Sunday, April 8, 2018

Aerification Update

Dear Members,

First and Foremost, Happy Master's Sunday!  Seeing the wet and cooler conditions in Augusta over the weekend is definitely out of the norm but seems to be the recurring nightmare in Pittsburgh.  The continued unseasonable weather patterns is forcing some changes (postponing) of aerification week that is scheduled to start tomorrow (Mon 4/9).  The combination of rain, snow, low day temps and below freezing temps over the next few days will be problematic towards completing the process in a timely fashion forcing the below alterations towards spring aerification.


Tuesday (4/10) and Wednesday (4/11) our Contractor will be here to attempt deep-tinning greens because of no alternate dates.  The course will remain open (weather permitting).  For the remainder of the week, the holes will be exposed but the surfaces will be rolled and mowed to provide the best conditions possible. 

Monday (4/16) and Tuesday (4/17) our bi-annual process on green will commence.  The jury is still out on whether we will pull a core or not.  Using a solid tine will be considered if conditions aren't favorable.  As of know, the weather looks promising as warmer temperatures return this upcoming weekend. The course will be open on Wednesday (4/18).


Monday (4/23) and Tuesday (4/24) will become the new dates to address these areas.  Unfortunately, these two dates are the only remaining options this Spring from our contractor to pull a core on fairways.  Since we missed last Fall due to weather, I'm optimistic that we can make this happen with only one conflict on the calendar.  While the contractor is working on fairways, the staff will complete the normal process on tees and approaches.  The course will be open on Wednesday (4/25).

I apologize for the inconvenience and rest assured that we are chomping at the bit to get the season going as much as you are.  I truly feel that considering the circumstances this is the best alternative to complete all tasks while providing limited disruption to being open for play.  Thank you for your continued support and understanding of the necessity to complete this process that serves as the foundation towards the season and moving forward. 

Stay tuned for updates or any additional changes.  Enjoy the corner and one of the best back 9s in tournament golf!

Fairways and Dreams,
Josh A. Saunders

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Driving Range Update

Here is a picture update of the progress over the past ten days:

Work began by stripping the sod of existing tee complex.

The largest section of prep work was on the far right side. 

As this is the section that is being raised to accommodate the extension.

It took about 3 full days to bring in all the material.  We used the dirt developed from the Maintenance Facility project.

Once the right side began to take shape, stakes were placed to outline the new tee.

A view from the main drive to show the amount of material that was brought in.

Picture taken from dead center of the tee on the far right side.

Jim Nagle (our architect) was on property this past Monday to review progress and to address a few tweaks.

Finally on Monday afternoon, the existing putting green and surrounding area was plotted to aid in design purposes of our new putting green.

The overall project remains on schedule.  The remainder of the week will be used to create the cavity of the tee.  Next week, drainage and irrigation will be installed and we should be at the point of adding tee mix towards the end of the week.  

Friday, February 23, 2018

Practice Area Renovation

The Practice Area Renovation that is a part of the 2nd Century Gifting Campaign was recently approved by the Board.  Work is slated to begin next week and I thought it would be a good idea to recap everyone on the project and the sequence of events during construction. 

Driving Range Tees:

Work will begin on the on creating the new Driving Range tee first.  The top three current tiers will be combined to form one large 12,200 sq ft tee with an additional 3,000 sq ft synthetic mat section located on the back side.  Prior to the project, our entire tee square footage was just over 20,000 sq ft.  In addition to the new tee, the bottom two tiers will remain and a portion of the third tier will still be available for use following the project.  This is important to note because of the additional sq ft of hitting space that this will provide in addition to the new tee and the existing tees will answer a lot of questions that the membership may have during the construction when it comes to range use.

The lower tiers will allow the range to be open once the pro shop chooses to open range for the season despite construction.  Use of the lower tees may be limited at times depending on weather, accessibility and contractor requests.  However, in the event of restricted use on the lower tiers, the short iron tee located along the drive across from the shield will be made available for the membership to get some early season practice time.

Getting back to the "contingency" square footage of the lower tiers.  I call it a contingency because the existing tee space will provide space for early and late season practice sessions while reducing damage to new tee for in-season use.  This will also allow us to monitor the new tee for a season.  The second phase of the project down the road would call for the remaining DR tee space to be combined and form a second lower tee. 

The new 3,000 sq ft synthetic mat section will be a welcomed addition during outside parties, tournaments and inclement weather days.  25-30 stations will be made available on those days.  The area above the tees that we have used to stage carts will be regarded and drainage will be installed to improve on the past.

Construction on the tee will likely take 3-4 weeks depending on the weather.  Following completion, a few weeks will be needed to allow the sod to establish prior to use.  However, the mats will be made available at that point.  Goal is to have the grass portion of the new tee open and ready for play on the Opening SWAT weekend of May 5th.

Putting Green:

Work on the putting green will begin following completion of the Driving Range Tee.  The new 9,000 sq ft putting green will double in size and will finally mimic our putting surfaces on the course.  The new surface will be cored and built to a modified USGA spec putting surface to replicate our native pushup surfaces.  Since Poa Annua is not an accessible sod, I've facilitated a lot of questions as to what I'm planning on doing.  Two years ago, I built a 10,000 sq ft nursery on #17 using the cores from aerification.  A combination of harvested sod from the existing putting surfaces and the nursery will be used to provide an identical surface for practicing.

During the construction, the short 9 will be made available for practice putting.  Following completion, which should take 2-3 weeks, an additional 2-3 week window will be needed for sod establishment prior to opening for use.  The goal is to have the putting green open for use during the week of Willie McKay.

Short Game:

The final aspect of the project will be work on the short game.  8 trees have already been removed around the chipping green in advance of construction to create an open growing atmosphere while providing additional space for expansion.  The two bunkers will be reconstructed and formed to mimic our bunkering on the course while providing a different array of shot options.  The bunker located in front of the chipping green will be eliminated to provide an opening into the green.  The approach off of the short 9 chipping green located closest to the clubhouse will be expanded all the way to the chipping green to now provide multiple different shot options up to 60 yards to two different greens.

A new bunker will be constructed to the right (lowerside) of the chipping green.  The new bunker will now allow the membership to practice bunker shots that require carrying a face.  The bunker will also be constructed to allow the option of practicing fairway bunker shots onto the range.

This final phase will be the most problematic when it comes effecting member usage during construction.  Unfortunately, due the timing of the above mentioned scopes, the short 9 chipping green will be the only source of chipping and putting for a few weeks at the tail end of project.  A short term inconvenience with a long term gain!

Once construction begins next week, I plan on giving weekly updates on the progress.  So stay tuned, it's an exciting time at the Vue and a promising start to the 2018 season!

All the Best!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

#14 Tree Removal Project

 #14 Tree Removal Project:

We are about a week into the tree removal project on #14 and we can already see drastic changes.  Here are some pictures to show the progress:

A before picture taken from the start of the approach

Picture taken on this past Friday from a similar angle.  All that's left is the one main tree directly behind the flag and the cluster of trees that you see in the distance behind the two Oaks left of the green.

Phil Miller was on property once again to help us with the project.  Using his excavator, he would begin the process of clearing the section of woods.

Once the larger trees were knocked over, our staff would cut off the stumps and chain the tree to his dozer.

He would then drag the trees to the dump site

An added benefit of the project was that our normal dump site located behind #14, tripled in size

A view from #11 tee just after the start of the project

A couple of days later

Near completion, Phil is going to put a final grade on the entire section of woods that have been removed.  Once completed, we will seed the area to fine fescue that will become a native moving forward.

The project will improve light and airflow to the green complex along with drastically changing the visual of the hole.  Although I would use the words reclaiming or restoring loosely, it is nice to see what Robert White was seeing close to 100 years ago.  From drainage to tree removal, all of #14 has received quite the facelift this offseason both agronomically and aesthetically. 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Golf Course Update

#13 Tee:

The recent nice weather trend has allowed us to button up the tee top of the new back tee on #13.

We brought in sand after staking off the perimeter of the tee to form the tee top.

Following the arrival of sand, we used a plate tamper to compact the top to depth of 3 inches.

Once the entire tee was filled, we used a board and laser level to ensure a level tee surface.

Finally, sod was placed to form the new tee.

The new tee will add about 25 yards to the #13 hole and will be the permanent home for the black tees.  The blue tees will venture back and forth from the front of the new back tee and the existing tee to provide parity with course setup.  I wasn't anticipating finishing the tee till March, so the warmer temperatures have us ahead of schedule and I'd anticipate the new tee being in use for Willie McKay.

Cart Paths:

During the past two Springs we have completed the first two phases of a cart path project to resurface and install new cart paths throughout the entire property.  I touched on these phases in the blog over the past two Springs as phase 1 in 2015 addressed #8 green/#9 tee and phase 2 was completed last spring on #1 green, all of #2 and #3 and #4 tee.  I'm thrilled to announce that we have received approval to complete the remainder of the golf course this spring.  Work will begin towards the middle to end of March on the excavation of the new paths in anticipation of the asphalt plants opening the first of April.  We are looking at a 6-8 week process depending on weather, with the goal of completion prior to Willie McKay.  Below you will see a hole by hole outline of the project on the remaining paths using Google earth.  On each outline, you will see lines indicating the paths.  The red lines are the existing paths that are being re-surfaced and the yellow lines indicate newly constructed paths.

Tying into the existing path, a new path will be constructed to send traffic up the hill along the right wood-line.  This is a similar direction that has been used following rain events and was used during the seeding project of the fairway this past August.  One of the key areas addressed to get carts out quicker following rain events.

The existing path on #4 fwy/green and all of #5 will be resurfaced.

 # 6 will see all of its existing paths re-surfaced and with two newly constructed sections.  The first will be an extension from the lower blue/white tee to service the red tee.  The second section will be a new path that will connect the path by the upper white tee to the entry point of the path by the green.  This path will run the entire left side of the hole on the native line to reduce daily traffic wear along with providing a "cart path only" option following rain events.

#7 will have it's existing path re-surfaced by the tee.  A new extension will be created to service the red tees and the upper section of the path on the tee (by the H20 fountain) will be connected to the entry point of the path above the fairway bunkers.  Again, this path will hug the native line on the left side to reduce daily traffic wear (especially at fwy bunkers) and improve patterns following rain events.

#8 will be resurfaced starting at the red tee continuing across the land bridge to the "y" before the fairway.

The entire existing path on #10 will be re-surfaced with some changes and additions.  A new path will be created for the bottom tee with an entry in-between the oak and satellites.  The path will be reduced at #11 tee (as indicated with yellow turn connecting two sections of red) in preparations for the expansion of #10 green in the near future as a part of the Master Plan.  The existing turn at #11 is feared to be in play with the expansion of the back left corner of #10 green. That section of old path will be removed, backfilled and seeded to rough. Finally, an extension will be given to the exit of #11 tee to get traffic past the dip between the tee and fairway.

The entire existing path of #11 green and all of #12 will be re-surfaced.  The gravel section to the right of #11 green will be paved along with a little additional path before the start of the existing gravel.  A path with a turnaround will also be provided to replace the gravel path servicing the upper tees of #12.

The section by #13 tee will be re-surfaced.  Then a new path will be created from the green tee using the existing gravel path by the pond before turning and hugging the entire wood-line up the right side of the hole.  The new layout will send the cart path around the right-side and behind the green before tying into the path of #14 tee.  The old path to the left of the green will removed, backfilled and seeded to rough.  This new construction will provide a "cart path only" option following rain events and drastically improve traffic patterns while playing the hole.  Exiting the fairway to the old path was problematic and challenging to maintain healthy turf due to the bottle neck nature of traffic flow.

You can see by the picture how the new path of #13 will tie into #14 tee.  The existing path of the tee complex will be re-surfaced.  A new path with a turnaround will be created to service the back tee.

A new section will be installed prior to the entry of the existing path by #14 green, this section will hug the base of the hill.  The stretch of path to the lower tee will be resurfaced on #15.  And the gravel path to the upper tee will be paved.

The path from #15 green to the bottom of the back tee on #16 will be re-surfaced.  From there, a new path will be constructed to the back of the new white/gold tee then to left of the red tee before traveling the entire left side of the hole by the oaks.  This will improve traffic wear and provide uniformity of a tee to green path like the rest of our Par 3s.

The layout of #17 tee will change completely.  You can see the yellow line indicating the new path on #16 that will now turn in-between the two oaks at #17 tee to form a "T".  The Black, Blue and White tee players will now turn left and utilize the turnaround for hitting their tee shots.  Following their tee shots, they will use the same path when traveling to the fairway.  The Gold, Red and Green players will simply make a right towards their respected tee.

The current gravel path to the left and around #17 green to #18 tees will be constructed into a paved path.

Pretty exciting stuff that will drastically change the experience for our membership and guest on a daily basis while providing the added benefit of getting carts out faster following rain events.  If you are wondering about #18 green and scoreboard section, that will be on hold till next Spring due the project next winter on the Men's Grill parking lot.  While under construction, that path will be destroyed due to traffic, so it will be addressed when all of the main drive and parking lots are re-paved in the Spring of '18.

Speaking with the PSU Turf Club:

I had the privilege of being a guest speaker at a Penn State Turf Club meeting recently.  There I gave a presentation on my journey to becoming a Superintendent, the history and description of Longue Vue, touched on our operation and included slides on all that we have accomplished in 4 short years.  My 15 minute presentation turned into an hour and half discussion on the future/state of the industry, tips towards advancement and the biggest challenges I've faced.  The opportunity was rewarding and will hopefully start a relationship with the university as field trip plans are already in discussion for next Fall. 

In closing, let's hope this weather trend continues as it is shaping up to be a busy and exciting Spring.  Till then, we look forward to seeing you on the course!