Thursday, January 31, 2019

Brush Clearing

While our golf course doesn't have very many trees in play, there are quite a few wooded areas along property edges that require occasional maintenance. Each year, during the off-season, we pick a few areas and clear them out for various reasons.  Could be a request from a concerned neighbor, to improve air flow or sunlight to a green, or to improve the view across the golf course. This year, we decided to tackle several areas throughout the course we have never been to.  Once we had the areas we wanted to clear out identified, we quickly realized that the amount of tree and brush removal was going to be a lot more than we could handle doing the work by hand.  So we decided to bring in a special skid loader attachment specifically designed for clearing wooded areas such as this.  This forestry cutter, pictured above, was the perfect tool to quickly mulch all the trees and shrubs we wanted to remove.  I estimated the amount of work we wanted to complete would have taken our entire crew 2-3 weeks to do by hand and with this machine I was able to do it in 20 hours by myself.  Turned out to be a very efficient way to go!

The first area we wanted to focus on was along 86th street, just west of our shop.  This area is overgrown and views of the golf course are limited during the growing season due to all the vegetation.  Even though the picture to the right was taken during winter, you still can see how big of an impact the vegetation has on the view from the street.  Now that the brush and small trees are all gone, the view of the golf course from the street is much better.


#15 looking at #14 green- before
The next area we focused on was behind #14 green.  I've wanted to remove the trees and brush behind this green for a few years but just couldn't bring myself to spend the time on it until now.  The machine we used for this project is perfectly suited for the small trees and brush that is found in this area.  Despite being heavily wooded and untouched for decades, I was able to grind everything down to the ground in less than 4 hours!


#16 tee looking back to #15
The last area we we cleared out was south of #16 tee box.  This area has long been know to be one of the hottest places on the golf course during the summer, mainly due to the lack of airflow.  I figured that while I had the machine, and we were ahead of schedule, I'd take some time and clear out what I could.  As you can see from the picture on the right, we were able to accomplish quite a lot.  Airflow should be much better from now on and we will also get more sunlight to the tee bank behind the water cooler.  This has been a muddy, bare spot due to the shade over the years and Bermuda should take back over now that there is plenty of sunlight.

Now that the vegetation is removed, the work to convert these areas to native grass will begin.  Many of the native grass species will begin to move in naturally, however, there will be a lot of weed pressure and many of the tree and brush species will attempt to reestablish.  The grounds staff is planning on seeding these areas with Tall Fescue to help speed up the establishment process, and there will also need to be occasional herbicide applications to these areas to ensure trees and annual weeds don't reestablish.  The finished product will be consistent with the rest of the native areas throughout the property.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Looking back on 2018

Every year brings it's own set of challenges and 2018 was no different.  Labor shortages and temperamental weather tested the metal of the grounds department.  Looking back I can say we rose to the challenge.  This is not so say, however, we didn't have some bumps and bruises along the way. 

grass clippings were common this year due to staff shortage
catching up on bunker details
We began our season as we always do, hiring and training our seasonal staff during the spring.  This year we started off projecting to have full staff in place by mid April.  We achieved that goal but by mid June, we had lost, for various reasons, almost 40% of our crew.  Despite advertising the position continuously throughout the summer, we were unable to fill those vacancies.  This meant we all had to work a little harder to keep the golf course standards up and meet the expectations of our members and guests.  This shortage was mostly felt within our mower operator staff.  We had to get very creative with our remaining staff to ensure all surfaces were mowed on a consistent basis.  Based on the feedback I got throughout the year, we met that mark and I couldn't be more proud of the guys diligence and determination.

The weather was another big challenge.  Plentiful spring/early summer rainfall brought heavy Bermuda growth during the warm summer months.  Losing almost all of your mower operators during periods of heavy growth are not ideal.  Despite this fact, the greenskeepers rallied and were able to help us keep up with this intense growth.  In order to accomplish this, some of the detail work throughout the golf course had to be put to the side.  During late July, there was a big cool down that helped suppress growth and also allowed us to spend less time watering greens.  This reduction in the workload took the pressure off the crew and allowed us to play catch up on details such as trim mowing, topdressing divots on tees, bunker details and clubhouse work.

I cannot say enough good things about the crew that we had this year.  We faced adversity and the guys put in the extra hours to ensure that our members and guests could enjoy a golf course they can be proud of.