February 25, 2013

It's Aliiiiive

Only been under ice for about 40 days now, but this is sure nice to see.  Last winter I pulled a few plugs out of a green and put them in the windowsill, and they kind of halfway greened up, and it took them a week or two.  These samples are already fully greened up and ready to be mowed after 5 days in my windowsill greenhouse.

However, if the best case scenario brings us an early thaw by mid-march we still have about 20 days under the ice, worst case scenario brings us a late thaw and we could have 40+ more days under ice.  The Poa is just starting to enter its danger zone, so we aren't quite out of the woods yet.  Still hoping for some relatively nice weather soon to at least get the snow and ice cleared off of 16 green.

February 22, 2013

New Hole Signs, And A Salvaged Piece Of History

Finally, the last old relic of 1980's golf course accessories has been replaced!  The old green-painted, rotten wood, out of date, inaccurate hole signs that were taken down and sold off last fall have been replaced.  The new cast aluminum plaques that I ordered a few months ago arrived on Monday.

The new plaques are a 3 part system.  The top plaque is the GFCC leaf logo, the main plaque in the middle features the hole number and par, and the bottom plaque is reserved for corporate hole sponsors.  Currently we have only 5 of those, so we are in need of picking up some more sponsors in order to complete the look of the rest of the signs.

I started the process or designing and pricing out hole sign replacement options back in November, and once  I finally had the signs picked out, the next question became how to mount them and display them on the golf course.  Originally I had intended on mounting them to a 4x4 post, but then in the end of November with our bridge plank replacement project on #17, the idea came to me to use the old planks from the suspension bridge to mount the plaques onto.

The old planks that came off of the bridge on 17 were anywhere from 10-40 years old (I think).  Some were fairly solid wood, others had decayed to the point where I could kick through them.  I went out and dug through these piles of planks buried in snow back in December, and took a chainsaw and carved up 18 of the nicest, most solid pieces of wood I could find.  Andy and I then went through a fairly extensive restoration process this week to bring the old and weathered pieces of wood back to beauty.

Yep, these bridge planks (pictured here after the spring flood of 2009)
will be used to display our new hole signs.

Planks piled up on the creek bank this fall after the bridge renovation.
Cutting the planks to length in the shop.

Andy spraying wood cleaner on the planks with a backpack sprayer.  They
were all then taken outside and thoroughly pressure washed to completely
restore the wood to its original color and character.

After the planks were completely dry, two coats of stain were applied.

Last step, all the planks were drilled in the appropriate locations in order to
bolt the plaques to them.  Pictured here are the 5 holes with the complete
sponsorship plaques on them.

I will have to admit, there are certainly more ornate ways to display the $5000 worth of new plaques out on the golf course than by using a 40 year old piece of bridge decking.  The bottom line however, was that not only were these planks free, but each of them tells a very unique story of the timeline and history of the Grand Forks Country Club.  When you are out playing this coming summer, look at the back of some of these planks, lots of them are covered in spike marks from when one of you walked across that bridge in the 80's and 90's with an old pair of metal spikes.  Each plank has endured the history and fury of the Red River throughout the years also; likely in 1997 when the majority of the city of Grand Forks was under water, these planks were suffering under the same catastrophic flood waters.  While these pieces of wood were to the point in their life where they were unable to safely support the weight of a cart on a bridge, I hope that their stories will continue to be told by our members while they are on display for a few more decades at GFCC.

Lastly, thanks to all the members to stepped up and purchased the old wooden signs last fall when I sold them off.  We were able to raise $4500 from the sale of those signs, considering that the new signs cost us about $5000, and the posts were free, we only had to put up about $500 to buy these new signs.  Not a bad deal for a way to totally update the look and feel of the tee boxes.  Coupled with the new cedar wood tee markers we made last winter, the new cedar benches and trash can holders we made this winter, and the freshly powder coated black ball washers and their new logoed towels, we are going to have a completely different look on the tee areas this summer.  Not to mention that come this spring two-thirds of the tee boxes will have been totally renovated, I feel like we are finally starting to make some solid strides forward on this golf course....

February 21, 2013

Winter Pics

Believe it or not, there is such a thing as a beautiful winter day in North Dakota

Sunrise over 18 fairway

Andy clearing the path to the clubhouse

February 20, 2013

Ice Update

After our 4th blizzard of the winter cleared out on Tuesday, leaving behind it a beautiful sunny day (with a balmy daytime high of -7) I decided to go out and dig some snow pits on 16 green behind the shop to see how the ice was looking underneath.  As I expected, it doesn't look good....

Kind of hard to see, but that ice is close to 1/2" thick.

I dug 7 different pits in the snow on 16 green, and every spot I dug had ice underneath.  Ouch.
For whatever reason, 16 green seems to have the most ice on it.  I was out cross country skiing last week, and dug some holes in 9, 17, and 1 greens and only found very sporadic ice coverage at best.  Whatever damage those greens see will likely be very random and hopefully pretty minor.  Greens like 16, that seem to be close to 100% covered in ice, are the ones that are of the most concern.

The ice formed on January 10th, so at this point the turf has been encased for about 40 days, which is just starting to put the Poa in the danger zone, the bentgrass will without a doubt be just fine.  It would still be nice if we could get a little warm spell here in the next few weeks so Andy and I could at least get the ice cleared off of 16 green.

I chipped a few turf samples from under the ice on 16
green and put them in our "greenhouse" in one of the
south facing windows in the shop.  We will find out
in a few days what is alive after 40 days under ice.

February 15, 2013

The F word

We still have a long way to go until spring in North Dakota, but our previously dry winter has taken a dramatic turn in the last few weeks, and unfortunately that means we have to start thinking about the possibility of a flood, albeit probably a small one.

While we still don't have a whole awful lot of snow on the ground in Grand Forks (probably about 12"-14" if you can find a non wind affected area), areas near Fargo and to the south have closer to 24"-30" on the ground, and that snow contains about 2"- 4" of water.  Of course our watershed is backwards since the Red River runs north, so the more snow down South at the beginning of our watershed, the more flow hits us at the worst time in the spring.

An updated snow depth map from February 14th.

I love maps, especially 3D ones.  This map gives an awesome demonstration of the Red River valley watershed and how
incredibly flat the terrain is.  The Red River falls at a rate of less than 1 foot per mile on its trek to Lake Winnipeg.

After doing some research on Wikipedia about this river, I realized that during my time in the golf business, I have now worked on and been responsible for water draining off my golf course and into the 3 different watersheds that make up North America.  During my time near Vail Colorado the golf course drained into the Colorado River watershed, which of course makes its way to the Pacific Ocean.  My time in Big Sky Montana was in a watershed that ended up in the Missouri River, which feeds the Mississippi River and then into the Atlantic Ocean.  And now, the water from the Grand Forks Country Club feeds into the Red River, to Lake Winnipeg, and eventually into the Hudson Bay, which is considered part of the Arctic Ocean.

There are still a lot of variables left to determine the fate of our flood season this spring.  Most notably of course is how much more snow we might get in the coming weeks, how fast the snow melts in the spring, and if that melt occurs early in the spring or late.  Another important factor working in our favor is the lingering drought from last summer, especially to the south, which left the ground dry last fall and able to soak up more moisture during the melt this spring.

Next week the Hydrologic Prediction Service will issue an updated flooding forecast for this spring.  As of our last prediction on January 21st, based on the conditional simulation we stood about a 12% chance of cresting over 35 feet.  Although flood stage begins at 28', I consider 35' the mark at which point the golf course really begins to be affected by the flooding.  I would expect that the forecast that comes out next week will raise that percentage a decent bit....

On the plus side, we are still in a drought, so the moisture is a good thing.  Unfortunately, this Valley has shown that there is a very fine line between too much water and not enough.  The summer of 2011 brought us a summer flood crest of 36' in the end of June, and by the end of the Fall only 3 months later we were already considered to be in the beginning of a our current drought.

One last note, Andy and I finally finished working on our tractor mounted slit seeder used for reseeding the course in the event of a large flood.  I am not sure of the exact year of this unit, but it was in pretty rough shape.  Both of the wheel axles were bent (I am assuming from someone seeding too close too a tree and hitting the trunk), bearings were worn out, and I wouldn't even want to guess of the last time the oil was changed in the gear housings.  And most significantly, the 170 steel blades that slice into the ground to make a bed for seed to drop into had worn down so far that even adjusted as low as the unit would go, didn't even make contact with the ground anymore.  Andy removed all 340 bolts by hand 2 weeks ago, Grand Forks Welding cut us out some new blades (for about 1/2 the price the manufacturer wanted to sell them to me for), and just the other day we put all the new blades on and got the seeder put back together.

It took about 5 hours to remount all 170 blades

Old blade, New blade.
Remounting the slicer disc back onto the seeder box.