October 20, 2014

Fall Projects Update

Here's a quick run down of a few of the projects we have going on the course right now:

We are pouring concrete on the cartpath coming off the bridge on 1/10 where it Y's off toward both of those fairways.  This is without a doubt one of the highest traffic areas on the course, so having this path finished in concrete will help keep things quite a bit cleaner as well as reduce a lot of wear in the rough where the paths end.

Furthermore, we will be rebuilding the triangle shaped retaining wall where the path Y's by #1 red tee as well as building a small wall by that tee in order to reduce the steep slope leading up to it.

The concrete path will be finished on Tuesday and the retaining wall portion will be going up next week.

Thanks to Midwest Refrigeration for their sponsorship of this entire project.

Next, thanks to another contribution from the Anonymous donor who sponsored our first concrete cartpath project on 15 green/16 tee in 2011, we are adding the last section of concrete to that path that comes down along the top of the bunker toward 15 fairway.  This section of path had always been gravel since we had finished that project three years ago, and was fairly steep and always prone to washouts, bringing lots of gravel down into the rough below it leading to poor turf conditions at the beginning of the path.

The fairway bunker on 11 is getting a minor re-do as we remove the sand area on about the left 1/3 of it.  There is an Ash tree encroaching on the left edge of the bunker, leading to the possibility of being in the bunker, as well as stuck behind a tree at the same time.  In order to make the situation more fair, we are simply removing the left part of the bunker.  While in the process of rebuilding the bunker, we added drainage to it as well.

Our last big project this fall involves moving the huge bunker front/left of 1 green and re-routing and pouring concrete on the path from 1 green to 2 tee.  The bunker left of 1 green was ridiculously large, most of it was even closer to 2 tee that it was to 1 green.  Furthermore, because of its size and location, it forced cart traffic exiting 1 fairway way too far around it and into the path of golfers teeing off on hole 2.  The bunker is going to be reshaped about 15' closer to 1 green, reduced in size by about 50%, and the cartpath is being re-routed to allow better traffic flow through the area.

Lastly, another big thanks to a group of 20 members that pooled their funds together in order to cover the cost of replacing all of the old, deteriorated asphalt path there with a new concrete path.

October 9, 2014

End Of The Growing Season

The growing season in Grand Forks came to an abrupt end on Wednesday morning when we bottomed out at 26 degrees.  While we have had a few frosts in the previous weeks, all of those came with temperatures above the freezing point (we have actually seen frost occur on the turf with temperatures as high as 41 degrees.)

With a low of 26 on both Wednesday and Thursday, the turf is officially done growing for the season.  Combined with the short day lengths and cooler soil temperatures, the grass plants are now well into their descent into dormancy in preparation for the long winter ahead.  We try our best to help the turf in that process by raising the mowing height and reducing the mowing frequency this time of year.  Doing this allows the plant to produce more leaf surface which in turn increases its photosynthesis capacity, which is much more important this time of year with the shorter days and lower sun angles (less sunlight).  Now that the turf is headed into dormancy, almost all of the carbohydrates it produces through photosynthesis will be directed straight to the roots in order to be used as food during the winter.  At this point in the fall, we will see almost no top growth of the grass, which means we essentially are done mowing.

In the turf management business, we are the only "farmers" crazy enough to grow a perennial crop that lives through a North Dakota winter (with the exception of a small amount of winter wheat).  Everyone else gets to harvest their crop in the fall and plant it again in the spring, but we don't have that luxury with turf.

A very white and frozen start to the day on Wednesday morning.  The staff
wasn't able to start doing anything on the course until almost 10:00am.

A close up of a very heavy frost on one of our bentgrass tees

The fairways are now being mowed only once a week.  We realistically
only have 3 or 4 mowings left to do this season on the fairways.
One last interesting characteristic of the golf course this time of year are all the different color patterns on the greens.  The original Penncross bentgrass that makes up our greens is notorious for genetically segregating out into a bunch of different clones of its self.  These different genetic varieties all react differently to cold weather and soil temperatures, creating some interesting colors and patterns on the greens.

No need to worry here, this interesting color scheme is completely
natural and normal, and actually kind of cool.

October 1, 2014

The Annual Autumn Mess

Leaf season.  In the world of golf course management, it falls just after aeration season, and right before the deep-freeze winter, golf course is closed season.  While we are all certainly very happy to enjoy the break from the barren plains that our heavy forested golf course provides, it is nothing but one huge headache for the grounds department this time of year.

Fortunately this year the leaf drop seems to have held off an extra week or two compared to years past.  The only thing worse than leaf cleanup, is a long and drawn out leaf cleanup season that slowly tortures us to death with just enough leaves falling every day to cause a mess.  Right now we are in the peak of the leaf drop and I expect that to last for the next 3 weeks.

While the leaves are certainly a headache, no one is complaining about
the beautiful mornings we enjoy on the course in the fall.

It doesn't take much of a small breeze however to turn
our morning view into something a little more daunting

We have two main tools with which to fight the leaves.  The first is our
turbine blower.  This piece of equipment runs everyday during the fall,
sometimes for 7-8 hours a day.

Our second piece of equipment we utilize heavily in the leaf battle is our large
rough mower, which also runs everyday for 8 or more hours.  It is fitted during the
fall with mulching guards under the deck that help chop up the leaves better.

The easy part is getting the leaves cleaned up off of the greens, tees and fairways and mulched up in the rough.  Our biggest struggle however this time of year is keeping the bunkers cleaned up and in some sort of playable condition.  The wind tends to collect leaves in the bunker lips much the same as snow drifts during the winter.  Furthermore, in our effort to blow leaves off of fairways and greens, quite a few inevitably end up in bunkers.

The real issue is all of the problems we cause by cleaning the leaves out of the bunkers.  Everytime we use a blower to clean the leaves out, we end up blowing a bunch of sand out in the process.  Sand coming out of bunkers is never a good scenario.  We are essentially blowing all the sand off of the faces and out into the grass along the bottom edge of the bunker.

Because of this, and the fact that our staff size is dwindling quickly this time of year, we only clean the leaves out of the bunkers when they get really bad.  Furthermore, we cannot rake the bunkers if they are not cleaned out first.  I have learned the hard way that piles of leaves that get raked into and mixed in the sand is not a good situation to deal with.

The bunkers nearest the cottonwood trees are always the worst

The deer are another part of the problem with the bunkers in the fall.  Lots
of bunkers that would otherwise still be raked and smooth are completely trashed
and cannot be raked until we have a chance to clean the leaves out first.