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 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  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  Again, Happy New Year to everyone and I look forward to what 2017 brings!


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  Thank you, and have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!