October 25, 2012

Let 'Er Blow!

The process of putting the course to bed for the winter officially kicked off today with our blowout of the irrigation system.  Compressed air is pumped through the pipes of the golf course with a massive 900 cfm compressor.  And of course, since I am a numbers guy, I estimate that we blew water out of close to 13 miles of irrigation pipe through our 650 individual sprinklers.

Looks like winter is close.  The trees are all bare and air
is blowing through the irrigation lines.
 Next week sometime, depending on the weather, we will be spraying all of our snow mold protecting fungicides on the turf to protect the course from this very damaging disease.  Last year, even with our complete lack of winter, we managed to sneak out 73 days of snowcover.  Our disease pressure was pretty low.  However, if we get a typical, or even a long winter, and see snowcover start in them middle of November, and last all the way through early April, that would put us at 135 days of snowcover, which is well into the "extreme" category of snomold potential.  Here is a little refresher picture I took in the spring of 2011 when I got here after we experienced about 125 days of snowcover to remind us how bad snowmold can be if not protected against....

snowmold on 16 tee (try not to look at the floodwater in the
background, let's not even think about that yet....)
 For you regular readers of the blog, you may remeber a few of my posts referencing a product called Civitas.  We are spraying Civitas with a combination of a few other fungicides on all 30 acres of the high maintenance turf (greens, tees, and fairways) on the course this fall.  Not only does Civitas help other products act more effectively combating snowmold, but since it is a mineral oil based product it also acts as an anti-dessicant.  After the extremely dry and open fall and early winter we had last year, I am hoping this product will help give us a little bit of extra protection in case the same thing happens again this year.

Furthermore, we will also be topdressing the greens in a heavy layer of sand, probably sometime next week or the week after.  This will act as a blanket, helping to insulate the turf, as well as protect it from the drying winter winds, again, in case we have a dry and open start to the winter. 

Lastly, the snowfence will be going up on the greens again to try and help hold snow on the high backs of them.  Snow of course is also a great insulator, helping to protect the turf from cold temperatures and drying winds....

Another refresher pic from this spring.  After we endured all of Oct, Nov,
and Dec with only .25" of moisture, and no snowcover until the last day
of Dec, this is how much Poa died.  Let's be honest:  if we had to choose
between the two evils, we'd definitely take a little snowmold over this.
We can spray and protect the course from snowmold, and we can TRY to protect the turf from drought and exposure, but in the end of the day we really need some cooperation from mother nature.  We are off to a much better start this go around as we have received close to 3" of much needed moisture in the month of October.  That already puts us a few steps ahead of where we were at last year at this time.  But a few more cards still need to fall into place in the next few months in order for us to have effectively "put the course to bed"

Basically we try to protect the turf in case we don't get any snow, and we also try to protect the turf in case we get some snow....what a ridiculous business turfgrass management is in the northern plains.

October 18, 2012

Rainout....A Double Edged Sword

Well, unfortunately the last two days have been almost an complete rain out on the course, meaning we haven't been able to get much work done on all of our projects.  On the upside however, we are getting some much needed moisture that will seriously help the health of our turf going into winter.  I feel pretty confident this year with all the moisture we have received now in October, that assuming we get a nice blanket of snow on the ground at somepoint in November we should be set up for a good start next spring (assuming we only get enough snow to cover the ground with, not enough to cause a flood.....fingers crossed.)

While we have been stuck at a standstill the last few days on our projects, the last 2 weeks have been pretty nice and we were able to get a lot done. 

If you haven't been able to get out on the course recently, here is a little update:

  • 17 tee has been rough shaped
  • 15 tee has been rough shaped and a small retaining wall added as a cart parking area
  • 8 tee has been rough shaped, irrigation reconfigured, the OLD irrigation leak has finally been fixed, and the pad for the alternate tee box on the other side of the cartpath has been built
  • The concrete cartpath from 7 green to 8 tee has been poured
  • The bunker right of 8 green has been torn apart in order to place the sand on the teebox for 8.  The bunker is getting rebuilt significantly closer to the green to try and bring it more into play.
  • The cartpath along the retaining wall on 14 tee has been regraded.  We will be pouring concrete there next week sometime when it dries out a little bit.

New retaining wall and cart parking area along 15 tee

Mike, Andy, Jeff, and Tony (and myself):  your GFCC professional
flatwork concrete installation crew.  We DO NOT hire out.  Concrete work
is hard, dirty, and generally not much fun.  We poured 64,000 lbs of concrete
in 2 days....we all hope you enjoy your nice new paths next year!

Putting the finishing touches on.

I've heard that this irrigation leak by the cartpath by 8 tee has been around
for a long time.  Your eyes do not deceive you:  that 6" mainline is really
as kinked as it looks.  A cast iron megalug was the only possible fix.

Tearing up the old asphalt by 14 tee.  Incase you can't tell
that old asphalt was laid directly on top of grass, no gravel
base at all....

Bunker destruction by 8 green.  The new bunker will be approximately
half the size as the old one, but twice as likely to come into play.

October 6, 2012

A Blogger's Wish Shall Be Granted...

I believe it was only about a week ago, when I posted a blog about our continuing drought, how dry September had been, and closed with the statement "October really needs to bring us some serious, soaking, beneficial rains."

It sure is nice to know that someone is listening.  Wednesday and Thursday this week brought our first good low pressure system in over a month.  While the weather station on campus here in Grand Forks recorded .70" of total precip, my rain gauge at the course had closer to 1.50" in it.  Hard to know sometimes with snow stuck on top of the guage exactly how much should have been in there.  Regardless, we definitely needed that good shot of precip.  Although it mostly fell as 4" of extremely wet snow, all the better.  As the snow slowly melted over the next day, the moisture was able to totally soak into the ground as it did.

White stuff coming down pretty heavy on Thursday morning.
A beautiful day for a fall round of golf.
The melting snow helped us make quite a mess on Friday as we were
shaping the new cartpath from 7 green to 8 tee.  The show must go on...

October 3, 2012

Fall Projects: Tee Renovations and Cartpaths

Finally, October has arrived.  The grind of the summer golfing season has finally come to an end.  Once Oct. 1st hits, the "switch" inside my head gets flipped.  For the entire summer, we spent all of our time trying to keep the golf course looking and playing its best.  For most of September, we were working diligently to not only keep the golf course playing well, but also completing all the agronomic practices necessary to ensure that we have a successful 2013 growing season (aeration, topdressing, fertilizing.)  Now that October is here, we are switching gears one last time.  With the very limited staff we have remaining on the grounds crew, our focus is now on tackling and completing the projects necessary to ensure that we are continuing to make improvements to our rapidly aging golf course.

Of course, the first of these projects is the continuation of our tee box renovation process.  Just a quick refresher for everyone, the reason the old tee boxes are being rebuilt is:
  • They are nearing 50 years old.  Bentgrass that grows for that long, without any aeration or topdressing, accumulates a TON of thatch (soft layer of decomposing organic material just below the surface.)  This has created teeing surfaces that are extremely soft and spongy, don't recover from divots very quickly, and don't drain very well.
  • They are very unlevel due to settled out irrigation trenches and years of frost heaving.
  • Some are mis-aimed or improperly aligned, and now are positioned poorly due to tree growth that has encroached into the line of the hole.
  • They need brought into the 21st century.  Times change, and so do terrain features, golfing equipment, and golfer attitudes. 
The new tees are being built out of a sand rootzone (old bunker sand in our case.)  Growing bentgrass on sand will create a firmer and faster draining surface, faster recoving divot capabilities, and the ability to add sand topdressing to continue to level out the surface. 

We started on Monday with the renovation of 17 tee.  We extended the blue tee box about 15 yards further to the front to allow for some of you shorter hitting guys to get your tee shot out there a little further, and thus give you a better chance of getting your second shot over the Cole Creek Grand Canyon.

Removing the old tee surface from 17

New sand cap on the black and blue tees on 17.  Notice how much further
the blue tee extends to the front than the old tee used to.

Next on the list is 15 tee.  This tee also extended about 8 yards further off the front to make this long, tough par 4 a little easier to play from the white tees.  Also, the black tee area went back about 5 yards and was built up into a seperate pad to create better visibility off the front of this long tee box.  Lastly, we will be adding (thanks to an additional member sponsorship) a small cart pulloff area along the length of the tee box along with a small concrete block retaining wall.  This will help get golf carts a little further out of the way of this highly used road that my maintenance staff travels dozens of times a day coming and going from the shop, as well as help eliminate the "dirt curb" where golf carts pull off the path with two tires and park in the grass.

Old tee surface removed from 15.  The elevated back tee pad was built
from the material carved out to build the cart pulloff and retaining wall
Next on the list is 8 tee, which is going to involve some major reworking:  a new cart pulloff area to park by 7 green as well as a new path closer to the tee on 8 (all will be done in concrete, again, thanks to an additional sponsorship from a member), also a new alternate tee will be added on the other side of the cartpath underneath the cottonwood tree.

After 8 we will be doing 2 tee, which will involve moving the entire tee box to the left about 6 or 7 feet to help take the huge cottonwoods on the right side of the beginning of the hole a little more out of play.  Next, 3 tee will be done, it also will be moved to the right to get it a little further away from the creekbank that is rapidly eroding to the left of the tee.  Concrete cartpath will also be poured from 2 green down to and around 3 tee.  Lastly we will be doing 1 tee, assuming we have time left this fall.  If not then it will be done first thing next spring. 

The last project on our list this fall is pouring concrete cartpath along the retaining wall on 14 tee (again, thanks to another sponsorship from a group of members.)

If you haven't picked up the point here, the ENTIRE list of projects that you just read about is being almost entirely sponsored by some of our generous members.  To those of you who have made a monetary committment to the betterment of your golf club and the continued improvements to your aged but still spectacular golf course, I personally and sincerely thank you. 

Lastly, as always, please be patient with us as we tear up some of the golf course this fall.  This golf course is old and it definitely is at the point in its life where things have to get a little worse before they can get a lot better.  Please excuse our mess.  The skid steer we are using for the tee demolition as well as carving out new cartpaths is a rental that we pay for by the week, so it is probably going to look like there are a lot of things going on at once in order to get as much use out of the rental machine as possible.