Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Tee Aeration

Kyle pulling cores on #10 tee 
Those of you who've been out on the course the last few days have noticed the grounds staff pulling cores on tee boxes this week.  You may be wondering why we are messing up the tee boxes when they look so nice.  Core aerating any turf when it's at the highest growth potential will minimize recovery time, and mid-summer is the ideal time for aerating Bermudagrass.  As you can see from the picture to the right, the first step is pulling a core with our tractor mounted aerator.  Once the cores have all bee pulled, the tee is drug with a steel mat to break up the plugs.  The soil from the plugs is re-incorporated back into the holes, while the thatch is left at the surface to be blown off into the rough.  Once the tee is cleaned off, the tee is mown again to finish off the process.

Pulled cores on #4 tee
Over the years, I've spoke of the benefits to aerating turf many times, but it's importance can never be understated.  Aeration is critical to the overall health and sustainability of any turf by providing key benefits such as: promoting deeper roots, increasing soil oxygen content, removing thatch, reducing soil compaction, and improving soil drainage.

Staff cleaning up cores on #6 tee
It should go without saying that there is a lot of hard work involved with this process, and although we would love to accomplish this project without impacting play, we realize that is not feasible.  We appreciate your understanding and patience during this process.  As always, if you have any questions, or concerns, regarding this project, please let me know.    

Finished product on #6 tee

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Thoughts on US Open


Over the past few weeks, leading up to the U.S. Open, I've been increasingly asked about the new look of Pinehurst #2.  In general, reactions to the changes that have taken place are mixed at best.  It seems that you either love it or hate it.  I for one love it.  For a long time, I've lamented the perfect, verdent conditions our member,s and guests, see on TV each weekend.  While I'm sure none of them expect the same conditions at our facility, given our resources, it's impact on our industry is not lost on me.  For decades, golf course conditions on TV have influenced general opinion in this country about what a good golf course should look like.  This is typically referred to as the Augusta Syndrome.  The USGA, to their credit, has had sustainability and water conservation at the forefront of their efforts for several years now and it seems coordinating back to back mens and womens U.S Opens this year at Pinehurst, and next years Men's U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, is no accident.  It seems they indend to put firm, fast, and brown courses in front of the masses in hopes of curbbing public opinion.  Will it work?  I hope so.  My biggest hope is that by watching these tournaments, the average golfer will realize that courses don't have to be lush and green to be considered good.  Using a little less water and fertilizer is not only cheaper, it's better for the environment, and playability is often improved.  Drives roll farther, and greens roll faster. 

Now, I realize that not all facilities are going to be able to do what Pinehurst has done, but I believe they must take steps, however small, to reduce their footprint and cut costs.  I think that the ability of any golf course to reduce its inputs depends on it's geography, design, and whether or not they have grasses that are adapted to the area.  Courses in the transition zone with cool-season tees, fairways, and rough, are going to have a very tough time reducing water usage, and other inputs, without losing grass.  Courses like Pinehurst and Chambers Bay, contain grasses that are acclimated for their locations and can withstand a fair amount of environmental stress without dying.  

#14 fairway
Here at Bailey Ranch, we've always been strigent with our inputs.  We rely exclusively on stormwater runoff which forces us to use water sparingly, and limited coverage with our irrigation system causes the turf in the fairways and rough to turn dormant.  The membership has been very accepting of this due to the increase in ball roll in fairways and thinner lies in the rough.  Also, the drier conditions fit nicely into the links design aesthetic of the course.  Over the past few years, our department has converted 10 acres of maintained rough without irrigation coverage to native areas to help further reduce inputs and increase native habitat. 

Many colleagues at courses similar to us will be able to say they're doing, or not doing, the same things that we are, mostly due to budget constraints, but my point is that its nice to finally see a course on TV that isn't perfectly manicured from edge to edge.  Even if their budget is still 2-3 times ours.  It's important for the future of the game that water conservation, and sustainability, not just be talked about, but put on display for the public to see and get comfortable with.

#8 native addition

Friday, June 6, 2014

Project Bluebird Update

Bird box near #10 tee
  In February, the grounds staff, cooperating with the Oklahoma Bluebird Society, constructed and installed Bluebird boxes in select areas around the golf course.  During the initial stages of this project, we quickly learned that there was a lot we didn't know.  The boxes were constructed and redesigned several times to ensure the birds would use them, and that other animals, such as snakes, squirrels, and other bird species, couldn't interfere.
Throughout spring, we began to see an increase in bird activity near the boxes, but hadn't seen evidence of nesting.  Over the past few weeks, we've noticed some nesting building.  I peeked into the box near #10 tee and saw a large nest containing eggs and what appears to a hatchling.  Incubation is only 12-14 days from the time they are laid to when they hatch.  Once they hatch, it takes only 19 days until they can fly from the nest.  The old nest material will be removed once the young are fledged from the nest.  Bluebirds can have 2-3 families each year and a new nest will be build each time.

I am very excited to have this much activity in our nests in our first year.  I hope that each year, the population grows, and we can incorporate more boxes throughout the property for everyone to enjoy.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Course Update for May

May is typically a transitional month where the cool nights and days of spring give way to the warmer weather of summer.  Although delayed, this May proved to be no exception.  The first three weeks of May were anything but ideal weather for Bermuda growth.  Cool nights, cloudy days and lack of rain, had our Bermuda on "stand-by" waiting for summer come along.  Then all of the sudden, the pattern changed drastically with day temps in the high 80's to low 90's, and abundant rainfall.  If you include the rain from last Monday morning, we've had enough rain in the past seven days to double our annual rainfall total.  
Removing thatch from green
May is also a time full of transitions operationally.  Seasonal staff have been brought in to begin mowing schedules as well as cultural programs such as verticutting, slicing, and topdressing.  Douglas Knapp, our chemical applicator, is going full throttle keeping up with all our fertilizer, and pesticide applications.  Joe Miller, our irrigation technician, is busy maintaining our irrigation system.  Lastly, with more equipment leaving the shop each day, Mitchell Pierce, our equipment manager, has to spend most of his time adjusting and sharpening mowing equipment.  
topdressing green to dilute thatch and firm surface
Despite a slow start to the month, I feel that all the work completed by our dedicated staff, coupled with favorable weather, caused the course to peak right before Memorial Day weekend.  June is starting out with great conditions on the course and should be a great month for golf!

Bermuda is flush with growth from recent weather!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Tee slicing

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This week, the staff is decompacting tee boxes using the Aerway shattertine machine.  This is the same unit we used on fairways a few weeks ago.  The shattertines torque as they go into the ground which helps loosen and fracture the soil.  The tees are then mowed to clean up the tufts left behind.  Doug, our chemical applicator, is following the slicing project with an organic fertilizer to encourage some more growth.  Once the weather starts cooperating and begins to warm up, the tee boxes should start to fill in quickly.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Rotary Presentation

This afternoon, I had the pleasure of speaking to the Owasso Rotary Club about two passions of mine: golf and the environment.  I appreciate them allowing me to speak and they were a great audience.  I've embedded a copy of the presentation below for those who are interested.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Course Update March 2014

March, in many ways signifies the end of our winter off-season, and the beginning of the golf season.  Seasonal staff begins to arrive to ready the golf course for the season, the weather starts warming up, winter projects are wrapped up, and many of our chemical and cultural programs begin.  The following is a brief update on what happened in March.

The grounds department began taking on seasonal staff, March 1st, to help keep up with the growing list of tasks and projects.  March is a time when course preparation tasks like mowing greens, raking bunkers, moving tees and emptying trash cans is done much more frequently and seasonal staff is needed to accomplish this.  Next month, 4-5 more seasonal staff will be added as the Bermuda begins to awaken and the summer mowing schedule is phased in.

In typical fashion, the weather over the past month has been anything but predictable.  The temperatures went from 7 degrees to 82 degrees in 9 days.  Some days the wind was calm and other days the wind gusted to 50+ miles per hour.  Despite the inconsistent weather, the grounds staff made the best of the situation and accomplished many tasks that are vital to a successful golf season.

North bunker edge reconstruction
The bunker project on #13 was completed.  This bunker required a little more work than just removing and replacing the sand and drainage material.  We determined that the northern edge needed to be elevated 12-14 inches so that water from the basin to the north would not back up into the bunker anymore.  This basin drains slowly which causes stormwater to back up into the bunker, bringing with it silt, grass and other debris.  Raising this bunker edge allows the bunker to only deal with the water that falls within it's own footprint, greatly extending the lifespan of the drainage.

Finished product on #13

Earlier this month, Doug our chemical applicator, finished applying the pre-emergent herbicides.  This process takes 2-4 weeks depending on the weather and is vital to the success of our weed control program. We always aim to complete the spring pre-emergent application prior to greens aeration, and Doug was able to meet that deadline.  The golf course is largely weed free and once the Bermuda starts coming out of dormancy, there should be an easy transition with little competition from weeds.

Although greens aeration had to be delayed one day due to frozen conditions, once we started, the project went as planned.  I couldn't be more proud of the staff and the finished result.  The process is very complex and involves many steps, the staff was able to complete all work on schedule completely in-house, with no temporary labor.  For a detailed look at the various steps involved, click here.

As I assess where the golf course right now, I believe the course is primed and ready for the warmer weather of April.  As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me.