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!


Friday, April 22, 2016

Aerification Week Recap

As I'm sitting down to write a recap on the busy week we just had, I can't help to be grateful that A) Mother Nature is giving us some well timed post aerification rain and B) how proud I am of the staff that crammed a full week of work into three days (4 with mowing).  Here is a recap of the week:


You couldn't have asked for better weather to aerify.  Even the drier conditions leading into the week allowed us to pull arguably the best core on greens in now my 7th aerification.  We used our traditional method on pulling cores with a 5/8 inch tine on 1.5 inch spacing at a depth of 3-3.5 inches.

Our core collector attachment would drag the cores to the edges of each green forming piles for removal.  The cores have been stock-piled at the shop and will be used to backfill the new cart path edges on 1-4.
The other benefit of pulling such good cores was the ability to apply additional topdress sand.  In the past, we have use only three trucks with aerification on greens.  This spring, we put out 4 trucks equaling over 62 tons to cover our 4 acres of greens.
Using a cocoa mat, I would spin the greens to work the sand into all the holes.  After that step, multiple brooms were placed on the greens on Tuesday and Wednesday to continue working the sand into the canopy.  Finally we rolled the greens Wednesday afternoon to work out any of the imperfections that were created during the process.
Due to limited staff and the forecasted rain at the end of the week, an executive decision was made to solid tine our tees and approaches instead of pulling cores.  The clean-up is extremely time consuming and by reducing the need for manpower, we were able to mow the entire property prior to today's rain to stay caught up with spring growth.  We used a 1/2 inch solid tine on 2 inch spacing on tees and approaches.
Following the solid tine was a healthy dose of topdressing on both tees and approaches.  Again, due to the favorable conditions we were able to apply more sand than normal on both respected surfaces.
The final cultural practice of the spring was slicing our fairways to relieve compaction and improve water infiltration/oxygen exchange. 

On Thursday, the assistants knocked it out of the park by amending the entire property.  Our 23 acres of fairways and approaches were finished by early afternoon.  

Following fairways/approaches, we amended all of the greens and tees to help with soil structure and recovery.

Again my hat is off to the staff, we were able to complete the whole process with half the manpower (arrival of H2B seasonal guys should be in next couple of weeks) while still maintaining the course before the forecasted rain.  We worked sun up to sun down Monday-Wednesday and the Assistants along with myself wrapped up just before dark on Thursday.  Was a great week and we rewarded ourselves with cookouts at night to have a little fun along the way.

Cart Path Phase 2:

While taking advantage of being closed, our paving contractor was onsite to complete phase 2 of the cart path work on 1 green to 4 fairway. Here are some pics to show their work.

The old path on #2 below the green was removed and a new one was installed to replace the gravel path to the left of the green next to the wood-line.

Extensions were created by #1 green and on #2 tee to improve traffic follow and reduce wear. 
Tree Work:
Our tree contractor was here on Monday and Tuesday to remove two pines.  The leaning pine was removed from above the wall by the putting green due to safety concerns.  A pine next to the 12 tee shack was removed to improve the sight line from the upper tees.

In addition to removing the two pines, the company's climbers addressed multiple trees on the property by removing deadwood and limbs that were encroaching into play or effecting agronomics.  Examples include: The two large Oaks to the left of #3 green that were reducing sunlight to the putting surface, The cluster of oaks around the forward tee on #16 that were effecting shot making, The cluster of oaks around the flag pole behind #16 green that ole glory has gotten tangled up in and the specimen tree on #6 by the fairway was cleaned-up to improve health and aesthetics. Here are some pics of the daredevils.

That's a wrap on the busy week.  Thank you for cooperation and continued support during this bi-annual process.  It's shaping up to be a great season and we look forward to seeing you on the course!


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

#8 and Aerification Update

#8 Fairway Expansion Update:

With limited staff numbers and iffy weather, we have made great progress on the fairway expansion project on #8.  Here are some pictures and descriptions:

Before picture
Work began stripping the existing rough sod last Monday.

Due to the weather conditions, we worked in sections of removing rough sod and laying the new fairway sod leading up to the first fairway bunker.

Up to date picture of the completed section leading up to the bunker.
The rough sod being removed on #8 has been used in various areas for course improvements:

Areas of high Poa/Bentgrass population in the intermediates were addressed on #6 and #13 to improve lies and playability.

#5 Approach was reduced to address the penal nature of balls rolling backwards when coming up short. (Picture also serves as a reminder that carts traditionally remain on paths when playing Par 3s).
15 yards of approach as removed and transplanted to #8.

The new look of #5 approach.
The majority of rough sod from #8 is being used to create a bail-out area where the old wood-line was on #4 from the project conducted over the winter.

The rough line will transition into an native area (that we will seed) just to the left of Mark (the furthest to the left staff member laying sod.)
With limited staff numbers, frost delays and rain....I'm happy and proud of our progress towards completing a major in-house project of stripping and transplanting over 20,000 sq ft of sod.  Technically, 40,000 when you factor in the transplanting aspect.  The entire project should be buttoned up towards the end of next week.
Aerification Update:
As most are now aware, the recent weather (rain, snow, frost and cooler temperatures) have put our paving contractor and Aerification behind schedule one week.  With the area of the golf course that is slated for paving during this phase being problematic for golf cart traffic during installation, the goal was to coincide both aeration and cart paths while the course was closed.  If we were to be open during the path installation, for the safety of members and guest, all play would have been limited to holes 5-18.  With coinciding the two, we are limited the amount of time areas of the course are closed as the season quickly approaches.  The forecast looks great and all systems are a go.  Thank you for your cooperation and continued support, we apologize for the short-term inconvenience.  Check in next week for updates on #8, aerification, cart path installation and some contracted tree work.


Monday, April 4, 2016

#8 Fairway Expansion Project

Today marks the start of our fairway expansion project on #8.  Traditionally, the eight hole is one of the toughest fairways on property to hit due to the severity of left to right slope.  With the expansion project, up to 15 yards of additional fairway will be added to the left side to widen the landing zone.  Although, tee shots will continue to funnel left to right due to the overall slope of the hole, the area to the left of the existing fairway will serve as a plateau to reduce balls from funneling all the way to the right rough.  The target bunker that most use for alignment will remain but will now be in the fairway with closely mown intermediate cut surrounding the edge. 

The project is being conducted in-house by utilizing our nursery sod on #17, reducing the approach on #5 and possibly shortening the front portion of our 18th fairway.  Reducing the approach on #5 by 10-15 yards has been identified by the Greens Committee as a course improvement to reduce the penal nature of balls coming up short and rolling back down the hill.  Key word on #18 is "possibility", we have about 300 sq ft of wiggle room with sod from #5 and nurseries to complete the project, therefore, the out of play front portion of #18 has been identified as a possible contingency area to complete the project.

The project will take a couple of weeks to complete, largely because of our scheduled Aerification next week hindering progress.  During the project, all play for #8 will be directed to the green tee to provide safety for the staff while working.  Now that the hole will be temporarily shorten, please consider the safety of the group in front of you.  Treat your tee shots just like you normally treat your second shots by having a caddie or other member of your group at the top of the hill to communicate when the coast is clear.  Check with the proshop on how to post for handicapping purposes while using the green tee.  Once completed, the entire expansion will be roped off and deemed Ground Under Repair for a couple weeks to allow establishment.  At this point, play will return to normal tees but if your tee shot should settle in the GUR, then all players MUST FIND THE NEAREST POINT OF RELIEF WITH OUT GOING CLOSER TO THE HOLE.   It is important that during this short period, all traffic (Carts, Foot) and play is avoided when possible to allow quicker establishment.

I apologize for the short term inconvenience but feel that the long term reward will drastically improve the playability of #8. As always, Thank You for your support and cooperation as improving playability, aesthetics and plant health continues to be our mission!  Check back on the blog over the next couple of weeks for progress and updates on Aerification next week.