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!

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!