March 31, 2012

River Pump Setup

Let me start by saying that March, on the banks of the Red River, after a rainstorm the previous day, is definitely not a fun place to be.  That being said, with our spring river "crest" out of the way and the Red holding steading at 18 feet, I figured it was time to get the pump out.

This little contraption that someone concocted about 20+ years ago to pump water out of this god forsaken river is probably the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen in my life.  A floating electric pump that is hung from the inside of a homemade "float" made out of sealed up old fertilizer jugs attached to a rusted out 30' long trailer arm that is tethered with cables to a muddy river bank is not exactly how we are supposed to pump water in the 21st century.  But, it will have to suffice

We never actually got the chance to get the pump out in the river last year because the water level stayed too high almost the entire summer.  By the middle of September it had finally dropped low enough we could have put it out, but by that point in the summer it was almost a lost cause.  Unfortunately, because of that we had to do pumps and hoses across 14 fairway from the ponds on the north side of our property to fill the irrigation reseroir.  That was not only unsightly and loud, but also a huge pain to have to gas up and reprime pumps almost daily once the weather turned dry in early August. 

While this river pump setup is less than ideal, it is without a doubt better and cheaper than running the gas pumps down on 14.  Let's all keep our fingers crossed that we can actually get it in the river and running safely next week and that it can stay out there for the entire summer!

Bolting together the 6" PVC line for the river pump setup.  We are adding
and burying an additional 100' of pipe in hopes that we don't have to take
it out and disassemble it in the fall.  This should make the pump installation
much easier in the future.

Hooking up the pump on the inside of the trailer float.

March 28, 2012

Back to Reality

Summer in March officially gave way back into spring the last few days, with temps closer to, but still a little above average.  Believe it or not, the inch or so of snow we received last night was actually just what the doctor ordered.  By the end of the day on Tuesday we finished all of the final grading and prepping on our project by 15 green/16 tee.  We were able to get everything seeded, including 16 tee.  We now have 5, 12, 13, and 16 tees seeded, and it isn't even the beginning of April yet!  The super wet snow we received slowly melted over the course of the day today, and all the of seed we put in the ground was in the perfect position to imbibe all of that water on it's way to germination.  A few sunny days in the next week or so and we should be seeing some little green sprouters popping up everywhere that we seeded.  The only thing we have to finish on 15 is the final construction of the bunker.  We will likely wait for all the grass to grow in around it, then cut the edge, clean up the inside, and add the sand last.

16 tee and cartpath project finished...mostly.
I was also able to get out and do the rough shaping on the 14 tee complex this week also.  I must say, it is coming together nicely.  Still a long way to go, but you should be able to get the idea of what we're going for here....

Thanks also to Florians Excavating for the early use of their
tracked skiddy, it is quite the machine and has made short
work of some serious lifting this spring.

I have to admit, I have my blinders on a little bit still this time of year though.  I have been so focused with this early start on working on all of our projects that I haven't paid a whole lot of attention to the turf yet.  Everything is slowly starting to break dormancy, but still has a long way to go before we are fully green out there.  Things look to be coming along nicely though, and I expect that we may be able to start mowing greens in another week or two. 

I snapped a neat photo today on the putting green.  This is the reason why Poa Annua is technically considered a weed.  I can only imagine how good a uniform stand of true bentgrass would look compared to this junk.  I think if I showed this picture to a turf pathologist and told him that it was July, he would say that we had a horrible case of Dollar Spot.  Nope, just Poa.  We'll keep an eye on the temps and make sure we get the Proxy out to keep the seed heads at bay again this year and hopefully after a few more weeks no one will even know the Poa is even there...

March 23, 2012

Finishing Projects From Last Fall

It was a long winter in the shop, and of course, we got plenty of things done in there.  However, the worst part of winter for a golf course superintendent is always remembering how much work we have to get done on the course in the spring once the snow melts, and not being able to go out and do anything about it.  We started A LOT of projects last fall and were blessed with very nice weather into early November which helped tremendously.  However, we intentionally left a lot of those projects unfinished due to the damaging effects of winter cold, snow and wind, as well as the potential of a spring flood.

We were able to get out this week with the very dry and warm spring conditions to start chipping away at our list.  First off, we needed to finish getting our tees put back together and grown in so that we can start playing off of them ASAP.  Although 5 and 12 tees were finished and seeded last fall, there was already some new grass starting to pop up out of the sand last week, but we went a head and reseeded an additional half rate of bentgrass seed into the teeing surface just to ensure we would get plenty of germination.  Furthermore, we finished building and grading 13 tee and were able to seed it as well.  We were also able to get some work done on our new cartpath around 15 green/16 tee by spreading some topsoil and backfilling along the concrete path edges.  A couple of nice days next week and we should have that entire project wrapped up and get 16 tee seeded as well.

Spreading a soil amendment onto 13 tee to incorporate
into the sand

13 tee prior to soil incorporation

Andy using his new toy.  A 1994 tiller attachment that he revived out the
"boneyard" of old junk outside of our shop over the winter.  A new $20
part for the PTO shaft and some much needed TLC and it works great
for incorporating the soil amendment into our sand rootzone.

I came up with this idea for leveling our new tee boxes.  It is a 20' piece of
4" steel tubing that was in the back of the shop.  It is simply bolted to the
bottom of the skidsteer bucket, easy on and off.  Without the funds to
utilize a laser box grader, this contraption with the use of a transit is
about as close to perfect as we are going to get.

Our last tee box to work on this spring will be 14.  Florian Excavating was kind enough last fall to haul in about 400 cubic yards of clay fill to place on the old tee surface.  We purchased about 500 concrete retaining wall blocks on a massive discount last fall that will be used to build up about a 3 foot wall along the edge of the cartpath by 14 tee.  The new tee that will be built on 14 will be moved about 8-10 feet to the right of the old tee as well as be built up about 3 feet.  This will improve line of sight down the fairway on 14 to be able to see the pond, as well as help take some of the massive cottonwoods on the left side of the hole out of play a little bit.

Hauling clay onto 14 tee last December.  We have some serious work to
do here this spring.  This will be the last one we tackle as it is going to
take a lot of time and effort to complete.
Our first priority this spring is to get every project finished that requires planting grass seed.  The sooner the seed goes into the ground the sooner we can play off it.  As soon as all of those projects are finished, the next task will be to rework and add new sand to all the bunkers that were tore apart last fall when we harvested the old sand form them to use in the construction of the new tees.

We are certainly getting a HUGE jump on things this spring with the rapid melt off, lack of a flood, and nice weather so far.  The only risk we run, as with all the farmers that have planted crops already this spring, is that if the bentgrass seed on the tees germinates and begins to grow, and then we get a nasty cold snap in April, it could kill some seedlings and set things back a bit.  However, the benefits we get from seeding early and taking advantage of the amazing temperatures we've had and some spring moisture is well worth the risk. 

March 19, 2012

Spring Temperatures Update

Here are the weather stats for the last 4 days:
                                                                                                           (82 avg)           (58 avg)
                      Hi    Avg Hi    Diff             Lo   Avg Lo    Diff             July Hi equiv    July Lo equiv
March 19       74      36        +38            59      18         +41                  120                    99
March 18       74      35        +39            47      17         +30                  121                    88
March 17       70      34        +36            36      17         +19                  118                    77
March 16       71      34        +37            32      16         +16                  119                    74

Pretty scary comparison.  I think I could safely say, if we were to experience a similar stretch of weather in the middle of the summer, almost every growing plant in the state of North Dakota would be dead. 

However, since this is still early spring, everything loves it!  The grass on the course is already starting to green up nicely, a full 3-4 weeks ahead of where we were at last year.  I don't think anyone is complaining.  Just don't ask me the same thing if this were July....

March 16, 2012

Seasonal confusion

So, the calendar says that today was March 16th.  NOAA tells me that the climatological average for this date should give us a daily high temperature of 34 degrees.  The mercury topped out today at 71 officially, that broke the previous record of 62 by 9 degrees, and was 37 degrees above the normal temperature, more than double what it should be.

To put that into perspective, imagine if this had been July 16th instead.  Our average high temperature would be 82.  Imagine a day like today, 37 degrees above average and it would have been 119 degrees!  Or, if it had been double the average like today, it would have been 164 degrees, otherwise known as complete global annihilation....

Regardless of how you look at it, something is messed up.  There is no such thing as "normal" for today's planet.  Although everyone around here loves an early spring, this is a bit much.  From keeping in contact with some other Superintendent buddies of mine from around the north central US, I think we are all rather concerned about what this summer could potentially bring based on the winter we had and the spring we are off to so far.  A few months of "normal" would be great come June, July, and August...

Driving Range open on March 16th, and weather nice enough
apparently for shorts and short sleeves.

Andy and I took advantage of the nice weather today also, by finally
getting out of the shop and putting the finishing touches on
the concrete retaining wall by our new cartpath by 16 tee.

What else could you ask for in mid-March?

One last thing, I have received quite a few questions about the green color on the greens and tees out on the course.  If anyone remembers, when we sprayed our snowmold fungicides last winter, there was a green pigment that went down also.  This product known as Civitas contains a very long lasting green harmonizing pigment that stays on the plant until it starts to grow again in the spring and gets mowed off. 

Amazingly, there is some university based evidence showing that turf painted green during the winter months tends to grow and green up faster in the spring, speeds recovery time, and in general leads to healthier, denser turf.  Surprisingly, from what I have been able to gather so far, no one knows scientifically why this is, but a lot of trained "researcher" eyes have been noticing a difference.  I guess we'll see for ourselves here soon....

Putting green and 1 tee looking quite green from the pigment we
applied last fall, especially compared to the incredibly brown
and dormant rough right now.

March 13, 2012

Spring Update

Below is an excerpt from a blog post I wrote on November 3rd last year after we finished our snowmold spraying applications....

On a side note, I made the decision not to apply snow mold fungicide to the lower part of 9 fairway and all of 17 fairway, as these two areas in particular have been a total loss 3 out of the last 3 years from the floods.  I guess it just seemed like a reasonable risk to take to save the money that will be wasted if the flood kills all the grass there anyway.  It was kind of a roll of the dice, but if we happen to luck out enough to not have to reseed those two areas after the flood in the spring, having a little bit of snow mold to deal with will still feel like a walk in the park!

Well, the dice were certainly rolled, and of course it is doubtful at the current time that we will see a flood event large enough this spring to kill 9 and 17 fairway.  And of course, that in and of its self is definitely a blessing.  However, now we are left to deal with the other end of that gamble from last fall.

Lines from where the sprayer booms were turned off
at the lower part of 9 fairway from last fall.

Textbook Grey Snow Mold under where a little drift sat
on the untreated side of 9 fairway.
As you can clearly see, the top part of 9 fairway that received our full snow mold treatment last fall is not only disease free, but the turf is quite dense and robust (although a little brown and dorman still.)  There are perfect lines from where the booms on the sprayer were turned off last fall leaving the lower part of 9 fairway untreated, resulting in what appears to be 50%-80% disease coverage.  We experienced a total of 71 days of snowcover this winter, which I'm guessing is about 20-30 days fewer than average in this part of the country.  Snow mold disease pressure starts to ramp up at about 60 days, and gets pretty intense after 90 days.  Apparently 71 days here is plenty enough though....

The good news is, there doesn't appear to be one breakthough of even a tiny bit of snow mold on any of the rest of the greens, tees, and fairways.  Only the bottom part of 9 and most of 17 fairway got hit, which was to be expected.  Fortunately, although the sight of the snow mold damage will stick around for a bit in those two fairways, we can do a few other things to speed up the recovery in those spots.  Grey snow mold doesn't actually kill the turf plant, just the living foliage.  Once green up occurs here in the next few weeks, we will verticut and fertilize the snow mold areas and they should grow out of their damage on their own in only a couple of extra weeks.  Might be a little unsightly, but it is still better than being drowned out in a flood.

Two other side notes:  the snowfence we up up on the backs of the greens last fall seems to have done a great job holding the snow on the greens.  No greens appear to be very dessicated or show signs of severe cracking from the deep freeze.  Also, the ice damage from the snowmobiles at this time doesn't appear to have caused too much damage on the greens.  There will definitely be a little bit of dead Poa here and there, but nothing too bad.

Ice from the snowmobiles on the side of 16 green
is clearly visible as the snow starts to melt off.
And of course, the question I know is in everyone's mind......How soon will the course open?  Well, the answer to that is, I have no idea.  This will be my second spring in North Dakota, and I have a feeling we are going to experience the polar opposite of 2011, but I've been wrong before.  The course obviously has some serious drying out to do in the next couple weeks, and who knows if this stretch of nice weather is going to stick around for any length of time.  My best guess would be to say that we should all be pretty ecstatic if we were playing golf by the beginning of April, and already had our spring mini-flood out of the way.

Hole 6 during the melt off on Monday, looks like we got our flood
on the high holes this spring...

March 5, 2012

Staying Busy in the Shop

Well, we've finally received some decent snow here in Southern Canada, so Andy and I have been pretty holed up in the shop for the last month or so.  The plus side to that however, is that we've been forced to be very focused on all the extra little projects we were wanting to tackle this winter. 

First things first, I've harbored a deep hatred for our old, faded, oversized, plastic golf ball tee markers since the day I stepped foot on the property here back in April last year.  Well, we finally did something about it.

The new tee markers are made of 2x6 cedar lumber, cut to 6" lengths with ends beveled at a 45* angle.  They were sanded smooth on all sides (Andy went through a couple of dust masks), then stamped with our custom cut metal brand that was laser cut at a local metal shop.  The ends were then painted to color, a metal spike put in the bottom, and then the entire piece was dunked in an outdoor weatherproof UV resistant urethane.....3 times. 
We made 160 total (40 each of red, white, blue, and black).  It took about a week.  There is a serious amount of Andy's and my blood, sweat, and tears in each one.  That being said, PLEASE REFRAIN FROM HITTING THEM WITH YOUR GOLF CLUBS!!!!  We made 4 extras of each color, because accidents do happen, but there is a good chance that I will shed a tear the first time one of them breaks...

Turning the shop into a manufacturing plant

The metal brand heating up on a hot plate with a few freshly
stamped tee markers nearby

Our pride and joy of the tee marker making assembly.  If anyone wants
into the "GFCC FOR LIFE" club, let me know, we can stamp the red-hot brand
in the middle of your back.  Andy and I already have one....

Andy putting the third coat of urethane on the reds

finished products

Once we had the shop covered in saw dust, we figured we may as well work on some of the rest of the wood products.  If you remember from one of the previous blog posts this year, we are transitioning away from the red/white/blue 150 yd stake indicating pin placement depth on the green in favor of a new pin placement sheet.

Our friendly new golf pro Jeff insisted that we just HAD to have some sort of new yardage markers on the course since the 150 yard stakes were gone.  Since I'm not very good at saying no to anyone, and I wouldn't let him buy some insanely expensive premanufactured junk out of a golf products catalog, we made some new 100, 150, and 200 yard stakes.  Made of 4x4 cedar wood posts, the tops are painted to color and then coated in the same outdoor urethane as the tee markers. 

Let me state for the record, I really HATE any kind of yardage markers on the golf course.  Not only do they clutter up the course with a bunch of weird colors, but it is just one more thing we have to mow and trim around and keep clean.  I did this just for you Jeff.  Oh yeah, and all you wonderful golfers.

And since it is such a pain in the rear to trim around posts, and the never ending assault from a string trimmer tends to eat away at the bottom of wood posts over time, I came up with this idea.  We poured 6"thick concrete blocks in the bottom of a 5 gallon bucket with a 4x4 steel sleeve in the middle.  We will set the concrete blocks in the rough where the posts are going to go, and this way we can pull the posts out to mow or trim the grass around them.  Furthermore, I thought it might be neat to dye the concrete green so it would be more visually appealing on the course.  We made a total of 42 yardage posts and concrete blocks (3 markers per hole times 14 holes, since the par 3's don't need yardage markers.)

green concrete blocks curing in the back of the shop

Lastly, since apparently we have to heed Jeff's every beck and call now, we made 20 new driving range space dividers.  No longer will there just be two old faded pieces of yellow rope laying on the ground to tee off between on the driving range.  These beauties are also made of 2x6 cedar lumber, branded in the middle with the GFCC logo, and then 5 holes were drilled on each side of the logo to set up with tees in them.  Not pictured, I also made two new cedar trash can receptacles for the driving range as well.  My last piece, that is still yet to be built, is a cedar range sign that has a clock built into it along with 6 different yardages that Jeff can update daily with the exact yardages to the target flags on the range based on where the driving range is set up at that day.

This is probably going to be the extent of out wood construction projects this winter, as hopefully we are going to get an early spring (knock on wood, no pun intended) and can get back out on the course soon to wrap up our tee construction projects from last fall.  Just so everyone knows, the plan for next winter is do redo all the holes signs on the course as well as the trash can holders.  Then we will officially be free from all the old course accessory junk that has been on the golf course for the last 30 years.

March 3, 2012

Truth in Advertising

I'll admit, I'm not the type of person that is usually swayed by gimmicks or marketing, but this is one ad I can get behind.  If anyone hasn't noticed, I'm a religious Carhartt wearer.  I have an entire fleet of their work pants, some that have seen well more than 5 years of duty on the golf course that are still going strong. 

Something about this ad strikes a particular chord with me, I think a lot of who I am and what I stand for comes out in this....