop in the garage and put this thing together....

Combined with the structure are two different compartments, one side with extra scorecards and pencils, the other side with extra pin sheets and divot tools.  In the middle is the pin location sign with a round cutout in the middle, I made a total of 6 wooden discs numbered from 1-6 that Andy or I will place in the sign holder when we go out to cut the related pin placement that day.

This will be mounted on a wooden post in the triangle between where the cartpath splits from 1 to 10 tee, but will likely be placed back a little further from the cartpath as the current sand bottle holder is.  I am thinking right now, that we will probably place some paving stones in the carthpath delta there to make a walking path to the get to the sign (and also so we don't have to mow any grass around it) and hopefully will find a way to work in a flower garden bed somewhere also to add some color to the area.

Should make for a fun project in the spring and hopefully spruce up the area at the start of the golf course!