Saturday, September 22, 2018

Quadrant I

Those familiar with Stephen Covey's, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, will recognize these four quadrants from his time management matrix:

Ideally, with proper planning, we are able to spend most of our time working in Quadrant II, and try to avoid the "putting out fires" of Quadrant I. 

Unfortunately, even with the best planning, there are some events that are difficult to predict.  For example, when we have irrigation issues involving the main line, everything else gets placed on the back burner.  While there hasn't been much need to irrigate lately, having an entire golf hole with no water, is not ideal.

This past Wednesday afternoon, we suddenly had water flowing across the cart path at #5 green.  After doing some exploratory surgery (aka digging), we discovered that the source of this leak was a steel main line fitting on the 6" pipe.

Once the fitting was cut out, it was pretty easy to see what had happened.  These fittings are epoxy-coated during their manufacturing process, however any scratch or scrape of the paint can allow corrosion to develop.  Once a pinhole is formed, the jet of water at 120 psi will quickly cause it to expand.  You can often judge the scale of the irrigation issue by the hole required to make the repair--and this one definitely required the backhoe. 

With four of us spending the better part of the day working on this problem, we were able to get the repair taken care of from start to finish.  (Of course, it may not really be a good thing that we're becoming quite proficient in dealing with main line fitting failures.)  The lesson here is that Quadrant I is not a great place to be spending your time, but if you find yourself there, some Quadrant II pre-planning can be very helpful in extinguishing the fire.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

And now for something completely different...

As tempting as it is to discuss the bizarre-o weather we experienced last week--and it is quite tempting--instead, let's take a look at something a little different.  How about: shaving cream on the golf course.

Yes, you read that correctly.  This year, we started using shaving cream to help in weed management on the course.  You see, when targeting a pest, we typically won't make a "wall to wall" application.  For both environmental, and economic reasons, it is often better to "spot spray" only the areas that need to be treated.  This is where the shaving cream comes in.
Kyllinga on #18 fairway is marked with shaving cream.

When you are operating a sprayer, there is a whole lot to keep track of, and driving all around looking for a particular weed may not be the best option.  Instead, we can have someone go out ahead of the sprayer on a golf cart, and quickly leave a dab of shaving cream near any areas requiring treatment.  The sprayer can follow behind, and target only the marked spots.  One of the benefits of using shaving cream is that it lasts for several hours, so there is no concern about it disappearing before the sprayer gets to it.

As is often the case, the idea of using shaving cream was one we picked up from another golf course superintendent.  Sharing useful tips and tricks is one of the great things about this business!

Sunday, September 9, 2018

No middle ground

This year has felt like one of weather extremes.  With all of the rain in early and mid-August, we were hoping for a change in the weather--and we got it.  Unfortunately, this may fall into the category of "be careful what you wish for."

We traded the wet weather we experienced during aerification for a long dry spell.  As of last Friday, we had gone 2 1/2 weeks without rain.  Getting aerification recovery, especially in the fairways, is extremely challenging when relying solely on the irrigation system.

As you can see below, we often end up with one area being too wet, and another spot close by, being too dry.  With fairway sprinklers spaced 80' apart, both mounds and swales fall within the coverage of one head.
Achieving uniform moisture with no rain is difficult.

To compound things, somebody forgot to tell Mother Nature that meteorological summer is supposed to have ended when we move from August to September.  We finished August a significant 2.25 degrees above average for the daily temperature, including a heat wave in the final week.  The first six days of September was no better, with another heat wave, record temperatures, and daily temperatures running nine degrees above average.
Labor Day typically means that it's time to bring the fans in--not this year.

At this point in the year it should probably come as no surprise that we are now seeing the weather pendulum swinging back one more time.  Rain started Friday evening, lasted through Saturday morning, and is coming down again on Sunday.  There's even concern that Florence could make land fall close by later this week.

As we often say, when viewed as a whole, 2018 may look like just an average year, but it's definitely been a wild ride from winter through summer.  Maybe fall will treat us better.  Maybe...

Sunday, September 2, 2018

#12 Master Plan Work

With all of the other fun and games (like aerification) going on in August, we didn't have much time to discuss the Master Plan work on #12.
The old fairway bunker.

As with the other holes worked on in 2016, Golf Course Architect,  Andrew Green's, design calls for reducing the overall square footage of sand, while placing the new bunkers in a way which emphasizes strategy.

On #12, for those who are just able to clear the wetlands crossing, they will now find a generous area of primary rough, with the beginning of the fairway also being extended.  However, for players choosing a more aggressive line off the tee, the challenge will be to clear the three new bunkers.

At the green, there is now a single bunker placed on the back right.  The high sand line on this bunker will definitely stand out, and add definition as you hit into the green.

The contractor for this work, Mottin Golf Course Renovations, has endured some of the same challenges we did in maintaining the course in August--lots of rain, then lots of heat.  When it came time to install the Matrix liner, the temperature was 95 degrees!  As always, their attention to detail has been outstanding.
The old fairway bunker facing the tee.

The new fairway bunkers are coming together.

It's no secret that for years, the bunkers on this hole have more closely resembled a rock quarry than an area that belongs on a golf course.  From both an aesthetic and playability perspective, these changes will be a tremendous improvement to this challenging golf hole.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

An angst-filled August

With cool-season turf roots at their shortest of the entire year in August, it is always a month that presents some challenges.  However, this month will be one we won't soon forget.  Fairway aerification was scheduled for this past week, but given the saturated conditions, little sunlight, and high humidity, we weren't able to follow the usual procedure.

Typically, we pull the plugs, allow them to dry, then grind them, which separates the soil from the thatch.  We then pick up the thatch and blow the fairway off.  However, with no drying occurring, we were forced to pick up and remove the entire aerification plug from most of the fairways.  This is much more labor-intensive, slower, generates a ton (hundreds of tons actually) of material, and with no soil being left, it leaves the holes open.  Therefore, until completely grown over, these holes will tend to dry out quickly, and need to be kept moist.

The picture below is the kind of hit or miss (mostly hit) pop-up storms we had to deal with.  If we pulled plugs in the morning and left them on the fairway waiting to dry, a storm like this would have made a muddy mess.
Never good when you could hold a swim meet on the practice tee.
On a positive note, we are always working to improve the aerification process, and a change this year made a real difference.  We abandoned the large, tractor-mounted aerifier on the fairways, instead using the smaller walk-behind models.  While it meant a whole lot of walking for the guys, with mushy conditions, this was a good move.

Once again, the Grounds staff and Pro Shop team, worked their tails off to get this done.  We had a brief taste of some cooler nights this past weekend, and look forward to more of the same in the coming weeks!

Sunday, August 19, 2018

What a week!

Weather is always the uncontrollable factor when it come time to aerify, however this is the first time we have ever had outright downpours during greens aerification.  You can see below that Monday morning started out alright.

 By mid-morning things changed, as the skies opened up, and everyone learned that you can truly only get so wet.  The great thing about our greens is that they are sand-based, and with holes open, the water didn't stick around on the surface long.

The afternoon came and brought with it another round of heavy rain, for a total of 1.60" during the greens aerification process.  While the greens didn't seem to mind this at all, trying to uniformly apply topdressing sand under these conditions was challenging.

If the sand and putting surfaces are dry, it's easily worked into the holes, whereas damp sand and surfaces leads to the sand "bridging" across the tops of the holes.  Not surprisingly, we were getting lots of sand bridging when the rain started.  Oddly enough though, the rain came down at such a rate that any of the sand which was smearing across the holes, was flushed down into them, leaving the greens in close to the same condition as we see when everything is 100% dry.

This was a tough day, and one thing that can't be overstated is the amazing job the team did by persevering through some pretty darned miserable weather.  The Grounds staff, along with the strong, young backs from the Pro Shop staff, knocked it out of the park!

Tuesday we tackled tee aerification, and yes, it rained on us again.  Fortunately this held off until we were close to finished, and the impact was minimal.

If aerification wasn't enough fun for one week, the Master Plan work on #12 started as well...

At times like this, words like challenging, stressful, and frustrating may come to mind.  However, "boring" certainly does not!

Saturday, August 11, 2018

One in a Million


This past week, Bill Roberson, one of Laurel Creek's original members, and a friend to so many, passed away.

Through business, his love of sports, and his extensive charitable work, Bill knew thousands of people.  But one thing most of these people likely weren't aware of, is that Bill knew way more than your average golfer when it comes to turf management.  Over the last quarter century, I had the privilege to speak with Bill on many subjects.  However, not surprisingly, most of these conversations tied into the golf course in some way. 

I'd like to share a few of my memories about Bill.  I'll preface this by saying that, as a rule, I do not refer to Club members by their first name.  However, I also don't make a habit of addressing friends as "Mr." and I consider Bill Roberson a longtime friend.
  • Seeing how the sausage is made--While many golfers prefer not to encounter the Grounds staff, Bill never minded this--in fact, he seemed to truly enjoy watching the team prepping the course.  Often being in the first group of the day, he would run into the crew, and never once asked them to stop.  Typically, he would say hello, and praise the work that we were doing.
  • An easy choice--When asked a question, Golf Professionals and Golf Course Superintendents won't always come up with the same answer.  However, in 1999, when the Club was first forming a Green Committee, John Tyrell and I were asked independently who we felt would be valuable, contributing members of this Committee.  Without knowing the other's answers, there was one name that we both had on our lists:  Bill Roberson.
  • Life of service--Bill was incredibly generous in many ways, particularly with what may be a person's most valuable commodity--their time.  It would have been easy for him to pay his dues to the Club, and just come here and play.  Instead, he wanted to help.  From the inception of the Green Committee in 1999, Bill has been a member.  2018 marks his 20th year of serving on the Committee.
  • A plant on the Green Committee--Whether it was participating in the golf course Master Plan process, or discussing equipment needs, as a Committee member, Bill was always knowledgeable and engaged, often asking some tough questions.  There were many times when I'd see him on the course, and we'd talk about some current issue in golf course operations.  Odds were good that at the next Committee meeting, without any prompting from me, he would bring up the topic, trying to ensure that others were aware of what we might be dealing with.
  • No payback--Another great thing about Bill was, in the 25 plus years I've known him, I never once received a call, text, or email, asking for something special.  Never the old, "I'm bringing a guest next week, can you give the greens an extra roll that day..."  That wasn't his style.
  • Talking turf--Bill's interest and knowledge of fine turf probably came from a couple of things, one being his leadership role in the LPGA Championship. However, I'm sure the stronger tie he had to my end of the business, was the fact that he has had a Bentgrass putting green at his home since long before we met.  If there's one thing we didn't agree on, it was this green.  I tried for years to convince him to plow it under, and go with a nice artificial green, but he didn't want to hear that.  He enjoyed being able to discuss turf problems--we talked air movement, shade issues, irrigation practices, and turf diseases.  Bill knew that Dollar Spot was largely an annoyance, but Pythium Blight spells disaster.  Undoubtedly, his owning a green helped give him the deep appreciation he showed for the work we do on the golf course.
  • The grass is always greener...or maybe not--Bill played golf all over, including many top 100 courses, but whether it was after a trip to the Monterey Peninsula, or playing someplace closer to home, when he got back, we'd talk about the conditions.  It seems probable that he was showing his bias to his home course, because he'd always tell me that while these other courses were good, they were no better than Laurel Creek.  
  • The joy of giving to others--Besides giving of his time, Bill was generous in other ways, as well.  During his many years of running the McDonald's LPGA Championship tournament, he seemed to truly enjoy having people attend, and treating them like VIPs.  Whether it was heading to DuPont Country Club, or a bit further to Bulle Rock, my family and I always tried to get there for at least one day.  (There was nothing like the McDonald's restaurant on wheels, to get the kids excited about going to a golf tournament.)
  • He made us feel like stars--Bill clearly loved Laurel Creek, the staff, and the golf course.  Over the years, when he had well known public figures as his guests at the Club, he would go out of his way to introduce us to them--but even this was done in a special way.  He lavished praise on the course, to the point that his guests may have felt they should be asking for our autographs, instead of the other way around. 
  • A family man--It was easy to see that Bill cared about family.  Countless times he asked me, "How are the boys doing?"   Many years ago, my family and I went to the Spectrum in Philly to see a show.  As the performance ended, I heard someone calling my name.  I looked around, and saw Bill going out of his way to say hello in the crowd.  I hadn't seen him, and never would have known if he didn't shout to me.  But the fact that he made a special effort to say hello to us, is something I have always remembered.  That's just the kind of man he was.


Thank you for everything you've done for the Club and for me, Bill.  You have always been there, had my back, and listened closely when we talked.  If you've ever got any thoughts or advice about the course, I'll be listening.