Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Course Notes, 11/18/2016

Our resident blue heron on 14


All those pretty leaves that beautified the Elcona landscape are now finally falling down at a blistering pace.  The close to a quite successful golf season here at Elcona is quickly approaching in looking at the long range forecast.  Rounds played in 2016 have exceeded the 14,200 mark, surpassing 2015 by about 500.


The staff and I have been hard at work executing our winterization plans that I discussed in my article in October.  The irrigation system has been winterized, our annual Vertidrain on greens was successfully completed, and the golf course turf has been mowed for what I hope to be the last time until Spring 2017.  Plant protectants have been applied to all fine cuts of turf.  All that is left for fall is a final topdressing on greens to insulate the crowns, a drainage project on 17 fairway, and of course, mulching the rest of those pesky leaves!

Two projects that were completed since I last wrote were the extended collar on 9 and the squaring and combining of the black/blue/white tees on #10.  As I mentioned last article, the collar was installed to provide better playability to the hole and give the golfer additional shot options around the green.  10's tees were combined, re-aligned, and squared to achieve a better aesthetic view to the hole.  We were also able to flatten the front part of the tee, and recapture a bit of teeing ground both at the back of the lower tee and the front of the black tee.  
Kyle working on swapping sod

10 tee before
10 tee after
The finished collar on 9
Both of these projects were suggested from a Master Improvement Plan that Hills/Forrest has provided Elcona within the last 12 months.  At the end of the 2015 season, the Golf/Greens Committee charged me to work with Hills/Forrest to formulate a new golf course improvement plan to provide solid solutions for any current opportunities the membership felt there were on the golf course.  The resulting document created by Hills/Forrest architect Shawn Smith contains a road map for Elcona's golf course future, and a schedule for any updates the membership feels need addressing.  This master plan addresses proposed improvements for each hole, including:  tee shape and orientation, fairway and green bunker design, green design improvements, fairway mowing patterns, tree management, cart path alignments, and items to provide strategic and aesthetic qualities.

Both the Golf/Greens Committee and the Board of Directors have adopted this Master Improvement Plan as a roadmap for any future improvements to the golf course.  Any potential improvements that would be completed here would be based on the ideals and principles set forth in this plan.  I have received many positive comments on the completed projects in the last 2 weeks, in which the staff and I thank you.  I look forward to completing more of these projects in the future years to create an even stronger Elcona golf course that all of you will enjoy for many years to come.

Happy to be helping irrigation blowout
Finally, those of you that have ventured out in the last few weeks have noticed a new crew member hanging around with me.  His name is Bowser, and he is a 11 month old pure brindle Boxer.  Bowser is slowly learning how to properly conduct himself on the golf course and has already earned his keep by chasing a few migrating geese off property.  14 Pond seems to be his favorite area, because that is the only pond he will hop in for a swim! When the time is right during the workweek, he will be accompanying me around the property collecting sticks and keeping me company during the long hours of the season.  He has already enjoyed meeting a few of you, even if he seems shy.

Thank you for reading my long-winded blog article.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at ryan@elconacc.com.  Thank you, and have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Ryan

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Course Notes, 10/18/16


As the picture above illustrates, fall is finally upon us and the foliage is starting to show its true color.  The next 10-14 days will truly have some spectacular views.  Hopefully many of you will have the opportunity to come out and enjoy your golf course.

Aerification has been completed on greens and fairways, and I thank my staff for their hard work in the last 10 days.  With the ample rainfall and above normal temperatures, healing of the aerification holes is already ahead of schedule compared to past years.

We have also began some of our preparations of the greens for this coming winter, a bit earlier than we normally do.  Below are some of what we do to best defend the turf against the harsh conditions winter can sometimes bring.

Raising mower heights.  One of the changes I have made this year is raising the height of cut on the greens earlier than normal.  Currently,the height of cut on greens .135", or .015" higher than in-season heights.  Raising height of cut allows more leaf surface for the turf to maximize their photosynthetic capabilities and carbohydrate storage.  Raising height will also lessen stress to the plant and create a deeper root system going into winter.  While raising heights may not create the speeds that summer brings, it is best for the long term health of the greens going into winter.

Late Season deep tine channels
Late season aerification.  On November 7th, our annual Vertidrain process will completed (weather permitting!).  These extra holes create three advantages:  additional channels for spring root growth, aid in relieving any deeper compaction within the rootzone soil profile, and extra drainage capabilities for ice/snow melt to prevent ice formation on the plant surfaces.  These tines are 1/2" wide, and vary in depth from 7-10".  The depth of these tines is altered each year to prevent a hardpan layer from forming, which would hinder drainage over time.

Fertility and Plant Protectants.  While we limit nutrients on finely maintained turf during the season to provide great playing conditions, the fall is the best time to feed the turf to maximize carbohydrate storage going into winter.  The more carbs the plant stores, the quicker it will break dormancy when temperatures warm up in the spring.  Nitrogen, potassium, and bio stimulants were applied to fill this vital need over the course of the month.  Plant protectants will be applied to prevent damage from fungal diseases such as Pink Snow Mold.

Topdressing protecting the crown of the plants
Topdressing.  Another change to our winterization program will be more light, frequent applications of topdressing sand while the turf is still actively growing.  This will help further even out the playing surfaces from aerification and begin the process of protecting the crown from winter's cold and ice.  When growth has ceased for the year, we will apply a thick coating of sand topdressing to bury the crowns and as much leaf tissue as possible.  This sand helps protect and insulate the crown of the plant from any extreme cold temperatures.  This practice was another way more damage was prevented from the ice layer that encased all the greens turf in 2014.

Our 2nd assistant Kyle removing bluegrass sod
Finally, the staff and I began one of our major fall projects today.  We will be installing an extended collar to the back of 9 green, thanks to much input and feedback from many of you.  This is also a suggested improvement from our golf course architect, Shawn Smith of Hills/Forrest.  The idea is to give more options for shots behind the green and make that area of the hole a bit less penal.  As the pictures dictate, we will be removing 6-7 feet of the bluegrass sod and replacing it with bentgrass from our in-house nursery.  We should have all the sod laid by week's end.

Bentgrass sod being installed
Going forward, while #9 will be open for play, this area will be roped off for the rest of the playing season.  We will be rolling, aerifying, and topdressing the sod to smooth this surface into a playable surface for the 2017 season.  This area should be treated as Ground Under Repair and shots should not be taken from this new area.  Thank you for your cooperation with this nice improvement to #9.


If you have any questions, please contact me at ryan@elconacc.com.  Thank you, and I hope to see you out on the golf course!

Ryan

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Course Notes, 10/11/2016


In looking at the week's forecast, it is looking like Friday morning will be our first frost delay of the Fall 2016 season.  Why do we delay tee times when there is frost?

Frost is essentially frozen dew.  It can form when the temperature approaches near freezing.  The ice crystals that form on the outside of the plant can also harden or freeze the cellular structure of the plant.  When frost is present, the normally resilient plant cells become brittle and can be easily crushed internally or pierced like a knife from the outside ice crystals.  When these cell membranes are damaged, the plant loses its ability to function normally.  Think of this like cracking an egg:  once the shell is broken, it cannot be put back together.
Traffic patterns of an average foursome on a green.

Although damage will not be immediate, the proof will emerge within 48-72 hours as leaves turn brown and die.  As the picture on the right shows the typical foot traffic of a normal foursome on a green, damage could be extensive if played or mowed during frosty conditions.

If you have any questions, please contact me at ryan@elconacc.com.  Have a great week!

Ryan

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Course Notes, 10/9/16


The staff and I have had quite a busy September and early October.  The final days of the season had beautiful sunshine and warm temperatures, capped off with a successful Hole in One Stag tournament.  We are currently in the middle of our fall aerification.


Green tines vs. fairway tines
3/8" vs 5/8" tines
 For greens aerification this year, I decided to go with a slightly smaller tine size, for a number of reasons.  Each year, I look at many factors in deciding what is best for Elcona's greens, mainly our annual soil test results, current soil structure and rooting, and the amount of traffic the greens have received over the course of the year.  I also look at the amount of surface area impacted annually.  The USGA recommends that 20% of a putting green's surface area be removed or effected by an annual aerification program.  With our frequent venting (solid 1/4" tines) we performed this year coupled with our current soil structure and results, we went with a 3/8" coring tine instead of the traditional 5/8" tine, at a 1"x 2" spacing.  For your information, in 2016 the greens will have a total of 25.13% of surface area impacted by 6 ventings, one core aerification, and one solid deep tine in November.
Green surface after pulling cores

Each golf course is different in respect to soil structure and turf needs, so what is best for Elcona may be different that what would be best for other courses.  What is best for our greens can and may change year to year, so while these smaller tines are good for this year, we may have to go back to larger tines in future years if organic matter or thatch levels change dramatically.

After the cores dried on the surface, we verticut the soil from the thatch and turf, and dragged the material back into the holes while the staff cleaned the thatch up by hand.  Fresh sand was then added to fill the holes as best as possible.

While we were overall successful in this fall's aerification, we did have a few belt issues on a couple greens that caused a rippling effect on the turf.  We will be out repairing these areas over the course of the next week, as well as adding an additional application of topdressing to further fill any open holes.  Mowing and rolling will be done on an as needed basis to allow the turf to grow through the sand layer and create a more smooth surface in time, and would be done in the afternoon to create a dry cut that is best for the turf and limit the mess wet sand would leave.

Staff blowing sand into holes and thatch into a pile
Fairway aerification will be starting Monday, using 5/8" coring tines.  It looks like we will have fantastic weather for this process, and hopefully be complete be the end of the week.  Please be on the look out for our staff when you are out enjoying your golf course this week, as we will be busy coring and cleaning up in the afternoons.

The final product!
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at ryan@elconacc.com.  There is still plenty of great weather, changing colors, and great golf ahead in 2016, so I hope to see you out on the golf course!

Ryan