November 30, 2012

Suspension Bridge Completion

We wrapped up putting the new deck on the suspension bridge this week.  What a process.  Andy and I spent a total of 7 days working in what were not always some pleasant conditions.  Sub-zero temperatures, crawling up underneath spots where usually only trolls go, dangling out 25 feet up over a frozen river channel on a thin piece of steel, and hanging upside down with power tools, at times made for a pretty interesting project.  We learned a lot about bridge construction to say the least.

Andy rockin' the air guitar with the
last old plank that was removed.

With the vegetation dead for the season, you get a good view of the
scarp that is forming on the south side of the coulee bank as it
continues to slide off into the bottom.  I am moderately concerned
for the bridge tower pilings on that side in the coming years....

With the constant threat of flooding, we decided to bolt down the two ends
of the bridge to the concrete pilings by the towers.  We drilled and inserted
4, 16" long concrete anchors into each side in an effort to keep the bridge from
floating and damaging itself in during a flood.

Andy out on a beam grinding off old bolt heads.

I personally get my kicks from our 16" beam saw.  Each plank had to be custom
cut to fit since each bridge section was a slightly different length.  The saw really
came in handy at the end as we had to rip the last few planks lengthwise
to get them to fit right.

Getting started with the new decking.

Finished product.

The inaugural crossing with one of our new gators.

After spending over a week working on the bridge, I have to say how glad I am that the board approved the replacement of the wooden decking this fall.  With the amount of rot, warping, and broken/rusted off bolts in the old surface, the bridge was a disaster waiting to happen.  Not to mention the visual appearance which in and of itself made the bridge scary to drive across.  The new planks are SOLID, well anchored to the bridge frame, and most importantly, pressure treated for a lifetime guarantee against rot.

Next spring we will likely look into replacing a few of the very badly bent steel hangers (the vertical rods coming down from the suspension cable that actually support the bridge) and then cleaning up and painting the rest of them.  We will also be installing a new cable railing system out of some thicker and stronger cable than what had been used in the past.

While it was certainly a very fun project, I think I can safely say that Andy and I are ready to head into the shop and work on projects where there is a heater for the next 4 months....

November 26, 2012

Just Enough Of A Blanket

We received just enough snow over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend to put a thin blanket out on the golf course.  I would say on average there is about about 2", although it was pretty low density snow and the strong winds that we had Thanksgiving night (gusts over 50mph) moved it around quite a bit.

This was just in time as we are now getting close to December, meaning we are going to start getting some pretty low temperatures heading our way.  This morning we experienced the first blast of truly cold air, dropping the mercury just a touch below 0 for the first time this season.  With so much Poa Annua on the course, it is vital to have some sort of insulation on the ground to protect these delicate plants from such cold temperatures.  Poa is a very weak plant, and will literally freeze to death if exposed to too many cold nights for too long of a period.  We experienced this badly last fall, enduring the entire month of December with no snowcover and multiple nights dipping down into the teens below 0....lots of dead grass in the spring.

For illustrative purposes, I went out this morning with my soil thermometer to take some temperatures on the surface of 16 green, underneath about 2" of snow.

A tropical -1 this morning, at least the sun was shining....

Underneath 2" of snow, a much more reasonable 22 degrees.

This is a pretty dramatic difference.  Imagine if you had to spend the night outside.  A 22 degree night would be much easier to survive than a night that dipped below 0.

A little more snow would definitely help the situation that much more, but at this point we definitely in much better shape than we were last year at this time...

November 19, 2012

17 Suspension Bridge Renovation

We began the process today of completely taking apart the suspension bridge on 17.  My main goal here is at the very least to replace all the old rotten wood planks.  However, since the entire deck of the bridge is going to be off and all the steel frame and rails will be exposed, I am hoping to get some more serious welding repairs done in areas where the steel has cracked, stressed, or was previously repaired.  Lastly, we will be stringing new steel cables for guardrails, and if we get really ambitious, possibly even grinding off some of the rust on the cable supports and towers and putting on some fresh paint.

I have heard rumors that this is the only suspension bridge in the state of North Dakota.  I cannot verify this, but there certainly can't be very many.  Also, I am really unsure of the exact age of the bridge.  I will assume that the bridge was built when the golf course opened in 1964, as I am not aware of any other bridges that have ever crossed Cole Creek on hole 17.  However, if anyone has other information on the bridge, I would love to hear about it.

With that, I am also going to assume that the wood planks are original, making them close to 50 years old.  I also cannot verify that, but based on the condition of the rusted off and broken steel bolts that were holding some of the planks on, it wouldn't surprise me.

We all know that the condition of the bridge has struggled greatly in the last few years with the constant flooding, but once Andy and I actually started taking the thing apart, it became even more apparent that the decking on the bridge was primed for a serious disaster in short time.  I am glad we are getting this project tackled now and not waiting any longer.

After the spring flood of 2011.  Obviously our bridge has seen some rough times...
Bolts and planks starting to come off on their own.
There was some serious rot on some of the planks.  A couple
of them I was able to pound right through the wood with
a hammer, and one had rotted so bad on the end it was
barely connected to the steel cross brace underneath.

Andy and I started demolition of the old wood planks today.  We were expecting a tough fight, and we sure got it.  Not only were almost all of the nuts rusted and siezed to the bolts, but any nut that we were able to break loose ended up seizing onto the old rusted threads and broke the bolt off.  We finally settled on taking the plan we hoped we wouldn't have to take; getting out the generator and angle grinders and cutting the heads off of each bolt....about 225 of them.

Andy cutting off bolt heads.  We then used hammers and punches
to pound the bolt out through the bottom of the bridge.
After cutting off the first few bolts, we began to find some disturbing patterns.  Some bolts, once the grinder wheel touched them, would start spinning with the cutoff wheel.  I remember my jaw dropping as I stopped the grinder, grabbed the bolt head, and just pulled it out of the bridge.  At some point, I don't even want to guess how long ago, the bolt had rusted off inside the wood and was connected to nothing.  My estimate is that about 25%-30% of the bolts holding the bridge planks on had rusted off and were easily pulled out by hand.

On the left is a newer bolt that must have been replaced recently.  Beside
it are examples of the old rusted off bolts that we simply pulled out by hand.
By the end of our first day of work we managed to get all the old bolts out of the bridge, and have started taking off and removing the planks.  It is actually going much quicker than I had anticipated, but we still have a long way to go.  We picked a great time of year to get started on this since the ground under the bridge and in the coulee channel is now frozen, making it very easy working under the bridge as opposed to what it would be like in the mud during the spring or summer.  Hopefully the weather stays halfway decent in the coming week and we should be able to get it back together pretty quick.
Getting down to the skeleton.

The stack of new wood awaiting us once we finish demolition.

November 13, 2012

Bring Your Daughter To Work Day

Monday was officially "bring your daughter to work day" due to a closing of preschool and lack of the ability to find a babysitter for the day.  Fortunately, we had some fresh snow on the golf course that day and with the temps outside barely reaching 20 degrees, it seemed like a good day to get some office work done and start cleaning up the shop.

Needless to say, Allie was thrilled to join me for the day at work.  I'm sure she will have very fond memories some day of tagging along with her Dad to work at the golf course.  She already gets to take evening golf cart rides around the course with me in the summer, I actually think she is pretty close to knowing how to program an irrigation satellite at this point.  She might as well come play at the course in the winter too.  Besides, isn't it every 4 year old girl's dream to hang out in a dirty shop full of power tools, heavy equipment, and a bunch of greasy parts?

The day began by setting up a "coloring bench" on my archery
target block in the office while I sent some emails.

Then she wanted to go play out in the shop, so I found
her the dust pan and a brush.  After close to an hour of
vigorous brooming, she had managed to clean up
about a 10' x 10' area of the shop floor....

Back into the office for more coloring.  This time at the big desk, I got
moved over to the side of my own desk and had to sit in the guest chair.

After lunch and a movie, she wanted to go help Andy in the shop again.  Andy
wisely set her up "cleaning" an already cleaned cart with a squirt bottle of water
and some rags.  Another 1/2 hour burned....

November 1, 2012

A Busy October

Wow, the days are getting short.  The sun isn't coming up until close to 8:00am and it seems that the rays are getting awfully low already on the drive home from work.  The scary part is, we will continue to lose daylight for almost another 2 months....

The last remaining staff on the maintenance department has been extremely busy the last few weeks trying to get as many things done as possible before the ground freezes up and snow starts flying.  Here is a run down of everything that we were able to get done in the month of October:

  • Rebuilt 17 tee and extended the blue tee box
  • Rebuilt 15 tee, added new black teebox, and build an 80' retaining wall/cart parking area
  • Rebuilt 2 tee, moving it to the left about 6 feet
  • Rebuilt 8 tee, extended it about 15 feet longer and closer to the hole.
  • Build an additional alternate tee box for hole 8
  • Fixed the 20 year old mainline irrigation leak by 8 tee
  • Poured 170 linear feet (about 60,000 lbs) on concrete cartpath from 7 green to 8 tee
  • Rebuilt 3 tee, moving it away form the encroaching creek bank
  • Tore out degraded asphalt path from 2 green to 3 tee
  • Added new cart turnaround by 3 tee (Still need to find a sponsor for concrete here....)
  • Rebuilt the bunker by 8 green, moving it about 10 feet closer to the green and out of the pine trees
  • Reshaped the bunker left of 16 green
  • Poured 150 liner feet (about 55,000 lbs) of concrete cartpath along 14 tee
Also, the following maintenance tasks were completed:
  • The entire golf course, including some rough areas, were fertilized with about 6,500 lbs of fertilizer
  • Leaves were blown and mulched across the entire 200 acres
  • All of the course accessories have been taken down and brought back to the shop
  • The water was blown out of the irrigation system
  • The internal electronics in the irrigation controllers were removed and brought into the shop
  • All 30 acres of highly maintained turf were sprayed preventatively for snowmold diseases
  • The river pump was removed and stored in the shop
  • Greens, tees, and fairways were mowed a time or two per week, or however much the slowly growing turf needed to be
Amazingly, all of this was accomplished with a total staff of only 4 people:  Myself, Andy, Jeff, and Mike.  A few of the college staff from the summer were able to come in one or two afternoons a week for a few hours to help with some leaf cleanup. 

Although the cool weather would lead one to believe that we are into a "slow" time of year at the golf course, this couldn't be further from the truth.  My maintenance staff has worked their tails off for the last month making some much needed upgrades to the course, trying to keep the leaves cleanup up and the turf mowed so the golfers can keep playing, but also trying to get all of our necessary items taken care of to ensure the course is prepared to endure a long winter and to make sure we can hit the ground running first thing in the spring.

Andy placing sand on the new teebox for hole 3

Blowing fairways clean in front of our snowmold application
A test plot in one of the fairways to evaluate our snowmold fungicide effectiveness

New cartpath from 2 green to 3 tee

New concrete path along the retaining wall on 14 tee

Reshaping the horribly old and out of play bunker by 8 green

We still have a lot left to get done in the remaining week or two before the ground starts to freeze up:
  • Greens and tees will be sprayed one last time for extra protections against snowmold
  • Greens and collars will be heavily topdressed with sand to protect against an open winter
  • Snow fence will be going up on the back of the greens
  • The entire west and north side of the golf course will be roped off, and signs put up in order to keep the snowmobiles from trashing the golf course over the winter
  • The flags, cups, and tee markers still need picked up and brought back to the shop
  • All of our equipment needs to be thoroughly pressure washed so we can work on it over the winter

I think that's it....hardly a slow time of year indeed.