Sunday, November 19, 2017

Grind Time

Obviously, one of the most critical parts of the golf course operation is having mowers which cut properly.  While a homeowner's lawn may be cut with a rotary mower at 2", the greens are maintained with reel mowers, often set as low as 1/10".  When you are cutting this tight, there is little margin for error.  Height adjustments are made to the thousandth of an inch, and every mower is checked after each use.

As we are about to enter the season when mowers are overhauled by equipment technicians, the timing was perfect for us to host a seminar on the subject of reel maintenance.  This event, sponsored by Turf Equipment and Supply Company gave instructor Jim Nedin a chance to go into the topic in detail with a small group of local technicians. 

The morning session was spent in the classroom, discussing the theory of best practices for reel setup, along with common causes of improper cutting.  To maintain a precise, clean cut, there are many factors which need to be taken into consideration.  A technician needs to be aware of reel diameter, number of blades on a reel, bedknife options, and roller options. 

Then the afternoon session gave the group the chance to watch Jim as he gave a hands-on demonstration.  With a walking greensmower costing close to what a Nissan Versa does, proper care is a must.

We were happy to open our doors for this event.  It was a great opportunity for individuals to learn, while sharing their thoughts and experiences with others.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Big Break

Irrigation leaks are never any fun, and when the pipe size is 8", you can expect a big hole will be needed to make the repair.  Such was the case a week ago, when suddenly, up from the ground came a significant amount of water.

In situations like this, digging carefully is mandatory.  We not only don't want to rip the pipe out of the ground, but we also need to avoid damaging the myriad wires which run alongside the pipe.

Step two in this surgical procedure was cutting out the old tee.  Virtually none of the irrigation pipe on the golf course is glued together.  Instead it is pushed together using belled end pipe with gaskets.  Therefore, it is primarily the weight of the soil which holds the pipe in place.  However, where fittings such as tees and elbows are installed, concrete thrust blocks were poured to prevent the pipe from moving.  As you can see below, the concrete thrust block came out with the tee.

Once we had the tee out, we could finally see exactly where the problem was.  The ductile iron tee corroded to the point that its rubber gasket blew out.  Similar to a car's tire separating from the rim, once the gasket's seal was broken, water was able to freely escape the pipe.

When repairing pipes we no longer have the room to push pipe into a new fitting.  In a situation like this, some type of repair coupling is used.  There are many different kinds, but on the recommendation of an experienced irrigation contractor, we chose a repair coupling which was new to us.  One of the advantages to this model, is that there is only a single bolt to tighten on each end.  This may not sound like a big deal, but inevitably, tightening bolts on the bottom of a pipe in a muddy hole, is less than ideal.  One bolt, situated on top of the pipe is a big improvement.

Once the repair couplings were in place, we poured our own thrust blocks to prevent any possible pipe movement, and the couplings themselves are wrapped in plastic.  This way, should the repair ever need to be dug up, we won't have to be chipping concrete off the couplings.  The finished product may not look beautiful, but it is effective.

Again, these main line repairs are never a party.  However, to look at the glass as half full, the pipe wasn't eight feet deep, the wires were looped around the existing fitting giving us plenty of room to work, and it took place in November, not July!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

How much rain?

One week ago, from Sunday to Monday, we had the largest rain event of the year, totaling 3.7".  Although this may pale in comparison to what some areas of the country have had to deal with, it still is a quantity that may be difficult to wrap your head around.

So, let's take a look at what 3.7" of rain really means to the course.  There are 27,154 gallons of water per acre inch.  When we multiply this by 3.7" you find that each acre received 100,470 gallons of water.  While the golf course property itself is 237 acres, when we include the surrounding residential area that drains onto the course, we come up with 477 acres.

So, how much water did the golf course have to deal with, either directly, or indirectly with this storm?  Try this number on for size: 477 acres X 100,470 gallons per acre = 47,924,094

That's right, almost 48 million gallons of water were handled by the golf course.  At 8.34 pounds per gallon, that's just under 400,000,000 pounds of water.

Had we asked Dr. Evil this question, it seems unlikely that his answer would have even been close.

Where did this hefty amount of water go?  Obviously, a good bit is absorbed into the soil.  The balance of the water is channeled into our extensive storm sewer system, where it fills the lakes on the course.  Once the ponds and lakes reach capacity, they will overflow into one of two tributaries of the Rancocas Creek, and from there, it is a short trip to the Delaware River.

The great news is that despite all of this rain, we were open with carts less than 24 hours after it stopped.  The golf course had a large drainage system installed when constructed, and we have continued to augment the drainage over the years.  At times like this, the payoff of having a good drainage system, which allows quick access to the course, is clear.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Fescue Renovation Update

Last month (see, Project Time), we discussed the upcoming renovation to the Fescue between #7 and 13.  Since then, we have made several applications of selective herbicides, for control of both broadleaf and grassy weeds.  Lo and behold, after one mowing, we now find that there is still some very good Fine Fescue in parts of this area.

On a small scale, this is good evidence that, given enough time and effort, once established, we can maintain a pretty pure stand of Fine Fescue.  Again, the keys are time and effort--"low maintenance" is definitely a misnomer.

With several applications of selective herbicides complete, we have separated the wheat from the chaff (or the Fescue from the weeds).  Parts of this space which have too little Fescue, and require sodding, can now be easily identified.

In these locations, an application of a non-selective herbicide was made recently.  As you can see below, a green tracker dye was used when applying the non-selective herbicide in order to see what sections were sprayed.

The story will continue next month as we prepare for a few tractor trailer loads of sod.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Ignore the calendar!

If you looked at the calendar and have already put your clubs away for the year, you are really missing out on some of the best golfing weather and course conditions of the year.  This weekend's forecast was spectacular for late October.

It's pretty unusual that we are content with the weather.  More often than not, we feel like Goldilocks:  It's too hot, it's too cold, it's too wet, it's too dry.  However, from gorgeous sunrises to beautiful sunsets this weather is hard to beat.
A great picture from Mr. Christian Noyes.

From a course management perspective, the biggest challenge at the moment may be a lack of light in the morning.  To stay ahead of play, we are still starting at 6:00 a.m., and everything is a bit trickier for the first hour. 
Even with lights, mowing in the dark is challenging.
If you see the greens dotted for future pin placements, it's because choosing a good location is a whole lot easier to do when you have some light to work with, than in the dark.
Dotted during the day helps when it is dark out.

The clocks will be going back in two weeks, and eventually cold winter winds will be blowing.  So get out and take advantage of these special days while you can!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

A game changer?

Greens aerification is not something that either golfers or turf managers enjoy.  While this process provides long-term benefits to the putting surface, in the short-run, the greens often resemble Swiss cheese.  For years, equipment manufacturers and turf researchers have looked to build a better mouse trap, by developing a method of aerifying which increases pore space, removes (or dilutes) thatch, all while causing minimal disruption to the surface.

For the past several years, we have used Dryject aerification in conjunction with a conventional core aerification in the spring.  Does Dryject create channels with lots of pore space?  Yes.  Does Dryject create minimal surface disturbance?  Yes.  So, to date, the only argument some might make, is that Dryject isn't doing enough to remove or dilute thatch near the surface.

A conventional Dryject machine following core aerification.

Dryject typically gets the sand deep into the profile.

Well, those who developed the Dryject nearly 20 years ago, were outside the box thinkers back then, and continue to be so today.  The new question for them is, can Dryject actually reduce organic matter/thatch percentage in a putting green without pulling a plug?

This is where Laurel Creek steps into the picture.  We are always happy to help with turfgrass research which could benefit the golf industry.  In this case, we are located very close to Dryject's world headquarters, and didn't hesitate to let them use our nursery green for some real world testing of their prototype aerifier.

In order to sufficiently dilute organic matter, a good deal of sand needs to be added to the upper part of the soil profile.  Therefore, the hole spacing needs to be much tighter than with a traditional Dryject.  In the picture below, the hole spacing was  a tight 2" X 1.5".  This provides three times more holes per square foot than the Dryject spacing we have used.  You will also notice, that unlike a typical Dryject hole, the sand is staying in just the upper few inches of the soil.

Below, Dryject President, John Paddock, is keeping an eye on the process, and perhaps contemplating the next change to the amazing machine.  Measuring spacing, checking depth, and weighing sand was the order of the day.

While it will definitely take some time to see if this is a viable long-term substitute for core aerification, it is tough to argue with the visual results.  In sticking with tradition, the Dryject disturbance was minimal.  Below, is a picture of the nursery green just four days after the testing was done.

Who knows, the day may actually come, when aerification isn't considered to be a four letter word by many golfers.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Proper Planning

The Clubhouse expansion, and splash pad projects are now well underway, and it is great to see excavation work moving along quickly.  You might not think that these would have much impact on the Grounds Department operation, however there are a number of things which had to be taken into account.

For starters, we knew that the multitude of wires and pipes which came out the side of the Clubhouse would need to be relocated.  This included:
  • Irrigation zone control wires and common wire.
  • Power wire for irrigation controller.
  • Communication wire for irrigation controller.
  • Fiber optic wire to the Cabana building.
  • 480 Volt line for putting green fan.

As we discussed last winter in Rewired we tried to prepare as best as possible for the impact the Clubhouse project would have.  One thing we knew would be close, was the irrigation main line that supplies water to everything on the front side of the Clubhouse.  Had we just needed to avoid the actual building, we would have probably been alright.  However, with a 12' vertical cut for the new foundation, shoring had to be put in place away from the actual building, and the line moved.
The relocated 2" line is still not far from harm's way.

Here is a little before and after.  Prior to excavating the new foundation, the irrigation line is about 18" below ground level.

Now there is just a bit more change in the grade behind this line.  In this particular area, we also had to cut and cap where the three turf and shrub zones came off the main line.  Ideally, these can be tied back in for future irrigation once the building and landscaping are completed.

We had our fingers crossed as the excavator was digging a line for the storm drain last week, with our irrigation controller, pipes and valves all close by.  Thankfully, we had no geysers!

With silt fence and construction fencing surrounding it, we know that accessing the Clubhouse putting green has become a challenge for our members.  You are not alone, as getting blowers, mowers, and sprayers to the green, is also a challenge for the Grounds staff.  Sprinklers around the green were converted from full circle to part circle, in order to avoid hitting the fence and running onto the construction area.

Over at the pool area, the tennis irrigation supply line had run straight across the area where the splash pad is being built.  We cut this line along court #2, and rerouted it to feed courts #3 and 4.
Three turf zones and the tennis court irrigation were impacted by the splash pad.

Projects like this are exciting to take part in, and keep us on our toes, as the landscape literally shifts quickly.