Friday, May 18, 2018

Course Notes, 5/17/18


What a difference a month can make.  So far this month we have received 6.42" of rain and unfortunately one storm packed a punch that had our chainsaws out the following morning.  The staff has done a wonderful job cleaning up the golf course and repairing bunkers after each storm.  Combined with normal to above normal temperatures (finally!!!), and all turfgrass on our property is growing like gang busters.  For our operation, this means having blowers out daily for clippings and applications of growth regulator around fairways and greens. 

A few of you have joked with me that with all the rainfall, why has Zimm's Creek on #15 dried up?  We continue to have electrical problems with the pump that gets the water from the pond to the top of the creek.  We are working diligently with our pump contractors and will get the creek flowing as soon as possible. 

 
This rainfall also has impacted the growth rate on greens turf, and coincidentally, green speed.  We are doing all we can to return green speeds to where you are more accustomed to seeing them, via growth regulator applications and getting back on our topdressing schedule.  But I also wanted to take this opportunity to discuss green speed and how we do our best each day in producing consistent and enjoyable greens on a daily basis. 

It has been and always will be a top priority for me to keep the greens as consistent as possible while maintaining a healthy playing surface. It is not uncommon for speeds to vary from day to day based on our rolling program and other external factors.  During a typical week of the peak season we will roll on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  University research has shown that rolling more than 4 times/week in conjunction with a daily mowing schedule is the threshold before the turf can become overly stressed and show signs of decline .  This is especially true for Poa annua, the predominant turf on our greens, in the heat of the summer.

There are many other items that factor in to green speed, which include:

Moisture Levels: What can affect moisture levels? The two main culprits are rainfall/irrigation and humidity. It's no secret that firmer/drier greens tend to be faster and soft/wet greens lead to slower speeds.  We combat this as much as possible by hand watering the greens in the summer and using products to help move water down through the soil profile leading to a drier, firmer surface.

Weather: What happens to your yard after it rains? It grows and typically grows much faster than it did before it rained. Rainfall provides the turf with clean, usable water that helps to flush elements from the soil that tie-up nutrients, therefore making the nutrients readily available to the turf. Nutrients lead to healthy turf which can lead to additional growth. Believe it or not, lightning also plays a large role.  The unbridled energy of a lightning bolt shatters nitrogen molecules in the air. Some of the free nitrogen atoms combine with oxygen to form compounds called nitrates that mix with the rain. These nitrates are a powerful natural fertilizer that any plant can readily take up and thus increase its growth rate. 

Nutrition: The turf needs food to be healthy. Just as with humans, the healthier it is, the more active  it tends to be.  Healthy turf will grow more than unhealthy turf.

Growth: Turf is a living, breathing entity.  It doesn't just grow at night when most of us are sleeping, it grows during the day as well.  This means that the greens will usually be slower in the afternoon than they are in the morning.  If they didn't grow, we wouldn't have to mow them every day.

Topdressing:  Typically in season, we apply and broom in topdressing sand, and the amount of sand varies based on the rate at which the plant is growing.  Topdressing sand helps smooth and firm up the surface of the greens.  A smoother surface provides less friction on the golf ball and a faster speed. 

Growth Regulators: Growth regulators work and work very well, but despite what you may think, they do not completely stop growth, they merely slow it down.  Over the years we have found a schedule that will provide very consistent results from day to day, minimizing surges in growth, but like everything else, the performance of the product is dependent upon several of the factors listed above.

I would encourage you to spend a few moments before each round on one of the practice greens.  They are maintained the same as the greens on the golf course and will give you a good reference as to what the greens on the course will be like. 

Finally, our department lost a long time family member last week.  Many of you may remember Benny Kauffman, who faithfully worked Elcona's fairways and rough for 27 years, before retiring in 2015.  Benny was a true American, serving our country during WWII, and working as a butcher for 30 years before coming to Elcona.  He still came out to visit us for coffee every once in a while after retiring from Elcona and was an accomplished wood worker.  He will be missed. 

I appreciate your reading my longer than normal blog post.  If you have any questions about the golf course, please reach out to me at ryan@elconacc.com.  I am more than happy to discuss any topics with you!  Thank you for reading and I will see you out on the golf course! 

Ryan

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Course Notes, 4/24/18

It has been quite the busy couple of weeks here at Elcona.  Mornings like the one pictured above are very pretty to stand and admire, and one of the many reasons why I love working in this 340 acre office.  These frosty mornings also cause delays in the start of your round.  I wrote an article explaining why we delay for frost, which you can read here.  

These mornings (and those late April days that the highs stay in the 30's with snow showers) are also not the best growing conditions for turf here in Northern Indiana.  This is the reason why many areas are so thin, like fairways and green surrounds.  It is also the main reason why we have not mowed fine playing surfaces as often as the meat of our season.  Rolling greens has been a great tool for us to maintain putting surfaces while limiting traffic and wear on the turf.  With weather finally returning to a more average Indiana spring, the growth and vigor of the turfgrass will return as well and conditions will improve.

Aerification has been completed on greens, tees, fairways, and green surrounds.  in case you have never seen an aerifier in action, below is a video showing our aerifier on #9 green, and how the machine creates the holes using 1/4" solid tines.



Soil temperatures also have finally warmed enough to make now a great time for applying our pre-emergent herbicides that prevent the development of grassy weeds, like crabgrass.  If you take care of your lawn at home, this is a great time for you to do the same.  Green surrounds will also receive their spring nutrition to promote more consistent playing conditions. 


The pool landscape project continues to move towards its completion.  We have re-aligned the paver walkway to meet up with the shift in the new concrete stairs that were poured in February.  We have also begun adding topsoil to prepare the lower areas for the plants that will be adding color along the wall stone.  One of my favorite parts of the project has started as well, installing the cap stones that sit on top of the wall.  This involves cutting many angles to make the top a seamless course.  With my love for woodworking, this part of the project is right up my alley. 

The club entrance will finally start receiving its final transformation as well this week.  On Thursday, sod will be delivered and laid over the areas where the dying spruce trees once stood.  The entrance columns will also be installed in the next couple of weeks. 

If you have any questions, please email me at ryan@elconacc.com.  Have a great week, and I will see you on the golf course!

Ryan

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Course Notes, 4/7/18

While the calendar says Spring, Mother Nature has had other plans for us at Elcona.  Although this weather has not been very conducive for golf, the staff and I have enjoyed working on other projects around the property so that when the weather turns for the better, we can turn our focus more onto the 2018 golf season.

When conditions have allowed, we have mowed and maintained on the golf course.  All fine playing surfaces have been mowed at least one time.  They just haven't had temperatures to grow since!  One of the ways we have maintained putting surfaces during these times of very low growth is by rolling. If you have ever wondered why we roll greens, the USGA has produced a nice short video on that very subject.  You may view it here. 

The picture on the right shows an area of desiccation injury on 18 that I am monitoring.  Desiccation is a drying out of leaf blades and occurs most often on open semi-dormant turf exposed to windy, low humidity conditions. Think of this as when we get chapped lips in the winter.  There is new green tissue coming from these plants, so I am fairly confident that the turf will grow through its injury (when warmer weather comes), but have pulled a couple of plugs to make sure my assessment is correct.  The right front of #9 has a bit of desiccation injury as well. 

The timing also came for our first seedhead suppression application.  As great as Poa annua is as a putting surface, one drawback is its annual seedhead production.  Poa annua is a winter annual, meaning it germinates in the fall, overwinters, and produces seeds in the spring for its next generation.  Think of Poa as backwards from an annual flower you would plant in your landscape.

Using a temperature based schedule, three total applications of growth regulator will be applied to suppress, not eliminate, these seedheads from impacting ball roll.  As the picture to the left shows, I left 6 areas on the course untreated, as a check plot, to assess the success of this year's applications. These plots are located on the large Practice Green, 1, 3, 10, 13, and 16 and marked with white dots.  I utilize these areas to gauge the effectiveness of this year's treatments and encourage you to keep an eye on them as well as you are out and about on the golf course. 

The bulk of our time has been spent on the poolside hardscaping project.  The terrain of the area has kept us on our toes thinking of the best way to store materials close while getting them down a 12 foot high embankment.  The key process to build a wall, as you can imagine, is installing and compacting a level base layer of stone utilizing a plate compactor.  Precise measurements are taken with some surveyor's tools to ensure the wall is at the correct depth compared to other features in the area.  After the base is installed, stone is laid one at a time and leveled and plumbed. 


Please enjoy some of the pictures I have taken throughout the process.  I will continue to keep you updated on its process.  If you have any questions, please email me at ryan@elconacc.com.  I am more than willing to answer or find more information for you.  Have a great day, wish for Spring to finally arrive, and I hope to see you out on the golf course!

Ryan

Grades are marked for stone layer

5th grade math at its finest!

Greg Stump compacting stone layer
Finished base layer
The process of laying the first course


The old staircase transformed


Thursday, March 1, 2018

Course Notes, 3/1/18

Happy March to everyone!  With the bright sunshine and warmer temperatures we have experienced in the last week, the greener sights of turf have brought the beginning to the golf season much closer.  Over the last few days, all of the 15" of snow cover disappeared and 5.25" of rain fell on top of it.  That created almost 7 inches of water that had no where to go given our partially frozen soils in the area, thus creating many of the flooding problems experienced here in Elkhart County.  All 4 of the ponds on course over spilled their banks into their respective fairway.  The course had 3 main areas of flooding that took about a week to subside, pictured below.  Also, the rain garden overflowed attempting to handle all the runoff from the east side of the course, creating a temporary stream from our maintenance facility that flowed all across the course into 3 pond!  The soils in these areas are still quite moist. 
Snow melt/rain from rain garden
The valley on #8 2/22/18
12 fairway, 2/22/18









Many of you ask each year when the golf course will be available for play, and I thought I would discuss the two main variables that go into answering that question.


  1. The ground must be completely thawed out.  This is for two reasons.  One, there is no path for melting snow to drain down if the ground is frozen.  The water either stands on the surface (or percolates down really slow) or runs off of slopes to any low area.  Two, excess machine and foot traffic on frozen ground can lead to root shearing on turf plants, which leads to poor turf quality and a longer window for the turf to green up.  Currently there is not any frost in the ground, which is a good thing for the beginning of the season and our course clean up efforts.
  2. The soils are mostly to completely dry and firmed up.  This is self explanatory.  Wet soils lead to damage from machine traffic and compaction.  Playing surfaces also need a period of time to allow proper drainage so we can begin to work them into the firm surfaces you are accustomed to.  This is the position the golf course is waiting on right now.  
While soils are firming up, the staff and I have begun course clean up efforts.  All of the tree debris is being collected, and on drier days, leaf litter will be blown and collected.  Playing surfaces will be mowed or rolled on an as needed basis, given the slower growing conditions and our current staffing levels.  The USGA has published a couple great articles further explaining the factors in opening for early play, which you can read here and here.  


The staff and I have focused our attention on other projects while we waited for conditions to improve outside.  The US 20 sign has been refurbished, complete with a new color scheme that adds a new pop to all those who drive by it each day.  A special thanks to Greg Stump for his artistic efforts on this sign.  We also have about 30 stumps to grind, mainly along the clubdrive.  Depending on the location, these areas will be either be sodded or seeded after clean up is finished and topsoil is added to the hole. 
The new sign along US 20

Another large focus of our department this spring will be where the old pool locker rooms were located.  This area will be transformed into a beautiful landscaped area that will add pop to your experience at the Elcona pool.  Currently we have been filling the area with sub soil in preparation for the first retaining wall to be installed.  I will have more frequent updates on this project as it moves along. 
New concrete retaining wall poured January 2018

Soil is off loaded from our truck, and pushed down the hill

Rough grade for the first retaining wall being dug
Rough grade established
Spring is near, and with that golf is near too.  We will keep you abreast on the latest course conditions, and open as soon as the conditions allow.  If you have any questions, please email me at ryan@elconacc.com.  Have a great week!

Ryan