Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Course Notes, 3/28/17

Things are starting to green up and bloom here in Northern Indiana.  Forsythia have begun showing their yellow blossoms on the bottoms of the plants, daffodils and tulips withstood mid-March snows and freezes to begin their Spring, and the grass on the golf course is starting to green up in anticipation of another season.  The picture to the right shows 9 green during a 96 hour synopsis of a typical March in Indiana.  Snow, melt, snow, melt followed by a day where winds reached 60 miles/hour.

The staff and I continue working on course clean up, applying pre-emergent treatments for crabgrass and other grassy weeds, and mowing the fine turf on an as needed basis.  As weather more consistently warms and additional staff return, we will begin to assume our normal in-season maintenance routine.  We are typically fully staffed by Memorial Day.

New Pin Location cards
As more of you come out to Elcona to enjoy the warmer weather, you will notice a couple of changes to your daily experience that we hope will enhance your enjoyment.  One of these is a change in pin location options from 3 to 4.  This will give our staff additional flexibility in both yardages on par 3's (think 8 and 11) and moving pin locations better around wear points on the green.

The other change is a new maintenance method we are trying in how we maintain the bunkers in an attempt to further improve the playability of them.  A large focus of this centers around helping the ball better roll to the bottom of the bunker, to provide firmer sand and playing conditions in the bunkers, and to help prevent "fried egg" lies.  In the past, we raked the entire bunker and edges with leaf rakes in daily maintenance, a process that usually takes 5 staff members about 4 hours a day.

The new style of raking is termed the "Aussie Method", which began as a common method of maintenance in the Sandbelt region of Australia, and has become increasingly popular across the globe.  It achieved global exposure during the 2014 US Open at Pinehurst.

Lead assistant Matt McNarney raking #2 bunker
The idea behind this method is to compact the top edges and faces of the bunkers to better allow balls to roll down the slope after impact.  The bottoms of the bunkers will be raked on the same schedule as before in season, and the edges will be smoothed and compacted completely 2-3 times per week with a soft roller.  Other days, the edges will be checked and only the points of any edges affected by play, maintenance, or wildlife will be smoothed to maintain the look and compaction levels.  I hope that over the course of the early season, this will help the playability of the bunkers while still contribute an aesthetically pleasing feature to the golf course.  Bear with us as this will be a learning process for staff to find the most efficient way to utilize this style.

However, please remember that the single most important factor regarding firmness in bunkers is moisture. Wet bunkers will always be firmer than dry bunkers - regardless of maintenance practices. Also, during heavy rain events, many of our bunkers in their current position and shaping will have to be re-built and raked, which will return compaction levels to square one.  The USGA has made a great video explaining bunker maintenance and consistency, which you can click here to view.  Edging, pebble removal, and checking of sand depth levels will continue this month as more staff return.  

If you have any questions or feedback, please email me at ryan@eclonacc.com or call me at the Maintenance Facility.  I hope to see you out on the golf course!


Friday, February 17, 2017

Course Notes, 2-17-17

A typical April forecast, not February!
I think I am not overstepping my bounds by saying that all the weather forecasters had a BIG "swing and a miss" with their winter forecasts.  With 50's and 60's in the forecast the next 7 days, as you may have guessed, the golf course will be open with carts available starting Saturday at 12.  Hours will be 12-5, and its availability will be evaluated on a day by day basis.  The course will remain closed Monday for course maintenance.  With night time lows a few days reaching freezing, opening at 12 will allow any frozen surfaces to thaw and safely allow traffic.

Our stump grinder in action
While it is nice to have the golf course open for play so early, there is still much clean up to do from our annual tree work and general debris that has accumulated over the last 3 months.  We will be out and about grinding stumps from this winter's tree work next week.  Please exercise caution when equipment is in the area, as these noisy machines and the concentration needed to use them may not allow the operator to see you right away and allow him to move out of the way.  These stump holes will be 4-6" deep when cleaned up, and they will be flagged for everyone's safety.

Halfway house site
Please also exercise caution when near the site of the old halfway house.  Directly to the east of the old structure is where the new septic field has been installed.  This ground is still soft and settling, and cannot withstand any traffic at all.  We will have an update on that project in a future blog post.

Keep in mind that the average temperature for this time of year is 35 degrees and that the staff and I will manage the turf as it is appropriate for this time of year.  What does that mean?  It means that mowing will be done as the weather and growth dictates and other practices, such as raking bunkers, will be done on an as needed basis.  Please understand that seasonal employees are brought back based on historical dates that have been determined by both average weather and budgetary guidelines set for the year.  We are not usually fully staffed until Memorial Day.

If the weather continues to remain warm for an extended period, I may need to re-evaluate returning dates for some employees just so we can keep up with the growth of the turf.  February is not the time to push green speeds or mow the turf at normal summer levels however.  While the greens have some nice green color right now, the turf growing quite slowly, there is a greater time for recovery from wear.  Also, the spring time is the time to develop and grow a deep, healthy root system.  As I have mentioned many times, the deeper the root system, the better probability the turf can withstand summer playing expectations during hot summer conditions.  Mowing height is directly correlated to root depth.

While it is looking like some turf will need a mowing in the next week, it will be at much higher heights than typical summer heights of cut strictly because of the above paragraph.  Rolling will be utilized when needed to smooth the greens, but will not be an every day occurrence.  Here is a link to an excellent USGA article further explaining decisions that I have to make with early warm weather, and how it possibly impacts our operation and budget throughout the course of the year.

A trimmed up look right of 3 green
Oak trees pruned up along 15

As you are out on the course the next week, you will also notice we have been out pruning up several oak trees.  As I referenced in blogs articles here, here, and here,  winter is now the suggested time to prune these trees due to the emerging threat of oak wilt.  We have about 7 additional trees to work on when the ground firms back up before the golf season hits its full swing.

If you have any questions, please contact me at ryan@elconacc.com or call me at the maintenance facility.  Enjoy these April-like conditions and I look forward to seeing you on the golf course!


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Course Notes, 1/17/17

Temperatures that are 25 degrees above normal are forecasted for the coming weekend, and a few of you have inquired at the golf shop if the course will be open this weekend for play.  Although it may seen like a good day on the surface to get the sticks out, as always the story down below tells a different picture.

Soil temperatures warm much slower than the temperature of the ambient air.  As the frozen ground thaws from the top down it becomes quite soft in a hurry.  The resulting moisture from the excessive rains we have received in the last couple of weeks has no where fast to go, even with our well-draining sandy soils.  Rutting can also often take place with cart and foot traffic (both golf and maintenance) creating additional maintenance and wear on the turfgrass that is not needed this time of year when the turf is not actively growing.  It is quite easy under the current conditions to create footprints, even on greens.

Root shearing can also take place, where traffic can cause turf roots to rip from the crowns of the plant due to the soft conditions above.  Damage can stay hidden from this until later on in the spring when soil temperatures become more optimal for growing turf.

For these reasons, the golf course will remain closed this weekend.  This warm wave of weather has also hampered our outdoor work where we have to pick and choose where we can perform our duties without causing more harm than good.  Much of our work this week has centered in native areas and along the US 20 fence line.  The pictures below depict some of that work.
Before picture of a large pin oak in 12's native area.
The bottom growth depicts the natural growth
habit of the pin oak. 
After picture of the same tree after the bottom growth
was trimmed out. 

Our tree service also dropped 7 oak trees in
preparation of the halfway house project.

Our tree service fell a large silver maple next
the purple beech at the Range Hut.  This maple was impeding
the top growth of the more desirable beech.

If you have any questions, please contact me at ryan@elconacc.com.  Thank you for your understanding, and have a great day!


Monday, January 2, 2017

Course Notes, 1/2/17

Happy New Year to everyone, may it bring all of us good golfing and great weather!  The golf course has experienced 2 heavy snows, and 2 subsequent melts in the last month.  December's temperatures ranged from a low of -14 to a high of 58.  Turf is hanging in there nicely thanks to timely melting of any ice formation and nice insulation from snow cover during those very cold nights.  So far, so good!

The staff and I were busy beginning our annual tree work in December.  We are about halfway through as I write this article. Most tree work this winter is a continued effort of executing Elcona's Tree Management Plan, reviewed each year by the Golf and Greens Committee.  Some of the tree work this winter is suggested from the Master Improvement Plan submitted to Elcona from Hills/Forrest.   I have included a few pictures below of some of the work so far:

3 Blue Spruce were removed on 9 tee to better reveal the nice Sugar Maple on the left, as well as better scatter cart traffic at the end of the asphalt path.

2 Locust were removed on the right side of 15 for their knack of producing much litter in the fairway.  The locust closest to the fairway was rotting in the trunk, and the picture above shows a sassafras sapling growing inside the crotch of the tree.   

The locust to the right of the blue tee on #4 was removed.  This, along with several other locusts on property, were impacted by the Imprellis herbicide.  Unknowing to any of us, this tree was severely rotten inside, and posed a danger to anyone on that tee if the winds were correct.

Another picture of the locust removed on 4.  
Finally, I included this picture of Bowser and I on 3 green, not only to show everyone that we still had a bit of snow on the ground, but to show off Gus (the large burr oak to the right of 5 green).  Thanks to consulting with 2 of Northern Indiana's more knowledgeable tree experts, we have a plan in place to maintain Gus's presence at Elcona for many years to come.  I will have a blog article on that in the coming weeks.

If you have any questions about the golf course, please feel free to email me at ryan@elconacc.com.  Again, Happy New Year to everyone and I look forward to what 2017 brings!