April 26, 2015

Collar Problems....Again

We seem to have a recurring theme with the Poa annua in our collars dying more winters than not.  For whatever reason, while our greens are in the ballpark of 60%-90% bentgrass, all of our collars are almost completely Poa.  The perfect line from bentgrass green to Poa collar is almost freakishly unnatural in some areas.

Regardless, we seem to struggle every year with losing a lot of turf in the collars during the winter.  This winter, with the long snow free periods in both the middle of December, and the middle of January, it is no surprise that most of the Poa checked out, as it has very poor cold tolerance compared to bentgrass or kentucky bluegrass.  The Poa simply froze to death without an insulating blanket of snow.

13 green is a perfect example of the transition from
bentgrass green, to Poa annua collar.

The collar on 17 is mostly dead, except for a few odd
patches of bentgrass sod from last summer.

A fair amount of the Poa annua will come back some on its own, but I am anticipating some larger areas that may have very spotty recovery, or may not recover at all.  In years past we have tried aggressively seeding bentgrass into these areas, but collars are a notoriously difficult area to get seedlings to survive and establish.  This is due to all the traffic and abuse the perimeter of the greens take from all of our equipment as we work on or around them.  This coming week we will likely start seeding into some areas that are showing mild recovery, but any area that looks completely dead we will save our seed and opt to just sod the area out here in another week or two.

We've kept our bentgrass nursery covered since the middle of March, and
the results have been amazing.  Our sodcutter will be getting a workout
here in the coming weeks.

April 17, 2015

Hot, Dry, And Frozen

We were finally able to get our pumpstation up and running earlier this week, and it was just in time.  April generally brings to mind thoughts of cool and rainy early spring weather, but this week has been anything but that.  Since the snow melted about a month ago, we have really only had one precipitation event, and that was about an inch of snow that fell last week.  Since then, it has been warm, dry, and extraordinarily windy.

These combination of factors are very difficult on grass plants as they break dormancy and start their spring growth.  Turf emerging from winter has a very limited root system with which to take in water, meaning that even the smallest stretch of dry conditions can cause the plant to immediately wilt and die.  This week, with daytime temperatures getting close to 80, winds gusting at 40+ mph, and afternoon humidity levels down to nearly 10% (think Arizona desert), keeping the turf alive on our sand based greens and tees was our number one priority.

After hauling around tanks of water last week and over the weekend, and looking at the forecast for a hot and dry week this week, we made the decision on Monday to charge up our irrigation system.  Unfortunately however, there is still a lot of frost left in the ground.  This made for a very challenging situation putting water in our irrigation pipes, that were surrounded by frozen ground.  A major problem was accessing all of the underground valves that were often times still encased in ice.

Solid blocks of ice were a common sight this week inside all of our valve boxes.
In order to combat this, Collin and I hauled nearly 100 buckets of hot water from
the clubhouse to pour in these and melt the ice.

Another issue of course with putting water in pipes surrounded by frozen soil, is that the water inside the pipes will begin to freeze and break the pipes.  As evidenced by all of our gopher holes across the course this week, the staff has been busy with shovels digging up cracked valves and leaks as small pockets of water have refroze inside the pipe in areas of deep frost.

A 2" lateral line caused a few problems in the right rough on hole 3

Probably 95% of our mainline runs in the rough, but the one bad mainline
break we had was a 4" main in 6 fairway.

This is just one of many small holes dug across the course this week to fix
broken pipe.  In this example on 17, the soil around the pipe was still frozen
solid, so we are just letting the water sit in the hole to thaw it out.
No wonder here why this pipe was broken.

Despite all the issues, the majority of the system did work as we needed it to, allowing us to pump nearly 300,000 gallons of water onto the golf course since Tuesday.  If I would have had my preference, we would have waited for another week or so to start putting water back in our irrigation lines, but the weather really forced our hand this week into pushing the limits.  We paid the price with a few more instances of broken pipe and valves that we may not have had otherwise, but the risk of losing large areas of turf on our greens or tees made it worth it in the long run.

We caught lots of early sunrises on the course this week trying to irrigate
before the sun came up in order to beat the wind.

A few fairway areas were even starting to dry out by Friday, especially on
hole 15 which has a southern aspect.

Handwatering tees in the middle of April, first time for that.

April 14, 2015

Pumpstation Rebuild

With the extremely dry, warm, and windy weather we have been experiencing recently, we have been in a mad rush to get our pumpstation put back together so that we can start using our irrigation system.

Last fall if you remember we had our irrigation pumps pulled out and sent off to Minneapolis to get rebuilt.  The old pumps were aging badly (I'm not sure, but I think they may have been 30+ years old) and were loud, inefficient, and ready for complete failure at any time.)  We got our newly rebuilt pumps back and set back in their vault a few weeks ago, but reassembling all of the above ground piping and valves proved to be a very difficult process.

We also did some reconfiguring of the 6" mainline pipe as it leaves the pumpstation, eliminating two 90 degree fittings and replacing them with 45 degree fittings.  We are trying to force 700+ GPM through that pipe at times, and eliminating those two sharp 90 degree bends will greatly reduce the amount of pressure lost as the water flows through there.

The pumpstation as it looked last fall before disassembly

The pumpstation as it looked during this winter while all the
parts were being rebuilt
The technician that rebuilt our pumps took this picture of the pump shaft, a 1" thick
steel shaft that turns the entire pump, that had been worn down to pencil
thickness from a bad seal.  In his words, "you guys were one start up away from
shearing the shaft in two."

The newly rebuilt pumps getting dropped back into
the vault this spring.

Collin doing some pipe fitting one our new output line.  This is the piece
where we replaced the two 90 degree bends with 45 degree fittings.

The new pumpstation ready for action.  We reused and painted a few of the
pipe fittings and valves, but the pumps, motors, seals, and skid are either brand
new, or rebuilt with all new components.

I realize that probably not a single golfer at the Grand Forks Country Club has ever set foot in our pumphouse by hole 7.  However, there is likely no single more important piece of equipment at any golf course than the irrigation pumps.  Water is the lifeblood of any healthy turf and golf course, and the pumpstation is quite literally the heartbeat that supplies it.

This was not a cheap project for us to undertake.  However, it was becoming painfully obvious by the end of last season that our pumps were not only failing to meeting our system demands in terms of flow and pressure, but that a catastrophic failure was imminent.  I have a feeling that we are in for a hot and dry summer in 2015, and I cannot say enough how glad I am that we spent the time, money, and effort to upgrade this vital piece of equipment.  The only other option was to play off of a dirt golf course this summer.

April 11, 2015

Where's The Rain?

Feast or Famine.  After a winter with very little snow, spring is following suit and refusing to produce any additional moisture.  Since January 1st (over 1/4 of the year) all of the snow we have received has contained a mere 1.2" of actual water in it.  The thin snowpack we did have melted early and quickly in the middle of March, and following what was also a very dry fall, soaked into the ground very quickly.  In the last 3 weeks, we have received only trace amounts of additional precipitation.

Granted it isn't quite as bad here as it is in CA, but we are barely into spring and already in moderate drought.

Spring is a tedious time of year for the turf on the golf course after having barely survived a tough North Dakota winter, and with a very short root system, maintaining adequate moisture for the new plants as they break dormancy is paramount.  Because of this, and the fact that it is still too early to put water in our irrigation system due to frost in the ground and frozen valves, we have been out hauling water with tanks to syringe greens.

This is a very time consuming and labor intensive process hauling water to greens and using pumps and hoses to apply it, but it is crucial in such a dry start to the season to try and keep as much of the grass on the greens and collars from suffering any further damage.  We are especially focusing our watering efforts on greens where we have historically suffered damage following dry periods in the spring (PG, 2, 6, 9, 14, 18).

Not an ideal way for us to start the year off, but it sure beats a flood....

April 3, 2015

The Season Begins

Wednesday, April 1st marked the official opening of the golf course for 2015, and with temperatures near 70 degrees, it was a fitting start to a mostly mild winter and early spring.  While the golf season got off to a slightly earlier start during the freakishly warm March of 2012, nevertheless this is a much better start to the season than the last two years with no flood in sight, a golf course that at this point appears to have avoided any major turf loss, and some decent weather to start the spring.

Collin putting out the cups and flags for the start of the season on Wednesday morning

The staff did a quick clean up of the bunkers to get them moderately playable,
but they are still in need of much more in depth attention in the coming weeks
to get them edged and get all the sand pushed back up the faces.

Another large spring task is getting a fresh coat of stain on all of
our outdoor wood accessories.

While the course is open for play at this time, lots of the turf on the course is still dormant and will not be greening up anytime too soon, as the weather in April will still likely remain fairly cool.  Without much mowing in the near future, our attention in the coming weeks will be on the following projects:

  • Clubhouse landscaping.  We have already started the process of regrading the front lawn area and installed an irrigation system.  Soon we will be installing all new plant material in the landscape beds, installing new concrete edgers, and reseeding the entire lawn area.
  • Pumpstation reassmebly.  Our irrigation pumps that we pulled out last fall and were rebuilt over the winter have been reinstalled, but there remains a lot of pipe fitting and fine tuning of the system in order to get it ready for use.
  • Finishing drainage projects.  We installed a lot of new drain lines last fall to connect bunker drains that need to be topped off with topsoil, and then either seeded or sodded.
  • Bunker detail.  It is a long process of cleaning up and pushing all the sand back up on the faces of the bunkers after our rough winters.
  • Finishing cartpath projects.  We will be sodding around the new sections of cartpath on 1, 10, 2, and 15, however most of the sod farms in our area will not start harvesting sold until at least the end of April.  We also need to finish building a small retaining wall for a landscape bed in between the cartpaths by 1/10 red tee.