Course Notes, 10/5/2018

We successfully aerified the front 9 greens yesterday with what turned out to be a gorgeous day weather wise. Below are some pictures of the process we are using this year.

1004180712

The first step is applying a generous layer of sand.  As you can tell, we got a very early start since this step takes a while!  Here is a video link to the actual aerification.  We have 2 tractor mounted aerifiers that put 1/2″ holes in the soil profile, spaced 1″ x 2″.

1004181604

 

After the sand is dry, we take a tow brush and broom the sand to get most of it into the holes, as well as more evenly distribute it.  After that, we take a blower and blow the remaining sand into the holes.  We have incorporated a blower more into this process due to it being a less-abrasive alternative to dragging sand in.

1004181610
The final result on #7.

Unfortunately, inclement weather has postponed our efforts to get the back 9 aerified. The topdressing and brushing process needs complete dryness for a successful result, and the current radar is not giving us the 7 hour window necessary to complete the above process.

We will perform this necessary practice on Monday, October 8th, which is a closed day for the golf course. Fairway aerification will start the following day, with all 18 holes open during that process.

If the weather cooperates for us, during the weekend the front 9 greens will be rolled daily. The back 9 greens will be mowed and rolled as they would be normally. Any additional sand that is necessary will be applied when weather allows.

I appreciate your understanding and patience while we work with Mother Nature to complete this part of our agronomic calendar.  If you have any questions, please email me at ryan@elconacc.com.  Have a great weekend!

Ryan

Advertisements

Course Notes, 10/1/2018

0926181343~2.jpgWe have had some incredible weather in the last month for the beginning of fall golf season, and hopefully everyone has had a chance to take advantage.  Leaves are beginning to change color, and even begin to fall in areas.  It is truly hard to believe that both Ladies Closing Day and the Men’s Hole in One Stag are this week, signifying the end of the main golf calendar.  Even with that approaching, there will still be ample opportunities for some great fall weather to come out and enjoy your golf course.

0914180803_HDR.jpg
Mowing fairways on a foggy morning.

Our staff was quite busy in the last couple of weeks beginning our fall agronomic practices.  Greens and fairways were verticut, a process that removes some excess growth and organic matter.  A video of our fairway verticut mower in action on #6 can be viewed here.

0905171447_HDR.jpg
The end result of tee aerification.  Lots of thatch removed!

Tees were aerified on September 4th, and as you can see to the left, we removed a lot of thatch from them! With the warmer temperatures we had, the holes have already healed in for the most part.  Here is a link to a video of all staff performing their role in clean up.  The process involves many persons on blowers, as well as drag mats and manual removal of the excess grass in the end.  They all did a wonderful job!

0725180935_HDR.jpgGreens will be aerified on October 4th (Front 9 and the Large practice green) and 5th (Back 9 and Small practice green) using a solid 1/2” tine.  Both before and after poking these holes, a generous amount of sand will be applied to incorporate into the surface.  We will then use brooms and blowers to get that sand into the holes, and finish off with a roll.

0924181440a.jpg
Final product at the short game area with a happy staff member.  
0924181440.jpg
Final product

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fairways will be aerified the week of October 8th, using a solid 5/8″ tine. Both processes will involve no plugs being brought up, which is how we aerify them in the spring.  All of this is of course, weather permitting.  With the multiple chances of rain in the 10 day forecast, it is best to call ahead to the pro shop for the latest information on the golf course.  I will also send out updates via this blog.  Below are a couple pictures of us fine tuning the process on the short game greens last week. Bowser and I were pretty happy with the result given the drizzle that fell when we were trying to brush and blow the sand in.

While a short term inconvenience to ball roll and playability, aerification is the foundation of proper soil and turf health and a critical component of any agronomic program. It provides new channels for root growth, oxygen to the rootzone, additional avenues for drainage, and relieves compaction.  The USGA has a few nice articles further explaining the benefits and importance of aerification, a couple of which you can view here and here.  Thank you for your patience and understanding during this busy and quite necessary time in our maintenance schedule!

If you have any questions about aerification, or the golf course, please email me at ryan@elconacc.com.  Please enjoy the great weather that October usually brings to our area.  I hope to see you out on the golf course!

Ryan

 

Course Notes, 9/2/2018

0901181550.jpg

0831181625.jpg
The hose handle has had enough this year!

The calendar has turned to September, and with it brings yet another stretch of hot, humid weather to Elcona.  The turf on the golf course continues to handle all that Mother Nature throws at it, thanks to the well-draining soils Mr. Sims blessed the club with, as well as a strong agronomic plan executed by our staff.  As the picture to the left shows, our hoses have been well used this year!

A friendly reminder tee aerification will be performed on Tuesday, September 4th weather permitting.  We will be pulling 5/8″ cores, cleaning, and dragging the soil back into the holes.  The golf course will be closed all day Tuesday.

0828181511_Burst01
Small practice green repairs

The small practice green continues to heal from the traffic, disease, and mechanical stress it received during the year.  Much of the bentgrass seed that was planted germinated and filled in many of the smaller voids created.  However, we decided to sod and plug many of the larger voids to open the green back to play sooner.  We will be topdressing, feeding, and rolling it frequently over the next week, and my plan is that it is open and playable within the next week or so.  Thank you again for your cooperation in this regard.

0825181252
Divot on 10 green

Another repair we have had over the last week or so has been a couple divots out of the greens, like this one on #10.  At the heat of the season, the turf’s rooting is at its weakest point and it does not take much force to take a chunk of turf out.  Even if they are placed back immediately (like everyone does on the fairways), divots on greens are much less likely to survive and recover due to the more extreme maintenance a green receives daily compared to a tee or fairway.  Please use caution on the greens with your clubs and help keep the playing surfaces smooth and playable for your fellow members that play after you.

0828181613_HDR
Turfgrass nursery

Both of these repairs would be made more difficult without the large nursery of turfgrass I have at my disposal.  I am very thankful that my predecessors had the forward thinking to construct this area across CR 21 from the Maintenance Facility.  We have 2 greens height nurseries, one that is 90% bentgrass and the other that is more Poa annua than bent.  There is also a large fairway nursery, that we have used in recent construction projects like the widening of #14 fairway and construction of the forward tee on #2. All of these areas have different, newer varieties of bentgrass, which allows me the opportunity to gauge if one variety is more successful in our climate than the others.

0828181614
Healed damage from 2016

Another cool feature of this nursery is learning from weather events in the past and testing new ways of managing turfgrass to improve our program on the golf course.  Whenever possible, the damaged turf we remove from the course gets placed back into the nursery to gauge if it will ever recover from the damage.  The picture on the left shows a large area of the nursery that was from the Pythium Root Rot damage many greens suffered in 2016.  It took over 15 months, but over 90% of the bentgrass (and Poa) recovered and is now reusable if needed on the course.  This nursery also allows us to volunteer areas for researchers to test new treatment options to again better our agronomic programs.  Currently there is a new trial we are working on with Purdue, seen below.

0829181548
Current Purdue plots

 

0828181613
Damaged sod from the small practice green back in the nursery

Finally, I have observed much Monarch activity in our milkweed areas on the course.  I wanted to share a couple pictures, including one of a caterpillar beginning its metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly.  I have posted about the importance of increasing habitat for the monarch butterfly, and it is cool to see the fruits of our labor.

0901181617
Monarch caterpillar creating its cocoon

 

0901181733
Monarch caterpillar enjoying a meal

If you have any questions, please reach out at ryan@elconacc.com.  Have a great week and I hope to see you out on the golf course!

Ryan

 

Course Notes, 8/14/2018

0801180716_HDR

Many changes occur here in Northern Indiana in August, from our children going back to school, to hearing sounds on the gridiron (Boiler Up!).  Here at Elcona it is no different.  While our day-to-day maintenance goals do not change, some of our focus shifts to begin the process of healing and recovery from a weird summer of extremes weather wise so that the turf goes into the winter season in great health and shape.  The vast majority of the golf course remains in great shape, but there are some areas that need additional attention.

0813180816
Small practice green damage

The effect of the weather extremes this year, combined with the normal traffic it receives and an unfortunate sprayer malfunction has caused the small practice green located by the locker room exits to be closed from play temporarily.  We have inter-seeded bentgrass into the thinner areas and increased the fertility on this green to promote a quick recovery.  I anticipate this green being closed for about 10-14 days while it recovers and the new seed germinates, and I appreciate your cooperation in regards to it being closed to play.

 

0809181236
7 tee after over seeding
0806181344.jpg
Drought-stricken bentgrass on 17 fairway

 

 

 

 

 

We also had some areas on select tees and fairways suffer from both drought and disease conditions that require overseeding as well.  We will be out seeding these areas with bent grass as staff and time allow, and these areas will be marked ground under repair as needed.

0806181611_HDR.jpg
Worn turf around 5 white tee caused by machine and cart traffic.

August also brings signs of other traffic stress to our green and bunker surrounds.  This week we will be applying our next round of fertilizer to promote continued health, recovery, and vigor to the rough around the greens.  Traffic stress can also be noticed on entry and exit points near cart paths, such as the picture shows around 5 white tee.  These areas will be aerified and fertilized to aid in their recovery as well.

 

Some other quick observations around the golf course:0806181607

  • July’s drought-like conditions created changes with some trees as well.  The heat and lack of rainfall caused these trees to shed leaves in an attempt to conserve resources (food and water).  They are in no danger of becoming unhealthy, they are simply going through a natural defense mechanism.
0806180710a.jpg
Mounding on 12 green
0806180709.jpg
Seed corn beetle emerging from 12 green

 

 

 

 

 

  • A few of you have asked about the mounds that have been noticeable on select greens.  These are being caused by the seed corn beetle, which is pictured above on a mound on 12 green.  These beetles are prevalent this time of year, especially on greens that are located by adjacent fields.  They are not causing harm to the turf and will leave shortly.
Leafcutter Bee
Leafcutter bee

 

Mason Bee
Mason bee

 

 

 

 

  • The bee hotel on #16 is filling up quickly with mainly 2 types of bees: mason bees and the leafcutter bee, pictured above.  This activity is noted mainly by either mud or a resin-like substance that fills the hole in the wood.  After the female lays her egg, she seals the hole with this mud or resin.  When the egg hatches, the new bee will chew its way out of the hole and begin its life in the outside world.  I continue to be happy with our efforts to provide new habitats for our pollinator friends.
Bee Hotel
About half of the holes available are filled!

If you have any questions, please contact me at ryan@elconacc.com.  Have a great week and I will see you on the golf course!

Ryan

Course Notes, 7/3/2018

0701181403.jpgOver the last few days, summer has really taken a hold as we work through our second hot stretch of the summer.  As you can guess, it was (and still is) time to play some defense.  Soil and canopy temperatures have risen to levels that cause stress on the turf, especially the lower cut surfaces.  Below are some defensive measures we have taken over the last 2 weeks:

IMG953852.jpg
Soil temperature on #1 green.
Canopy temperature on # 1 green.  

The height of cut was raised slightly (.005″) to increase the amount of leaf tissue on the plant giving it a better opportunity to generate the necessary energy to survive, and irrigation was kept to a minimum. The need to minimize the amount of irrigation may sound counter-intuitive because of the heat, but we need to reduce the possibility of various types of diseases from developing. Moist soils, thatch and leaf blades make an ideal environment for pathogens to grow and create harm to the turf.

0617180718.jpg
Using moisture meters has allowed us to better judge water requirements.

By reducing the irrigation, we reduce the moisture available to the pathogen.  Even with the reduced irrigation, the increased humidity has kept greens surfaces softer than I would like to see them.  We have also spiked the greens to help dry them out further and get a bit of fresh oxygen into the rootzone.  These small slits will disappear into the canopy within a day or so.

The two uncontrollable wildcards during stretches like these are the humidity and rainfall. That is where our plant protectants (fungicides) come in. My general philosophy is not to apply these products until conditions warrant the need for them to be applied. Obviously, during periods like this, there is certainly a need to make applications to protect the turf and allow it remain as healthy as it can. Because of this, our sprayers have been quite busy over the course of the 2 weeks or so.

On days when we don’t mow fairways the dew is mechanically removed by two carts dragging a long hose across the playing surface to knock the dew off of the leaf blades allowing them to dry more quickly. In periods like this, every little trick helps.

By combining all of these practices, it allows us to pick up where we left off as soon as the weather becomes a little more seasonable again. Rest assured, the conditioning of the golf course remains our top priority, that’s why we take these necessary steps!

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at ryan@elconacc.com.  Have a safe and happy 4th of July holiday!

Ryan

Course Notes, 6/24/2018

0516180626_HDR.jpg

Pictures like the scene above are quite beautiful to see in the morning, and a major reason why I enjoy what I do for a living.  These scenes also have been very sparse the last 6 weeks!  Rain, rain and more rain has hampered the Elcona property to the tune of 13.61″ over that time frame.  Unfortunately these rains hamper our ability to stay on track with our maintenance schedules for both playing surfaces and bunkers.

0610180901.jpg0610180941.jpg

 

0613181117a.jpg0610180902.jpg

Bunkers have received much repair work over that time, and we have removed over 12 5 gallon bucketfuls of rocks from these washouts.  Growth rates on all fine playing surfaces have been on the higher end as well as many of you have noticed.  The forecast looks to be drying out a bit for the upcoming 4th of July holiday however, and should allow us to get a better handle on growth and playing conditions.

0613181117.jpg0619181049.jpg

When its been dry, the staff has been focusing on detail work in bunkers and cart paths.  Rock removal and moving sand back from where rains wash it away are critical components that are necessary to perform, more so the higher frequency of rain events we have here at Elcona.  We have also placed white dots to redefine areas where the edge between collar and green have gotten away from us.

Finally, I have been taking stock of all the newborns that are taking advantage of the property as their habitat.  There are 2 pair of ducks nesting on our ponds at 3 and 14, and their new set of ducklings should be arriving very soon.

0531181030
A newborn fawn along the east end of the hiking trails. 

There are also 2 new groupings of turkeys, totaling 18 in all.  We have also see 2 fawn roaming the east side of the property and the hiking trails.

 

0609181437.jpg

0519181530.jpg
The new bee hotel west of 16 fairway.

Another key part of our Audubon program the last few years has been increasing habitat for our native pollinators.  Many of the native areas will be cut down in the next 2 weeks, but some areas of wildflowers will be left to serve as habitat for honeybees, mason bees, and other pollinating insects native to Elkhart County. One new addition to our pollinator areas has been a bee hotel, tucked into the woods edge west of 16 fairway.  This bee hotel serves as an area for native bees, such as the mason bee and the leaf cutter bee, to lay eggs and wall them off for development.  It will be interesting to see how popular this hotel becomes to the native population here at Elcona in the next couple of years.

0609181440.jpg
A close up of the bee hotel.  Some of the smaller holes have been filled with mud already, a clue that a native bee has deposited an egg into the hole.  

Another plant that we will keep in areas is milkweed, which serves as the sole food source for Monarch butterflies.   Monarchs each year migrate over 3,000 miles, a journey that takes 4 generations of insects to complete and many areas of habitat to thrive.  The Monarch population has diminished by about 90% in the last 20 years, and by having areas of milkweed in our native areas that are not in play, we provide that additional habitat for continuation of their migration.  Audubon International has created a program, called Monarchs in the Rough, that commits resources to golf courses to create additional milkweed areas for the very cause that we have been doing here at Elcona for several years now.  Elcona is one of 250 golf courses nationally participating in Monarchs in the Rough, and you can read more about this program here.

0612181350a.jpg
A Monarch checking out milkweed north of #2 fairway.  

As always, if you have questions, please ask me when you see me on the golf course, or email me at ryan@elconacc.com.  Have a great week and I will see you out on the golf course!

Ryan

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Each day here at Elcona I get the opportunity to interact with many of you, whether it is when I am driving around the property or when I get the chance to show off my subpar (in a bad way) golf talent in Men’s Night Out. These interactions provide me with some great feedback on the course and the chance to answer questions that you may have. Below are a few of the most asked questions I get on a weekly basis. Apologies in advance for the longer than normal post, but I thought it would be beneficial for all to know my reasoning behind some of the practices we do.

How do you repair a ballmark properly?

An improperly repaired pitchmark on 14

 

 

 

 

 

The key here is to NOT LIFT the center of the mark.  This pulls the turf and roots out from the surface and greatly increases the recovery time of the pitchmark.  A properly repaired mark heals in 3-4 days,  while a poorly repaired one (see above) may take up to 21 days to heal.

When should I replace my divot in the fairway?  Sometimes they are too little to replace. 

Whenever possible, you should always replace your divot.  Most of the time, even the tiny divots will root back down and recover.  At a minimum, replacing all your divots keeps the fairway looking clean and helps minimize any shot from having to be played out of a divot.

Why aren’t any sand bottles on the carts? 

Sand bottles are not supplied for the same reason as above:  to help keep the course clean.  Many times it is easier to reach for the sand bottle than walk a few yards to retrieve a divot, leaving the fairway looking littered.  Also, many people overfill the divot with sand, leaving an unsightly pile and dulling mower blades during the next mowing.  The grounds staff periodically fills all fairway divots during the golf season.

How close to greens and tees can I drive my cart?

When there is a cart path, please use it.  Otherwise, please keep your cart a minimum of 30 feet from greens and tee complexes.

What is the preferred divot pattern on the practice tee?

One of my fellow superintendents posted this picture on Twitter, which illustrates my preference wonderfully.  Either one straight line of divots taken out or multiple, small divots spread out across our hitting station is preferred.  The healing time is much quicker and will provide additional hitting space for the next person.  Taking out huge craters like the picture above will take quite a long time to fill in and heal.

Why is someone hosing down a green and interrupting my round?

This individual is “syringing” or cooling down the Poa annua leaf tissue during a hot summer day.  This misting typically takes one or two minutes.  If you see a maintenance staff member working near you, please give him or her common courtesy and make sure they see you before you hit your next shot.  They and their families will appreciate it.

What is the proper way to rake a bunker?  Where should the rakes go when I am done?

At all times, please enter and exit the bunker at the back end, or away from the flow of play, to protect the edging around the bunker.  The bunker should be raked smooth of all shot divots and footprints after the shot has been played.  When done with the rake, place the rake outside the bunker, with the rake head pointing towards the direction of play.   All of these help our staff maintain the course, and more importantly is a courtesy for your fellow members that will play the hole after you have finished.

What are the general maintenance principles of Elcona CC?

  • Provide the finest quality playing surfaces with minimal inputs and a keen eye on environmental stewardship.
  • To prepare, preserve and maintain the golf course as the major club asset and to afford the opportunity to provide enjoyment to the club’s members and guests.
  • To protect, understand and fulfill the golf course architect’s and club membership’s vision with a goal of a fair golf challenge for all levels of player ability.
  • To plan and execute programs and procedures that maintains a superior golf experience as well as enhances and protects the environment, property, and aesthetics of the club within the standards and benchmarks set within being a Certified Audubon Golf Course Sanctuary.

Other interesting facts about Elcona CC:

  • Elcona’s total land area is 342 acres

o   132 acres of maintained turf

o   47 acres of natural grassland

o   116 acres of mixed forest habitat (prairie and wooded habitats)

o   41 acres of farmland that is cash rented out

o   4 ponds totaling 2.75 acres

  • The golf course was originally designed by legendary Midwest architect William Diddel in 1956, and has undergone multiple improvements with guidance from architect Arthur Hills.
  • In 2012, Elcona became the 8th course in Indiana and the 930th course in the world to be designated an Audubon Certified Golf Course Sanctuary.

Ryan