Friday, August 4, 2017

Course Notes, 8/4/17


The weather this summer (so far) has been quite different that the last 2 summers.  Instead of a solid 5-7 day stretch of hot, humid weather, we have held relatively around normal each day.  Rainfall has been very timely, and with exception to last night's 2" rain received in 45 minutes, the amounts have been manageable and not overbearing.  While the turf at Elcona is healthy and in great condition, I wanted to take a minute and update you on other happenings around the property.

The staff has been busy with our annual sand replacement on 3 greenside bunkers.  This year, the back right 2 bunkers on #3 and the far left bunker along 7 green are the targeted bunkers.  There is much more to this refurbishment than just adding sand.  First, all the older sand is removed.  Since this sand is still usable, we select areas in fairway bunkers to add this too.

Sand removed
Jose spreading used sand in 4 fairway bunker
Compacting new sand

Finished product
















After adding fresh sand to the greenside bunker, the sand is lightly watered down before a vibratory plate compactor is ran over the surface multiple times.  This compactor helps lessen the fluffy effect new sand can have and make it as consistent as possible to the other bunkers.  
Bumblebee enjoying flowering Joe Pye Weed 
Honeybee on Black Eyed Susan









We have also noticed many of our winged friends enjoying some of the beautiful wildflower areas as well.  15's pond bank has exploded in color, as well as the smaller pond on #3.  The swamp milkweed in the Rain Garden has grown to over 10 feet in height and is flourishing, all the while helping filter out any possible impurities in our equipment wash water.  Creating and maintaining these pollinator habitats continues to be a focus of the club's Audubon efforts.


Eastern Carpenter Ant
A few of you have asked me about another insect visitor that has made its mark lately at Elcona.  During the day, some greens have small soil mounds appear on them.  These are mainly due to the Eastern Carpenter Ant.  These ants are worker female ants looking to form new colonies with their burrowing.  They mainly feed on seeds and honeydew from aphids and mealybugs.   Normally treatment is not required, since this ant provide beneficial natural control of other pests to turf, such as the cutworm.  We try to set high thresholds when it comes to evaluating whether to treat or not, to limit the footprint we set on the environment.  If the mounds start to significantly impact playability on the greens, we will treat.

Eastern Cicada Killer
Cicada Killer in 6 bunker













Finally, many of you have noticed large “bees” burrowing into the bunkers and fairways.  These are actually Eastern Cicada Killer Wasps.  Although their large size and swarming can be intimidating, they are a non-aggressive wasp that avoid direct contact with humans and will not sting you unless you really agitate them for a prolonged period of time.  They are much more interested in finding cicadas for lunch then spoiling your day.  Control of these wasps is quite difficult and unless they are burrowing into greens and fairways causing damage, is not necessary.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at the maintenance facility.  Have a great week and I hope to see you out on the golf course!

Ryan

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Course Notes, 7/2/17


One thing I always keep asking myself is how we as a staff can leave work each day knowing we made Elcona just a bit better than when we got into work that morning.  Our eyes and sense of touch are still the most useful tool in answering that question, but increasingly technology is changing how we can become better stewards of the club’s resources.  The USGA has integrated one such piece of technology into their 2017 USGA Golf Utilization Survey, and has asked Elcona to participate.  We are one of 48 golf facilities nationwide participating. 

The careful management of resources (water, labor, energy, fertilizer, pesticides, etc.) is an integral part of golf courses becoming more economically efficient and good care-takers of the environment while providing golfers with an enjoyable golf experience. To help golf courses achieve these goals, the USGA has developed a method to analyze how golfers use their course. This USGA Course Utilization Study provides decision makers at golf facilities with valuable insight into where available resources need to be focused the most.

How It Works
Members are asked to carry small GPS trackers in their pocket or clipped to their clothes during their round. You need to do nothing else except play the course as you normally would, and turn the device in to the Golf Shop staff after your round.  After the round, the devices are collected and the data is downloaded. The result is a visual image that is imported into Google Earth.

After the tracks of 200 golfers of varying abilities from Elcona are downloaded, the movement patterns will reveal a great deal about traffic patterns, feature use and potentially places on the course where pace of play issues arise. This data can be used to assess current and future maintenance needs as well. 

How You Can Participate

By agreeing to carry a GPS tracker, you are helping our staff better manage your course. You also are helping the USGA preserve the game now and in the future. The USGA will not collect the names of players who carry the GPS trackers. You are only asked for your name just in case you forget to return your tracker at the end of the round.  The USGA does charge a $50 fee for each unreturned tracker, so it would be very important to return them so the club does not incur that cost. 


I thank you in advance if you are asked to help us with this survey, and I look forward to sharing the results with you when the USGA processes the data.  As always, if you have any questions. Please contact me at ryan@elconacc.com, or stop me while you are out on the golf course.  Have a great week!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Course Notes, 6/11/17


Talk about feast to famine.  A month ago, we received over 6.5" of rain at the golf course.  We have not had any measurable precipitation since May 28, quite telling by how our non-irrigated areas are starting to look.  A large thank you to those who came out to the Master Improvement Plan educational session last Tuesday, and for those of you interested, we have 2 additional ones this Tuesday, at 5:30 and 7:00 p.m.  Shawn Smith and Steve Forrest from Hills/Forrest will be here to answer any questions about the Master Improvement Plan that you may have.




4" rooting on greens.  A good thing heading into summer!
The summer's first dome of heat has arrived, and is bringing some high humidity values with it.  While rooting is at a tremendous level currently thanks to great growing conditions and a solid agronomic plan, in these cases we have to temporarily play defense in managing the fine playing surfaces so that they can survive until more temperate growing conditions return.  Our sprayers have been quite busy applying plant protectants to help fine turf ward off any potential fungal diseases from developing.  Managing water applications is critical during these stretches, and we have been leaning on the drier side when it comes to irrigation.  It may seem counter-intuitive restricting irrigation during a heat wave, but wetter soils can create a better environment for diseases to develop, while reducing the amount of root density in the turf.  Hand-watering hot spots and syringing greens in the afternoons is also critical for survival.  The USGA has produced a great video on water management, which you can view here.  Our staff will be out and about each afternoon watching conditions, and while we do not intend to disrupt your round, please use caution if a staff member is syringing on the hole you are playing.  This quite necessary procedure only takes a couple of minutes to complete and as soon as they are able, they will vacate the area so that you may resume your round.

Localized dry spot on 16 fairway
Plant protectants applied in anticipation of first heat









If these above normal temperatures and humidity continue, other defensive measures may be necessary to allow the turf to survive until seasonable conditions return.  One example of that would be raising heights of cut slightly (.005").  This allows the plant to generate additional leaf tissue to produce the energy it needs to survive.  While defensive measures can lead to slower conditions, rest assured these measures are done to protect the turf though the tough stretches and allow us to return to normal maintenance when the weather allows us to.

Part of Zimm's Creek is now a lateral water hazard
The other change you may have noticed is a change in hazard marking along the lateral part of Zimm's Creek, right of 15 green.  The Golf/Greens Committee has decided that area is better defined as a lateral water hazard (red), based on the interpretation of the Rules of Golf.  The part of the creek running perpendicular to the green, and the pond will continue to play as a regular (yellow) water hazard.  For a more in-depth explanation of the definitions and how to play the ball if it enters these hazards, here is a link to the Rules of Golf explaining these.

Finally, I have some sad news to pass on.  One of our long time staff members, Rachael Garrett, passed away this past Tuesday.  Rachael served Elcona for 28 years and was a beloved member of our staff.  She enjoyed being out each day here among the members and beautiful scenery, and will be missed greatly.

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me at ryan@elconacc.com, or stop me when you see me out on the golf course.  Enjoy the week and stay cool!

Ryan


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Course Notes, 5/30/17



Compared to a typical May, 2017’s version was colder, wetter, and busier than normal (the latter being a good thing!).  Our staff is doing a wonderful job with projects, both on and off the golf course.  Here is a quick recap of our observations and activities in the last month:

A low of 28 on May 8th
Orange tinge to fairway turf
Close up of 17 fairway turf showing tip burn/old leaves
The cold weather in early May (including morning lows below 30 degrees on May 5th and 8th) was not a welcome sight for the turfgrass in the fairways and green surrounds.  Many of you have asked me about the orange tinge you saw when looking at a fairway from afar, while it looked green when on the fairway.  The pictures of 17 fairway close up showed the orange is actually the tips of the leaf blades and the old leaf blades, with greener, healthier turf growing below.  The variety of bentgrass we have in our fairways is an older variety that is quite susceptible to cold temperatures.  The two freezes we had earlier in the month stunted the turf’s growth, and would not push new growth until more consistent warmer weather returned, which in the last few days has.  Green surrounds have finally shown growth and have received their 2nd fertility application to provide consistent food for the next 90 days.

The staff also has concentrated on detail work in the bunkers and tees.  We rented a plate compactor to further firm up bunkers that have had new sand installed within the last 2 years, and sifted through the sand to remove as many rocks as possible.  It continues to amaze me the amount of rocks that consistently make their way up from the subsoil to the surface through washouts, frost heaving in the winter, and maintenance practices.  Four 5 gallon pails were removed on the bunkers on holes 7 and 16 alone.  Removal of these impediments will continue to be a priority for our staff.  Tees were verticut last week to remove excess growth and thatch. We will continue to work on firming up these playing surfaces.
Plate compacting bunker edges
Tees after verticut and regular mow

Rocks removed from 1 bunker on 7
Lots of material removed from tees!

Finished bunker on 5
The Fiesta Hut project is completed and I couldn't be happier on the resulting product.  With the wet weather, our concrete contractor has fallen a bit behind on his work and as soon as he can, they will be out to finish patching the walkway around the new stone wall. When you see him, please thank Greg Stump for his efforts on this project, and his other transformations around Elcona.  He is currently in full planting mode, adding tremendous color to the Elcona landscape.


Finally, NiBlock was out earlier in the month to refurbish the cart paths in the woods, 7,11, and Halfway House, and did a wonderful job.  The staff is currently planting grass seed and landscaping around the Halfway House, and as course needs allow, we will be adding soil and seed to the shoulder areas that need raised up.





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


Ryan

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Cart Path Paving


Today, tomorrow, and possibly Thursday, NiBlock will be out paving cart paths in the following locations:

4 Green, 5 Tee, 6 Green, 7 Tee, 7 Green, 11, 16 Green, and around the new Halfway House.

If during the course of your round you encounter fresh asphalt in these areas, please stay off of the paths.  Please drive around 8 Green to access 11 Tee.

Also, their crew is aware that the course is open for play while they are out here.  However, please be aware that they cannot move easily out of the field of play and you may have to wait or skip an area if they are working in the area.

I thank you in advance for your understanding and cooperation in this matter.  When finished, these paths will be a great improvement to the golf course and your enjoyment of it.  If you have any questions, please let me know at ryan@elconacc.com.  Thanks, and I will see you out on the course!

Ryan

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Course Notes, 4/30/2017

We continue to have great golfing weather for early Spring.  Drier conditions have lead to some nice firm conditions on greens and fairways.  Our staff continue to build in numbers and we have been able to knock out many of our task list for the Spring.   Aerification has come and gone with quick healing and deeper rooting that will benefit the turf when the dog days of summer hit later this year.



Work continues on the Fiesta Hut area.  The staff and I have created the rough grades for the base material that the wall stone will sit on.  Over the course of the next week we will be laying and compacting a 4" layer of gravel as a stone base, and beginning the transformation from empty area to a wall matching the look of the Terrace.  Stay tuned for more updates!



Finally, as part of our Audubon community outreach program, Elcona hosted 120 7th graders from Northridge Middle School for an afternoon of learning on the course, and about the game of golf. This field trip was under the umbrella of The First Green program, which incorporates STEM (science, engineering, math, and technology) learning modules out on the course.  

Each student experienced 6 learning stations:  A geo-caching activity on our trail system (think scavenger hunt with coordinates), an obstacle course meant to simulate the obstacles salmon experience when making their run to spawn, 2 golf stations at the practice facility, a station learning about soils and our rain garden, and a station at 17 green learning how to measure its area.

For many of the staff and students, it was their first time ever setting foot on a golf course, which is what I like so much about this program.  The exposure to a fantastic golf facility and to learn real-life applications to what they are learning about in school are hopefully great memories that will stay with them for life and spark an interest in taking up the game of golf.  The faculty and students were quite impressed with Elcona and its facilities, so much so that we have dates for another visit this coming fall.

If you would like more information on The First Green program, visit www.thefirstgreen.org.  If you have any questions, email me at ryan@elconacc.com.  Have a great week and I'll see you out on the course!




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!

Ryan

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!

Ryan