June 24, 2012

A Beautiful Week For Tournament Setup

The 2012 member-guest tournament concluded on Saturday, which also means the conclusion of a long week for the maintenance staff also. 

We began prepping for the tourament last week on Friday by topdressing the greens, one week before the first day of the tournament.  This would ensure that they were firm and true with a nice layer of sand just beneath the turf surface. 

On Monday the week of the tournament we applied our first foliar application to the fairways.  A tank mixture of Civitas for some disease control (and greening), a controlled realease nitrogen fertilizer to ensure continued turf health and vigor, an Iron product that helps produce extra chlorophyll in the plant and thus additional greening, and lastly a healthy dose of a growth regulator that will not only keep the fairways from growing vertically (meaning we reduce our mowings) but also helps the turf increase its density to help recover from divots quicker.  This was the first of four total fairway spray applications we will do this summer.  On Tuesday the tees were also sprayed, and on Thursday the greens and approaches were sprayed. 

All of the bunkers were trimmed and edged over the course of the first 3 days of the week also.  This was already our second bunker edging of the year, and definitely went a lot faster this time as they were already quite a bit cleaner than when they were first done this spring.

All of the rough on the course was mowed on Monday and Tuesday, and then remowed on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday just around the green and tee banks and along the edges of the fairways.

Lastly, over the course of the week we did a very extensive trimming job around every tree, sign, bush and obstacle on the property.  I am not sure of the exact number, but it is quite a large task when you think about trimming around well more than 1,000 objects in just a couple of days.

The only part that didn't really cooperate in our tournament preperation was the weather.  We received just over 1" of rain on Wednesday and Thursday, so unfortunately the greens were pretty soft for the tournament and we weren't quite able to get the speeds out of them that I was hoping for.  It is hard to complain though because we still are in need of some good moisture after the dry and hot spring we started with in May.

The culmination of all this work is the actual tournament on Friday and Saturday, but by that point in the week all of our preperation work had been done, and we are simply left with getting the course mowed and set up in the mornings.

On Friday and Saturday the staff started at 5:00am to get a jump out on the course before the shotgun went off at 8:30 and 9:00.  I hope everyone appreciates how much time and work the staff put into preparing and setting up the course for the tournament, I know I do!  Thanks guys!

The following is a quick summary of shots of all the staff doing thier jobs on Friday morning before the shotgun.  Getting up at the crack of dawn 6 or 7 days a week definitely starts to wear on all of us.  However, getting to watch the sun come up over such a beautiful piece of property is a great way to put an end to a long week...

June 19, 2012

Staying Sharp

For those of you who have played golf since last friday, you probably noticed that the greens were topdressed with a little bit of sand.  These relatively regular topdressings (every 2 to 3 weeks during the summer) help keep the playing surface on the greens firm and true, as well as help the small imperfections from ball marks heal up faster.  While sand topdressing is one of the most important practices we do to a putting green to keep it in good shape, putting millions of small pieces of rock on top the turf absolutely trashes our mowing equipment.

While our greens mowers require some regular touch up sharpening a few times a week, after we mow the greens for 2 or 3 days after topdressing they couldn't cut through a warm stick of butter.  At this point, they require some more serious attention.

Unfortunately, our head mechanic has been on permanent vacation since I have been here, so I appointed Andy to the position of Assistant Mechanic, and he in turn appointed me to the position of Jr. Executive Mechanic.  Over the course of the last year Andy has become very proficient with our spin grinder for the reels, and I have become quite handy with the bedknife facer, so together we make a decent team at getting the mowers sharpened up.

For our three walk behind greens mowers, it took us together one full afternoon of grinding and set up to get them back to razor sharp and ready to shave grass at 1/8" until the next time we topdress, then we get to do it all over again....
A nice Tuesday afternoon in the grinding room.... 

Andy throwing sparks

June 16, 2012

How To Fix A Ball Mark

Recently it seems that I have played a fair amount of rounds of golf with a couple of different individuals, and have been amazed at how often ball marks are fixed incorrectly on greens.  Although it seems like a fairly simple task, there are very significant differences in the final outcome of the putting surface between fixing the mark right, and fixing it wrong.

What seems like a fairly common misconception is that the middle indention of the ball mark should be popped up to level the surface.  Doing this brings dead grass and sand up into the middle of the mark, and also tears off the roots off the surrounding healthy grass in the process.  This process can lead to a ball mark that will take up to three weeks to completely grow back.

The proper way to fix a ball mark is to push in the healthy turf from around the edges of the mark to fill in the indention in the middle.  Doing this, while utilizing a slight twisting motion, will fill in the dead center of the ball mark with the healthy grass from around the edges, and after a small tamp with the bottom of your putter, will lead to a ball mark that will essentially be gone the next day.

While this isn't something we have a terrible problem with at GFCC due to our relatively low number of rounds played, there is a lot of confusion hanging around about what is actually the proper way to fix a ball mark, so now hopefully everyone knows the right way!

I found this photo on another Supterintendent's blog that I follow.  Apparently they have a small problem with ball marks at his course, so he went to the extreme.  His staff found the worst greens and marked every unfixed or incorrectly
fixed ballmark on the entire putting surface with a flag for golfers to play around for a day just to get the point across.

June 12, 2012

A New Baby!

Lindsey and I were blessed to be able to bring Claire Robert Reznicek into the world on Sunday morning, weighing in at 7 lbs 11 oz and 20.5 inches she is a beautiful, healthy little girl.

Claire will get the distinct privilege of having Allie as her big sister to show her all the perks of getting to go play at Dad's golf course.  Such wonderful activities await like riding in the golf cart, looking for turtles in the pond, playing with the green sand in the divot mix containers, and just getting to hang out with Dad at "work" in the evenings as the sun sets on another beautiful summer day....

Some of my favorite memories of Allie growing up in the last 3 1/2 years have been the evenings we have spent exploring and playing at the golf course both here and in Montana.  I look forward to Claire getting to join in on our family outings to the golf course soon too! 

Proud big sister Allie with her new best friend Claire

Lindsey and Allie posing in 15 fairway last summer

Allie going for a ride to chase the elk off the course in Montana

Allie and Lindsey enjoying a nice summer
evening on the course at Moonlight Basin.

.110" bentgrass makes a perfect carpet to learn how to crawl on!

June 7, 2012

More Irrigation Updates

Well, this time we broke the irrigation system on purpose, as opposed to it happening by accident.  In what is looking more and more like it is going to be a hot and dry summer, we are going through the process of making sure we have a quick coupler for a hose hookup at each of our greens.  This will allow us to water the greens by hand during the hot and dry times when the overhead sprinkers aren't sufficient enough.  Since the spacing of the irrigation heads around the greens is so terrible, after we run the irrigaiton on them, some areas of the green usually end up extremely wet, while some areas on the same green hardly receive any water at all.  Having the ability to specifically water only the dry areas on the green by hand will allow us to much better manage the rootzone moisture to be more uniform across the entire putting surface.  It will also allow us to better address problem areas such as the ones on 6 green and on the back of 18 green.

While most modern irrigation systems have a quick coupler right by each green, our 1984 system is run off zones, meaning that any quick couplers we do have are located on the mainline, which sometimes runs up to 100' away from the green. 

We started this week on 9 green, which had no quick coupler by it at all, and has had a problem with dry spots on it since I've been here.  The irrigation mainline runs about 80' behind the green, so after we dug up and tapped into the mainline we ran an additional 65' section of pipe up closer to the green to put the quick coupler on. 

Next on the list for a new quick coupler is 1, 3, 4, 5, 7, and 16. 

Kevin and Blake did an awesome job digging the entire 65' trench by hand
and then backfilling and sodding it to perfection in near 90 degree heat.

June 5, 2012

Greens Update

We've finally crept into early June, although we've been playing golf for a solid 2 1/2 months already, it might as well feel like its the 4th of July compared to last year. 

Now that the greens have finally healed up from the damage the Poa sustained over the winter and have hopefully established some solid rooting this spring, it is time to start getting a little agressive with the mowing frequency and height.

That means that we were able to get the walk mowers out and going this week.  We have 3 Toro GM1000 walk mowers that I believe are about 12 years old now, but are still plugging along nicely.  Although there have been some significant advances in greens mowers in the last decade, our 45 year old greens don't have any extreme rolls or knobs in them, so we are able to get away with using the fixed head cutting unit of the GM1000 as opposed to the newer flex style head mowers.  While these mowers are a little older, they still provide an extremely true and quality cut.

Utilizing the walk mowers has some very distinct advantages over using the triplex mower.  First and foremost, everyone loves the lines on the greens!  Secondly, the triplex mower tends to create compaction and wear patterns from the tires being on the greens every day, where as the walk mowers won't do that.  Lastly, the quality of cut on the fixed head GM1000 is quite superior to the floating flex heads on the triplex. 

Unfortunately, on a course with a pretty small budget for labor and payroll, we just went from utilizing about 3 man hours every day mowing greens with a triplex, to about 10 hours to do the same job with the walk mowers.  That is a significant increase, but I feel like the increase to the health and quality of the greens is well worth it.

Lots of new guys on the walkers this spring, it is definitely a "practice
makes perfect" sort of skill.  It will certainly take a bit for everyone to
get their lines dialed into lasers.

I don't normally disclose such tight lipped trade secrets like height of cut, but I feel like a little tutorial here would be fun.  We are currently mowing the greens at .140" and will likely creep down to our target height for the summer of .125" (1/8") and may creep down a few more thousandths of an inch on some tournament days to .120" or .115".  Those will only be short term as we will likely stick with that .125" number most of the summer. 

While our mowers are certainly capable of cutting even lower than .100" (1/10") the turf on the greens most certainly would not tolerate that for any length of time.  The lower the plant is being cut, the less leaf surface is present for the plant to photosynthesis with, which means less food for the roots that are already starting to die off during the summer as is.  The shorter the plant is mowed, the smaller and shallower the roots, making the turf less tolerant to drought and heat, and in the long run leads to a much weaker plant that is significantly more prone to be damaged by disease, insects, or just general wear.  There is essentially a very fine line we walk daily between keeping the greens rolling at a decent rate, and mowing too low and killing the greens completely.  For us .125" is our magic number, which should produce green speeds around 9.5 to 10 feet on a relatively daily basis.

Just for comparison, when the USGA introduced the stimpmeter in 1978, the average mowing heigth for a putting green was .180" to .200" and the average green speed was about 7 to 8 feet.  We've gone a long ways downhill, literally, in the last 35 years....

Other factors playing into green speed is surface firmness and uniformity, moisture content of the rootzone, and fertility and overall growth rate of the plant.  All subjects for a later blog. 

Fortuntaly though, we now have much better control of surface firmness with our new Tru Turf roller that we picked up over the winter.  We will likely be rolling greens 3 or so days a week thoughout the summer.  I think everyone will see a pretty dramatic difference in faster, firmer, more consistent greens while also having more healthy turf in the long run.

Kenny Boy getting the hang of the new roller, however he decided
against sporting the umbrella hat for such a monumental occasion.

June 2, 2012

Bunker Hazards

A bunker is a hazard, right?  Unfortunately, we are not allowed to treat them as such in the golf course world in this country.  In Scotland and Australia, they actually leave bunkers as hazards.  But here in the good ol' USA, we treat them like royalty.

Hopefully most of you noticed that we managed to get all of the bunkers edged and cleaned up over the last two weeks.  All told, we have 47 bunkers on the course, averaging about 1,500 square feet a piece.  That means we have around 70,500 square feet of sand on the course, very similar to the total square footage of tee area that we have.

Even more frightening, those 47 bunkers total up to about 6,600 linear feet of edge where the sand meets the grass.  That means we have to maintain over a mile worth of bunker lips to keep them clean and keep the sand out of the grass, and the grass out of the sand!  This is a rather monumental task after the bunkers have been relatively neglected all spring while our crew was limited. 

The staff was out in full force last week pulling all the weeds and extra grass growing into the edges of the bunkers, trimming and edging the actual bunker lips, and then moving the sand around in the bunkers to get the depth a little more consistent throughout.  Basically that means all the sand that washed and settled down into the flat, bottom part of the bunker has to be pushed back up onto the face.

Lots of hard work was pulled off by our staff during their time spent on the beach in the last two weeks.  Unfortunately, we will probably repeat this process 3 or 4 more times this summer just to make sure you can have a nice lie in a beautifully manicured HAZARD.  Enjoy!

Bunker crew doing hazardous maintenance, apparently Ken thought
it would be necessary to put on his umbrella hard hat...

Pushing sand back up onto the face of the bunkers.

The Weather Roller Coaster Continues

The month of May was all over the spectrum weather wise.  We saw a nice start to the month, followed by about 2 weeks of intensely warm, on the verge of hot weather, accompanied by significant winds and very low humidity.  The last week of the month wrapped up by having well below average temperatures, and finally brought some much needed rains, but still didn't get our total precip for the month even close to average. 

Total precip for the month ended up at 1.75", which was greatly boosted by the .61" we received on the 27th.  Average for May should be 2.70", so we still ended up almost a full inch below average.  Coupled with the very warm (highs of 88, and 89, with nighttime lows around 60) temperatures and gusty south winds during the middle part of the month, it wasn't exactly an easy month on the turf.  To follow that up, the last week brought us temps much below average (highs of 55 and lows of 33 and 37) and two back to back frosty mornings of the 30th and 31st.  Just another crazy month.

May ended up a mere 2.7 degrees warmer than the 30 year average.  That makes 10 straight months that the average temperatures have been either a little to a lot warmer than average.  Here are the last 10 months and the degrees in which they have been warmer than average:  May: 2.7   April: 3.6  March: 12.8  February: 7.0  January: 6.7  December:  11.5  November:  5.4  October: 7.0  September:  2.4  August: 2.5

Hard frost on the morning of the 30th