Monday, December 26, 2016

Happy Holidays!

A tradition that now dates back 25 years, is the annual holiday sausage feast.

We are certainly fortunate to have such a dedicated and hard-working staff.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Big Cover Up

As most people know, Bermuda grass is considered to be a "warm-season" turf.  And while the Bermuda grass on the practice tee was bred and chosen for its tolerance to cold weather, the severe winter weather we experienced two years ago took its toll on both cool and warm-season grasses.

This past spring we re-sodded the back half of the lower practice tee with a newer variety of Bermuda, known as "Latitude 36" which was developed at Oklahoma State University, where the latitude is, yes, 36 degrees N.  For reference, Laurel Creek is located at 40 degrees N, with typical winter temperatures just slightly below those at OSU.

This past week, we covered a good portion of the Bermuda grass on the lower tee to protect it from another potentially nasty winter.  We will likely remove the cover in early March when the threat of severe weather has passed.

Whenever we incorporate  a new practice into the management of the golf course, we try to leave untreated check plots.  In this instance, by covering only a portion of the Bermuda grass, we can better evaluate the benefits of this, and see if it will be worth covering more of the tee in the future.

Given the taste of the Polar Vortex we received this past week, it looks like we may have gotten the cover down just in time.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Winter is Coming

After one of the hottest summers on record, and above average temperatures throughout the fall, we finally got a taste of some much cooler weather this past week.  While this may give the mowing equipment a break, it definitely doesn't indicate a slow down for work to be done on the course.  Here is a sampling of what the crew is working on as winter approaches:
  • Bring in course accessories such as water coolers, ball washers and divot mix boxes.
  • Repurpose the divot mix boxes with ice melt for the Clubhouse entrances.
  • Winterize the irrigation system.
  • Bring in the fountain from #5, winterize, and store.
  • Pressure wash bridges.
  • Leaf removal.
  • Prune ornamental grasses.
  • Prune red twig dogwoods and oakleaf hydrangeas.
  • Pull soil samples for testing.
  • Apply pre-emergent herbicide to tees, fairways, and rough.
  • Apply Snow Mold prevention to greens.
  • Prepare equipment for snow removal.
As Thor supervises, Dave and Don remove the ball washer from #17 tee.
In addition to these tasks, we've got a few important projects planned for the "off-season" which we will be tackling over the winter.  While these may not deliver the visual "wow" of some recent course improvements, it's often the behind the scenes preventive maintenance that keeps things running smoothly when they're pushed to the red line, as the turf was so often this year!  

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Big Blowout

The annual winterizing of the irrigation system surely marks the change of seasons.  While we typically blow out the system prior to Thanksgiving, this year we were forced to postpone the event until December.

There were two reasons for this.  First, as you have likely seen on the news, we have been way behind in precipitation for several months.  Fortunately, we finally got a good soaking rain this past week.

The second thing that made 2016 different from others, was this year's construction project on the golf course, which still had sod being installed well into mid-November.  Clearly, keeping sod alive this time of year is a whole lot easier, and requires less water, than when the project started in July.  However, once the irrigation system is shut down, we will be relying almost exclusively on rainfall to water this turf.

The golf course itself has over 20 miles of PVC and HDPE piping, so a large compressor is required to get the job of purging water from the system done quickly and efficiently.  In addition to this, we also winterize the community entrance islands' systems, the Clubhouse irrigation, the tennis courts, and the Cabana building.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Frost Delays

This time of year, we often have to delay the first start times of the day due to frost.  This brief video from the USGA explains why we must avoid both walking and driving on frosted turf:

USGA Frost Delays

While the video discusses the potential for damage to the short grass, even at rough height, cart traffic can severely injure the grass:

As always, our goal is to provide the best playing conditions for you.  Protecting the health of the turf is obviously important in achieving this, and your patience is appreciated.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Giving Thanks

While there's no such thing as an easy year on the golf course, 2016 will certainly be remembered as a more challenging one.  Mother Nature threw it all at us this year--from extreme heat and limited rainfall, to weed, insect, and disease activity, the likes of which we've never seen.  Add to this a construction project which started in July, and 2016 won't be forgotten anytime soon.

With cooler temperatures now, we can take the opportunity to step back and reflect on what areas of the operation worked well this year, and where changes can be made going forward.  One thing that is abundantly clear is that we couldn't have succeeded without the support and hard work of those on the front line each and every day.

These guys take great pride in their work, and appreciate being able to enhance our members' golfing experience.  So, at this time of year, when we are grateful for so many things in our lives, we thank the team who worked tirelessly to make 2016 a successful year on the golf course.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Ripping the Rough

As we've said many times, we love all of the wildlife the golf course is home to.  However, over the past couple of months, we continue to see areas of the rough where digging is taking place. 

In late September or early October, it seemed that this might be the work of skunks or raccoons going after grubs, yet the ripping of rough continues even now.  Well, we finally saw who is actually responsible for this damage:

Perhaps someone might want to remind these vandals that we're only a little over a week away from Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Soil or dirt?

What's the difference between soil and dirt?  Soil is what you grow crops in, while dirt is what you get under your fingernails.

This may be a somewhat lighthearted answer to this question, however, when we stick a shovel in the ground of the golf course, we are quickly reminded of what much of the property used to be--a quarry.  Often times, we find that we're growing turf on something that many people would refer to as dirt, not soil.  The picture below of an old clay pit on site shows the very sandy material on top of an incredibly impermeable clay.

The natural stratification of soils can easily be seen in the old quarry.

With over one million cubic yards of material moved during the original construction of the golf course, what's beneath the surface often resembles a marble cake, as these two different  soils were used as fill material.

These days, what's under the ground may not be seen very often, but this fall's construction brought the issue back to the forefront of our thoughts.  Once again, you can clearly see why some areas never seem to dry out, and others are always droughty.

Drain line crossing #1 fairway.

Bunker drainage on #16.
Upon closer inspection, both of these "soils" look like they might have come from somewhere other than Earth.

"Moon pottery" from #1 on the left and "Martian coffee grounds" from #16 on the right.
Certainly neither of these resemble a potting soil or bagged topsoil that you'll find in the nursery section of the local home improvement store.  So what might be dirt by some folks' standards, is soil for us.  Of course, if Matt Damon can grow crops with this stuff, who are we to complain:

Sunday, October 30, 2016

New Bunker Sand

People often ask about firming new bunker sand.  While a good, soaking rain definitely helps, the contractor uses another technique:

This is a vibratory plate compactor.  If you ever had a brick paver patio or driveway installed, it's likely that the same piece of equipment was used on that project.

While the vibratory plate moves quite easily across most flat surfaces, as you can see, some assistance is required when trying to get it up a bunker face.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

#18 Master Plan Work

Much of the Master Plan work completed this year has led to visually dramatic changes.  However, the work done on #18 this past week is much more subtle in nature.  In the front of the green, the sod was stripped, topsoil removed, mound softened, then topsoil and sod were replaced.

The softened mound in front of #18.

On the left side of the green, the deep basin has been raised 2.5'.  When standing in this collection area, you are now close to eye level with the putting surface.  While this may make a third shot slightly easier, any pin location on the left side of the green will still be very challenging.
Flags indicate the Bentgrass line which will extend down past the drain basin.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

What would you do for a couple of bucks?

The answer to this question is that Laurel Creek does a good deal for the deer, and countless other animals who live on the golf course.  While providing the best playing conditions for our members will always remain the top priority, with 237 acres of property (including 38 acres of wetlands), we also never forget that over the past 25 years, this land has become the home to thousands of other inhabitants.

Two bucks pop out of the wetlands in front of #8 tee.

Golf courses are often characterized as harming the environment.  However, a quick look back at what Laurel Creek's land was previously used for, seems to show that we now have a clear environmental  improvement in land use.

Prior to the course being built, a good portion of Laurel Creek was a mine.  The property yielded both gravel, which was used for constructing road beds, as well as clay, used for lining landfills.  As you can see in the picture below, this was hardly an inviting place for flora and fauna:

The scale of the mining operation is somewhat difficult to describe.  Here is a picture of the clay cell where the driving range now exists:

If you're wondering what the two tiny objects are, here you go:

Those "tiny" objects are actually large 4" pumps, used to remove water from the clay cell.  The higher pump was accessed from above, using a 20' ladder to get to the shelf.

In contrast to this dark and desolate landscape, today the property is teeming with animal life.  Here's a brief list of what we see on a regular basis around the course:

  • Snapping, painted and box turtle
  • Bullfrog
  • Garter snake
  • Northern water snake
  • Bass
  • Catfish
  • Sunny
  • Kingfisher
  • Duck
  • Heron 
  • Bald eagle
  • Harrier
  • Sharp-shinned hawk
  • Red-tailed hawk
  • Osprey
  • Egret
  • Great horned owl
  • Turkey
  • Deer
  • Muscrat
  • Mink
  • Beaver
  • Raccoon
  • Opossum
  • Moles, voles, and mice
  • Chipmunk
  • Fox
Great Blue Heron with Bass for breakfast.

Many of these animals call Laurel Creek home.  By doing so, they are telling the tale of how golf and the environment can truly work together to improve an area's biological diversity.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Some Tough Rough

Heavy, thick, wet, clumpy, and nasty are just a few words that can be used to describe another adjective (or in this case, a noun):  Rough.  What got it growing like crazy?  Well it wasn't any fertilizer we applied, as the only fert application of the year took place over six months ago.

We've been saying for quite a while now that we could use a nice slow, soaking rain, and it finally happened last week.  While the rainfall totals weren't that dramatic, at only 1.20" over five days, the moisture and cooler temperatures got the rough growing.

During prolonged periods of hot, dry weather, we often here people say their lawns are dead.  In most instances, the turf is just dormant, and when better weather arrives, the "dead" grass magically springs back to life.
The heavy dew spews from under the mower decks.

This week we put out both of our large area rough mowers, and made hay.  Even in the afternoons, on Monday and Tuesday, the moisture stuck around and there were a lot of clippings to deal with.  Both our tow-behind blowers, and fleet of backpack blowers went to work on the clumpy clippings.

Clippings from the rough are sticking to everything, including the green, tee and fairway mowers, when they turn.  More rain this past Saturday into Sunday will certainly make keeping up with the growth a challenge!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Pay me now, or pay me later.

Last year we began finding items in one of the pump station's wet well (Never a Dull Moment), such as plastic bags and even fish.  The question of how these items were getting in was answered this past week when the station's intake screen was inspected.
Jeff Lenko preps for his dive.
The intake pipe goes out 60' from the pump station into the lake, and the screen is attached to the end of the pipe.  Here is an example of what a pump station intake should look like at time of installation.

Suffice it to say that what Jeff found in our lake, no longer looks anything like this.  While part of the intake was made of stainless steel, most of the box was not, and has developed gaping holes after 25 years.  These holes allow anything from trash to turtles to enter the pump station.

There's certainly a lesson to be learned from this.  Had the original intake screen box been made completely from stainless steel, the upfront cost would certainly have been higher.  However, we also might not be looking at the cost of replacing the screen now, and the involved process to replace it.

With few other options, we will now need to have a new box fabricated and installed this winter.  This can likely be done without draining the lake, but will require at least two people to get the job done.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Before and After

When you stand in the approach to #4 green, it would be easy to think that there is a good deal more sand to avoid now than prior to the renovation.  Thus it may come as a surprise to many to learn that the square footage of greenside bunkers was actually reduced by exactly 50% on this hole.

One of the constants we see in Andrew Green's design philosophy is improving the player's view of the hazards.  Clearly the bunkers do not need to be large to be effective.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Course Care Tips

We need your help!  Unfortunately, even with few outside golf events lately, we continue to see a large number of unrepaired ball marks on the greens.  Fixing your ball mark should be a habit.  To this end, here are a few suggestions:
--Go to your ball mark first when walking onto the green, then go to your ball.
--Repair your ball mark and one other on each and every green.
--Make sure those you play with repair their ball marks on each and every green.

Additional information on ball mark repair from the USGA can be found here:  Ball Mark Repair Quiz

Below are some step by step instructions:

In addition to unrepaired ball marks, as more players opt to wear shorts from early spring to late fall, we are seeing another turf problem:

What killed the grass, while leaving two spots unharmed?  No, this problem wasn't caused by some new turf disease.  Here's a clue:
In prior years there would have only been one cause we could point to:  Insect repellent applied while standing over turf.  However, some of today's aerosol, spray-on sun screen products also use alcohol or butane as propellants, and can do the same damage to the grass.  Please try to apply these products when standing on a cart path.

Your help with these issues will be appreciated by all!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Limited Light

Tournament prep is always a challenge, as we attempt to provide the best conditions for our members.  This time of year, an 8:30 shotgun becomes really tricky, since it doesn't get light until after 6:00. 

Here's a brief glimpse into greens mowing in the dark, on #9:

Even with lights, working in the dark has some risks.  It's difficult to thoroughly check the greens prior to mowing, observe the quality of cut, and be aware of potential fluid leaks on the turf.  Most importantly, we need to make sure the team is able to work safely with limited visibility.

The reward for the effort comes when the Sun rises and we can see the course looking good and ready for play.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

A New Twist on the Turn

The work on the green surrounds has definitely created a few maintenance challenges.  For example, under normal circumstances, crew members are instructed to turn their mowers in the rough (not on the collar) when cutting greens each morning.  However, when the rough is now fresh sod that was just installed, we have to find other options.

A 2' X 8' piece of plastic lattice works well as a surface to turn on, as it protects the turf, is lightweight, and can easily be moved every few passes the mower makes.
We have now opened the bunkers on #8 for play.  However, #2 and 3 should still be considered GUR.  The lattice is being left in these bunkers as a reminder that they're still not to be played from.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Rough Road to Recovery

One week ago, we were looking forward to a small break in the heat.  As promised by the weather forecasters, we got just that--a very small break, before the heat and humidity returned.  During the past three weeks, we've experienced above average temperatures 18 out of 21 days, with 13 of those in the 90's.

By itself, these temperatures make for a rough road to recovery from aerification.  However, we also have had to rely largely on irrigation water to keep the turf going, as we are behind in rainfall by close to 75% for the month.  There's no better time to see the uniformity (or lack thereof) in irrigation coverage than under these conditions.  We've been hand watering 150-200 man hours per week, and the golf course still has the Goldilocks syndrome:  Too wet here, too dry there, and just right over here.

It shouldn't come as a great surprise, but any areas which were weaker going into aerification have been struggling to recover.  The extra strike they may be dealing with is high traffic, lack of morning sunlight, poor irrigation coverage, sandy soil, etc.

While the Bentgrass is looking good, the Poa annua in the walk-on/walk-off area of #14 green is still not loving life.

Given what we've experienced this year, one might ask the question, "If environmental conditions are so tough and the turf is weak, then why the heck are we aerifying now?"

Aerification in August generally coincides with temperatures dropping, a strong labor force to complete the task, and helps prevent Poa Annua encroachment in the fine turf areas.  In 2017, we will be starting the aerification process one week later, again, in hopes that the weather is heading in the right direction.  If we look back at how the process has worked over the past 10+ years, we find that the timing has worked well--aerify, heal, and get some great conditions for golf in the fall.
Not just hot, but record heat this month!

Unfortunately, for the moment, we need some patience until we have consistently seasonable temperatures, rainfall...and the needle drops below the red line.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Hoping to Heal the Holes

To be blunt, the past two weeks were a brutal time to be aerifying, and trying to have turf recover.  While aerification provides some great long-term plant health benefits (such as decreasing compaction, thatch removal, increased pore space), the short-term injury can be significant.  Couple this with the longest heat wave of the year, and it kept things interesting to say the least.

One of the other things we continue to see is the significant difference in recovery time from aerification, based on environmental growing conditions.  If you were to walk from #9 to #18 greens, you'd quickly see that 18 appears to be several days behind in filling in.  Even on the putting green, the inner half, which has less sunlight and air movement, looks totally different than the outer half. 

These two pictures were taken within 30 seconds of each other:


Fortunately, we'll be getting a brief break in the weather this week.  Some cool nights will do a world of good for the turf, as it looks to reach the finish line of a marathon-like summer.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

In the blink of an eye...

There's certainly no shortage of topics to discuss surrounding the golf course:  Aerification, (another) powerful heat wave on tired turf, and the Master Plan.

While you can't blame anyone for choosing the pool over golf right now, you really should get out on the course and get a firsthand look at the work that's been done thus far.  The team from Mottin Golf works quickly and efficiently.  Below are a couple of pictures from #15:

We're falling a bit behind on documenting construction, as a huge amount of work took place on #2 and #3 this past week.  Hopefully we will catch up soon.

The Master Plan significantly reduces the square footage of bunkers on the course.  However, with the positioning of several bunkers being tweaked around the greens, it would be wise to keep the sand wedge handy!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Master Plan and More...Much More

As seen below, monitoring the steps of the Master Plan work requires attention.  However, this isn't the time of year we can focus solely on one thing, since other areas of the course continue to cause challenges as we enter August.

For example, the pump station between #5 green and #6 tee was having difficulty maintaining pressure with its small submersible pump.  We discovered that the pump's discharge pipe had corroded, causing the water to recirculate back into the wet well, instead of the irrigation system. 

The good news is that the pump didn't need replacing, and we were able to dive in and put a temporary clamp around the hole until the discharge pipe was replaced this week.

From the category of "We haven't seen that before...",  all of the wet weather last week led to slime mold developing on several of the greens.  Fortunately, it poses little risk to the turf.  On #12 we were treated to three different colors at the same time.

Early in the week, we noticed thinning of Bentgrass on several tees.  After soaking some plugs in a lemon dish detergent solution, high counts of Annual Bluegrass Weevil larvae were found--this too belongs in the "never seen before" category.  Bentgrass can handle weevils much better than Poa, but 100 weevils per square foot is enough to do damage to Bent, especially at this time of year.  A treatment was made to the tees the next morning.

In looking at any areas of concentrated cart or foot traffic (aka pinch points), it's evident that there's a lot of tired turf on the golf course right now.  We will begin aerification on Monday, along with Master Plan work on #3.  Undoubtedly this will continue to keep things interesting!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Big Time Busy

This time of year always has its challenges--the weather is more unpredictable than ever, turf roots are dwindling, and we are trying to prepare for August's aerification.

In addition to this, the implementation of the Golf Course  Master Plan commenced this past week, with work starting on #8 green complex, and mounding on #15 landing area.  As luck would have it, as soon as construction started, so did the rain, with the golf course receiving 3.4" of rain from Tuesday through Friday (and additional rain on Saturday and Sunday).

Despite the uncooperative weather, the team from Mottin Golf made great progress on the bunker complex around #8 green, as well as the mounding on #15.  Barring any further issues this coming week, these two areas will be completed.

Some photos showing the quick transition on #8:
Monday morning, architect Andrew Green looks on as the work commences.
By Monday afternoon things had changed dramatically.
Thursday afternoon and the shaping was nearly complete.

As the Master Plan shows, on #8 green, one of the major changes is eliminating the large bunker left of the green which rarely came into play.  The new green complex will still have three bunkers, and although they are much smaller in square footage than the old bunkers, their proximity to the green will likely make them every bit as challenging to avoid.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Hot, Hot, Hot!

When you are already at the hottest week of the year, and then see temperatures forecast to be 10 degrees above average, you know it's going to be a tough time for the turf.  Our weather station told the tale on Saturday, as we hit 97 degrees:

Rain can certainly not be counted on either.  A few storms looked like they were heading for the course, then the mysterious invisible dome repelled them, and they missed us to the south.
Looks like the rain is heading our way...
...but no, it slid right by us.

When temperatures are this hot, root growth in cool season turf will be virtually non-existent, and the best we can do is try to maintain the existing root system.  In a "normal" year, we see the greatest root growth in the spring, followed by a decline in the summer.  It seems quite likely that this July will accelerate that root loss.
Nothing lasts forever, and undoubtedly this nasty weather will end eventually.  In the meantime, we're going to batten down the hatches, and will do what's necessary to protect the course.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Quick Payback

In a post earlier this year, Quick Coupler Install, we discussed the installation of dozens of quick coupler valves as one of our winter projects.  Right now, winter seems like a distant memory, however this is the time when we are reaping the rewards of this work.
Team member, Joe Kringler, gives the new quick couplers a thumbs-up.
So far this summer the crew has spent three hundred man hours hand watering fairways.  As we had hoped, the installation of these valves has allowed the time to be spent much more efficiently than in the past, as sprinklers no longer need to be disassembled and then reassembled after use.  In addition to being able to spend more time actually watering, the new quick coupler valves have also dramatically reduced issues we would see when sprinklers were being taken apart repeatedly.
No longer do we have to mess with the many parts of a sprinkler.

Once the quick coupler valve is located, just remove the lid, stick the quick coupler key into the valve and give it a turn--instant water.

Having installed the valves in 10" boxes, they're easy to find.  However, we also created a guide using aerial photographs of the course to help the crew locate them in a hurry.  As the quick couplers are next to sprinklers, the yardage is noted on the picture.

Had this been a summer when little hand-watering was required, it wouldn't have broken anyone's heart not having to put these quick coupler valves to use.  However, it's not often that occurs, and as the Sun now beats down, it's good to know that we can quickly provide some relief to the stressed turf.