Saturday, April 7, 2018

Course Notes, 4/7/18

While the calendar says Spring, Mother Nature has had other plans for us at Elcona.  Although this weather has not been very conducive for golf, the staff and I have enjoyed working on other projects around the property so that when the weather turns for the better, we can turn our focus more onto the 2018 golf season.

When conditions have allowed, we have mowed and maintained on the golf course.  All fine playing surfaces have been mowed at least one time.  They just haven't had temperatures to grow since!  One of the ways we have maintained putting surfaces during these times of very low growth is by rolling. If you have ever wondered why we roll greens, the USGA has produced a nice short video on that very subject.  You may view it here. 

The picture on the right shows an area of desiccation injury on 18 that I am monitoring.  Desiccation is a drying out of leaf blades and occurs most often on open semi-dormant turf exposed to windy, low humidity conditions. Think of this as when we get chapped lips in the winter.  There is new green tissue coming from these plants, so I am fairly confident that the turf will grow through its injury (when warmer weather comes), but have pulled a couple of plugs to make sure my assessment is correct.  The right front of #9 has a bit of desiccation injury as well. 

The timing also came for our first seedhead suppression application.  As great as Poa annua is as a putting surface, one drawback is its annual seedhead production.  Poa annua is a winter annual, meaning it germinates in the fall, overwinters, and produces seeds in the spring for its next generation.  Think of Poa as backwards from an annual flower you would plant in your landscape.

Using a temperature based schedule, three total applications of growth regulator will be applied to suppress, not eliminate, these seedheads from impacting ball roll.  As the picture to the left shows, I left 6 areas on the course untreated, as a check plot, to assess the success of this year's applications. These plots are located on the large Practice Green, 1, 3, 10, 13, and 16 and marked with white dots.  I utilize these areas to gauge the effectiveness of this year's treatments and encourage you to keep an eye on them as well as you are out and about on the golf course. 

The bulk of our time has been spent on the poolside hardscaping project.  The terrain of the area has kept us on our toes thinking of the best way to store materials close while getting them down a 12 foot high embankment.  The key process to build a wall, as you can imagine, is installing and compacting a level base layer of stone utilizing a plate compactor.  Precise measurements are taken with some surveyor's tools to ensure the wall is at the correct depth compared to other features in the area.  After the base is installed, stone is laid one at a time and leveled and plumbed. 

Please enjoy some of the pictures I have taken throughout the process.  I will continue to keep you updated on its process.  If you have any questions, please email me at  I am more than willing to answer or find more information for you.  Have a great day, wish for Spring to finally arrive, and I hope to see you out on the golf course!


Grades are marked for stone layer

5th grade math at its finest!

Greg Stump compacting stone layer
Finished base layer
The process of laying the first course

The old staircase transformed

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Course Notes, 3/1/18

Happy March to everyone!  With the bright sunshine and warmer temperatures we have experienced in the last week, the greener sights of turf have brought the beginning to the golf season much closer.  Over the last few days, all of the 15" of snow cover disappeared and 5.25" of rain fell on top of it.  That created almost 7 inches of water that had no where to go given our partially frozen soils in the area, thus creating many of the flooding problems experienced here in Elkhart County.  All 4 of the ponds on course over spilled their banks into their respective fairway.  The course had 3 main areas of flooding that took about a week to subside, pictured below.  Also, the rain garden overflowed attempting to handle all the runoff from the east side of the course, creating a temporary stream from our maintenance facility that flowed all across the course into 3 pond!  The soils in these areas are still quite moist. 
Snow melt/rain from rain garden
The valley on #8 2/22/18
12 fairway, 2/22/18

Many of you ask each year when the golf course will be available for play, and I thought I would discuss the two main variables that go into answering that question.

  1. The ground must be completely thawed out.  This is for two reasons.  One, there is no path for melting snow to drain down if the ground is frozen.  The water either stands on the surface (or percolates down really slow) or runs off of slopes to any low area.  Two, excess machine and foot traffic on frozen ground can lead to root shearing on turf plants, which leads to poor turf quality and a longer window for the turf to green up.  Currently there is not any frost in the ground, which is a good thing for the beginning of the season and our course clean up efforts.
  2. The soils are mostly to completely dry and firmed up.  This is self explanatory.  Wet soils lead to damage from machine traffic and compaction.  Playing surfaces also need a period of time to allow proper drainage so we can begin to work them into the firm surfaces you are accustomed to.  This is the position the golf course is waiting on right now.  
While soils are firming up, the staff and I have begun course clean up efforts.  All of the tree debris is being collected, and on drier days, leaf litter will be blown and collected.  Playing surfaces will be mowed or rolled on an as needed basis, given the slower growing conditions and our current staffing levels.  The USGA has published a couple great articles further explaining the factors in opening for early play, which you can read here and here.  

The staff and I have focused our attention on other projects while we waited for conditions to improve outside.  The US 20 sign has been refurbished, complete with a new color scheme that adds a new pop to all those who drive by it each day.  A special thanks to Greg Stump for his artistic efforts on this sign.  We also have about 30 stumps to grind, mainly along the clubdrive.  Depending on the location, these areas will be either be sodded or seeded after clean up is finished and topsoil is added to the hole. 
The new sign along US 20

Another large focus of our department this spring will be where the old pool locker rooms were located.  This area will be transformed into a beautiful landscaped area that will add pop to your experience at the Elcona pool.  Currently we have been filling the area with sub soil in preparation for the first retaining wall to be installed.  I will have more frequent updates on this project as it moves along. 
New concrete retaining wall poured January 2018

Soil is off loaded from our truck, and pushed down the hill

Rough grade for the first retaining wall being dug
Rough grade established
Spring is near, and with that golf is near too.  We will keep you abreast on the latest course conditions, and open as soon as the conditions allow.  If you have any questions, please email me at  Have a great week!


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!


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  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! 


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!