Saturday, November 14, 2015

Winter Projects for 2015-2016

Well the rumor mill is pretty active right now about what all we have on tap for this winter when it comes to course improvements.  As you may have noticed the parking lot has some new features being stockpiled in it which will be disappearing over the next couple of months.

The most important project is the renovation of #3 green.  We will begin this project on Monday the 23rd and it should take us a couple of weeks to complete if the weather cooperates.  We will move the pin to the top of the ridge in the fairway near the fairway bunker and play this hole as a par 3 while the green is being worked on and healing in.  We will be overly protective of this green this winter so I will not set a timetable for when it will reopen.  It could possibly be covered when other greens are not if the temperatures dictate it.

So what are we doing and why.  We will be removing the top 4-5 inches of the greens mix and replacing it with the new greens mix located in the parking lot.  The green will then be sodded using Champion Ultradwarf bermudagrass.  We will be rolling, hydorjecting, and topdressing the green throughout the winter months to prepare it for the spring. The work is being done to remove the excessive organic layer and various sand layers in the top of the soil profile which continues to restrict water and oxygen movement and producing the unhealthy turfgrass which we now have.

We have tried to modify the soil profile with standard core aerification, DryJect sand injection aerification, and many other ways not to have to take on this disruptive process but each year the green continues to get worse and it is time to rip off the band-aid and fix the problem.  I apologize for this minor inconvenience but the green will be much better moving forward and worth all the temporary pain.

Our biggest project which will take a couple of months to complete will be the installation of close to 5,000 linear feet of drainage pipe in the landing area on #10 fairway.  This area has struggled for the past several years due to lack of sun and poor infiltration and surface drainage.  We began correcting the issue this summer with the removal of select shade producing trees along the right side of the area.  This is one step but since the area has little to any surface slope we will need to install subsurface drain lines to remove the water and create a suitable surface for play.  The drain lines will start near the 150 yard marker and will continue every 10 feet toward the green moving across the fairway to a large collection pipe which will move the water to the lake.  We know this landing area has been a point of contention for many golfers this year and like our other projects we are going to fix it instead of patching it.  While we are working on this hole all tees will be moved to a teeing area about 100 yards from the green making this another par 3 for the winter.

Our other project that we will hopefully get to this winter is the continued installation of used railroad cross ties along the cart paths to eliminate erosion, direct water flow to surface drains, and to encourage golfers not to drive their golf carts in areas where they are not supposed to.  This will be third on our list and will most likely be carried out more toward the spring than during the winter months.

We will do everything in our power to not interfere with your round while we are making these much needed improvements to the course.  We trust that you will see the benefit shortly as we continue to work to make the course the best it can be.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Light Up The Night

Each year I have the pleasure of volunteering at East Lake Golf Club for the TOUR Championship and each year I come away with new ideas and new techniques to make my course better.  This year was no exception and one of the new ideas that I came away with was the addition of LED light bars to some of our equipment.  When you have to begin preparing the golf course before the sun comes up then sometimes you have to find a way to...light up the night.

We begin our work day at 6:00, and sometimes earlier, so finding a way to add needed lighting to our equipment was a must.  After a quick search on the wonderful internet we found these LED light bars.  Mitch and Bill spent a couple of rainy days working to install them.  On our Toro top dresser we installed this 34" LED light bar facing forward.

This is a 24" LED light bar that was placed on the side of the roll cage of the topdresser to light up where the sand is being applied to the greens.  This will help so we don't wind up skipping or overlapping topdressing sand on the greens.

With the lights installed we can now light up the entire green and see exactly where we are going and where we have been.

Mitch and Bill also installed a 24" light bar on my cart to see how it was worked and I have to say it works great.  Time will tell if it drains the batteries any faster than the standard equipped lights of the Carry All but we are only using them for such a short period of time I doubt it will be an issue.

Here is a shot of the putting green being lit up with the LED bar from by cart and it will allow us to see everything on the green early in the morning.

Thanks to Jason at East Lake for showing me this great and very economical tip to make our course better.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Course Improvements--#15 Fairway Bunker

Sometimes designers place details on a golf course by what might look good on a piece of paper or maybe to add some character to the golf course but in reality these details are not necessary and more often than not are costly and time consuming to maintain.  This was the case for our fairway bunker on #15.  A very large, long bunker which even the modest golfer could easily carry.  Although pleasing to the eye from the tee it took a lot of manpower to maintain and took close to 4 loads of sand to keep in playing condition.

So last month we decided to reduce our expenses and time spent maintaining an area on the course which no one used and had become an eyesore by filling in the first 75% of the bunker and sodding this area.  Willie and Mitch spent a few days hauling soil generated from last years septic line expansion to the area.  The soil was then spread out and packed.

Once the soil was packed and ready we brought in a truckload of sod to cover the area.  The lip of the new bunker area was stacked with sod three layers high to create the edge of the bunker best. Willie did a very nice job of shaping the new bunker and floating all the dirt out to make sure water did not flow into the bunker but was diverted around it so we won't experience any bad washouts.

A steady drizzle of rain was no challenge for our staff as they just kept on one piece of sod after the other until the entire area was covered and cut in.  Nice to have such a dedicated crew that nothing gets in their way.

Once the sod was down it was rolled with a 1.25 ton roller several times in several directions to ensure good soil contact and to eliminate any ruts or creases.  New sand was added to the bunker and was then watered, packed, and raked.

This is the new view of the fairway bunker from the teeing area when we were finished.

I am confident by the end of the growing season next year you won't even be able to tell that the old bunker ever existed.

This is a shot of the area looking back toward the teeing area.

So we have taken an area on the course which was not in play for 99.9% of our golfers and was a tremendous drag on our manpower and budget to keep maintained and have, in my opinion, dramatically improved it for both the golfer and the agronomy staff.

Sometimes what looks good on paper or looks good to the eye just doesn't make sense and I think we have made a drastic improvement to the course with this simple change.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Graden Groundhog Demostration

In the last blogpost Graden Contour Sand Injection demonstration we showed one of the many tools that are available to the golf course industry to help maintain greens properly and help to provide conditions that golfers demand. Although the Graden CSI did a wonderful job in removing the unwanted organic matter in the top inch of the greens there was a great amount of material to clean up.  Sometimes that is the biggest issue with doing cultural up the mess that we create.

Another machine that was demoed was the Graden Groundhog material removal machine.  This machine is a self contained debris cleaning machine.  It has brushes and paddles inside which sweep the generated material into a hopper which can then be raised and dumped into a waiting vehicle or piled up on the side of the green to be picked up later.

Above is a video of the Groundhog clearing the material generated from the Graden CSI.


Once the material is cleared from the greens surface it can then be easily lifted above a vehicle to take the material away from the greens area.

Here is the area of the putting green after the groundhog has been over it.  Very little material left on the surface which will only require a little blowing.  The Groundhog during the demo had the brushes set just a touch too low and pulled some of the sand out of the grooves but since it is adjustable I believe I could set it to leave some more of the sand on the surface to help with leaving a smoother, less disrupted surface.

Here is the area after it was cleaned up and blown off.  The amount of material removed by the Groundhog was impressive and the fact that it would have taken agronomy staff members so much longer to pick up the debris is even more important.  This small demonstration area was nice to do but I know if we had to do all the course it would go much faster and be less back breaking on the crew if one had a machine such as this to help.  Again thanks to Michael Crawford of Redemix Turf Products for the demonstration.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Graden Contour Sand Injection demonstration

On September 22 we did a demo of the Graden Contour Sand Injection verticutting machine on the upper portion of the putting green.  We had a lot of comments and questions about this area because of the unique white lines of sand that the CSI created in the putting surface and because many had never seen this process done before.  I wanted to wait a few weeks before doing this blogpost so we could see how it all turned out and how it recovered before making any conclusions on the process and its benefits, if any.

Here is a video of the Graden CSI in action.  From a superintendent standpoint I was very impressed with the amount of material the machine removed and how it completely filled the created groove with sand immediately behind the blades.  From a golfer standpoint, attested by some of our golfers who came over to watch the demo, I was impressed by how smooth and puttable the surface was directly following the application.  Because the grooves are completely, and immediately, filled with sand there is little to any detectable effect on ball roll.

The special auger of the machine which moves all the debris generated by the machine to the sides of the passes made for a very clean operation.  Using a backpack blower to move the material to the side would probably be helpful but all in all it is a very clean and easy process.

With the grooves filled with sand once you move the generated debris away you can easily see that the grooves are filled all the way to the top and thus you don't have any depressions or grooves that will affect ball roll and will help to shorten the recovery time and the amount of complaints we heard from golfers who putted across the demo area.

Our demo was done using 2 mm blades and we went to a depth of just over 3/4".  I did like how easy the depth was able to be changed and how the amount of sand placed into the grooves could be changed with just the turn of a lever.  With the ability to use 1mm, 2mm, or 3mm blades the machine gives many different cultural practice options to best fit the time of year, the amount of material one wishes to remove, and the amount of disruption to the surface needed or allowed.

The demo area that we used was about 1,100 sq ft and from this area we removed enough material to fill one of our Toro Workman MDEs one and a half times.  Considering that according to Graden literature we were affecting 15-20% of the putting surface, a yearly total value suggested by USGA, it was very impressive that we could remove that much material and not affect the putting surface anymore than we did.  We used the Graden Groundhog to remove the debris from the surface which was also very impressive but we will show that on a later post.

Here is the area on the putting green on the day of the demo, September 22.  It has been blown off and rolled.  Very puttable and the biggest thing that one could see was the stark white lines of the sand.  Picture at the top of this post is also from demo day.

This is a shot of the demo area on October 2. Just to make it clear, we did nothing special or extra to this area.  We did not place any additional fertilizer or water to the area to improve or facilitate recovery as we would during an aerification period.  I wanted to see under the "worst" of conditions how long would it take to recover and how would it look.

Here is the area on October 16 and it is virtually completely healed in.  The lines you see are completely covered with turfgrass and the extra oxygen, water, and nutrients being allowed to enter the root system are what is causing the darker green lines to be visible.

The demo of the Graden CSI machine was very impressive and the benefits of the machine are very evident.  Not only did we remove a lot of organic matter from the top of the putting surface but we were able to incorporate over 1,100 pounds of sand into this area.  I have noticed how much firmer this area is compared to the area just to the side which was not done.  I would like to thank Mike Crawford of Redexim Turf Products for setting up this demo.  Hope we will be able to purchase a few of these machines to help make the greens along the Tennessee Golf Trail even better.

Monday, September 28, 2015

What's Up With the White Sand??

"More sand, laddie" is a quote accredited to Old Tom Morris, the first greenskeeper at The Old Course at St. Andrews.  Topdressing greens and other areas on golf courses has been as common as mowing the greens since the beginning of the game of golf.  So why is there such an uproar when greens, and other areas of the golf course, are topdressed now. 

For many years we have been using dyed green sand to topdress our greens in an effort to appease golfers and lessen the amount of grumbling and complaints heard by the agronomy team and the proshop but this has been to the detriment of our greens. This picture shows the layering of fine green sand that had occurred over the many years of continuous use of green sand.

The problem with layering of sand in greens, especially green dyed sand is that it restricts the movement of water, air , and nutrients within the soil profile. The biggest problem is that the roots can not thrive in this environment and as you can see in this photo break off at this layer.

This is an electron microscope image of a sand particle. As you can see it is far from round and smooth as one might think. Each one of those pores or holes in the surface of the sand particle has the potential to act as a cation exchange site or an area in which nutrients and water can attach to later be used by the root system.

Now image you fill up or eliminate 70-80% of these valuable cation exchange sites with paint. Is it feasible to believe that the soil structure and the root system could function properly and provide us with the high quality putting surfaces that we are all demanding? 

For a better visualization with something we are all more familiar with, a golf ball. Imagine removing 3/4 of the dimples on a golf ball. The golf ball would not function properly and would not generate the lift that golfers demand.

I agree that green sand is more appealing to the eye but it is harmful to the health of the green and that is why we have discontinued the use of it at Harrison Bay. We are working to improve our course, not simply out to upset anyone. If you still have an issue with the white sand, see me. Don't take it out on the proshop or the outside operations staff. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Time to Reset

I have to begin this blogpost with a sincere apology.  Over the past couple of years I have failed to do the job that I was hired to do; to be the caretaker, the protector, the "voice" of the golf course.  I have spent so much time trying to satisfy so many different entities from golfers, to management, to the proshop, that I have failed to care for the most important entity we have, the golf course itself.

One of my favorite movies is An American President and to quote Michael Douglas' character "I have been so busy doing my job, I have forgotten to DO my job.  Well, that all ends today."  I have spent countless hours worrying, stressing, and beating myself up over what we need to do on the golf course to keep everyone happy and not effect or interfere with anyone's golf game that I have failed to carry out many of the important agronomic practices that I need to carry out to ensure the golf course is in top condition.  That all ends today.

So what does that mean for you, the golfer.  We will be carrying out more of the vital and important cultural practices that we have put on the back burner such as verticutting, aerification, topdressing, and slicing to name a few.  Don't be surprised when you see an aerifier on the course or a slicer alleviating compaction and wear in the fairways, or the greens, tees, or approaches being topdressed with sand.  And we will be using white sand from now on for many reasons (cost, availability, and the fact that painted sand is harmful to the soil profile).  More on that in a later blogpost.

Now please don't get me wrong.  I greatly appreciate everyone who chooses to spend their hard earned dollars at our course.  We are blessed to have a great collection of loyal golfers and tournament directors that choose our course over all others in the area every day.  We have over 50 tournaments/outings per year bringing in over 4,000 of our 30,000 annual rounds and we will try our best to not interfere with your round or your outing but with three to four outings in some weeks we will have to perform some of our cultural practices when we have to do them.

As always if you ever have any questions about the course or what/why we are doing certain practices on the course please don't hesitate to contact me at or stop me on the course and I will be happy to sit down with you as I have with others in the past several months.  Our job is to provide the golfer with the best golfing conditions possible within the constraints of our budget and manpower limitations but to do that we have to take care of the foundation of the property, the turfgrass.  I thank you, in advance, for being accepting and understanding of the maintenance being performed on the course.