Monday, January 16, 2017

Greens are Open!

With the extended forecast in the upper 40s to mid 50s, the decision has been made to "TEMPORARILY" open up the greens during this break from Winter.  Key word is "temporarily"; once the traditional January thaw ends and normal temperatures resume, the use of our winter program of temporaries in the approaches will return.

This serves as an opportunity to dust of the clubs and take a break from the cabin fever that we all are experiencing.  Please keep in mind that the pro shop and all club amenities are closed during the month of January.  Therefore, I ask that you respect the possibility of frost on each given morning.  Using the 40 + an hour rule is a good way to deifier when to come out to the course.  For example, if you see that a day has a high of 50 but the previous nights low was 36, then look at the hourly for the day of 50.  If it says that it is going to be 40 at 10 am, then add an hour to that and 11 am would be a good time to peg it up.

Members of the Greens staff are on site and I am always a email away for those that may have further questions towards a good time to come play.  At this point, we all know the effects of frost on the plant and the damage that can occur due to foot traffic, playing while closed is at your own risk and failure to comply with the above mentioned recommendations towards timing will be reported to the Greens Committee.

Enjoy the break and Think Spring!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Fall Recap

It's becoming all to familiar to start off posts with apologies for lack of or timing between blog postings.  As most of you that are reading know, it has been a tough year for me both on and off the course and finding balance has been a struggle; for that I apologize for the lack of communication.  With that being said, here is a recap of the Fall.

Course Overview:

Late summer posed a lot of challenges on the course due to the weather and stresses following a busy 2016 golf schedule.  With Aerification being a month later this season and lack of ability to vent playing surfaces due to events, much of late August and September was spent in prevent mode to reduce the decline that was evident throughout the property.  A powerful storm on August 26th played havoc on our irrigation system resulting in a down booster pump and lack of satellite communication to 11 holes and practice areas posed major water management challenges as Mother Nature continued to throw us curve balls. 

The greens received a much needed reprieve during the middle of September with our bi-annual process of core Aerification.  A traditional 5/8 inch core was removed on 2 inch spacing to remove organic matter and provide channels to promote root growth that aided in the recovery process on a few greens.  Topdressing and amendments followed the clean-up process.  Outside of greens, all other playing surfaces received a cultural practice during the second week of October with core removal on tees and approaches along with multiple slicing of fairways.  Fairways will receive their first core aerification in 2017 as a contractor has already been booked during both spring and fall aerification weeks to perform the task.

Outside of Aerification, we continued with our Ryegrass eradication program this fall with selective herbicide applications to fairways and tees.  Both playing surfaces along with greens received a fall fertility application to aid in recovery and to store nutrients heading into next Spring.  Greens also received multiple topdressing applications through out the fall months to continue addressing the top organic layer while providing additional benefits of firmness and smoothness for ball roll.  A heavier application was applied around Thanksgiving to protect the crown heading into the winter months, subsequent applications will continue during the next couple of months when we aren't under snow cover.  This is a staple of our program to prevent or reduce winter injury by protecting the crown during the freezing and thawing process, in addition to serving as a canopy from wind desiccation.


Drainage has been the main focus of the Fall months as play started to slow down.   Over my first three years, I have been constantly monitoring surfaces following rain events to access the needs for drainage in certain locations.  Over time, modifications to the soil structure will play the biggest role in improving playability following rain by removing thatch and incorporating sand into the profile.  Key word is "time" and as most of you that know me, patience is not my strong suit when it comes to the course.  Therefore, you have to look at improving the drying out process from two angles of attack. One being the installation of internal drainage (like we've recently placed in all of our greens) and the other being surface drainage.

Surface drainage

In many meetings and conversations amongst the membership, I've expressed my stance on drainage.  With our topography, reclaiming the natural surface runoff of the property is the first step in improving.  Over time, during heaving rain events, as water filters or runs to low points throughout the property it carries sediment.  This sediment begins to build in lows or at transitions in playing surfaces (example being fairway to intermediate cut to rough).

Example of water backing up at transition of cuts in playing surfaces.

Example of water backing up at a runoff feature due to sediment buildup

 The build up then creates a dam that restricts water from flowing properly and in return creates wet areas as water is forced to leach into the soil.  This has been evident during the countless amount of trips around the course during rain events taking pictures, measurements and plotting a plan. 

We began addressing areas on #9, #15 and #17 this fall by removing the sod of identified sections to remove soil and re grade for improved surface runoff.


On #9, we worked on the swale front right of the green to aid in runoff through the approach and front portion of the green.

On #15, we addressed each of the swales that cross the fairway by stripping and removing soil to widen and deepen the existing grades.

A smaller scale project was conducted on #17 on the right side of the approach in front of the bunker.

Internal Drainage

Over three weeks of work was given to address the drainage on #14; including both surface and the installation of internal drainage.  #14 is notoriously our wettest fairway following even the lightest of rain events.  Therefore, each low that exits the fairway in between the mounding that lines the right side of the hole was re graded to improve surface runoff and over 3,000 feet of drainage pipe was installed throughout the fairway.  Below are some pictures to show the process:

Before (Following an 1.5 inch rain event over the summer)

After (Following an 1.25 inch rain event before Thanksgiving)

Each of the low points were stripped and I used a mini excavator to improve surface drainage by re contouring and accenting the existing natural features.

A box blade was then used to create a final grade.

Once at final grade, a automatic site level was used to identify the lows and fall throughout the area.

Once the area was shot to identify fall, markings were used to create the layout of internal drainage.

Then the labor intensive task of cutting the lines at a 12 inch depth began with our trencher.  The staff would clean any lose material from the trenches and dirt was hauled away to be stock piled for future projects.

Once the trenches were cleaned, a thin 2 inch layer of gravel was added to form a base followed by the installation of 4 inch slotted pipe. 

Following the pipe, another two inch layer of gravel was placed to form a bridge and reduce any sand from entering the pipe that could result in clogging down the road.  After the gravel layer was completed, each line was back filled with sand and tamped to final grade.  Catch basins were also added in the lows of all four sections to collect and move surface runoff.

Drainage was also installed outside of the area that received grade work to improve surface runoff. 

A lot of moving parts as the staff worked section by section.

Once complete, the original sod was placed back

There quite a few late nights over the three week stretch due to forecasted rain the next day.

Not everything went smoothly, as obstacles were found like old metal irrigation pipe that need to receive handwork to form the trench.

And it served as a constant reminder to me of our soil structure, any many cases the subsurface prohibited the use of the trencher and the mini-ex was used for the trench. 

But the end result was worth it as all of the hard work was rewarded by seeing the steady flow of water from the exit pipes during the 1.25 inch rain event just prior to Thanksgiving.  A great sign towards improving the dry down process moving forward!

Other Drainage Fixes

Sometimes its not just single rain events that pose problems to certain areas of the course; but prolonged periods of on and off rain can also create areas that leave you scratching your head.  During a period of on and off rain over the summer, a section of #8 fairway was roped off due to multiple wet spots. 

After further investigation, it was discovered that an old irrigation line had developed a leak at a fitting.  It isn't uncommon for unused pipe in the ground to develop water at some point throughout it's run; and as groundwater leaches into the pipe following prolonged or heavy rainfalls it travels to find it's nearest point of exit.  In this case, a fitting.  Once, water exits at the like it travels underground to low points or areas of restriction and begins to build up cause wet areas or bubbles on the surface. In this case, water was traveling along side a current irrigation line in use.

Once exposed, you can see the old metal irrigation pipe (and it's fitting) at the bottom of the picture.

To fix the problem, we dug a square hole to the depth of the old irrigation pipe.  With this we were creating a sump to collect the water and then exit at the low via a trench containing solid drainage pipe.  The sump and solid exit pipe will help contain the water and allow it to exit into the rough; thus hopefully eliminating the pesky wet spots in the fairway.

#13 Back Tee

Utilizing all of the dirt created from the drainage project on #14, during the first of November we began construction of a new back tee on #13.  The new tee will add 25-30 yards to the hole and will become the permanent home for our black tee players.  The blue will be moved back to the tee during events to provide parity and during daily play depending on the hole location of #12 for safety purposes.

 The large maple was cut down and removed (I'm standing just behind it's old location with the picture on the right).  Loads of dirt were then hauled to form the tee.

After a couple of days, the tee began to take shape.

A view from the front of the tee looking back.  Hopefully you can also notice that I took the time to cut a swale behind the new tee along the hillside adjacent to #12 green.  This will help reduce the amount of surface runoff that is notorious for flooding the green that is coming from the entire hill side up to #17. 

A view from the back side while standing on the existing grade to show the amount of dirt brought in and it's height.

Once at rough grade, we shot numbers to ensure standard fall for subgrade drainage of a tee.  Then it was put to bed for the winter.  I'm not a big fan of sodding this late in the year, colder temperatures do not allow for adequate rooting reducing the likelihood of survival over the winter months.  Therefore, once the weather breaks in the Spring, we will button up the tee by adding sand to form a level tee top and then sod.  If all goes well, I could foresee the tee being open for play come the first of June or around Robert White.

Heading into Winter:

As winter approaches, our time is spent split between being in the shop working towards refurbishing accessories/equipment R&M and tree work on the course.  Choosing tasks is dependent on the weather and accessibility to the course.  Our tree removal for the winter has been started by taking down certain trees throughout in-play areas as identified by the Greens Committee and members of Forse Design in accordance with updating our Master Plan.  Typically, we wait for the ground to be completely frozen before cutting trees that are in play to minimize damage.  While waiting for the ground to freeze, we have continued to address the woodline for thinning and cleanup between the stretch of 11,13 and 14. 

We have multiple contracted removal projects scheduled to begin in middle to late February.  This includes removal behind #14 green and removal within the gulleys on #8 and #9.  The projects on #9 and #14 will improve airflow and light to the putting surfaces of #8 and #14.  In addition, the removal of trees in the gulleys (or cutting back the encroaching wood-line) will improve the sightline for wayward tee shots on both holes in efforts to speed up pace of play.  We will also have a company come in to deadwood and trim certain trees throughout the property to improve aesthetics and tree health.

Look for a update in February on the status of our Winter projects.  Till then; on behalf of all of us on the Greens Staff, we want to wish all of you a safe and joyous holiday season.  See ya next year!


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Golf Course Update

It has been quite the stretch for the Greens department over the past 6 weeks.  Since the beginning of June; we have endured a busy schedule with events, unseasonable temps, and have been placed on a moderate drought.  With that being said, I have to apology for my lack of posts and will do my best to bring everyone up to speed on the happenings on and around the course.
As mentioned, we have been experiencing abnormal weather conditions over the recent weeks.  Since the storms that hampered the Thursday of US Open week, we have only received .75 of an inch of rain spaced out over the past month resulting in the National Weather Service to recently place our area under a moderate drought.  In combination with the lack of rain, we have been experiencing an extend period of higher temperatures with no end in sight.  At this point of the summer, we have already surpassed the amount of days in the 90s compared to last year and with the extended forecast, we will easily pass the last two summers combined.  Obviously we have been out in full force with handwatering and I wanted to thank everyone for their continued respect of the staff as they are conducting these tasks.
Course Conditions
Overall, the course and health of the turf for that matter is solid despite the before mentioned conditions and amount of events.  A few dinged up areas are exhibited due to localized dry spot or lack of irrigation.  The greens continue to be the breadwinner thru all the stresses of having my foot down since post "rained-out" McKay in late May.  Just a few small areas of self inflicted Anthracnose have been identified on the knobs of 9,14 and 18 due to low mowing heights and frequency of cut.  With the West Penn Open less than a week away, the putting surfaces will receive a much needed reprieve following the event.  On July 25th, we will vent and topdress them for the first time in two months.
I am continuing to seeing great results in the new growth regulator program on fairways to promote the bentgrass.  As mentioned in countless posts, reducing the Poa population will improve playability, reduce water/fertility input and lower disease pressure.  More on this in the upcoming weeks as I'm hoping approval to start inter-seeding bent into #1 fairway, our weakest link.  Approaches and Tees continue to be strong and healthy while achieving new lows in height of cut.  Rough, much like every year, is starting to see the ill effects from the lack of rainfall in non-irrigated areas, but the perimeters of each fairway remain strong, dense and healthy.
A great deal of work was placed into bunkers prior to Robert White and following US Open week.  Sand was pushed and redistributed to reduce the penal nature of the edges.  Once completed, new sand was then brought in to fill the voids while maintaining an consistent depth throughout the bottoms.
 We also altered how we maintain our grassed faces.  In the past, we would string trim the faces to prevent rutting from pushmowing.  However, the string trimming has started to take its toll on the turf with poor.  Therefore, we started using a fly mow.  This mower uses air circulated by the engine to hover across the surface.  Tough to operate but providing much better results.

Odds and Ends
A few projects have been completed since my last post.
We completed a new "smoker's patio" just before June adjacent the Men's Locker Room.

We mulched around the azaleas and rhodies along the main drive to clean-up the entrance.

We experienced quite a few irrigation issues towards the end of June.  We had been have trouble with out booster pump that helps feed the top of the hill (Holes 1,2,3), while having someone in to work on it a rush of water creating a hammer effect was sent from the top of the hill thru the rest of the course creating some leaks at some weak points.  It happens, just not sure I've ever experienced that many in that short of time.

 Finally Carts.....
I know that I sound like a broken record when it comes to carts but I wanted to share some photos and a video of what I've witness thus far into the season.
 Driving past directional signs

Brand new cart path isn't close enough to green, I guess

To close to green and exiting in area I've never seen before

Another example of the path just being to far of a walk to the green.
You have probably noticed the increase amount of signs, rope and stakes at the gold tee on #8; well turf health isn't the only thing we are trying to bout your safety!
Again, I'm sounding like a broken record but it is important for everyone to realize that directional signs and marked off areas aren't just for when it's wet.  Under current conditions protecting the turf includes the stresses of cart traffic and that's why we direct traffic the way we to protect your asset!
In closing, I hope this brings everyone up to speed and again I apologize for the delayed posting.  We are halfway thru the season and the schedule of events are becoming more favorable.  I'm excited with where we are and moving forward for the remainder of the season.  Thank you for all your support and cooperation.  I look forward to seeing you on the course!