Friday, April 20, 2018

Course Update: Sprinter?

Snow on April 7th!?

Last month, I wrote a short post about how the mild temperatures of spring were signaling all the Redbuds, Forsythia and Pear trees to bloom and how the turf growing season would be just around the corner. it turns out, Mother Nature had other plans.  As I sit here today, the spring bloom has come and gone, but our Bermuda turf has actually taken a big step backwards into winter dormancy over the past few weeks.  We were more green going into April than we are right now.  This is due, in large part, to multiple frosts, and a deep freeze of 25 degrees on the 7th accompanied by about an inch of snow.  In fact, April has been so cold that, so far, we've had 9 morning lows at 32 degrees, or lower, out of the first 20 days of April.  This winter was by most accounts dry and quite cold at times.  When this happens, winter injury on Bermuda begins to be a concern.  I'll admit that winterkill was a frequent topic amongst area superintendents this winter, but despite our concerns, the consensus was that while we were monitoring it closely, no one had seen any evidence of widespread injury.  We seem to have come out of winter largely unscathed, however, we are not without our scars.  There are a few areas on collars that I'm not optimistic about.  We will monitor these areas closely and make a determination for replacing the sod in the coming weeks.  In the mean time, our staff will do everything they can to minimize mechanical and chemical stresses on our collars to assist in their recovery. 

Speaking of recovery, as you are likely aware, our greens have still not fully recovered from core aeration back in late March.  Although recovery from Spring aeration inherently takes longer than in the Fall, we are definitely behind schedule.  This difference in recovery is largely due to soil, and air, temperatures being much higher in the Fall and therefore plant growth is more aggressive.  Having said that, I typically expect Spring recovery to take 14-21 days and we are at about 90% recovery after 27 days.  Greens can take 10-14 days in the Fall to fully recover. 

Winter injury on #10
The good news is that these cold temperatures can't last forever.  The one silver lining to all this cold weather is that since it has restricted Bermuda growth, we have more time to hire staff and get them trained.  We are currently at about 50% staffing and these cold temps have been a bit of a blessing in disguise.  Filling out the rest of our team is one of my top priorities right now and I feel confident we will get staffed before mid-May.

April 4th
Besides spending time training new staff on mowing, our greenskeepers have been busy preparing the golf course each day for tournaments.  This is the busiest time of year for school tournaments, as their season is quite short.  It is not uncommon to have 2-3 tournaments a week during late March through April.  Once we get past early May, the school events will cease and we will phase over to corporate and fundraising tournaments for the remainder of the season.

While our focus remains on daily conditions and tournament preparations, we are shifting our attention to early summer.  There are still many tasks to be completed to prepare the golf course for a busy summer season.  Over the next few months, the grounds staff will be very busy applying fertilizers and plant protectants, performing cultural practices to various surfaces, and working into our weekly routine.

Spring is always an exciting time of year on the golf course with plenty of suprises!  Summer is coming, and we'll be ready!  As always, we look forward to seeing you on the course!

New temporary lake on #9 fairway after 4 inches of rain March 26th

Sod Project on #14 Cart Path

Over the past few days, the grounds staff has been working on regrading and sodding bare areas along #14 cart path.  This afternoon, all the sod has been laid and now we begin the grow in process.  During grow in, is when the sod is the most vulnerable to damage from cart and foot traffic.  Even though ropes and signage have been place around the sod areas, I would encourage everyone to use caution in the area and avoid walking, or driving, in these areas until these areas are reopened and the rope is pulled down. 

While new sod is trying to take root and start growing in, the soil underneath is VERY vulnerable and can easily rut, or shift, under any kind of weight, especially after a rain storm.  We are expecting rain this weekend, so please avoid these areas next week as they will be very soft.  We are very happy with the finished product and appreciate everyone's cooperation while we work to grow in the new sod!

Monday, March 19, 2018

Let's Talk About Bunkers...

Spring has begun, the days are longer, and everyone is dusting off their clubs to get out to enjoy the warmer weather.  While it's great to see everyone out enjoying themselves, I am noticing a disturbing lack of etiquette regarding bunkers.  Now, I know what you're thinking, "the superintendent is just mad because a few people forgot to rake a few footprints, what's the big deal.  The grounds crew is just going to rake them in the morning!"  While it is true, the grounds crew is going to go through all the bunkers the next morning, and rake them before play, this line of thinking misses the point.   The bigger issue for me is that it shows a lack of regard for the golfers behind you.  When I see footprints in a bunker, like the one pictured above, I'm not mad that we had to rake it, I'm frustrated that those footprints were there all afternoon, negatively impacting the conditions for other golfers. 

The grounds department takes the condition of our bunkers very seriously and will continue to provide the best possible playing conditions, but cannot control how they are maintained after we leave for the day.  We feel that if everyone was more mindful of the golfers playing behind them, negative course conditions like this would take care of themselves. 

If anyone has any comments or concerns regarding bunker maintenance, please fee free to contact me.  Thank you and, as always, see you on the course! 

Friday, March 9, 2018

Spring Is In The Air

Spring is almost here and the signs are all around us.  Daylight savings time begins this Sunday and the first official day of spring is Tuesday, March 20th.  The days are gradually getting warmer and spring storms are beginning to push out the drier air that is typical during winter.  We are beginning to see signs of spring on the golf course as well.  Trees, shrubs and flowers are waking up and beginning to show their colors.  The grasses are beginning to wake up and the grounds department is reacting with increased activity.  Spring greens aeration typically kicks off our growing season and this year aeration will be on March 21st and 22nd.  As usual, the front nine will be completed the first day and then open back up the next day while the back nine is aerated.

All of this means that the 2018 golf season is underway.  The grounds department is excited and ready for the challenge of providing the best possible conditions for our members and guests to enjoy this year!       

#12 Road Crossing Update

I am happy to announce that the road work between #11 green and #12 tee is complete!  This means the cart path is back open and ready for cart traffic.  We understand this project was an inconvenience and we appreciate everyone's patience and cooperation over the past few weeks. 

The contractor still has to lay some sod, and other miscellaneous work to finish, so please use caution while crossing the road.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Road Repair at #12 Tee

Last week, the City of Owasso began replacing portions of the street between #11 green and #12 tee complex.  As of today, all the old concrete has been removed and new gravel has been placed.  This week, new curb and gutter will be poured on both sides and next week, each side of the road is scheduled to be poured.  This means that over the next few weeks, this road crossing will be closed 4 times for approximately 8-10 days total.  The golf shop is in communication with the City of Owasso Public Works inspectors and will have the latest information regarding this project.  Please use caution and follow all on-site signage.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Where Does the Time Go

It just occurred to me that I'm starting my 12th season as the golf course superintendent at Bailey Ranch Golf Club!  Where does the time go?  Winter is often a time for reflection.  How well did we do last year?  Were there things we didn't do as well as we would have liked?  What can we improve upon for the next year?  But as I sit here thinking about the last 11 years, I cant help but think about all the progress we've made in this department.  Progress, despite challenges that seemed overwhelming at times.  Ice storms, historic droughts, winterkill on fairways, vandalism, equipment breakdowns, constant irrigation system failures, greens renovations, cart path repairs, bunker conversions and renovations, and bridge renovations were just a few of the challenges we faced with minimal staffing and limited resources.  This was just within the first 4 years!  
Thinking back upon all these challenges brings to mind all the people that have helped make it possible.  Over the past 11 years, we've had various full-time staff come and go, and over 100 part-time and seasonal staff members come through and leave their mark on this place.  The support of our Director of Golf, Corey Burd, and the Golf Shop, lead by our Head Professional Jeff Moore, has been invaluable and we have always felt like a team.  Even through all the stress, there never was a time when it felt like we didn't have their support. Not to mention the unwavering support from the other departments within the City of Owasso.  There is such a wealth of expertise at the City and they have helped us in numerous ways: project design assistance from the engineering department, construction equipment from public works, irrigation and drainage assistance from public works, loaner tractors from the Parks department, and countless other opportunities.  There can be no doubt we wouldn't be where we are without their support!

Facing these challenges head on was daunting at times, and often seemed to be too much, but we put out heads down and got through it together.  When I first got to Bailey Ranch, the golf course had been neglected for quite a while and therefore the condition of the golf course was volatile.  Conditions were good when the weather cooperated and bad when it didn't.  Anyone who has lived in this area for any length of time knows the weather is very unpredictable, and due to this, we struggled to be consistent the first few years I was here.  Now, I can honestly say we have come out the other side with a much more sustainable golf course.  We aren't as prone to the whims of nature, and we have created a product that is much more consistent throughout the year.  This has been my greatest pleasure, to create a product that our members and guests can enjoy, and be proud of.  At the beginning of each year, I get excited for what the new year will bring, and this year is no exception.  I am excited for the chance to make Bailey Ranch even better in 2018 than it was in 2017!

As always, see you on the course!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Driving Range Tee Concrete Work

Stripping off sod, prepping for forms
One of the biggest challenges to providing a quality driving range tee surface with Bermuda in this part of the country is that for almost half the year, the grass is dormant and cannot recover from divots.  Traditionally, to overcome this problem, we've overseeded with Perennial Ryegrass to provide an actively growing tee surface.  While the Ryegrass looks great and does provide a great surface for hitting golf balls, it has its disadvantages.  The driving range must be closed for a few weeks in the fall so the Ryegrass can be seeded and grown in.  Once grown in, it must be watered, fertilized, and mowed as necessary.  In the spring it must be treated with a herbicide so the Bermuda underneath can be allowed to recover and be ready for the busy summer golf season.  What inevitably happens each winter, is that we have trouble getting seed to germinate in our divot mix and we still end up little, if any, grass to hit off of by April, and the tee box must forced to an aggressive recovery schedule to meet expectations by early summer.  This dilemma had us searching for a something better. 

Installing concrete forms
Many golf courses in our area use synthetic turf mats, often on top of concrete pads, to create permanent hitting stations that can be used in the off-season.  This not only looks nicer, it provides a firmer base to set the turf mats onto.  Last winter, Bailey Ranch purchased 12 mats to see how the program would be received by our members and guests.  While we had a few detractors, the vast majority of golfers didn't mind hitting off mats during the off-season.  We learned two important lessons from that first year of using mats.  First, we needed a firm surface to hit from.  Standing on the mats while on the tee box was uneven and was softer than we expected.  Feedback from golfers throughout last winter told us as much.  Second, all the subsequent foot traffic around the mats significantly delayed the spring green up of the Bermuda underneath.  The southwest portion of the tee box that had the mats on it didn't green up until almost May.

Installing a permanent surface for our synthetic tees has been on our wish list for several years, and we are so excited to finally have it installed for our members and guests to enjoy. 

See you on the course!

Pouring concrete

Finished product, ready for mats and bag stands!!

Concrete is down

#2 Tee Cart Path Extension Project

Hello again, and welcome to our blog!  In our last post, we showed some initial progress on a cart path extension project near #2 tee.  This was a fun project for our staff to complete and I'm very proud of how it turned out.  Feedback from our members and guests has been very positive. 

In the last blog post, we showed the various steps involved up to setting in the railroad ties and preparing for sod.  Once the soil was installed and graded, sod was then laid so the tee box side of the project could reopen for play.  With the gravel path open, cart traffic was diverted onto the new path extension so work could continue on the landscape bed that would be installed between the new path and the original concrete path. 

The landscape bed portion was the most fun because it was less about function and allowed us to be more creative.  I had a rough idea as to how I wanted the bed to look, but didn't know exactly where I wanted all the rocks and plants to go.  I knew I wanted the bed to be consistent with the landscaping around the clubhouse to continue the look onto the golf course.  One other landscape design intention that wont be immediately apparent is the need for shade.  For many years, golfers enjoyed the shade the two elm trees provided.  The lack of shade from the two dead elms was a recurring topic this last year.  We plan on installing a shade tree in the middle front of the landscape bed next year when more funds are available.  If you look closely, you will see we intentionally left this area bare to a tree can be installed at a later date.

The grounds staff had a lot of fun working together on this project and we look forward to seeing everyone enjoy this area for years to come!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Sneak Peek! #2 Tee Cart Path Extension Project

removing tree stumps and roots
For those who have been playing the golf course over the past two weeks, it is no secret that the grounds department has been working hard on some much needed improvements near #2 tee complex.  Although the grounds staff has not yet finished the project, I wanted to give those who have not been on the course lately a sneak peak at what has been going on. 

The mulch cart path extension at the middle tee on #2 has, for years, been difficult to keep in good condition.  Mulch tends to wash downhill during storms, and we have not had the budget to keep replacing it.  In the absence of mulch, the soil eroded downhill exposing the roots from the nearby Elm trees.  This has left us with a less than acceptable cart path area.  This past spring, the two elm trees that provided shade to this area never leafed out and by summer it was clear they weren't coming back.  When it came time to cut them down for this project, we discovered Dutch Elm disease to be the culprit.  The need to remove the trees helped to convince us that we ought to go ahead and get this project underway.

gravel path being installed

I had the idea of using gravel because we did some work last year to the service path behind #8 and the cart path approach on #3 and it has performed well.  Based on this information, gravel seemed to be a viable option in lieu of concrete, as long as the right size of rock is chosen.  Crusher run, which is a smaller, dust-like limestone gravel, was used on #3 and it likes to move downhill when it rains.  Since we've had a history of mulch floating downhill on #2, I knew I needed to choose a bigger size rock that would resist moving.  The rock I went with is called "Ag base", which when wet, packs very tight and should provide a smooth surface.  I chose to use railroad ties as curbs, because they are a cheap alternative to concrete and they fit the ranch aesthetic found throughout the rest of the property.  The guys did a great job this week getting all the cart path materials finalized.  Now we get to move on to the more creative aspect of the project: the landscaping bed that will be located where the elm trees used to be.  Over the next week, work will continue on the landscape bed.  Please be aware while we work to finish the landscape bed, the concrete path will be closed.  The new path will be open to allow easy access to the tee box.  Please use caution while walking on dormant sod, it may shift underfoot when wet.

The grounds staff and I are very excited about this project and thus far member feedback has been very positive!

gravel down, RR ties being secured, and soil back fill getting ready for sod

Daylight Savings Time

When Daylight Savings Time ends each November, the golf course undergoes the transition from Fall to Winter.  The onset of frosty mornings brings an official end to the growing season by pushing the Bermuda into dormancy and significantly slowing down shoot growth on our Bentgrass greens.  This can often be the best time of year to play on transition zone golf courses.  The recently dormant warm-season grasses have likely been left to leaf out a little bit to ensure winter survival, winter cart traffic has yet to shear off the dormant leaves, and greens, no matter the type of grass, are likely as firm and fast and you could want.

As I have driven the golf course over the past few weeks, I can honestly say that we meet the scenario mentioned above.  Since we've had a frost recently, but have not had a hard freeze, we are enjoying a nice bit of color contrast between our rough and short grass surfaces.  As you can see from the picture above, the recent frost caused the rough, which is cut higher than the nearby tees, to go almost completely dormant.  The shorter turf on the tees, fairways, and surrounds was almost unaffected by the frosts and has retained significantly more green leave tissue.  This won't last, however, as pending cold weather will send the rest of the Bermuda into full dormancy.  Once this occurs, the Bermuda throughout the golf course will take on a biscuit brown appearance.

#15 Drainage Project

removing old drain line
A few weeks ago, the grounds staff finished a much needed drainage project on #15.  For too long, irrigation and storm water runoff from the neighborhood to the east of #15 green had caused the end of the fairway to be saturated.  The saturated soil led to tire ruts, and plugged lies.  With a reduction in mowing frequency, our staff is now able to tackle small projects and details.  I knew that once I felt we could afford the time necessary for this project, I'd put it on the schedule.

My main objective on this project was to renovate the existing drainage, and install additional drainage, so the system can better handle the runoff from the neighborhood.  The first step was to replace the damaged drain line that ran down the cart path and then across the fairway to the west.  After that, additional drainage was installed uphill so it would connect with a new basin.  Once that was replaced, a drain basin on the east side of the cart path was installed to capture the runoff from the neighborhood and get it underground.  This required a portion of the cart path to be removed so a line could be installed.  With a new pipe installed, the cart path was repaired with concrete.

Removing sod, getting ready for trencher
I am very proud of the crew for their high quality work on this project.  As you can see from the pictures shown below, the project turned out great!

Trenching new line, ready for pipe
New pipe being installed
New  basin installed east of cart path
Finished product

Fall Course Update

I am sorry it has been quite a while since my last update.  Summer always seems to fly by in a blur and now that I have more time to spend in the office, my goal is to update this blog with more timely information.  This post will hopefully catch everyone up on what has been going on around the golf course over the past few months.

For most of the summer, we had above average rainfall with average temperatures.  This is ideal growing weather for Bermuda and our members and guests enjoyed some of the best playing surfaces we've been able to create in my tenure here.  The first half of August continued this trend of average temperatures and above average rainfall.  To illustrate this, we received 6 inches during August, and all of it occurred during the first two weeks.  By mid-August, the weather pattern changed and much drier weather set in.  This drier weather pattern lasted through September into early October.  The golf course received only 42% of our normal amount of rainfall during September.  As you can see from the picture on the right, this lead to some very firm and dry conditions during September.  

Besides the reduction in color of our Bermuda surfaces, I was very pleased with the density and quality of the turf.  Fall greens aeration went very well and the subsequent recovery period was brief, due in large part to the ideal growing weather in September.

Thankfully, October brought us some much needed rain!  On October 4th we received 4" of rain.  The biggest single day rain total since September 21st, 2009!  This much needed rain soaked into the ground slowly and the response from the turf was apparent within a week. 
The crew has spent the past month mowing our Bermuda surfaces as necessary to keep things looking clean and sharp.  They have also spent a lot of their time performing cultural practices on greens that promote firmer surfaces and increased root depth.  Vertical mowing, rolling, sand topdressing, brushing and deep solid-tine aerating have all been completed during October.  Due to these processes, the greens have been right on target in relation to soil moisture, root depth, firmness and speed.  

Looking ahead, we are expecting our first frost delay this Saturday.  If we have a significant frost, one could expect much, if not all, of the Bermuda throughout the golf course to go into dormancy.  This week an application of iron sulfate will be applied to all tees, fairways, approaches, collars, and surrounds to help keep some color.  Even if the Bermuda doesn't do dormant after this weekend, the writing is on the wall and winter is just around the corner.  2017 has been one of the best Bermuda and Bentgrass growing seasons I can remember.  This golf course is in great condition going into dormancy and barring any unusual weather this winter, should be primed for a great start to the 2018 golf season!