Sunday, April 30, 2017

Heading Off Course

For the past five years, we've used this blog to keep you informed about what is happening on the golf course.  This week we're taking a break from golf, and heading off the course to take a quick look at a different kind of "behind the scenes project" which was recently completed.

It's unlikely that too many of you have had the opportunity to visit the Clubhouse boiler room--and truth be told, you really weren't missing much.  However, during the past month, Facilities Manager, David Shoemaker, and his team have worked with a contractor to make a significant improvement to this important piece of the Clubhouse infrastructure.

The picture below was taken during the transition of water heating systems.  The two original hot water heaters and huge 500 gallon storage tank are in the foreground.

Check out the difference with the old equipment removed.  The three new, tankless hot water heaters are more energy efficient and take up a fraction of the space of the old units.  The room looks so nice, it was deemed worthy of hanging some artwork on the wall.

One small challenge during this project was the removal of the old tank.  The Clubhouse had literally been built around the 500 gallon hot water storage tank.  Without five foot wide doorways, removing this in one piece was not an option.  Sam had to remove the outside jacket from the tank, then the insulation, and was finally able to use a reciprocating saw to cut the steel into manageable pieces.

With spring in full swing, and plenty of activity going on outside, we will be back on course next week!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Back in the Bunkers

This spring, we've noticed that the sand in several of the new bunkers has not firmed up as we had expected.  Given that this is the same sand we've used in all of the previously renovated bunkers (which firmed very quickly), this has been something of a surprise, and has us looking into potential causes for the difference.

Inconsistent moisture is one potential factor here.  Obviously there is no irrigation running over the winter, and precipitation was hit and miss, with a very dry February and wet March.  While we often think of something dry as being firmer than when wet (like pasta, for example), that's not always the case.  If you've ever gone for a run on the beach, you quickly learn that the firmer sand is the wet sand, closest to the water.

In fact, for  tournament preparation, you will often see bunkers being watered by hand to keep the sand firm.  

While moisture may be playing a role, we are also revisiting how these new bunkers are being maintained.  With many of the new bunkers being smaller than the old ones, we have elected to hand rake them, instead of using a machine.  Even on the larger bunkers, where we do use the Sand Pro, the bunker faces are steeper than in the past, and we've been making sure the mechanical rake only stays on the flat portion of the bunker.

So, it's a bit ironic that we are now finding that our bunker maintenance protocol, which is designed to keep the bunkers in the best condition, may actually be contributing to the lack of sand firmness.  That is, with no machine in many of the bunkers, there's no on-going compaction.  With no machine on the steep faces, again, no compaction.  What's the answer?

Yes, we are using a Sand Pro to help compact the sand...However, this machine has no rake assembly on it, and it is the large flotation tires which are doing the packing work for us.  Last Sunday night we irrigated the green surrounds to wet the sand, and on Monday three team members spent all day checking and adjusting sand depth, and packing the sand.

This is clearly not a one and done job.  We will be looking to get back in these bunkers every couple of weeks initially, then back off as we see a change in the sand firmness.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Nesting Time

It's spring, and the time of year when we see lots of birds sitting on their nests, eagerly awaiting the arrival of their hatchlings.  As you play #14, take a look to the right of the green, and you can see a red-tailed hawk nest.

Due to the height of the nest, it's a bit difficult to get a clear view of the activity, but you may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of mom (or dad) patiently sitting. 

Below, we saw one of the proud parent looking for a meal.

Following a successful hunt, breakfast is being prepared in a nearby tree.

And while driving across the bridge on #14, we got an up close look at some serious talons,

Once again, we look at this nesting as evidence of golf and the environment working together to provide habitat for wildlife.  So watch out rabbits, squirrels and snakes--there will be more mouths to feed this spring.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Tee Time

For several years, we were only aerifying tees in August, however this has proven to be insufficient to keep up with thatch accumulation, and many of the tees have become softer than is ideal.  Therefore, in addition to our August aerification, we have added a spring coring to the cultural practices program for tees.
#9 tee, four days post aerification.

While much of last week's weather was cold and wet, we were fortunate to get a brief window when we were able to aerify tees.  Despite heavy rain just a couple of days earlier, the conditions last Monday were perfect for the process.  Temperatures were warm enough to dry the surface and allow for a quick and easy cleanup, while not stressing the turf.  We topdressed the tees, broomed the sand in, and then received another shot of rain that evening, helping to move the sand off the surface and deeper into the holes.

While it often seems that we are fighting the weather, it's truly appreciated when things go as planned.


Sunday, April 2, 2017

Turf Research

Often times, when we discuss turfgrass research with anyone outside of the industry, they are amazed that individuals devote their entire lives to studying how to improve grass.  After all, it's just grass--seed, water, some fertilizer--you're good to go, right?

Well, from a golf course perspective, we demand much more from turf today than we did in the past.  Green speeds at today's professional tournaments are often times twice what they were 40 years ago.  Developing grasses that can actually survive under the abuse of extremely low mowing heights doesn't often happen by accident.

Again, if you think it's just grass, click on the link below and take a moment (or two) and see if you can wrap your head around the research done at Rutgers to develop more heat-tolerant Bentgrass:

 Candidate genes and molecular markers associated with heat tolerance in colonial Bentgrass

Turf research isn't just for golf courses.  With grass all around us, this work benefits most everyone through its use in home lawns and athletic fields.

Breeding varieties of grass which are more drought and wear tolerant, as well as disease and insect resistant, has obvious benefits.  Fewer inputs, conservation of resources, and a playing surface that can handle 12 soccer games every weekend are some of the goals.

Not quite as simple as getting out a spreader and throwing a bag of fertilizer in it, now is it!