December 28, 2013

Living The Shop Life

Its that time of year again in the northern plains to settle in and find something to do indoors for the winter.  December has been a brutally cold month, and with plenty of snow on the ground to go with it, Andy and I have made some significant progress on some shop work.

We were able to get all the reel grinding and setup done by the early part of December.  For the last 3 weeks, we have been tearing deep into some of the older pieces of equipment that are in need of some serious work.

Our two heavy duty Toro Workmans are model years 1997 and 1999 respectively, meaning they have both seen about 15 years of harsh conditions on the golf course.  Both of these units take a beating daily by hauling all of the heavy loads of gravel, sand, and soil that we need to move around.  One of the units also had an unfortunate collision with a bridge this fall, meaning it was in need of some body work as well.

Between the two units, beyond all the normal fluid, filter, and lube service, we replaced a set of collapsed leaf springs, replaced steering linkage bearings, built a new front bumper, repaired four broken fenders, replaced a leaking seal in a power steering pump, and repainted a bunch of chipped and rusted body parts.

Lots of torch heat was used in the removal and disassembly of all the
rusted and seized bolts on this 15 year old power steering pump. 
Next on the list was the 2007 sandpro.  While it is not one of our older units, it still needed some extra attention. It took almost 2 full days in the shop to trace and find a broken wire in the starting circuit that wouldn't allow the unit to start with the key switch.  We spent the last month of the season this year arcing the starter soleniod with a screwdriver to start the unit.  After the wire was found, we replaced a few worn bearings and bushings in the steering column that were making the unit steer very erratically.

Front steering of the Sandpro completely disassembled.

Lastly, our two 13 year old Toro 325D rough mowers have been in the shop for the last week.  With 5,000 hours on them, these units have the equivalent of about 200,000 miles on them if they were cars.  Needless to say, they are in rough shape.  Both of these mowers are old and slow, and worse, with a 6' wide fixed deck, do a terrible job mowing any of the undulations on the golf course.  These two mowers are top on the list of equipment that needs to be replaced.

In the meantime, they have been torn down pretty extensively this week to replace leaking seals, replace bad bearings, both units got new brakes (neither unit has had a functional parking brake for the last year), replace torn seats, replace leaking and cracked hydraulic hoses, replace worn out belts, and lastly, painting some of the badly chipped and rusted body parts.

The 325s are so torn apart they almost look ready for the junkyard...
Both of these units have already been in the shop for about a week, and still need another week to get them completely put back together.  All told about $1,000 worth of parts have already gone into them just so that they can hopefully make it through another season.  However, with every part we dissassembled to remove and replace, we would find 3 or 4 more associated parts that were worn out and on their last leg.  Realistically, every part on these mowers have outlived their lifespan and are on borrowed time.

I can almost guarantee that both of these mowers, regardless of our best repair efforts this winter, will still be spending some significant down time in the shop next summer replacing a seized bearings, broken belt, sheared off shaft, leaking seal, broken hydraulic hose, etc, etc, etc....

December 17, 2013

Winter Wonderland

Without a doubt, we are off to the best winter we have seen in the 3 years I have been here.  2011 didn't bring us a single snowflake until New Years Eve, leaving the turf to suffer the effects of brutally cold temperatures and drying winds.  2012 brought us a good early snowcover, but then was completely ruined in early January by a rainstorm that created ice all over the golf course.  2013 however has brought a healthy dose of early season snow, that has the turf completely covered and protected from the elements.  We just need this snow to stick around and avoid any mid winter melt cycles or rain (knock on wood).  If we can do that, we actually stand a chance coming out in the spring looking pretty good, as long as we don't get too much more snow in the coming months (again, knock on wood.....)

Early winter 2011 was so dry and open that cigarettes thrown out of cars
in the parking lot were catching the grass on fire!

Early January last year brought us a rainstorm that instantly created
ice, all across the golf course.

December this year has brought us the perfect cover of snow
to keep the turf protected and insulated.
Last week we experienced some brutally cold temperatures, dropping as low as -21 one morning.  To illustrate how much of an insulating effect the snow has on the turf surface, I dug a small hole on 16 green and checked the temperature on the turf surface underneath about 8" of snow.  The air temperature that morning was -16.  The surface of the turf under the snow was a balmy +20.  This 36 degree difference literally is the difference in life and death for Poa Annua.

December of 2013 has definitely created a winter wonderland.  We have already accumulated a total of about 17" of snow so far for the month, with still another 2 weeks to go.  The average snowfall for the entire month is only 12", so we are well ahead of that number.  Furthermore, the temperatures have been brutal.  The temperatures for the first 17 days of the months have so far added up to an average of 0 degrees, which is a whopping 14 degrees colder than average.  Global warming at its finest....

For me, one of the best times of the year on the golf course is the dead of
winter.  The complete peace, silence, and solitude on days like this are what
make the place so special.