Friday, October 6, 2017

Greens Aerification update, 10/6/17

We successfully aerified the front 9 greens yesterday with what turned out to be a gorgeous day weather wise.  Below are some pictures of the process we are using this year. 

Plugs are chopped up with our verticutting machine, and the resulting soil is brushed back into the holes.

The grass left over is blown and removed by staff

A heavy application of topdressing sand is applied and brushed into the holes

The blower aids the sand into the holes and is the final step in the clean up process before the greens are rolled

The resulting product on #8


With the current muggy, cloudy conditions and the increasing chances of rain in the forecast for today, we will be postponing back 9 greens aerification.  We will perform this necessary practice on Monday, October 9th, which is a closed day for the golf course.  Fairway aerification will start the following day, with all 18 holes open during that process. 

Cores removed from aerification must be completely dry for us to remove them successfully without making a muddy mess.  The topdressing and brushing process also needs complete dryness for a successful result.  It is my opinion that we will not have an adequate drying window today.

For the weekend, the front 9 greens will be rolled daily.  The back 9 greens will be mowed and rolled as they would be normally.  Any additional sand that is necessary will be applied when weather allows. 

Thanks for your understanding!

Ryan

Friday, September 29, 2017

Course Notes, 9/29/17

September has been a topsy turvy month weather wise.  Quite cool the first 2 weeks, and July-like temperatures the 2nd half of the month.  The heat that has been in our area has produced some high growth rates in our greens, tees, and fairways.  We have verticut all of these areas within the last 10 days to reduce the amount of leaf matter and applied additional growth regulator, which will return these surfaces to more normal playing conditions.  Besides cutting lateral growing turf and removing thatch, the verticut helps stand the turf up for regular mowers to achieve a more consistent playing surface. 
2 fairway after a verticut
6 fairway after verticut and regular mowing

One constant throughout the month has been the lack of rainfall.  Only on September 19th did we have a rain event producing greater than .10” of rainfall.  Needless to say, it is dry out there, which you can see by what the grass looks in some non-irrigated areas.  Here’s to October bringing our area a good soaking rain!

Of course, that good soaking rain needs to avoid our aerification dates!  Tees were aerified on September 6th, and as you can see to the left, we removed a lot of thatch from them!  With the warm temperatures we had, the holes have already healed in for the most part.  Greens will be aerified on October 5th (Front 9 and the Large practice green) and 6th (Back 9 and Small practice green) using a 3/8” tine.  The cores that we bring up with these tines will be
verticut and the soil will be re-introduced into the profile.  The greens will then be topped off with new sand to finish filling the holes.  Fairways will be aerified the week of October 9th, using a solid ½” tine.  There will be no plugs being brought up, which is how we aerify them in the spring.  While a short term inconvenience to ball roll and playability, aerification is the foundation of proper soil and turf health and a critical component of any agronomic program.  Thank you for your patience and understanding during this busy and quite necessary time in our maintenance schedule!


Some other notes….

7 fairway bunker on a Saturday morning
The picture on the right is unfortunately becoming more evident each morning when we are raking bunkers.  This was noticed on a Saturday morning, footprints right next to a bunker rake.  Out of respect for your fellow members, please rake the bunkers after you hit out of them.  Thank you for your cooperation. 


Jorge raking 11 greenside bunker
Our staff has been expanding the Aussie ring around the bunkers in a further attempt to increase playability.  For the most part we have received positive feedback with this short term change in maintenance, and will be utilizing the plate compactor method I wrote about here in all greenside bunkers next spring.



Skunk digging has been evident is some green surrounds, like this area to the left of 3 green.  The skunks are looking for a tasty meal of grubs.  These areas are repaired, seeded, and a curative insecticide is applied to take care of any white grubs that are present.  These areas are considered ground under repair, and the digging usually subsides later this month. 


In an attempt to better warn anyone on the course of potential weather, we have moved the weather siren from the halfway house to behind 12 black tee.  This siren was having issues receiving its signal from the clubhouse.  It is also solar powered, which was a fun afternoon electrical engineering project (a great use of my Purdue education!)


The milkweed we left in the native areas was well utilized by the visiting Monarch butterflies last month.  Milkweed is the sole host plant for the monarch caterpillar and is critical for completing their life cycle.  Creating additional habitats such as this one right of 16 fairway is a simple way we can help these pollinating insects thrive and contribute to the benefit of our local ecosystem. 

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

Ryan

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!