Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Cart Path Paving

Today, tomorrow, and possibly Thursday, NiBlock will be out paving cart paths in the following locations:

4 Green, 5 Tee, 6 Green, 7 Tee, 7 Green, 11, 16 Green, and around the new Halfway House.

If during the course of your round you encounter fresh asphalt in these areas, please stay off of the paths.  Please drive around 8 Green to access 11 Tee.

Also, their crew is aware that the course is open for play while they are out here.  However, please be aware that they cannot move easily out of the field of play and you may have to wait or skip an area if they are working in the area.

I thank you in advance for your understanding and cooperation in this matter.  When finished, these paths will be a great improvement to the golf course and your enjoyment of it.  If you have any questions, please let me know at ryan@elconacc.com.  Thanks, and I will see you out on the course!


Sunday, April 30, 2017

Course Notes, 4/30/2017

We continue to have great golfing weather for early Spring.  Drier conditions have lead to some nice firm conditions on greens and fairways.  Our staff continue to build in numbers and we have been able to knock out many of our task list for the Spring.   Aerification has come and gone with quick healing and deeper rooting that will benefit the turf when the dog days of summer hit later this year.

Work continues on the Fiesta Hut area.  The staff and I have created the rough grades for the base material that the wall stone will sit on.  Over the course of the next week we will be laying and compacting a 4" layer of gravel as a stone base, and beginning the transformation from empty area to a wall matching the look of the Terrace.  Stay tuned for more updates!

Finally, as part of our Audubon community outreach program, Elcona hosted 120 7th graders from Northridge Middle School for an afternoon of learning on the course, and about the game of golf. This field trip was under the umbrella of The First Green program, which incorporates STEM (science, engineering, math, and technology) learning modules out on the course.  

Each student experienced 6 learning stations:  A geo-caching activity on our trail system (think scavenger hunt with coordinates), an obstacle course meant to simulate the obstacles salmon experience when making their run to spawn, 2 golf stations at the practice facility, a station learning about soils and our rain garden, and a station at 17 green learning how to measure its area.

For many of the staff and students, it was their first time ever setting foot on a golf course, which is what I like so much about this program.  The exposure to a fantastic golf facility and to learn real-life applications to what they are learning about in school are hopefully great memories that will stay with them for life and spark an interest in taking up the game of golf.  The faculty and students were quite impressed with Elcona and its facilities, so much so that we have dates for another visit this coming fall.

If you would like more information on The First Green program, visit www.thefirstgreen.org.  If you have any questions, email me at ryan@elconacc.com.  Have a great week and I'll see you out on the course!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Course Notes, 3/28/17

Things are starting to green up and bloom here in Northern Indiana.  Forsythia have begun showing their yellow blossoms on the bottoms of the plants, daffodils and tulips withstood mid-March snows and freezes to begin their Spring, and the grass on the golf course is starting to green up in anticipation of another season.  The picture to the right shows 9 green during a 96 hour synopsis of a typical March in Indiana.  Snow, melt, snow, melt followed by a day where winds reached 60 miles/hour.

The staff and I continue working on course clean up, applying pre-emergent treatments for crabgrass and other grassy weeds, and mowing the fine turf on an as needed basis.  As weather more consistently warms and additional staff return, we will begin to assume our normal in-season maintenance routine.  We are typically fully staffed by Memorial Day.

New Pin Location cards
As more of you come out to Elcona to enjoy the warmer weather, you will notice a couple of changes to your daily experience that we hope will enhance your enjoyment.  One of these is a change in pin location options from 3 to 4.  This will give our staff additional flexibility in both yardages on par 3's (think 8 and 11) and moving pin locations better around wear points on the green.

The other change is a new maintenance method we are trying in how we maintain the bunkers in an attempt to further improve the playability of them.  A large focus of this centers around helping the ball better roll to the bottom of the bunker, to provide firmer sand and playing conditions in the bunkers, and to help prevent "fried egg" lies.  In the past, we raked the entire bunker and edges with leaf rakes in daily maintenance, a process that usually takes 5 staff members about 4 hours a day.

The new style of raking is termed the "Aussie Method", which began as a common method of maintenance in the Sandbelt region of Australia, and has become increasingly popular across the globe.  It achieved global exposure during the 2014 US Open at Pinehurst.

Lead assistant Matt McNarney raking #2 bunker
The idea behind this method is to compact the top edges and faces of the bunkers to better allow balls to roll down the slope after impact.  The bottoms of the bunkers will be raked on the same schedule as before in season, and the edges will be smoothed and compacted completely 2-3 times per week with a soft roller.  Other days, the edges will be checked and only the points of any edges affected by play, maintenance, or wildlife will be smoothed to maintain the look and compaction levels.  I hope that over the course of the early season, this will help the playability of the bunkers while still contribute an aesthetically pleasing feature to the golf course.  Bear with us as this will be a learning process for staff to find the most efficient way to utilize this style.

However, please remember that the single most important factor regarding firmness in bunkers is moisture. Wet bunkers will always be firmer than dry bunkers - regardless of maintenance practices. Also, during heavy rain events, many of our bunkers in their current position and shaping will have to be re-built and raked, which will return compaction levels to square one.  The USGA has made a great video explaining bunker maintenance and consistency, which you can click here to view.  Edging, pebble removal, and checking of sand depth levels will continue this month as more staff return.  

If you have any questions or feedback, please email me at ryan@eclonacc.com or call me at the Maintenance Facility.  I hope to see you out on the golf course!


Friday, February 17, 2017

Course Notes, 2-17-17

A typical April forecast, not February!
I think I am not overstepping my bounds by saying that all the weather forecasters had a BIG "swing and a miss" with their winter forecasts.  With 50's and 60's in the forecast the next 7 days, as you may have guessed, the golf course will be open with carts available starting Saturday at 12.  Hours will be 12-5, and its availability will be evaluated on a day by day basis.  The course will remain closed Monday for course maintenance.  With night time lows a few days reaching freezing, opening at 12 will allow any frozen surfaces to thaw and safely allow traffic.

Our stump grinder in action
While it is nice to have the golf course open for play so early, there is still much clean up to do from our annual tree work and general debris that has accumulated over the last 3 months.  We will be out and about grinding stumps from this winter's tree work next week.  Please exercise caution when equipment is in the area, as these noisy machines and the concentration needed to use them may not allow the operator to see you right away and allow him to move out of the way.  These stump holes will be 4-6" deep when cleaned up, and they will be flagged for everyone's safety.

Halfway house site
Please also exercise caution when near the site of the old halfway house.  Directly to the east of the old structure is where the new septic field has been installed.  This ground is still soft and settling, and cannot withstand any traffic at all.  We will have an update on that project in a future blog post.

Keep in mind that the average temperature for this time of year is 35 degrees and that the staff and I will manage the turf as it is appropriate for this time of year.  What does that mean?  It means that mowing will be done as the weather and growth dictates and other practices, such as raking bunkers, will be done on an as needed basis.  Please understand that seasonal employees are brought back based on historical dates that have been determined by both average weather and budgetary guidelines set for the year.  We are not usually fully staffed until Memorial Day.

If the weather continues to remain warm for an extended period, I may need to re-evaluate returning dates for some employees just so we can keep up with the growth of the turf.  February is not the time to push green speeds or mow the turf at normal summer levels however.  While the greens have some nice green color right now, the turf growing quite slowly, there is a greater time for recovery from wear.  Also, the spring time is the time to develop and grow a deep, healthy root system.  As I have mentioned many times, the deeper the root system, the better probability the turf can withstand summer playing expectations during hot summer conditions.  Mowing height is directly correlated to root depth.

While it is looking like some turf will need a mowing in the next week, it will be at much higher heights than typical summer heights of cut strictly because of the above paragraph.  Rolling will be utilized when needed to smooth the greens, but will not be an every day occurrence.  Here is a link to an excellent USGA article further explaining decisions that I have to make with early warm weather, and how it possibly impacts our operation and budget throughout the course of the year.

A trimmed up look right of 3 green
Oak trees pruned up along 15

As you are out on the course the next week, you will also notice we have been out pruning up several oak trees.  As I referenced in blogs articles here, here, and here,  winter is now the suggested time to prune these trees due to the emerging threat of oak wilt.  We have about 7 additional trees to work on when the ground firms back up before the golf season hits its full swing.

If you have any questions, please contact me at ryan@elconacc.com or call me at the maintenance facility.  Enjoy these April-like conditions and I look forward to seeing you on the golf course!