Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Course Notes, 11/18/2016

Our resident blue heron on 14

All those pretty leaves that beautified the Elcona landscape are now finally falling down at a blistering pace.  The close to a quite successful golf season here at Elcona is quickly approaching in looking at the long range forecast.  Rounds played in 2016 have exceeded the 14,200 mark, surpassing 2015 by about 500.

The staff and I have been hard at work executing our winterization plans that I discussed in my article in October.  The irrigation system has been winterized, our annual Vertidrain on greens was successfully completed, and the golf course turf has been mowed for what I hope to be the last time until Spring 2017.  Plant protectants have been applied to all fine cuts of turf.  All that is left for fall is a final topdressing on greens to insulate the crowns, a drainage project on 17 fairway, and of course, mulching the rest of those pesky leaves!

Two projects that were completed since I last wrote were the extended collar on 9 and the squaring and combining of the black/blue/white tees on #10.  As I mentioned last article, the collar was installed to provide better playability to the hole and give the golfer additional shot options around the green.  10's tees were combined, re-aligned, and squared to achieve a better aesthetic view to the hole.  We were also able to flatten the front part of the tee, and recapture a bit of teeing ground both at the back of the lower tee and the front of the black tee.  
Kyle working on swapping sod

10 tee before
10 tee after
The finished collar on 9
Both of these projects were suggested from a Master Improvement Plan that Hills/Forrest has provided Elcona within the last 12 months.  At the end of the 2015 season, the Golf/Greens Committee charged me to work with Hills/Forrest to formulate a new golf course improvement plan to provide solid solutions for any current opportunities the membership felt there were on the golf course.  The resulting document created by Hills/Forrest architect Shawn Smith contains a road map for Elcona's golf course future, and a schedule for any updates the membership feels need addressing.  This master plan addresses proposed improvements for each hole, including:  tee shape and orientation, fairway and green bunker design, green design improvements, fairway mowing patterns, tree management, cart path alignments, and items to provide strategic and aesthetic qualities.

Both the Golf/Greens Committee and the Board of Directors have adopted this Master Improvement Plan as a roadmap for any future improvements to the golf course.  Any potential improvements that would be completed here would be based on the ideals and principles set forth in this plan.  I have received many positive comments on the completed projects in the last 2 weeks, in which the staff and I thank you.  I look forward to completing more of these projects in the future years to create an even stronger Elcona golf course that all of you will enjoy for many years to come.

Happy to be helping irrigation blowout
Finally, those of you that have ventured out in the last few weeks have noticed a new crew member hanging around with me.  His name is Bowser, and he is a 11 month old pure brindle Boxer.  Bowser is slowly learning how to properly conduct himself on the golf course and has already earned his keep by chasing a few migrating geese off property.  14 Pond seems to be his favorite area, because that is the only pond he will hop in for a swim! When the time is right during the workweek, he will be accompanying me around the property collecting sticks and keeping me company during the long hours of the season.  He has already enjoyed meeting a few of you, even if he seems shy.

Thank you for reading my long-winded blog article.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at  Thank you, and have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Course Notes, 10/18/16

As the picture above illustrates, fall is finally upon us and the foliage is starting to show its true color.  The next 10-14 days will truly have some spectacular views.  Hopefully many of you will have the opportunity to come out and enjoy your golf course.

Aerification has been completed on greens and fairways, and I thank my staff for their hard work in the last 10 days.  With the ample rainfall and above normal temperatures, healing of the aerification holes is already ahead of schedule compared to past years.

We have also began some of our preparations of the greens for this coming winter, a bit earlier than we normally do.  Below are some of what we do to best defend the turf against the harsh conditions winter can sometimes bring.

Raising mower heights.  One of the changes I have made this year is raising the height of cut on the greens earlier than normal.  Currently,the height of cut on greens .135", or .015" higher than in-season heights.  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.

Late Season deep tine channels
Late season aerification.  On November 7th, our annual Vertidrain process will completed (weather permitting!).  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.  These tines are 1/2" wide, and vary in depth from 7-10".  The depth of these tines is altered each year to prevent a hardpan layer from forming, which would hinder drainage over time.

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.  Nitrogen, potassium, and bio stimulants were applied to fill this vital need over the course of the month.  Plant protectants will be applied to prevent damage from fungal diseases such as Pink Snow Mold.

Topdressing protecting the crown of the plants
Topdressing.  Another change to our winterization program will be more light, frequent applications of topdressing sand while the turf is still actively growing.  This will help further even out the playing surfaces from aerification and begin the process of protecting the crown from winter's cold and ice.  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 was another way more damage was prevented from the ice layer that encased all the greens turf in 2014.

Our 2nd assistant Kyle removing bluegrass sod
Finally, the staff and I began one of our major fall projects today.  We will be installing an extended collar to the back of 9 green, thanks to much input and feedback from many of you.  This is also a suggested improvement from our golf course architect, Shawn Smith of Hills/Forrest.  The idea is to give more options for shots behind the green and make that area of the hole a bit less penal.  As the pictures dictate, we will be removing 6-7 feet of the bluegrass sod and replacing it with bentgrass from our in-house nursery.  We should have all the sod laid by week's end.

Bentgrass sod being installed
Going forward, while #9 will be open for play, this area will be roped off for the rest of the playing season.  We will be rolling, aerifying, and topdressing the sod to smooth this surface into a playable surface for the 2017 season.  This area should be treated as Ground Under Repair and shots should not be taken from this new area.  Thank you for your cooperation with this nice improvement to #9.

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


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Course Notes, 10/11/2016

In looking at the week's forecast, it is looking like Friday morning will be our first frost delay of the Fall 2016 season.  Why do 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.
Traffic patterns of an average 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 on the right shows the typical foot traffic of a normal foursome on a green, damage could be extensive if played or mowed during frosty conditions.

If you have any questions, please contact me at  Have a great week!


Sunday, October 9, 2016

Course Notes, 10/9/16

The staff and I have had quite a busy September and early October.  The final days of the season had beautiful sunshine and warm temperatures, capped off with a successful Hole in One Stag tournament.  We are currently in the middle of our fall aerification.

Green tines vs. fairway tines
3/8" vs 5/8" tines
 For greens aerification this year, I decided to go with a slightly smaller tine size, for a number of reasons.  Each year, I look at many factors in deciding what is best for Elcona's greens, mainly our annual soil test results, current soil structure and rooting, and the amount of traffic the greens have received over the course of the year.  I also look at the amount of surface area impacted annually.  The USGA recommends that 20% of a putting green's surface area be removed or effected by an annual aerification program.  With our frequent venting (solid 1/4" tines) we performed this year coupled with our current soil structure and results, we went with a 3/8" coring tine instead of the traditional 5/8" tine, at a 1"x 2" spacing.  For your information, in 2016 the greens will have a total of 25.13% of surface area impacted by 6 ventings, one core aerification, and one solid deep tine in November.
Green surface after pulling cores

Each golf course is different in respect to soil structure and turf needs, so what is best for Elcona may be different that what would be best for other courses.  What is best for our greens can and may change year to year, so while these smaller tines are good for this year, we may have to go back to larger tines in future years if organic matter or thatch levels change dramatically.

After the cores dried on the surface, we verticut the soil from the thatch and turf, and dragged the material back into the holes while the staff cleaned the thatch up by hand.  Fresh sand was then added to fill the holes as best as possible.

While we were overall successful in this fall's aerification, we did have a few belt issues on a couple greens that caused a rippling effect on the turf.  We will be out repairing these areas over the course of the next week, as well as adding an additional application of topdressing to further fill any open holes.  Mowing and rolling will be done on an as needed basis to allow the turf to grow through the sand layer and create a more smooth surface in time, and would be done in the afternoon to create a dry cut that is best for the turf and limit the mess wet sand would leave.

Staff blowing sand into holes and thatch into a pile
Fairway aerification will be starting Monday, using 5/8" coring tines.  It looks like we will have fantastic weather for this process, and hopefully be complete be the end of the week.  Please be on the look out for our staff when you are out enjoying your golf course this week, as we will be busy coring and cleaning up in the afternoons.

The final product!
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at  There is still plenty of great weather, changing colors, and great golf ahead in 2016, so I hope to see you out on the golf course!


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Course Notes, 8/31/2016

Some of you have asked me what is making the tiny sand mounds on the greens during the day.  The answer is two fold in what I have seen.  
Moundings on 10 green

The first is the Seed Corn Beetle.  These beetles burrow about 2 inches into the soil, looking for insects and other tidbits to eat.  There are two generations of these beetles, occurring in May and in August.  

Close up of Seed Corn Beetle

The second, and more populous burrowing insect I am seeing are ants, specifically the Eastern carpenter ant and the Cornfield 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.  
Ant mounding on 17 Green

Ant crawling on 17 green

Close up of the Eastern Carpenter Ant

Normally treatment is not required, since both of these insects 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.  However, we will be treating for these ants today due to the high incidences of moundings on select greens.  

If you have any questions, please contact me at  Thanks, and have a safe and fun Labor Day Weekend!  


Friday, August 26, 2016

Course Notes, 8/26/16

After a week of cooler weather, turf has begun to breathe a little easier and recover from July and August's stretch of weather.  Club championship week is in full swing and hopefully most of you have taken advantage of a break in the rain to enjoy your golf course.  

On the greens, rooting depth has increased in the last two weeks to an average of 2 inches, and they are turning color from brown to white, a good sign of a healthy plant.  I have continued to see new shoots pop out of areas that were effected by Pythium Root Rot, which I wrote about here.  
Rooting depth increasing
New shoots, 3 green
While I mentioned that recovery will take some time in these areas, we have taken another proactive step to help aide recovery by hand seeding these areas.  Below are some pictures of how this process works.  Further actions we will be taking include applying a light amount of granular fertilizer next week to help these areas grow in, and following Labor Day, a growth regulator application (normally applied weekly) will be skipped to further promote recovery.  

Hand spiker creating holes for new seed

Bentgrass seed applied
Seed smoothed into the holes and tamped down

End result
 If you have any questions, please contact me at  I would be more than happy to discuss our recovery efforts with you.  Have a great weekend!


Saturday, August 20, 2016

Course Notes, 8/20/2016

A brutal stretch of rain, heat and humidity is looking like it is coming to an end.  Within the last week, the golf course has received over 6.5" of rain, and more is pouring down as I write this.  Many areas to the west of Elcona have received double the amounts we have, so I count my blessings that rainfall has not been greater.  I would like to take a moment and explain what is causing what everyone is observing out on the course, mainly on the greens.

Soil conditions now course wide are quite saturated and currently cannot handle even small amounts of water quickly.  Combine these water logged soils with daytime highs in the mid to upper 80's and heat indexes approaching 100 degrees, and it does not take long to create soil temperatures above 85 degrees.  These conditions create prime environments for disease and turf struggles, as roots begin to die off and they do not come back until soil temperatures consistently stay below 80.  Roots and turf that do not die off are quite easily susceptible to fungal diseases.
Canopy temperature on 2 green, one day after a 4.5" rain event.  This is not good!

Pythium effects, 8 green
The brown areas of turf on some of the greens are areas that have succumbed to Pythium Root Rot.  This disease affects mainly the creeping bentgrass in the greens, as the healthy Poa annua surrounding it depicts.  With the weather and extreme soil temperatures we have experienced in the last 6 weeks, extreme environmental stress has finally shown us the symptoms of probable infection that occur during late spring.  We have treated all greens twice with fungicides to combat this pathogen, and a third will be coming this week.  A regularly scheduled venting of the greens is also coming Monday, which will allow us to poke .25" x 5" deep holes into the greens surface to dry out the rootzone and allow it to drain better, as well as promote new rooting and replacing harmful carbon dioxide in the soil with fresh oxygen.  The good news is that I am seeing new plant tissue emerge from many of these brown areas, a sign that the disease is in check and recovery is coming, which will be helped tremendously by the cooler weather coming this week.

Pythium effects, 3 green
Please note that recovery will take some time in these areas.   Any areas that do not recover will be plugged out from our nursery.  We have two large bentgrass/Poa nurseries that were established mainly plugs taken from our greens.  These nurseries are maintained exactly the same as the greens on the golf course and are an invaluable asset to have on hand.

Many of the collar edges and higher trafficked areas around the greens have also succumbed to the extreme stresses and traffic that the last 6 weeks have brought.  Populations of our old friend Poa trivialis (roughstalk bluegrass) that have emerged in the approaches have gone dormant from this weather.  Again, I am seeing new plant tissue emerging from these areas, so recovery is ongoing.
Rough bluegrass, April 30th on 11 approach
Same patch 8/12/16

While I am not satisfied by any stretch with these current issues and conditions, the overall health of the golf course is good.  We will continue to be diligent with our maintenance practices to aid recovery and utilize all means available to return normal playing conditions as soon as possible.

 Finally, we lost a quarter of the large Burr Oak near 5 green (affectionately known as "Gus") Saturday morning.  This tree is estimated to be about 250 years old, and there are many cables that have been installed over the years to stabilize and balance its weight.  This morning one of the cables snapped, causing the southeast part of the tree to fall.  It has since been re-cabled and stabilized, but the area will be roped off to cart traffic for the time being.

If you have any questions, or would like to discuss the topics I mentioned above with me, please contact me at, or call me at my office.  I am more than happy to discuss and explain what is happening on the course with you.


Monday, August 1, 2016

Course Notes, 8/1/16

With the recent stretch of heat and humidity, the greens have been showing signs of stress and the need for some recuperation.  Canopy temperatures have hovered near 105-110 degrees, this means that it is time for us to play defense!  To allow the turf the chance to recover and grow new shoots, we are venting all greens this morning, and temporarily raising the mowing height of cut from .125" to .130". Rolling will be reduced as well to further limit traffic damage on this turf.  Our staff will be out as often as needed to check for any signs of wilt, and syringing on a regular basis to cool the turf.

Canopy temperature on 1 green.  Hot!

This will lead to a temporary reduction in green speed, but will also allow for the turf to generate new leaf tissue to better generate the energy it needs to survive.  Given that the forecast this week calls for more heat and humidity, this is the best course of action to reduce stress on this turf and allow these areas to recover.  My goal is to return mowing heights back to normal as soon as these areas show sufficient healing and recovery and when the weather returns to more seasonable conditions.

If you have any questions, please contact me at  I appreciate your patience and understanding with this matter.  Have a great week!


Saturday, July 23, 2016

Course Notes, 7/23/16

With all of the heat and humidity in the past week, our maintenance practices have shifted to a more defensive position.  Greg wrote a tremendous blog post in 2013 that you can read here about how we can use different maintenance practices to defend the turf as best as we can through tough stretches of weather.  While I have not raised mowing heights, dragging the dew off of fairways and keeping irrigation to a minimum have been our main weapons to help fight turf stress.  Plant protectants are helping us as well, although they have been performing well without increasing rates.  The humidity has also led to some decreased green speed, with the added moisture in the air being taken up by the plant, creating larger leaf blade surfaces.  

Many afternoons have the staff and I syringing the greens turf to help cool it down.  When temperatures get above 85 degrees, Poa annua has difficulty photosynthesizing (making energy), and uses more energy then it can produce, causing stress damage.  By applying a fine amount of water, the turf is temporarily cooled off to relieve some of that stress.  This syringing creates the same effect as your skin feels if you ran quickly through a sprinkler.  

The below video was taken by one of our newer management tools, a thermal imaging camera.  Watch the temperatures before, during, and after our assistant superintendent Matt syringes the turf on #13 green.  
In a matter of a couple minutes, the turf canopy goes from near 100 degrees, down to 80, and back up in the 90's.  You wouldn't think this would do much to relieve the turf, but it helps tremendously.

The picture below is 15 green taken with the thermal camera, and notice that the higher heights of turf are 10-20 degrees cooler than the green, and that the 100 degree canopy temperature on the greens turf is only cooler than the aluminum on my cart, which measured at 114 degrees.  The lower height of cut on the turf, the higher the canopy temperatures can be.

Thermal image of 15 green

The great news is that the heat wave and humidity is expected to return to more manageable levels just in time for next week's Walter O. Wells Invitational, which means we will be back to normal maintenance practices and be more aggressive in achieving the conditions that you expect.

As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to ask me at  Thanks, and have a great weekend!


Sunday, June 26, 2016

Course Notes, 6/26/16

Elcona hosted a very successful Indiana State Amateur Championship, and we would like to congratulate Matt Christensen on his victory.  Well played!  I would also like to congratulate our staff for their efforts leading up to and during the championship.  I am very proud of them and the product they produced.  

#1 fairway bunker being pumped
17 Fairway bunker
Elcona staff moving sand back on 17
On Wednesday night, the course received 2.45" of rain, in the span of 40 minutes.  While all the playing surfaces were free of standing water when we arrived Thursday morning, all of the water had run off into the bunkers, creating washouts that were the worst I have ever seen out here. 30 out of the 50 bunkers we have on course needed to be pumped out, and all of them had silt contamination.  While we were able to repair them to get them playable for the final round, there is still work to do.  Over the next week, our staff will be removing additional contamination, checking sand depths, and sieving the rocks that washed to the surface during this rain event.  Also, we will be installing new sand on a couple of the bunkers on #3, and placing the old sand in select fairway bunkers.  
Rocks left behind on 17

Large rock in 17 fairway bunker
Many of you ask where all the rocks come from in the bunkers.  Quick hitting, large rain events like last week's is a major summertime reason.  The sand washes away, exposing the soil below.  The soil washes into the sand and mixes (contaminates) together, leaving rocks at the edges of the bunkers.  

17 fairway bunker after repairs
11 greenside bunker contamination
Chef Casey's garden
Seed to Feed garden
Finally, the Seed to Feed garden is doing well and starting to show blooms on the squash that is planted there.  Onions and zucchini are also planted there and doing great.  Chef Casey's garden was relocated to the west of the Seed to Feed garden and is thriving in its new location.  Here's hoping to a successful harvest that he can share with you in the clubhouse this summer.  

If you have any questions, please contact me at  Thanks, and have a great week!