Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Little Crew Recognition

Thanks, Jim Riggs and the Post Journal for recognizing the efforts of my crew in last week's NJCAA tournament.

No one sees first hand what my staff does more than Jim. He's here at first light every day.

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Friday, June 14, 2013

Course Update 6/14/13

As you might imagine, the course is extremely saturated this morning.  Pinehurst Golf Club just down the road in Westfield claims to have had 9" in the last 12 days. While we've fallen quite short of that mark, we have had just shy of 4" in the last week, equalling our average June rainfall at only the mid way point of the month.

With this in mind, we have decided to only mow greens this morning. They are also getting a roll and cup changing. The course looks great considering the high amounts of rain and play we have experienced in the last week and sending the larger mowers out on the course would only bring up mud and leave ruts. The trade off is going to be slightly higher fairways and rough for a couple days until it dries out, but we'll be better off for it in the long run.

The only other routine maintenance being done today is course setup (moving tee markers, etc) and bunker work repairing washouts and pumping them dry.

We are allowing carts today, but I implore you to use sound judgement and stick to paths where possible. Maybe even opt for a pull cart over a power cart to save wear and tear on your golf course and keep it nicer for next week.

Hope everyone has a nice weekend!

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Just Ducky

Today marks yet another day of trying to be productive without making the course a complete mess. With all the rain we've received in the last week, mowing and projects have taken a back seat to those tasks that can be done without further damaging the course. We've survived two 100+ person shotgun tournaments since Saturday morning with little more than some superficial mud tracks, but the rain in the last two days has taken us past the point where we can mow without doing more harm than good.

Mowing is out for a day or two and projects have come to a complete halt. Trying to work with soil, leveling tees and making gardens around new tee signs, is a mess and hurts us more long term than leaving them until they dry out. That's never what anyone wants to hear but it's the cold hard fact of the matter. On the bright side, turf growth has slowed considerably in the last few days and it won't be out of control if we skip a mowing or two and , with any luck, it will dry up enough that we can get out there soon.

So, today we are working on repairing cart path washouts, edging bunkers, trimming trees along cart paths, repairing irrigation leaks, weedeating,and other odd jobs.

In the meantime, if you ask me how I'm doing, I'm "Just Ducky"

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Upcoming Schedule

With the NJCAA Division III National Championship starting next week on the Lake Course, our normal maintenance schedule gets a little out of whack on both courses as we prepare for the tournament. 

Most notably will be our cup changing schedule and locations on the Lake Course.  Our normal rotation is Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, but with the cups being changed every day during the tournament I like to eliminate a day or two from our rotation.  This week's cup changing days will be Thursday and Sunday, having already skipped Tuesday this week.  The schedule after the tournament will also change to let the recent cups heal from the week.

You will also notice some pin placements in some unusual locations, some good and some not so good.  This is done because our greens are too small to support cups being changed 10 times in 13 days and it keeps healing old cups out of the way of the kids trying to win their national championship.  I realize this is an inconvenience to our membership and our guests and appreciate your understanding and patience if you feel you have played on the same pin locations too many days.

Mowing and rolling also ramp up over the next week to keep everything tight for the tournament.  This really doesn't affect normal play except for the fact that we will occasionally steal a mower from the Hill Course route to assist on the Lake Course. Early morning golfers will certainly catch up to and pass our mowers at this point and will have to play on dewy grass for a little while.

Again, thank you for your patience and understanding over the next few weeks.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Post Aerification Greens Recovery

If you've been out playing recently I'm sure you've noticed the difference between the Lake Course and the Hill Course greens.  The Lake Course greens are taking much longer to recover than those on the Hill Course.  The difference?  Grass species.  The Hill course, being the much newer of the two, has a much higher population of bentgrass as opposed to the Lake Course greens which have a very high population of poa annua.  Bentgrass is a stoloniferous grass that spreads laterally quite well while poa annua is a bunch type and spreads quicker through their prolific seeding than spreading. 

Another factor that comes into play here is the size of the aerification tines used this spring. In an effort to improve the growing medium of our greens as quickly as possible, I used larger coring tines.  This hasn't been much of a problem on the bentgrass greens, but is certainly a factor on the poa annua greens.  To avoid this problem going forward, I will be changing back to smaller tines this fall, but using a multi-tine setup to increase the overall number of holes and still be able to make progress in converting our root zone material.  I have used this setup in the past and the greens heal rapidly with the 7/16" tines, regardless of the turf type.  The reason I went away from the smaller multi-tine setup was our difficulty getting the sand down in the holes.  I don't believe this will be a problem with our new topdressing brush and look forward to quicker recovery times.

Today we have put another shot of fertilizer on the Lake Course greens and with tomorrow's verticutting and topdressing they will be back to normal in no time.

Friday, May 10, 2013

May Update

After an exceptionally sluggish first half of April, the last few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity. Greens aerification on both courses was completed in the last two weeks of April and could not have gone much better than it did.

The Lake Course was verticut, cored, sanded and broomed as scheduled on April 22-23, followed by a much needed deep tine aerification on the 24th. The Hill course was completed in a similar fashion the next week. This may have been the smoothest core aerification we have had, ever. Several factors have contributed to our successful aerification this spring. Great weather, a seasoned staff and a new piece of equipment. The weather was just warm and breezy enough to quickly dry the plugged cores so the greens could be picked sooner, yet just cool enough that rapid dessication was not a problem.

The core of our hard working staff has been with us for a few years now and have been cross trained to be able to operate nearly any piece of equipment we own. Some are more capable than others, but they all do a nice job. This cross training has allowed me to put a second operator on an aerifier and get one entire course cored in about 4 hours. In the past, using one machine, we could only efficiently get 12-14 greens done in a day and still keep up with cleanup.

The third part of our improved operation involved the purchase of a new

brush setup. This one new brush fills the holes better and quicker than our other three brushes being used at the same time. This means quicker recovery and better profile management than we could accomplish in the past.

With everything going so smoothly the first two days of the week and the little amount of play in late April, we decided to take advantage of this time to get in an extra deep tine aerification with some tines called bayonets. The look of a bayonet is self explanatory and their advantage is the relatively small surface disturbance compared to what happens below the surface. I used the shorter bayonets last season for mid season venting with good success and I'm just as happy with the deep tine version. I believe they will allow us to get in another deep tining in with minimal disturbance to play. A real advantage in our battle to maintain healthy turf.

I know I mentioned them earlier, but I just can't thank my staff enough for their hard work. If you see them on the course please take time to show your appreciation.

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Sunday, April 21, 2013

It's Shaggy!

And I don't mean the hippy from Scooby-Doo.

It has been a wet spring to this point, only adding to the swampy weather that caused us to stop mowing in October last season. Because we did stop mowing in October, all of our turf areas came into 2013 tall and shaggy and will take longer to get back down to normal mowing heights than in previous seasons. This picture shows just how much the fairways have grown since October.

Knowing that the weather in WNY can be unpleasant at times, I always have "inside" jobs for my crew when we are not able to be on the course. This year is no exception as we have spent our time painting the shop break room, constructing new tee markers, and assembling new ball washer ensembles and patio furniture. The "Bell Tower" tee markers are labor intensive and will likely not make their debut for a few weeks.

Along with the freshly painted shop, I have made one other change to the break room. I have implemented a digital job assignment board. This little piece of technology has been made possible with the use of Google Drive and the dropping prices of televisions. I will now be able to add or change my crew's job assignments from anywhere on the course, a much more efficient method than in the past.

We are scheduled to begin aerifying the Lake Course greens this week but this weekend's significant rain and small snowfall may alter our plans. Please follow us on Twitter @CHQTurfCare for updates concerning this and all other course maintenance practices.

I look forward to seeing everyone out on the course.


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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

March 12 Update

Last year we were only 4 days away from our first mowing of the season. We lost a lot of snow this past weekend but, looking at the 10 day forecast, we're still a long way from mowing at this point. Temps will be in the 30's for the foreseeable future.

After a short, wet walk out there today I'm happy with what I'm seeing. We seem to have come through winter fairly well, with little snow mold from what I can see. There is always some concern after a thaw/freeze cycle like are experiencing, that we may have ice damage to our fine turf areas when it freezes back up. We have never had an issue in the past, but the potential for turf loss is always there.

One of the few melted greens is the practice green nearest the pond. The turf looks great at this point and I'm anxious to get started on the 2013 season. We'll keep you posted on our progress next week.
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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Getting Closer

Looking at the 10 day forecast, I would say we are definitely on the downside of winter. There is still several inches of snow on the ground, no turf is showing, and we'll surely have a nasty snowstorm or two between now and mid April, but the temperatures are rising as they always do this time of year and we'll be mowing and golfing before you know it.

The offseason sees your hard working maintenance staff servicing and repairing the golf cart fleet, about 160 total carts, and our maintenance equipment. Assistant superintendent Bill Peterson and equipment manager Dan Kelsey do an outstanding job year after year to keep our carts and equipment in peak condition, which keeps our maintenance program running at full efficiency. As of today, all carts and green, tee, fairway and rough mowers have been thoroughly serviced and sharpened. Next up are the trim mowers, sprayers and heavy duty utility carts. The next time you see Bill and Dan, please show them your appreciation with a pat on the back and a heartfelt thank you. They deserve it.

We were fortunate again this year to be able to purchase some new equipment. New for 2013 will be a Toro GM 4500 rough mower, an out-front rotary trim mower and maybe enough left over to purchase a couple utility vehicles.

The Toro 4500 will be replacing the Jacobsen R-311 that has been used on the Hill Course. The R-311 has been a great production mower in that it mows a lot of rough, quickly. The downside to that machine has always been its large decks that tend to scalp the turf down to bare soil at the slightest little undulation in the rough. The Toro 4500 has 5 smaller decks rather than the 3 large decks of the R-311 and excels in following contours. We are excited to have it join the other two we have been using for several years already.

The out-front rotary, yet to be purchased, will be replacing the older of our two current mowers, which was originally purchased in the mid 1980's. Again, a testament to the ability of Bill and Dan and their equipment maintenance skills.

The utility carts will be replacing two from our current fleet. For years we have been converting hand-me-downs from our rental fleet to use in our every day maintenance routines. They serve their purpose well, but are not built to handle some of the tasks we ask of them. The new utility carts have a more powerful engine and sturdier suspension to handle some of our tougher tasks.

Of course, we still need to get rid of about 8" of heavy, packed snow before we can even begin to think of using our new equipment. I guess we're not as close as I thought.

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Friday, February 8, 2013

We've Come A Long Way

I'm now on the flight home from this year's GCSAA Educational Conference and Trade Show (GIS '13) flying at an altitude of 36,998 feet according to Southwest Air's Flight Tracker feature on my iPad.

What does that have to do with GIS '13? It is a reminder of how far the golf industry, and technology in general has come. 20 years ago at this time I had just attended my first GCSAA Conference in Anaheim as first year assistant superintendent at Transit Valley CC in Western New York. It was quite a bit to take in for a young 23 year old who had never flown in a plane or been farther west than Cincinnati. The trade show floor was huge, the information in the seminars was great, the equipment and technology seemed groundbreaking, and it was at the time.

Now, 20 years later, here I am sending out a blog post from 37,000 feet over New Mexico, reviewing GIS '13 in my mind. Everything is the same, yet different. There was the usual new equipment, irrigation supplies, course amenities (some of which hasn't changed in over 20 years), and turfgrass seed and sod suppliers. What is different is the amount of technology applied to everything. Everything from remote operation of irrigation systems on iPads and smartphones to remote control mowers for steep banks. I even discussed the viability of bermudagrass surviving a northern winter, a distinct possibility given reports that the Redskins are considering a hardy new variety for RFK Stadium. It is now conceivably an option for our lawn bowling green that only gets used for 9 weeks in the summer.

All these advancements are helping superintendents across the country perform at the highest level, despite budgets being cut and dollars being stretched. But, possibly, the biggest innovation is social media. The use of Twitter, Google+, blogs, and the like are connecting superintendents across the world as if we are standing right beside each other. We are teaching each other new maintenance techniques, how to use the latest apps on our iPads and smartphones, and reassuring each other that we are not alone in our challenges as we wear so many hats in the course of a year. This week I have had the pleasure and privilege of meeting not only some of the best superintendents in the world, but some of the finest individuals as well. Superintendents from my own state of New York to those in Indiana, Ontario, Australia, and Siberia to name a few, and who I likely would never have met without Twitter. It is amazing how much information can be shared in 140 characters or less and it has become a tool in this new world of golf course maintenance that has become as important to me as my soil probe and my equipment.

Thank you to all my new friends from around the world. I look forward to our time together with social media and seeing you at GIS '14.

I'm now flying at 36,999 feet over Dodge City, KS. We've come a long way, indeed.

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Monday, January 28, 2013

Reflection and Projection

Reflecting back on 2012 I would call it A Season of Change. Change in the appearance of #5-9 on the Lake Course, the addition of low maintenance areas and changes in agronomic practices.  Projecting forward, I would call 2013 A Season of Detail with our focus being on cleaning up tee areas, cart paths, more attention to detail in all aspects of our maintenance program and, again, more tweaking of agronomic practices.

The different appearance of the holes affected by the tree removal on the Lake Course has been received with largely positive feelings from the membership, and no one can argue the results.  We now have three strong greens where we once had our three weakest, a model for future greens improvement where trees are impacting turf health and putting green quality.  Last fall we were able to get the newly created open areas around #7 and #8 greens seeded with a fine fescue blend that is coming in quite nicely.  The area to the right of #8 will be mowed as rough along the cart path and left to mature closer to the wood line, creating another visually attractive low maintenance area.  2013 will see the completion of this project as we re-seed any remaining bare spots on the edges.  #7 will see its tees leveled as well as a new gold tee closer to the fairway.

The new low maintenance areas started off slowly with several of these areas taking a while to mature, but the end result is what we expected, producing a different look, separating the holes in some areas and providing a nice contrast in others.  An added benefit was the reduction in rough mowing time, not only saving a small amount of fuel, but saving labor that was able to be focused on other areas of the course. In 2013, we will be adjusting these areas, adding or reshaping some and reducing others as necessary due to playability and/or aesthetics.

Fall of 2012 started off very productively but, unfortunately, ended quite soggy.  This has delayed what we thought could be a very productive time for tee leveling.  We had started holes #7 and #15 on the Hill Course when it became too muddy to proceed and we will have to start on these tees as the ground dries and firms in April.  I have been using the tee leveling projects to kill two birds with one stone and upgrade our tee irrigation to allow us to better control our water output.  Of course, this adds a day or two of work per tee.  Tees on #7 Lake, #7 Hill and #15 Hill should be completed by mid May.  Further tees will be leveled as time and weather allow.

Continuing with the tees, we are in the process of finalizing the graphics of our new tee signs and expect to take delivery around the end of March.  We will begin installation on the Lake Course as soon as possible to have this completed by the time of the NJCAA National Championship in early June.  In conjunction with the sign installation, we are also purchasing new ball washers and garbage cans, and installing a planting around each tee amenity complex to protect them from damage from mowers and golf carts.  Given that we are doing the installation and plantings in-house, I would expect this to take us about 4 weeks per course, maybe quicker once we establish a routine.  But, again, weather will dictate final completion dates.

Keeping with our Season of Detail theme, we will be cleaning up our cart paths to make them more enjoyable to ride and less distracting from the aesthetics of the hole.  Improvements may be as simple as redefining the edge, restructuring the end of a path or as extensive as an all out replacement.  For the most part, this will not be a quick fix and will be taking place throughout this summer and into the next few years.  Factors influencing cart path conditions are weeds, drainage, runoff, previously poor construction methods and poor placement of original paths.

2012 also saw some changes in our agronomic practices as they relate to turf health and playability.  We began regular “venting” of the greens to go along with our regular topdressing and verticutting schedule.  This “venting” is merely a monthly aeration of the turf with small solid tines to allow the greens to accept water and air easier, providing healthier greens that are better able to withstand the stresses of summer as well as deep winter.  The small tines allow us to perform this task with little to no disruption to the putting surface.  The results were immediately seen as we survived a brutal July much better than the previous season.  Tees and certain fairways will be vented this season in hopes to achieve the same results.

Periodically brushing the greens before mowing also became a regular practice, eliminating a considerable amount of grain, improving turf density and providing a truer putting surface while keeping our height of cut up a little.  A win-win for both the player and the turf.

2013 will see another tweak in our agronomic program as we shift from the conventional granular applications of fertilizer to a nearly 100% use of soluble fertilizers applied through our sprayer.  This will certainly be more labor intensive, but will also save us thousands of dollars in our budget that will be able to be used in other areas.  These savings were so great that we were able to add a micronutrient package to our fertilization program and still be thousands less than our previous granular applications.  What does this mean to you as a golfer?  It simply means healthier turf, fewer ugly grass clippings in the fairways after mowing and improved playing conditions. 

Adam Moeller, USGA Green Section Agronomist, was back for a Turf Advisory Service visit in September to tour the Hill Course and review our changes to the Lake Course per his recommendations following his tour in 2011. It was another positive day with many great tips and recommendations provided.   Adam was very pleased with the results of our tree project, particularly the vastly improved health of Lake Course greens on #6, #7 and #8.

One final note, to make it easier to follow my blog, www.cgcmaintenance.blogspot,  I have added a feature that will allow you to enter your email address and you will be notified via email every time it is updated, eliminating the hassle of periodically checking in.

I am also creating a new Twitter account, @CHQTurfCare, for more immediate updates on projects, maintenance procedures, frost delays, etc.

I hope everyone is having a safe and enjoyable off season, and I look forward to seeing you all in the spring.   

Friday, January 25, 2013

Irrigate for Playability and Turf Health, Not Color

Great article on which direction golf course maintenance SHOULD head. Will we? For the sustainability of our game, I certainly hope so.

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Thursday, January 17, 2013

January Update

Our spring-like weather last weekend has chased the snow off greens, tees, fairways and all but the shadiest areas of the rough. I always enjoy a nice January thaw as it allows me to get out and check turf conditions during a time when we usually have a couple feet of snow cover.

I'm happy to report that the fine turf areas are doing well. I have seen a few spots of superficial gray snow mold on a few tees and fairways and nothing on greens. I always get a little nervous when we have a warm late fall/early winter after our snow mold applications have been applied but, like last season, this doesn't appear to be a problem at this point and hope that our control holds up until spring.

Bill and Dan are just finishing up carts this week and will be back down to the shop to start on our maintenance equipment early next week. They were happy to only have 115 carts to service this season, not needing to service the 30 that we are trading for newer models. They give each cart a very thorough physical, changing filters, oil and belts on each one, and brakes and seat covers on carts that may need it. They do a nice job making sure you have a reliable and comfortable cart for you each season.

Hope everyone had a safe, healthy and happy holiday season and we look forward to seeing you in the 2013 season.

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