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!


Friday, September 29, 2017

Course Notes, 9/29/17

September has been a topsy turvy month weather wise.  Quite cool the first 2 weeks, and July-like temperatures the 2nd half of the month.  The heat that has been in our area has produced some high growth rates in our greens, tees, and fairways.  We have verticut all of these areas within the last 10 days to reduce the amount of leaf matter and applied additional growth regulator, which will return these surfaces to more normal playing conditions.  Besides cutting lateral growing turf and removing thatch, the verticut helps stand the turf up for regular mowers to achieve a more consistent playing surface. 
2 fairway after a verticut
6 fairway after verticut and regular mowing

One constant throughout the month has been the lack of rainfall.  Only on September 19th did we have a rain event producing greater than .10” of rainfall.  Needless to say, it is dry out there, which you can see by what the grass looks in some non-irrigated areas.  Here’s to October bringing our area a good soaking rain!

Of course, that good soaking rain needs to avoid our aerification dates!  Tees were aerified on September 6th, and as you can see to the left, we removed a lot of thatch from them!  With the warm temperatures we had, the holes have already healed in for the most part.  Greens will be aerified on October 5th (Front 9 and the Large practice green) and 6th (Back 9 and Small practice green) using a 3/8” tine.  The cores that we bring up with these tines will be
verticut and the soil will be re-introduced into the profile.  The greens will then be topped off with new sand to finish filling the holes.  Fairways will be aerified the week of October 9th, using a solid ½” tine.  There will be no plugs being brought up, which is how we aerify them in the spring.  While a short term inconvenience to ball roll and playability, aerification is the foundation of proper soil and turf health and a critical component of any agronomic program.  Thank you for your patience and understanding during this busy and quite necessary time in our maintenance schedule!

Some other notes….

7 fairway bunker on a Saturday morning
The picture on the right is unfortunately becoming more evident each morning when we are raking bunkers.  This was noticed on a Saturday morning, footprints right next to a bunker rake.  Out of respect for your fellow members, please rake the bunkers after you hit out of them.  Thank you for your cooperation. 

Jorge raking 11 greenside bunker
Our staff has been expanding the Aussie ring around the bunkers in a further attempt to increase playability.  For the most part we have received positive feedback with this short term change in maintenance, and will be utilizing the plate compactor method I wrote about here in all greenside bunkers next spring.

Skunk digging has been evident is some green surrounds, like this area to the left of 3 green.  The skunks are looking for a tasty meal of grubs.  These areas are repaired, seeded, and a curative insecticide is applied to take care of any white grubs that are present.  These areas are considered ground under repair, and the digging usually subsides later this month. 

In an attempt to better warn anyone on the course of potential weather, we have moved the weather siren from the halfway house to behind 12 black tee.  This siren was having issues receiving its signal from the clubhouse.  It is also solar powered, which was a fun afternoon electrical engineering project (a great use of my Purdue education!)

The milkweed we left in the native areas was well utilized by the visiting Monarch butterflies last month.  Milkweed is the sole host plant for the monarch caterpillar and is critical for completing their life cycle.  Creating additional habitats such as this one right of 16 fairway is a simple way we can help these pollinating insects thrive and contribute to the benefit of our local ecosystem. 

If you have any questions, please contact me at  Thank you, and I’ll see you out on the golf course!


Friday, August 4, 2017

Course Notes, 8/4/17

The weather this summer (so far) has been quite different that the last 2 summers.  Instead of a solid 5-7 day stretch of hot, humid weather, we have held relatively around normal each day.  Rainfall has been very timely, and with exception to last night's 2" rain received in 45 minutes, the amounts have been manageable and not overbearing.  While the turf at Elcona is healthy and in great condition, I wanted to take a minute and update you on other happenings around the property.

The staff has been busy with our annual sand replacement on 3 greenside bunkers.  This year, the back right 2 bunkers on #3 and the far left bunker along 7 green are the targeted bunkers.  There is much more to this refurbishment than just adding sand.  First, all the older sand is removed.  Since this sand is still usable, we select areas in fairway bunkers to add this too.

Sand removed
Jose spreading used sand in 4 fairway bunker
Compacting new sand

Finished product

After adding fresh sand to the greenside bunker, the sand is lightly watered down before a vibratory plate compactor is ran over the surface multiple times.  This compactor helps lessen the fluffy effect new sand can have and make it as consistent as possible to the other bunkers.  
Bumblebee enjoying flowering Joe Pye Weed 
Honeybee on Black Eyed Susan

We have also noticed many of our winged friends enjoying some of the beautiful wildflower areas as well.  15's pond bank has exploded in color, as well as the smaller pond on #3.  The swamp milkweed in the Rain Garden has grown to over 10 feet in height and is flourishing, all the while helping filter out any possible impurities in our equipment wash water.  Creating and maintaining these pollinator habitats continues to be a focus of the club's Audubon efforts.

Eastern Carpenter Ant
A few of you have asked me about another insect visitor that has made its mark lately at Elcona.  During the day, some greens have small soil mounds appear on them.  These are mainly due to the Eastern Carpenter Ant.  These ants are worker female ants looking to form new colonies with their burrowing.  They mainly feed on seeds and honeydew from aphids and mealybugs.   Normally treatment is not required, since this ant provide beneficial natural control of other pests to turf, such as the cutworm.  We try to set high thresholds when it comes to evaluating whether to treat or not, to limit the footprint we set on the environment.  If the mounds start to significantly impact playability on the greens, we will treat.

Eastern Cicada Killer
Cicada Killer in 6 bunker

Finally, many of you have noticed large “bees” burrowing into the bunkers and fairways.  These are actually Eastern Cicada Killer Wasps.  Although their large size and swarming can be intimidating, they are a non-aggressive wasp that avoid direct contact with humans and will not sting you unless you really agitate them for a prolonged period of time.  They are much more interested in finding cicadas for lunch then spoiling your day.  Control of these wasps is quite difficult and unless they are burrowing into greens and fairways causing damage, is not necessary.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at the maintenance facility.  Have a great week and I hope to see you out on the golf course!


Sunday, July 2, 2017

Course Notes, 7/2/17

One thing I always keep asking myself is how we as a staff can leave work each day knowing we made Elcona just a bit better than when we got into work that morning.  Our eyes and sense of touch are still the most useful tool in answering that question, but increasingly technology is changing how we can become better stewards of the club’s resources.  The USGA has integrated one such piece of technology into their 2017 USGA Golf Utilization Survey, and has asked Elcona to participate.  We are one of 48 golf facilities nationwide participating. 

The careful management of resources (water, labor, energy, fertilizer, pesticides, etc.) is an integral part of golf courses becoming more economically efficient and good care-takers of the environment while providing golfers with an enjoyable golf experience. To help golf courses achieve these goals, the USGA has developed a method to analyze how golfers use their course. This USGA Course Utilization Study provides decision makers at golf facilities with valuable insight into where available resources need to be focused the most.

How It Works
Members are asked to carry small GPS trackers in their pocket or clipped to their clothes during their round. You need to do nothing else except play the course as you normally would, and turn the device in to the Golf Shop staff after your round.  After the round, the devices are collected and the data is downloaded. The result is a visual image that is imported into Google Earth.

After the tracks of 200 golfers of varying abilities from Elcona are downloaded, the movement patterns will reveal a great deal about traffic patterns, feature use and potentially places on the course where pace of play issues arise. This data can be used to assess current and future maintenance needs as well. 

How You Can Participate

By agreeing to carry a GPS tracker, you are helping our staff better manage your course. You also are helping the USGA preserve the game now and in the future. The USGA will not collect the names of players who carry the GPS trackers. You are only asked for your name just in case you forget to return your tracker at the end of the round.  The USGA does charge a $50 fee for each unreturned tracker, so it would be very important to return them so the club does not incur that cost. 

I thank you in advance if you are asked to help us with this survey, and I look forward to sharing the results with you when the USGA processes the data.  As always, if you have any questions. Please contact me at, or stop me while you are out on the golf course.  Have a great week!