Friday, January 12, 2018

Course Notes, 1/12/18


5 green up close
5 green on January 11
Happy New Year to everyone reading the blog!  2018 has started out quite cold with exception to yesterday's quick thaw.  Although reality has sat back in today with a quick hitting ice and snow event, yesterday gave me a chance to evaluate the golf course and grounds.  Except for an active mole near the practice facility, I am happy to report no issues on the course.  The Poa on the greens looks great, and there is still quite a bit of protective sand around the crown of the plant.  Bowser has even enjoyed our course inspections the last few days. 

Winter work on our department consists of four main areas:  Snow removal, equipment maintenance, course marker maintenance, and tree work.  Since you probably are aware how much it has snowed at Elcona so far this year, let me update you on what the staff and I have been up to these last few weeks in regards to the latter three areas:



Much of our equipment maintenance happens in the months of January and February.  All of our mower reels and rotary blades are sharpened for the upcoming season, and routine maintenance like oil and fluid flushes are performed as well.  The second picture shows our Equipment Manager, Steve Ott, using a torch to heat and remove a failing bearing and cup from one of the rollers on a fairway unit. 

On an important side note, the 2018 season marks the beginning of Steve's 39th year of service at Elcona.  His dedication, knowledge, and ingenuity to the club and our department is utterly invaluable and I am quite thankful to work along side him each day here and call him a teammate.  In the spring, if you see him out and about on the golf course, please stop and thank him. 

The staff also does a wonderful job refurbishing all of the various markers and supplies you may utilize out in your round of golf.  The brass fairway markers are taped, and 2 coats of black paint are applied, followed by tape removal and 2 coats of clear coat to give it a glossy shine.  The tee markers in the background are sanded down, re-stained, and given a coat of spar urethane to prevent the elements from damaging them.  All other course supplies, like ball washers and litter baskets are touched up as well to provide a great look for the upcoming season. 




Finally, our tree work is coming along quite nicely.  The list is much smaller this year compared to previous years, with an continued emphasis on turf health and aesthetic improvement.  Our staff is also concentrating on trimming several oak trees on select holes after tree removals have been completed. 

15 Colorado blue spruces were removed from the south side of the club drive last week.  These very large trees were removed due infection from Phomposis blight, a canker disease that has become more prevalent in the Midwest in the last few years.  The aesthetics of these trees had created a poorer aesthetic for members and guests entering the club.    In the spring, irrigation will be installed and the bare areas will be repaired with sod.  Michigan State has a great extension article on reasons on Spruce tree decline, which you can read more about here

This removal also is another demonstration of the planning that goes into the tree program.  Many years ago, a plan was developed to replace these trees with a group of Norway Spruce to better screen US 20.  As the Norway spruce behind them matured and further screened US 20, the Blue Spruces could be removed and not hinder the club with a view of US 20. 
Blue Spruces along the club drive
Tree service hauling them to flat ground for clean up.  Note the thinning lower branches.


Our staff dragging a spruce to flat ground for safer clean up.
The final look!




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On Hole 15, the red maple closest to the cart path and Zimm's Creek was removed.  The turf in this area the last few years has become thinner and less playable for approach shots that land here.  The resulting removal will allow for drier, more playable shot attempts from that area. 
15 landing area before
15 landing area after










If you have any questions, please email me at ryan@elconacc.com.  Please stay warm this month and I will have further updates on our activities on what is shaping to be another busy year for our department.  Have a great weekend! 

Ryan

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Course Notes, 11/21/17



Our 2017 course winterization is now in full stride.  The pesky leaves are finally falling at a faster clip and each day brings us one day closer to having that time consuming process finished for the year. 


The irrigation system was successfully blown out and put to bed last week.  This process utilizes an industrial sized air compressor that fill the pipes with a high volume air flow at a lower pressure to flush out as much water from all piping and rotors as possible.  This process takes us about 2.5 days to complete and is one that I am happy to finish with no major issues!


Plant protectants have been applied to greens, tees, and the practice facility to help guard against snow mold infection.  Fairways and green surrounds will receive their application later this week or early next week, depending on the weather conditions. 



Finally, this coming Monday we will be applying our final topdressing to the putting surfaces.  This last application is a much heavier application than normal, and is not normally broomed in.  This is to maximize the protection and insulation the sand provides the Poa annua that is predominant on the greens at Elcona.  The above picture of 1 green shows what last year's application looked like after a rain event washed the sand further into the canopy.  The close up view with a microscope shows how the sand tightly protects the crowns of the plant from winter desiccation and cold temperatures. 

In our industry, we liken this final heavy application to putting a blanket on the greens and "tucking them in for the winter".  Bob Vavrek of the USGA has written a great article further explaining this application that you can access here

I hope that everyone has a very Happy Thanksgiving, as we all have so much to be thankful for.  Be safe in your holiday travels, and I hope to see you out at Elcona soon! 

Ryan


Sunday, October 29, 2017

Course Notes, 10/29/17



October is almost over, and the leaves are starting to display their usual spectacular colors thanks in part to a warm, wet month.  The warmth also allowed us to have a successful aerification season and heal in all signs of it quite quickly.  There are still some great days in the forecast for you to enjoy your golf course, and we hope to see you out as we begin to tackle mulching all those beautiful leaves when they fall off of the trees.

As the lead picture of 18 green showed, we had our first frost last Thursday morning, or about 3 weeks later than normal.  The arrival of frosty mornings serves as a good reminder why we delay tee times when there is frost.

Frost is essentially frozen dew.  It can form when the temperature approaches near freezing.  The ice crystals that form on the outside of the plant can also harden or freeze the cellular structure of the plant.  When frost is present, the normally resilient plant cells become brittle and can be easily crushed internally or pierced like a knife from the outside ice crystals.  When these cell membranes are damaged, the plant loses its ability to function normally.  Think of this like cracking an egg: once the shell is broken, it cannot be put back together.

Average footprinting of a foursome on a green
Although damage will not be immediate, the proof will emerge within 48-72 hours as leaves turn brown and die.  As the picture left shows the typical foot traffic of a normal foursome on a green, damage could be extensive if played or mowed during frosty conditions.  Recovery from frost damage can take several weeks depending on weather.  For more information on frost delays, here is a link to a great USGA video explaining them. 


Drainage install on 17

The staff also installed a catch basin and drain tile along 17 fairway last week.  Through the year, this area opposite the fairway bunker had developed poor drainage conditions.  This catch basin will capture much of the water that collects and divert it into the rough.  We will also have our contractor deep tine this area to improve the water percolation of the soil November 6th.

Severe example of what winter can bring!
We also have begun the winterization of the golf course and turf.  On November 6th, we will begin to winterize the irrigation system, a process that takes about 3 days. We also will begin applications that will maximize turf health and protection from the severe winters that can visit our area.  For the greens, that entails the following:

Raising mower heights.   Throughout the next 3 weeks, I will raise the height of cut on greens from the normal height of .120" to .135" slowly.  Raising height of cut allows more leaf surface for the turf to maximize their photosynthetic capabilities and carbohydrate storage.  Raising height will also lessen stress to the plant and create a deeper root system going into winter.  While raising heights may not create the speeds that summer brings, it is best for the long term health of the greens going into winter.

Deep tine aerification
Aerification.  On November 6th, we have a contractor coming in to perform solid tine aerification to a depth of 10" on all greens.  These extra holes create three advantages:  additional channels for spring root growth, aid in relieving any deeper compaction within the rootzone soil profile, and extra drainage capabilities for ice/snow melt to prevent ice formation on the plant surfaces.  The greens are rolled immediately after being aerified, and these holes do remain open throughout the winter for the above mentioned reasons. 

Fertility and Plant Protectants.  While we limit nutrients on finely maintained turf during the season to provide great playing conditions, the fall is the best time to feed the turf to maximize carbohydrate storage going into winter.  The more carbs the plant stores, the quicker it will break dormancy when temperatures warm up in the spring.  Winter can also bring the threat of snow mold to all varieties of turf on the golf course, and our sprayers will be out applying plant protectants to help prevent infection from those fungal diseases.

1 green after heavy topdressing
Topdressing.  When growth has ceased for the year, we will apply a thick coating of sand topdressing to bury the crowns and as much leaf tissue as possible.  This sand helps protect and insulate the crown of the plant from any extreme cold temperatures.  This practice is very effective in protecting the turf from any potential ice damage and helps maintain a smooth surface when the course opens next year. 

If you have any questions, please email me at ryan@elconacc.com.  Have a great week and I hope to see you out on the golf course! 

Ryan



Friday, October 6, 2017

Greens Aerification update, 10/6/17

We successfully aerified the front 9 greens yesterday with what turned out to be a gorgeous day weather wise.  Below are some pictures of the process we are using this year. 

Plugs are chopped up with our verticutting machine, and the resulting soil is brushed back into the holes.

The grass left over is blown and removed by staff

A heavy application of topdressing sand is applied and brushed into the holes

The blower aids the sand into the holes and is the final step in the clean up process before the greens are rolled

The resulting product on #8


With the current muggy, cloudy conditions and the increasing chances of rain in the forecast for today, we will be postponing back 9 greens aerification.  We will perform this necessary practice on Monday, October 9th, which is a closed day for the golf course.  Fairway aerification will start the following day, with all 18 holes open during that process. 

Cores removed from aerification must be completely dry for us to remove them successfully without making a muddy mess.  The topdressing and brushing process also needs complete dryness for a successful result.  It is my opinion that we will not have an adequate drying window today.

For the weekend, the front 9 greens will be rolled daily.  The back 9 greens will be mowed and rolled as they would be normally.  Any additional sand that is necessary will be applied when weather allows. 

Thanks for your understanding!

Ryan