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!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

#18 Cart Path Project

This week, the grounds staff put the finishing touches on the cart path expansion/curb project on #18 green.  This has been a much talked about and anticipated project and I am very pleased with how it turned out.  I would be remiss if I didn't mention and thank the City of Owasso Public Works Streets Department.  They lent a big hand by forming and pouring not only the curb, but the cart path as well!  We couldn't have done a project of this scale without their help.

All the signs and rope have been pulled and the cart path is fully accessible now.  Please use caution when stepping on fresh sod as it may shift under foot.

Here are a few pictures of the project:

Before project

Removing soil to prepare for gravel
and forms

Pouring & shaping curb
Finishing curb

Pouring path

Finished curb w/ sod

Monday, September 18, 2017

Fairway Expansions

You may notice over the next few weeks certain areas in the rough near fairway edges will look scalped.  These are areas that we've selected to lower to fairway height.  Lowering the height of cut on these area should allow more landing area for tee shots and also give more room for laying up on certain holes.  The picture below is aerial image of the lower half of #11 fairway.  The green shaded areas show the existing layout of the fairway with the changes marked in yellow.  While adding this area to the fairway will give golfers a better chance to hit the fairway, it also brings the hills in the area more into play.

Over the next few weeks, we are also planning on making some slight changes to the fairways on #2, #15 and #18.  Stay tuned!

Friday, August 11, 2017

Thatch Control in Greens

Earlier this week the grounds staff completed a mini-tine aeration on the greens.  I call the process mini because often when the superintendent says the "A" word, golfers get concerned, and I wanted to convey the minimal effect the process will have on the playability of the greens during the project.  The small diameter of these tines allows for minimal disruption of the surface while still benefiting the turf.  As you can see from the picture above, quite a bit of organic material was removed from the greens.  Once the cores were pulled, they were blown off the putting surface and a heavy application of sand was added.  Once the sand was brushed in and rolled, the surface is very playable.  The finished product is shown in the picture below.

Each year, during the summer, the Bentgrass on our greens tends to accumulate excessive amounts of thatch.  Excessive thatch leads to a softer, less true surface that is more prone to ball marks, imperfections and disease pressure.  This shallow, mini-tine aeration has become another tool for our team to use to maintain firm conditions.  The tines do a great job of physically removing some of the thatch, while brushing the topdressing sand into the holes further dilutes the thatch in the top inch of the soil.  Reducing organic matter by replacing it with sand will allow us to maintain a consistently smoother, firmer surface.

Cart Path Extension at #18 Green

For many years, the area along the cart path at #18 green has been an issue.  Not only is it an eye sore, but years of shade and compaction from cart traffic have caused the Bermuda to thin.  The exposed soil eroded away and exposed the sandstone rocks beneath, creating a rocky mess.  As you can see from the picture on the right, this isn't a good last impression.  The other issue we have is the staff at Bailey Ranch has difficulty getting through this area while people are parked at the green due to a combination of the creek on the left side and the rocky uneven edge along the path.  The only option is to drive in the surround near the green which isn't ideal.

The plan to address this issue is to expand the current cart path from 6 feet to 12 feet and add curbing.  Adding the extra width will give golfers a safe place to park while on the green and will allow staff members through more easily.  As you finish your round, you'll notice the area along the cart path on #18 has been dug out in preparation for concrete.  The next steps will be to add a 2" layer of rock as a base, install concrete forms, and then pour the concrete.  Our friends in the Streets Division at the City of Owasso Public Works Department have graciously agreed to help us with this project as the scope of concrete work is beyond what us "grass growers" can handle.  With this in mind, we are somewhat at the mercy of their schedule as to when they can come complete the work.  The last time we spoke, they indicated they will try to pour the path some time in the next few weeks.

We ask for your patience and understanding while we work to make these improvements to the area.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Summer Cultivation of Bermuda

Although summer hasn't officially begun yet, the hot weather pattern has already set in and in response, the Bermuda throughout the golf course has begun to grow aggressively.  Once Bermuda begins to grow aggressively, it is time to begin cultural practices such as core aeration and slicing.  These practices alleviate compaction from cart traffic and maintenance equipment, improve soil oxygen and allow for deeper rooting.

Last Tuesday the staff began both solid-tine slicing fairways and core aerating tees.  As stated above, both of these practices will help alleviate compaction and help irrigation penetrate into the soil.  However, solid-tining does not remove any excessive thatch that might have accumulated.  We currently do not have the proper equipment to pull a core on fairways so this is the next best thing.  Once the fairway is sliced, it is mowed and all debris is blown into the rough.  The surface that remains is very playable.  The brown turf immediately around each slice mark is temporary and the turf will recover in a week or so.

The staff was also busy pulling a core on tees.  This process inherently creates more of a mess and requires more staff to clean up and get ready for play.  As you can see from the picture on the right, quite a bit of soil and thatch is brought up to the surface.  Once all the cores have been pulled, a drag mat is used to separate the soil from the thatch.  The soil reincorporates into the turf while the thatch is easily blown off using backpack blowers.  This process, although messy and inconvenient, is vital to the long term healthy of our Bermuda tees.  Without this process, our tees would be thin, discolored and would not meet the expectations of our golfers.

Cart Traffic Control

It's been about four months since we started painting red cart traffic lines in front of greens complexes, and I am encouraged to see so many people helping us keep carts away from greens.  To be honest, I wasn't sure how successful painting lines on the ground would be, but so far it seems to be a big help.  Signs are easier to see while you are playing but they have some down side.  They aren't cheap to purchase and they often get damaged and need replacing.  They also need to be moved by the mowing crew.  Painting the lines is convenient because it doesn't interfere with routine maintenance practices such as mowing.

Our intention for the lines is to keep compaction to a minimum and maintain the best turf quality in our greens complexes.  The grounds staff appreciates your cooperation with this program and look forward to seeing you on the course!

Monday, June 12, 2017

DryJect on Greens

This past Thursday, Robert Main with Turfgrass Solutions was on site to conduct another DryJect application to the greens.  This is the second consecutive year that we've asked Robert to come out to complete the process on the greens.  Last year, I wrote about how the machine works and the benefits that can be expected.  For those interested, that information can be found here.  One of the biggest benefits of the process is how playable the greens are immediately afterwards.  Typically after a core aeration, the greens are not very playable for a week or so.  The DryJect process actually makes the greens firmer, instead of softer, which gives the grounds department the ability to keep them faster and smoother than a traditional aeration.  The dime-sized marks that are left behind will heal in within the next 7-10 days.  As always, we appreciate your patience while we recover from the project.  If you have any questions about this, or any other topic, feel free to contact me.  Thank you.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Thatch Removal on Greens

Memorial Day weekend has come and gone.  The weather was perfect all weekend and the golf course was packed with hundreds of people enjoying themselves.  Based on the feedback I recieved over the weekend from golfers, the condition of the greens surpassed expectations.  It was nice to be validated and that all the hard work the staff has put into the golf course over the past few weeks has been noticed.  With the busy holiday weekend behind us, our focus switches to cultural practices on greens to ensure they stay firm and healthy through the summer months.

With this in mind, the grounds staff is performing a core aeration on greens.  Don't be alarmed, the tines we are using are very small and the debris created is easily cleaned up.  Once the green has been cored, a thin layer of sand is incorporated into the holes.  As you can see from the picture at the bottom right, the surface is very playable immediately after the process.

This coring physically removes the troublesome thatch and allows the topdressing sand someplace to go.  The improved oxygen content and reduction in surface compaction should allow the Bentgrass to be as healthy as possible leading into another hot Oklahoma summer.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Sod Work on Misc. Collars

This week, the grounds staff added new sod to a few miscellanous areas in the green surrounds on #2, #3, #10, #12 and #13.  A few of these areas came out of winter a little too thin and some of these areas were not level and needed redone.  One spot in particular, the area behind #3 green, had numerous sunken spots from years of gopher damage.  

Similar to previous sod projects, these areas will be marked ground under repair and we ask that everyone stay off the sod for the next few weeks.  Once the sod is rooted in, the soil underneath will stabilize and the sod will be ready for foot traffic.  After the sod gets established and starts to grow, the staff will begin lowering the height of cut down to it's eventual .4" cutting height.  

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Course Update for March/April

March and April are always exciting months for the Grounds Department.  We begin hiring and training seasonal staff, the weather begins to warm up, and the golf course begins to wake up from its winter slumber.  This year, the weather has been somewhat upside down.  March started out warm and dry and April ended up being cooler with a considerable amount of rain.  The picture above was taken during early March and you can see the weather caused the Bermuda to green up very early in the season.  During this time, certain maintenance activities are done to prepare the golf course for the season.  In mid-March, the staff completed our annual bunker audit.  This is done each spring, before the golf season kicks off, to ensure the sand depth in each bunker is within specifications.  Keeping the bunker sand depth consistent creates consistent playing conditions from one bunker to the next.  The staff also completed our first greens fertilizer application one week prior to greens aeration.  We've found that applying Nitrogen before aeration always does a good job of waking the Bentgrass from dormancy and forces it to grow aggressively.  The aggressive growth is key to a fast recovery from core aeration. Greens aeration was completed during the third week of March, right after the Rogers State Invitational.  As usual, the staff did an amazing job and the greens were aerated ahead of schedule and the finished product turned out great.  The weather in mid-March was very mild, almost hot, with a record 92 degrees on March 20th.  This hot weather caused our Bermuda to jump out of dormancy quickly and the tees, fairways and surrounds greened up considerably over the second half of March.  As March came to a close, we were pretty pleased with where the condition of the golf course was.  The picture below and to the left was taken mid-March and the picture to the right was 14 days later.

The weather in early April was similar to the end of March.  Then the spring rain season began and the temperature dropped.  Over the past several weeks, the golf course has received over 10 inches of rain.  The cloudy, cool weather coupled with this much rain has had a negative impact on our Bermuda.  The turf quality throughout the course actually decreased in April compared to March.  Recently, we've seen some moderate amounts of disease on portions of our fairways that are a direct result from the amount of rain we've received.  This disease is more of a nuisance than anything, but does temporarily affect the quality of our fairways until the plant can recover when warm, drier weather sets in.  You can see in this picture of #10 fairway that the improved Bermuda in the foreground is unaffected and healthy, while the common Bermuda uphill has been thinned out due to the disease.  The pictures below give a closer look of both grasses.  This seems to happen every spring, to some degree, and isn't a cause for concern, especially since the weather looks like it will turn warmer and drier starting next week.  Once some warm weather, and sunlight, hit the Bermuda, it should recover quickly over the next few weeks.

Maintaining the bunkers has been a challenge over the past few weeks.  Any rainfall event over .75" causes our bunkers to wash out and our staff has to spend the next day putting them back together.  You can see, from the picture to the right, what happens when we get several inches of rain at once.  This requires a lot of shoveling and raking to get them back into acceptable condition.  I'm very proud of our staff for showing the diligence and resiliency needed to keep up with these bunkers during this time of year.  Through out this rainy few weeks, the bunkers have been in great shape and are a testament to their hard work.

Lastly, you may or may not notice, as you drive the cart paths during your next round, but the staff spent some time last week grinding some of the high spots out of the cart paths.  Over the years, as soil moves, some of the cart path cracks had raised up and have caused a rough ride.  Grinding off these high spots proved to be a cost effective way to solve this problem.  Wrangling these machines all day for two days was a lot of work and the staff did a great job getting the project done.

It appears that the unstable weather pattern may be breaking down, which should allow the staff to get into a bit of a rhythm regarding routine weekly maintenance such as mowing and other activities.  As the Bermuda begins active growth in May, the condition of the golf course will improve and we are excited to begin a busy summer season!  See you on the course!