Sunday, June 23, 2019

Deja Vu

It's been a while since we whined about the weather, but after this past week's incessant rain, we started having flashbacks to last year.  Thus far, it feels as if June is perfect weather for only a few folks to spend much time on the golf course:

A mallard is enjoying one of the few greenside bunkers that has yet to be renovated.

Similar to last year, April showers weren't really an issue this spring.  In both 2018 and 2019, we were within 4% of the historical precipitation average for the month.  However, once we hit May and June, the skies opened up.  This year, we recorded over seven inches of rain in May, and with 10 days remaining in June, we had already surpassed the monthly average by 57%!

What July and August will bring us is still unknown.  At this time, perhaps the old adage, "Prepare for the worst, and hope for the best..." is the only advice we can follow.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

CANI on the Course

If you haven't heard the acronym "CANI" before, it stands for constant and never-ending improvement--or as we like to say, raising the bar.  With the goal of always seeking to better every phase of the golf course operation, we already have a Word document labeled "2020 Planning Notes" in progress.  This contains a list of changes we'd like to make in the future, dealing with everything from staffing, to fertilization and fungicide timing.  In early fall we will review the ideas and goals in this document, and include many of them in our business plan for the upcoming year.

Often times the improvements we make from year to year are minor in nature, and typically won't be noticed by a golfer.  However, these small tweaks can contribute to the overall quality of the product we are able to present to our members each day.

What's truly rewarding is when a suggested operational change comes from the front line staff.  A good example of this led to the way in which we are now mowing the approach on #11.  In the past, we would often see wear from the triplex mowers trying to negotiate this narrow area.  One of our full time employees, Jeff Stewart, suggested that we start hand mowing this approach when we cut collars.

When we looked at the cost (a few extra minutes of mowing) versus the benefit (improved turf condition) this change made complete sense. A simple, yet great idea--but that's not the best part of this story.

As Jeff is typically the person tasked with mowing collars, this idea actually increased his workload, and added to the 15 mile days he often puts in for us.  However, like many of the staff, Jeff has the ability to look beyond his own job, and focus on the big picture of what we are trying to accomplish.  We are truly fortunate to have such engaged team members, and look forward to continually raising the bar!

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Tournament Time

Perhaps it's just human nature, but many of us seem to spend more time focused on the negative events in our lives, rather than the positive ones.  So, what's that have to do with the golf course?  Well, prepping for a Member-Guest event can be physically stressful to the turf and mentally stressful to the Grounds staff that prepares the golf course.  However, while there's always room for improvement, in looking back at this past week, things went about as smoothly as we could have hoped for, and there were plenty of positive moments.

First and foremost in making this possible is the team we have this year.  Everyone arrives on time (which you can't take for granted, when we start at 5:00), they communicate well with each other, and look to help their teammates.

For example, it was great to see the guys finish mowing their greens, and immediately walk over to help complete the bunker raking without anyone needing to tell them to do so.  This may be a small thing, but it underscores how the group understands the importance of each task, and support each other.

 Another positive factor is that early June is typically a great time for this event.  The turf hasn't had to endure prolonged hot weather yet, and there's plenty of daylight in the wee hours of the morning.  This allows us to have less concern about staying ahead of play in readying the golf course.

 Lastly, one potential stress-inducer is always the weather.  While some heavy storms softened the course prior to the tournament, we were fortunate to have moderate temperatures and lower humidity on Friday and Saturday.

The dog days of summer still lie ahead, and we will undoubtedly have plenty to stress about.  But for now, we will take a step back, look at the glass as half full, and be grateful for all of the positive experiences we have each day.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Missed it by that much...

They say that timing is everything, and this past week we missed the perfect timing for a fairway fungicide application by one day.  We had planned to spray fairways on Thursday, however, as it turned out, Wednesday would have been a better choice.

With all of the rain Tuesday and Wednesday, there was plenty of prolonged humidity and leaf wetness, creating the perfect growing environment for Dollar Spot disease.  Finding Dollar Spot isn't at all unusual, but it typically starts out as a few minor spots.  Instead of this usual slow progression, on Thursday morning the fungi's mycelium made it look like it had snowed on the course.

The fairways weren't the only area of the course which was impacted, as the rough got clobbered as well.  We stuck with the plan, and the fairway fungicide application was made on Thursday, followed by a primary rough spray on Friday.

Fortunately, at this time of year, the turf will quickly grow out of any foliar damage caused by the disease.  However, this is definitely a lesson in not letting your guard down.  A month from now, trying to stretch fungicide intervals could lead to Pythium Blight--a disease which the turf will not quickly recover from!

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Happiness is a full parking lot...

There are always challenges in golf course maintenance, and often times, none is greater than finding reliable employees.  Let's face it, the hours aren't ideal, the work is physically demanding, and nobody chooses this business to get rich.  With the current job marketplace and low unemployment rate, it can be difficult to lure individuals to come join the team.

Given all of this, it is great to see the employee parking area overflowing this year.  We are fortunate to have an extremely solid group of year-round employees, including five licensed pesticide applicators.  In addition to this, eight perennial seasonal employees have returned once again, and the staff is capped off with some college students, including both a Rutgers and Penn State turf student.

If this trend continues, we may need to switch to a digital job board for additional space.  We would refer to that as a "good problem" to have!

Saturday, May 18, 2019

We do that too...

If the maintenance staff is doing their job well, most of the work we do takes place out of sight of our members.  That  is, you certainly shouldn't be playing a round, and run into the guys mowing greens.

However, in addition to the daily tasks on the golf course, there are a number of other projects we tackle which are really way behind the scenes.  For example, did you ever think that we can handle storm sewer modification?

That's right, with the construction of the splash pad last year, a basin needed to be raised behind the pool, and a water diversion pipe from the splash pad connected to this.  The existing grate was removed, a hole was cut into the concrete basin for the drain pipe, an 1,100 pound riser was set on top, the grate was replaced, and the area was back-filled.

For us, it's all in a day's work.  So, yes, while you might not ever witness it, we do that too.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Trust the Process

We just completed greens aerification this past week, and contrary to what many may believe, we don't really enjoy this task.  The work is hard, the days are long, and it always feels like the weather throws us some kind of curve ball.  However, what we do ultimately appreciate are the results of aerification.  People often ask us, "The greens are great, why do you have to aerify?"

The answer is simple:  We aerify so they will remain great.

As in the past, we did a two part process this spring.  Day one consisted of a traditional core aerification, using a relatively small hollow tine on a tight hole spacing.  The plugs are removed and sand is incorporated into the holes.   

We followed up on day two with our Dryject contractor, Dennis Granahan, and his team.  The Dryject process allows us to get sand into the root zone at a depth which conventional aerifiers can not.

While the weather wasn't very conducive to drying, we were able to give the greens a final brooming Wednesday afternoon to smooth out the sand.

So, yes, aerification can be stressful to the turf, the Club's members, and the maintenance staff.  But when you think back to last year's 70+" of precipitation, and how well the greens performed, we should all take a step back and remember to trust the process.