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.