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.
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 #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.
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.