September 29, 2012

A Little Reading Material

Just wanted to share this nice article from the USGA green section record.  Derf Soller is one of my favorite USGA agronomists, I have been regularly attending his seminars since my early days in Montana dating back to 2006. 

September 28, 2012

The Drought Continues....

After catching a good break of rain back in late July and early August, the last month and a half has gone straight back into the dry conditions we experienced the rest of the spring and early summer.  Since August 15th, about the last 6 weeks, we have seen .90" of precipitation, with most of that falling in the last week of August.  In the month of September, with only 3 days to go (that also look totally dry based on the forecast,) we have seen a mere .20" of total precipitation.....basically nothing considering how dry the ground is.

Fortunately, the temperatures during that timeframe have been pretty reasonable, usually at or a little below normal.  Regardless, the lack of natural rainfall has really started to show on the course again.  When we have to completely rely on overhead irrigation to water the course for such a prolonged period of time, its inefficiencies really start to show.  Fortunately we of course have the ability to handwater our greens now, but with an extremely limited staff this time of year it becomes difficult to find the time to do that with all the other tasks still left to keep up with on the course (mainly leaf cleanup!)

Of course, we are pegged right in the middle of the only area of "extreme drought" in the state....

Another downfall to relying on our irrigation system so much this season is the simple monetary cost of using it.  It takes a lot of electrical power to run not only the irrigation pumps, but also the river transfer pump to keep the pond full.  All told we have spent nearly double the amount of money on electricity (about an additional $4,000) to run those pumps this summer compared to last. 

And of course, as the river continues to drop, we have to keep going out and moving the transfer pump out so it stays in the water.....
Almost October, still out muddin' in the river
October really needs to bring us some serious, soaking, beneficial rains.  We had a very similar dry fall last year, and we all saw the consequences of that come springtime with all the dead grass.  As we approach the time of year when I start to think about "putting the course to bed" for the winter, part of that equation is having adequate rootzone moisture throughout the golf course.  Our irrigation system simply cannot provide that nearly as well as Mother Nature can.  Let's hope for some good rains in October, and then a nice blanket of snow by, let's say, November 10th.....

September 19, 2012

Aeration, Round 2

Our fall aeration of the greens and approaches took place on monday and tuesday of this week, and although the weather was a little chilly, things went pretty well.  We rented Fargo Country Club's aerator again this fall like we did in the spring, although instead of solid tining the greens and just pulling cores out of the approaches, this time we pulled cores out of everything. 

With 5/8" tines on 2"x2" spacing, this was a pretty aggressive core aeration.  We are still playing catch up trying to eliminate some of the excess organic matter that was allowed to accumlate in the greens during the last......lots of years.  We again filled the holes using a local USGA spec sand that was blended 10% with a peat material.  If you remember my blog post from this spring about aeration, I made a comment in there about the benefits of using a sand blended with peat (enhanced water and fertilizer retention, as well as increased microbial activity, which will help in breaking down the organic matter underneath the surface of the green.)

While we were at it, we also solid tined our new tee boxes and heavily topdressed them as well.  We also pulled cores and topdressed a number of different tees that I foresee us keeping and not having to rebuild (10 and 18 main tee boxes, as well as a variety of the additional black, white, and red tees).  Doing this will help those tees start to firm up a little, and topdressing with a heavy amount of sand, when broomed around, will help to level them out by filling in the low spots as well.

All told, between the greens, collars, approaches, and tee boxes, we poked approximately 5,170,000 holes in the turf and used 182,000 lbs (91 tons) of sand to fill all of them. 

Off to a good start on the putting green

Procore 648 in action

Beautiful, just beautiful

Core cleanup was a breeze with the pull behind box scraper we resurrected

The weather turned a little dicey by the end of the day, these aren't exactly
the type of clouds that help sand dry so it can be broomed in....

Using the blower to do the final sand cleanup and to fill the
remaining holes after topdressing

Thanks also to Gunner for the use of this hog for the process.  We used
this 3,000 lb roller to smash down some of the "dams" that had built up in
the collars on the edges of some of the greens.  The front edge of
8 and 18 greens are a great example of this (years of hosing silt off
the front of the greens after a flood has caused most of these.)

September 15, 2012

A Superintendent's Playground

I had the opportunity at the beginning of this week to attend a John Deere Golf and Turf Feedback event in North Carolina.  What I like to call a "Superintendent's Playground", John Deere brings out all of their current and prototype equipment for viewing, tire kicking, and test drives.  This event hasn't taken place since 2008, and I was one of only a few hundred GC Superintendents from around the world to get invited to such a great event.

John Deere put us up at the Washington Duke Hotel just off from the Duke University campus, and we were actually able to test drive all of the equipment on the course just out from the back door of our hotel.  Everything from rough, green, and fairway mowers, tractors, sprayers, and aerators were on display for us to test drive and ask questions about.  In return, the John Deere design engineers were all listening to our feedback about what we liked, or didn't like, about some of their newest equipment. 

This event was exceptionally valuable for me as we begin the process of looking at replacing some of our horribly old and dying equipment.  Being able to see and operate all of the different pieces of equipment available, compare their features, and see some of their potential advantages or disadvantages, will certainly make the decision making process a little easier when the time comes. 

Oh yeah, the golf there is pretty good too....

One of the first things I looked at, this unit makes our 1997 "homemade"
sprayer look like something from a totally different millenium.
Oh wait, it is!

A group of Superintendents checking out some cores from
an aeration machine.

Trying out a new greens walk mower

mid-september is a mighty fine time of year for golf in North Carolina.

September 5, 2012

The Last of the Elms

Although we lost most of the Elms on our property in the 1980's (from what I have been told) from Dutch Elm Disease, there are still a few remaining trees that survived the onslaught a few decades ago. 

Unfortunately, the dry, hot summer of 2012 has taken one more of our few remaining Elms.  On the right side of 6 right at the dogleg, one that was stuggling a little bit last year finally bit the dust this summer. 

According to my count, that leaves only 2 remaining Elm trees on the golf course.  I haven't looked too closely in the coulee banks, so I assume there may be a few left in there, but actually in the turf area of the golf course there are only 2 left:  one on the right side of 6 right by the one that just died, and one more on the left side of 11 right at the dogleg (if anyone knows of any that I am missing please let me know).  Please take the time to enjoy these last two survivors when you are playing the course this fall, who knows how much longer they may or may not be with us....

Another one bites the dust...

One of the last two elm trees on the left of 11