I want to take a few moments to update all on our plans to stay safe while working through these unprecedented times amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Our team has been reduced to the essential staff only, others have been furloughed and we hope they are able to return relatively soon. Times are challenging for all, but as always, we are determined to improve. Will, Rex, Kyle, Doug and I have adjusted our schedules to best accomplish social distancing and have embraced new sanitation routines to keep us safe.
We have split our shifts to make our teams as small and effective as possible while forcing distance. This will help to keep potential spread at a minimum. We have also included new sanitation routines which includes disinfecting of all common touch points multiple times a day, disinfecting of equipment before and after use, 1 rider per vehicle and other safety measures to be certain we keep our distance. While we are challenged with maintaining the course during these times, we are lucky that we can be outside, safe and distant with just a few additional measures in place.
All accessories will remain off course until COVID-19 concerns are clear. This includes bunker rakes, wooden flag sticks, tee markers, benches, trash cans, divot boxes, range accessories, etc…
Something has changed almost every day for over a week; we are doing our best to keep up with guidelines and orders in place but ask that you please remain patient while we all evolve with the times.
To add a little extra fun, Mother Nature wanted to join in! Last week we received over 5″ of rain in less than 48hours on property. As you likely saw across the city, everything backed up. For the first time that I know of, water actually topped the levee on #3 and even backed up on to Broad St. Check out a few pictures below –
What started off as the wettest spring on record quickly became a bigger challenge than any of us could have ever imagined. Late in the spring, we noticed an issue with our pump station and made a service call for what seemed to be an easy repair. Upon further inspection, it was evident that the issue at hand was far less than the underlying issues with the metal skid supporting our pump station and condition of one of our pumps. As you may know, our pump station has had many issues in the past but the continued service and removing/replacing of parts has taken a toll on the support structure. An item that has been corroding for years, quickly took a turn for the worse.
Shortly thereafter, the spring rain subsided, and summer heat took its toll across the droughted golf course. Our team fought daily with difficult decisions on maintenance and what could be done to overcome the challenge. Luckily the days without water are almost in the rearview. We were able to Band-Aid the pump station enough to consider it safe for operation, unfortunately in the month it’s been back on the station has failed twice. The most recent failure was over this weekend where and electronic control valve has shorted and must be replaced. I am currently looking for another short-term fix to get water back on for the remainder of the season.
Ultimately, the solution is in progress. Our new pond is almost complete and the wet well / intake pipe for our new pump station has been installed. We are on track to be pumping water from a new location with a new station by next spring! The summer stress is past, and conditions are improving on the course daily.
The two big questions I am asked, “what are we going to do with all that dirt!?” and “will we have a par 3 course?!”
To answer it simply, we will use the soil and yes, we will have a par 3 course. With an ever-changing vision of the “west campus” it was not worth destroying what we have to expand the existing pond. Instead we chose to store the soil on site for future use. There are plenty of things we “could do” or “could’ve done” with the soil, but it all comes at an additional expense. Our contractor estimated an additional $500,000 if we would have wanted to haul the material away. We could have opted to take it around the par-3 course to minimize earthmoving costs in future renovations but would not have par-3 holes to play until additional work was completed. While the pile is big and may seem out of place for the time being, we will be able to enjoy more of the property while we finalize the west campus vision. We will still have a par-3 course to enjoy and may be able to add a little extra fun as the project is completed.
One of the last updates I’d like to include in this post is our aerification update. We have completed most of our fall aerification and were able to include a slightly different process in addition to our normal core aerification on greens. This fall we contracted a deep tine aerification service which used 1/2″ tines at depths of 8″-10″. This process helps to fracture the subsurface and give roots a deeper channel to chase. This is the first time this process has been used on these greens since they were rebuilt in the early 90’s.
During the 4-day course closure, we were able to deep tine greens, core aerify greens, top-dress greens, brush greens (6x), roll greens (6x), aerify tees, aerify approaches, aerify 9 holes of rough, seed 3 fairways, and roll tees/approaches. It was a busy week, but we will continue to aerify rough and overseed thin areas through the remainder of the fall.
Thank you for your support through the most challenging days. This summer was not easy, but the course will benefit from the challenge for years to come. We were able to incorporate stronger grasses in areas that were weak and will have a better conditioned course by doing so. Now that we are slowly returning to normal, I am excited to pick back up on details missed while in survival mode.
I have included some pictures of the most recent happenings and hope to soon recap our season with a slideshow for all to see!
It has been a little while since I have posted, I apologize. Though slow on the course, the winter months can be quite hectic back at the shop. As the season winds down and we begin minimizing our staff for the winter, we change gears and turn into a rebuild team.
Doug and Rex started our equipment list in October and are nearing completion, while working through the list they inspect every piece of equipment and make any repairs needed to bring it back to a like new condition. During inspection they complete a fluid change and any other factory recommended service. Upon completion they sharpen blades or reels and finally each piece of equipment is detailed and waxed. The upkeep of our equipment is not only important due to the cost of equipment but also to keep us efficient through the season. Any breakdowns through the season can set us back weeks trying to repair while trying to keep up with the rest of the daily maintenance.
This season, Kyle has been our accessory refinishing master. Every wooden accessory is brought in from the course in the fall, sanded and refinished to maximize its life. This includes flag sticks, tee balls, divot boxes, traffic control stakes and arrows, benches, hazard stakes, etc. We also sandblast and re paint the putting green cups in order to rotate them through the year and keep a like new condition. This year we are also working on building a few new accessories to introduce to the property; a divot container for the halfway house, new trash cans, additional directional arrows, planter boxes for the clubhouse, and additional benches.
Between Cutting down trees (30 this winter so far), helping with equipment, and helping with accessories; Will and I have been putting the final touches on the agronomic plans while beginning to build our team for the upcoming season. We are excited to start the year fresh and with some new talent to introduce to the property. Our seasonal staff has been slowly building and by May we expect to be more or less “in full swing.”
The weather has been interesting thus far but hopefully not too indicative of what the year has in store. February was the wettest on record with 5.67″ of rain on property. This winter we received a total of 25″ of snow and a little over 18″ of rain, these totals in conjunction with fluctuating temperatures have caused puddles to persist on the property for extended periods of time. Most areas are out of play and free of damage but can make it a challenge to navigate the course at certain times. The most challenging part of every spring though, When do we open greens?!
Opening greens before the ground is ready can be detrimental to the start of our season and cause issues that will persist through the summer. Root Shear is one of the biggest concerns with a chance that the thawed top layer can shift above the frozen subsurface causing roots to shear at the interface of frozen/thawed soil. Below is a picture to help illustrate what’s happening –
I have also located a pretty good article from the USGA, titled “Should We Do It?” which can be found HERE.
Know that we never want to restrict play for any reason other than protecting the course and making it more enjoyable when it matters most. We are all excited to get out and start the season but want to be sure we are doing so when the time is right. Greens will be open for play this week but depending on overnight temperatures, there could be a delay early in the day.
Thank you for your patience! I hope to see you on the course soon!
As the dust settles from our fall aerification, I wanted to take a few minutes to recap the happenings of the week. Though we may not have completed as much as we wanted, we still had a very successful week and the end is in sight. Rain on Wednesday cut us short, and was something lingering in our minds throughout the entire process. We had to stop punching holes by noon on Wednesday to even stand a chance to finish cleanup.
Unfortunately, as rain got near it started a bit earlier than we had hoped. This left plugs remaining on 5,6,7,8, and 16 fairways and potential mud to clean up on 8 acres of fairway turf. The team came together to hand shovel all of 16 fairway while the rain poured down and called it a day shortly after. Luckily some dry air was around over the next 36 hours to give us the ability to finish cleaning fairways. Holes 9,10,11,12,13,and 14 remain to be completed but should finish out pretty quickly as weather allows. We will try to complete the process with as minimal impact on golf as possible.
16 of our 20 greens were completed on Tuesday with the final 4 being finished early Wednesday. After greens were punched and cleaned, a heavy application of sand was put down and then brushed into all holes. Our goal is to fill every hole entirely to aid in smoothing the greens back up as quick as possible. Leading up to aerification week, we made 2 special fertility applications to spark growth leading into the week and will follow up with another application this week. Greens have been rolled 5 times after aerification and a few more times before we mow. We hope to mow greens by the middle of this week.
Tees will be completed as an ongoing project throughout the fall. It will be easier to maintain and control our mess while having minimal impact on golf. Tees will get a traditional core aerification and we hope to add a dethatching process into the mix as well. This will help remove the “puffy” feeling below your feet on tees.
One last exciting thing to keep our week interesting was a mainline blowout at #1 forward tee. Overnight Tuesday, an 8″ mainline cracked and blew apart resulting in loss of the system until repairs were made. As we finished aerification on Wednesday, we began exploring only to find that the pipe had been resting on concrete for the past 25 years and finally had enough stress to fracture. While this is not entirely uncommon, the timing could not have been any worse. Our good friends at Leibold Irrigation were able to supply us with parts from a project they are working on in Medina and the repair was complete by the end of the week.
I have attached a few pictures of the processes and will continue to update you as the season finishes.
Special thanks to Ray, Ryan, Jim, and Charlie for lending a helping hand through fall aerification!
Heat and humidity have come back with a vengeance but our team is battling through. Please drink plenty of fluids when out and don’t forget to take a break in the AC if you’re feeling over heated. Our guys have been handling the heat well but these are the instructions we pass out daily in this type of weather pattern.
Best of luck to all involved in the PGA championship this week, I can only imagine how difficult it must be to manage bentgrass in St. Louis! You may have seen some early coverage showing fans and other strategies in place to help keep turf cool but as the week progresses it will be very challenging to provide championship conditions.
I posted a short bulletin from the Mid-Atlantic region GCSA a little while back and recently ran across another one with a similar tone, except this one was from Dr. Miller from the University of Missouri and was titled “This Season Unprecedentedly Sucks.” The article can be found by following this link – Missouri Turf Article.
While we have not had quite the extremes as what they have been dealt in Missouri, we are not far off and all regions are singing the same tune. Being on defense and being mindful of our mowing and watering procedures helps us to survive and advance but after two years of major disruption and moving/growing in of turf some of the evidence of our renovation is hard to hide. Some of the most unsightly items are crabgrass and goosegrass which have started to blow up in roughs and fine turf alike. These grassy weeds can be very challenging to control especially when pre-emergent herbicides are not able to be used early in the year.
Wait… Why couldn’t we use pre-emergent herbicides???
Last year we started a large scale overseeding and rough transition application where we aerified and seeded all primary rough areas. Though the seedlings were able to germinate in the fall and survive the winter, they were not ready to withstand a strong pre-emergent herbicide application like what would be used to control our grassy weeds. Most of our in play rough areas will be able to be treated next year and the years to follow.
And what about the fairways, tees, collars??? We were also in the process of growing in a lot of these areas and unable to apply preventative.
Why can’t we spray the young seedlings??? Pre-emergent herbicides act as a barrier just below the soil surface and would not allow new seedlings to germinate or allow existing seedlings to mature as they would not be able to fill out laterally.
A major contributing factor to the amount of crabgrass we see is the amount of dirtwork that was completed during the project. During each phase of construction we were challenged with growing in sod or seed behind the contractors. When they strip sod of an area, move it to the side and then re-lay that same grass we have introduced additional weed seeds. Crabgrass and Goosegrass are prolific seed producers and when the sod was cut and laid on the outskirts of the course or in weedy areas we contaminate our stand with additional weed seeds. In addition to incorporating new seed from different areas by transplanting sod, we also bring old seeds to the surface when disturbing soil. After sod is laid or seed is planted, the disturbed weed seed also germinates and starts to fill any voids or weak areas.
We have had representatives from all of the major chemical companies out to the course this year to look at our progress in the fescue areas, one common statement from each of the reps was “crab and goose grass is a bumper crop this year.” A “bumper crop” is a term used in agriculture to describe a crop with an unexpectedly high yield, and this year all turf facilities are experiencing troubles with these noxious weeds.
Why is this year so bad??? The weather pattern has played a huge role in turf managers challenge to control crab and goose grass. Early wet patterns made it very challenging for managers to get pre-emergent applications out, and those that were able to had difficulty managing the amount of water behind application which can cause lower efficacy. After the pre-emergent window we entered a hot wet spell which caused thinning of turf and early germination of crab/goose grass. Following the hot wet spell with thinning turf comes the normal hot/humid conditions where crab/goose grass thrive and are able to become dominant.
Luckily these grasses can’t withstand cold conditions and will die with the first frost, but that doesn’t look to be any time soon.
So.. what are we doing about it?!?? Our approach is multi-faceted and dependent on the area in question.
Around greens and collars, we are simply pulling it out while also trying to encourage growth of the desired grasses.
Gabe pulling crab & Goose grass
Upclose, trying to leave as much turf behind as possible
Sam on the next hole, same process
After they are complete, a small void remains.
Bentgrass germination, seed planted last monday.
The process started with slit seeding into the weak collar areas and was followed by fertilizer and wetting agent applications to help with seed germination. Now that we are a few days away from seeing out little babies emerge, we are pulling unwanted grasses from the collars so that the new grass can creep in and take over. This will also help with the transition of collars to greens height grass.
In areas on fairways and tees that have started to show a lot of weed infestation we are applying a herbicide combination that will slowly melt back the unwanted species and allow the bentgrass to fill the void. We have also started a seeding process into these areas to encourage bentgrass takeover rather than poa annua. In the roughs, we are able to use a more common herbicide that will help to control the crab/goose grass but will still need to be cautious of high temperatures as these products come with a risk of phytotoxicity.
The picture above is outside our shop near the construction staging areas and is a great representation of how quickly crab and goose grass can take over an area void of turf. The areas heavily infested were stripped and used around the course during the construction and seeded early spring. Due to competition and poor germination, the primary grasses observed are crab and goose grass, we will remedy this issue but a fall seeding application will make it much easier to develop the desired stand of turf.
We are in the process of making the weeds go away, and will work to prevent them more in the future as our turf stands will be able to withstand the proper applications.
With some showers in the area, I figured it would be a good time to send an update with what has been going on out on the property. Today we have received an inch of rain already and more on the way this evening, the course is pretty saturated but a slow soaking rain can be a good thing from time to time. Today’s rain will give us the ability to keep the irrigation system at rest and save some water and energy by not running the pump station. Any saved hours with our old pump station is a win in my eyes.
Last week we were hit a stretch of bad luck at the pump station and our Jockey pump failed causing us to shut down the system and pull the pump for inspection. We are waiting to hear back from Mid-Ohio Electric, our service company, to determine exactly what happened. Below are a few pictures we captured during the removal process.
Our pump station is unique in that it sits so high above the river. This means that our wet well, or pit in which water is pulled from, is extremely deep in comparison to the average system. While most wet wells are 10-12 feet deep, ours is actually 30 feet deep! With overhead power lines and trees acting as obstacles, we are not able to pull the entire pump in one pick but rather take the pump column apart in 5ft sections and continue down the line. The last 12 feet are removed as one section and all loaded onto a truck to take back to the shop.
I include this picture of a vertical turbine pump to help explain the actual components as it was a challenging concept for me to understand at first. The pump motor, located at the top, is an electric A.C. motor that spins the shaft at high RPM’s. Impellers are attached at the base of the shaft and move water into and through the diffuser bowl where it gains pressure to move water through the column and out of the discharge head.
We are still able to operate the system but it is not currently running at full capacity. The biggest thing this means to a golfer in the meantime is that you may see irrigation cycles ending in the early morning when it typically would finish overnight.
Enough about pumps, what about the turf? We have made it through a difficult stretch of weather but are not in the clear yet. Early heat, humidity and high rain totals mean that roots have been compromised and caution should be used through the remainder of the summer stress months. I am happy to report that of the ugly spots around the course, all are self inflicted wounds that will heal quickly and provide better results in the future. We have been trying to re-work our agronomic procedures and applications to target growth regulation of both wanted and unwanted plants. The most invasive weed in the world is Poa annua (weed defined = a wild plant growing where it is not wanted and in competition with cultivated plants), and we have a lot of it on our bentgrass playing surfaces. While this is a long hard battle, we have decided that there is no better time to start than now, and no better time to be aggressive than the present. We have heavily regulated our fairways and you have likely noticed just a few spots that seem “dead.” While they are not dead, they are very hurt and if we back off the pedal they will rebound quickly with more poa.
Our process has been to use a growth regulator that is more aggressive in its regulation of poa annua than it is of bentgrass, in turn this will allow the bent to creep over and help fill the area. In much of our turf this is happening without any obvious visual evidence but some spots have much more poa than others and look worse overall. Some of the areas that come to mind are on 1 approach, 2 fairway, 2 approach, 4 approach, 6 approach, 7 approach, and many of the bentgrass bunker tie-ins. As these areas continue to decline in appearance, we will (or have already) incorporate seed and fertilizer to speed the recovery process.
Yesterday we began our seeding process and hope to have some evidence of new grass in the next 5-7 days. We used our Mataway walk behind seeder and will apply a wetting agent and fertilizer to assist with germination. Throughout the remainder of the week we will continue this process and hit any of our heavily poa infested areas across all fairways and approaches.
Another major area of attention for us in the coming weeks is in the fescue areas. We have started our applications to remove all unwanted grass and weed species and encourage only the fine fescue. Soon I will post strictly about this process and our plans moving forward. At this time I am very pleased with our results so far and have already started to see the transformation in areas that have had their application.
And remember, though we love to talk about it our job is not always all about the grass. A few staff members had the fun experience of being the demo team for the old hitting wall at tennis. We will soon determine what will be in its place but the deteriorating wall was becoming a safety concern and we were asked to remove it.
Thanks for following along and keep an eye out for the next post!
One of my recent emails from the golf course superintendents association had this article attached and I felt it was a good one to pass along. While the mid-Atlantic region has been walloped lately with storms the weather pattern was very similar in the Midwest just a few short weeks before. We have been faced with some of the same difficult decisions and scenarios and have made it through relatively well. It will still pose a challenge for the remainder of the season but we feel that we are in a pretty healthy spot at the moment.