Course Notes, 8/10/2020

IMG_1833.jpgHeading into what is officially called the “Dog Days” of summer, the golf course continues to look and play extremely well.  We as a staff have had quite a busy season so far, and I could not be more proud of their efforts this year and the product they have produced for you to enjoy. Throughout the next couple months most of them will be leaving us for the season and will be missed until they return in April 2021. So a huge “Thank You/Muchas Gracias” to Adam, Steve, Greg, Ron, Bob, Paul, Harold, Larry, Caity, Jeff, Migler, Andonis, Yony, Keenan, and Joe for all your hard work and dedication to Elcona this year!IMG_3283

Other notes and information from around the golf course:

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Cart parked well within 30 feet of 2 green
  • With the current state of our world, rounds and golf course activity has been much higher this year, and it is awesome to see all of you enjoy your golf course this year.  It has also become quite noticeable lately the effects of golf cart usage and traffic in the rough, especially around greens and tees.  Carts continue to be observed parking way to close to green and tee surfaces, which greatly impacts the playability and health of those areas when they continually get exposed to the tire traffic of a golf cart.  Per the Elcona Membership rule book and the Golf/Greens Committee, I would like to remind everyone that golf carts are to be parked no closer than 30 feet of a green or 15 feet from a tee, except when a path is available.  30 feet is about 10 normal paces.  Thank you for your cooperation in this matter and remember to RESPECT the golf course:

Repair your ball mark and one other.

Every divot should be replaced when possible.

Sand should be thoroughly raked each time you are in a bunker.

Please park your cart 30 feet from greens and tees to help keep the    surround turf more playable.

Enter and exit bunkers from the flat back side.

Care and think about the members playing behind you.

Together this will make a HUGE difference!

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New wire ran behind 15 green
  • We have had our share of electrical issues with the pond pumps on holes 3 and 15.  We have these issues resolved, and will treat those ponds this week to clean up the excess duckweed and algae that developed as a result of no water movement.
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Billbug damage, hole 12
  • Some insect damage has been observed in the rough surrounding 6 and 12 green.  These areas have received one treatment insecticide to eliminate the grubs that are eating the roots of this turf, and a second application may be necessary.    It will be overseeded later this month.

 

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Below ground view of a sprinkler.  The black component is the decoder.  
  • Many of you also have asked why I am continually digging up sprinklers.  While I do actually enjoy digging our beautiful sandy soil as a workout, most of the time it is to replace a decoder that has failed.  A decoder is like a mail box for the irrigation system.  Each of the over 1200 sprinklers on the property has a unique 5 digit address that is programmed into both a computer in my office and each decoder in the field.  When I want to run a sprinkler, the computer sends a 24 volt signal through the miles of wire below ground to find the specific sprinkler’s 5 digit address and turn it on.  The computer does the same to turn the sprinkler off.
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Tree roots creating issues with a decoder connection

So why are these failing?  There are a few reasons why.  Our beautiful sandy soil can be difficult to make/keep a firm grounding connection, and can create a short in the system.  Lightning strikes can reek havoc on the electrical components, sending surges through the system.  I have also observed tree roots and ant colonies push open the grease packs that protect the wire connections, exposing the wires to drainage from rain and normal soil moisture that can cause a short.  As these issues are found, we repair them as soon as possible to prevent further damage to the components.

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  • With this spring and early summer’s heavier rainfall, crabgrass pressure has been through the roof and a challenge this season. We have spot sprayed the crabgrass that emerged in a few areas on the fairways and rough with great results. The bronzing of the fairway turf surrounding the crabgrass will grow out within a couple of weeks.

 

  • Our pollinator areas have continued to see a large increase in butterfly activity this year, especially Monarchs. The areas of milkweed you have noticed along the native areas are the Monarch’s main source of food and habitat for them to complete their life cycle on their migration from Mexico to Canada and back. Where appropriate, we will continue to provide habitat for pollinating insects while not impacting your experience on the golf course.

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  • Finally, an update on the upcoming Golf Course Improvement Plan, which you can view the plans here.  All the materials needed for the project will begin to arrive on property within the next 10 days, including 600 tons of pea gravel, 7300 feet of irrigation pipe, and 1200 tons of bunker sand.  There will be increased truck traffic on County Road 21 delivering these materials, so please be cautious as you enjoy your round crossing CR 21.

The project will begin September 8th at the Practice Facility.  The Facility will be available on a limited basis that week, so please be on the look out for information as you visit the club that week.  On September 15th, work will begin on the golf course. In discussions with Golf Creations (contractor for the project), the Design Committee, and the Golf/Greens Committee, 9 holes will close at a time.  While this may not be a popular decision, it is in the best interest for your safety and the installation crew’s safety and efficiency to have 9 holes closed at a time.  The less the crew has to stop work to allow play through, the quicker the project will be completed (as long as the weather cooperates!).

You can also expect weekly updates from me on the progress of the project.  I will also have more as we get closer to go time on what you can expect to see as our staff prepares the course for this project.  We are extremely excited to begin this project next month and am looking forward to what will be a beautiful improvement for the next 30 years and beyond.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at ryan@elconacc.com, or stop me when you see me out on the course. Have a great, safe week, and I will see you out on the golf course!

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Ryan

 

Course Notes, 6/28/2020

IMG_1507.jpgWhile there may be differing opinions of the year 2020 out there, the fact that it is half over already bring to mind a busy, but exciting time for the club and our staff.  I always look forward to preparing the course for the Walter Wells Men’s Invitational, and with a larger amount of teams participating this year, it should be an excellent event and fun for all.  Our young staff continues to learn and get a bit better each day. I am quite proud of their efforts and very happy to work alongside such a great group of people.

IMG_1557The golf course has been quite firm and fast given the very dry June we have had (1.12” rain all month so far).  We continue to adjust maintenance and irrigation practices on greens to keep speeds as consistent as possible and surfaces receptive to well-struck  shots.  Given the forecast the next 2 weeks, we may have to make some changes there.  More on that in a minute.

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Cart path edging with our bunker rake
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The final look.  Turf had overgrown on the path by 2″!

Some Invitational preparations have already begun.  Our annual mowing down of the native areas has started, except around areas of milkweed and other wildflowers that we are saving for our pollinator friends.  I will blog on our efforts there later in July.  We also have been edging cart paths with a new tool.  Over the winter we machined an edging device using a cultivation disc that fits on our bunker rake that allows the process to be faster and more efficient.  I want to thank Rob Steger at Saginaw CC in Michigan for the inspiration of our build.  We will continue to edge these through the month.

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14 Tee’s new butterfly garden

The butterfly garden on 14 tee is finally complete and it looks spectacular.  A special than you to Greg Stump for his beautiful vision and work on this awesome addition of color and habitat on the course.  I hope you enjoy it as well as it matures over time.

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Brownish rough around 12 fairway

A few of you have asked me about the brownish ring around the fairways.  This is a negative result of a growth regulator application made in early June to slow down growth in the rough around fairways and greens and improve the playability out of it.  The hot, dry month we have had turned some of the leaf tissue brown, and the growth regulator has inhibited the recovery efforts of the plant.  Upon closer inspection, there is much green leaf tissue below and as the regulator wears off, the turf will recover just fine.

IMG_1425The rains of the past week have been much welcomed after receiving only 0.2″ of rainfall the first 22 days of June.  Given the next 14 days of forecasted heat and humidity however, we may have to play defense on our putting surfaces to maintain their health and vigor through the rest of the season.  I wrote a blog article last year that you can click on here for more information on defensive maintenance practices we use to defend the turf as best as we can through tough stretches of weather.  As I wrote, it’s not necessarily what we do when the heat and humidity arrives, but more about what we don’t do.  Any changes in maintenance are intended to be temporary and that the ultimate goal is to provide you with a golf course that you can be proud of through the summer season, and the rest of the year.

While I have not raised mowing heights yet, dragging the dew off of fairways and keeping irrigation to a minimum have been our main weapons so far to help fight turf stress. Our staff has been and will continue to be out syringing greens on hot summer afternoons, and a video of the process can be viewed here.  Plant protectants are helping us as well, although they have been performing well without increasing rates. The humidity forecasted can and will lead to some decreased green speed, with the added moisture in the humid air being taken up by the plant, creating larger leaf blade surfaces.

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Cross section of the Better Billy Bunker system.

Finally, I wanted to provide an update on the Golf Course Improvement Plan.  The design committee of Tom Thome, Tom Zimmerman, and myself have been meeting fairly regularly discussing final logistics of the project, as well as procuring top soil and the other amendments needed for the project.  One of the most critical components is the gravel necessary to construct the drainage and liner of the Better Billy Bunker system that we are having installed.  Above is a picture of a BBB cross section model I saw at the Golf Industry Show that illustrates the liner system well.  Around the drainage pipe there is a layer of pea gravel, which is 3/8″ thick stone.  Another layer of pea gravel is placed on the entire floor of the bunker, which is the layer that receives the Better Billy polymer.  The BBB polymer is heated and applied using a pressurized spray wand.  After curing, it is inspected for any additional work before sand is added.  While not totally representing what our project will look like, there are a few YouTube videos on the BBB installation process, my favorite is hereHere is an informational video from Better Billy Bunker as well on the history of the product and the process.

I will be sharing a few holes on what our project will look like with you each blog article I write from now through Labor Day.  Today holes 1-3 are below, with the legend of what each line or color represents in the beginning picture.  As a reminder, all of these bunkers will have maintainable grass slopes that will be easier to get in and out of for both the member and our machinery, and the sand area will be flat bottomed with minimal flashing up any slope.  The entire project design is also on the club website for those who are interested.

2020 GCIP LegendGCIP Hole 1GCIP Hole 2GCIP Hole 3As always, if you have any questions about the golf course or the upcoming Golf Course Improvement Project, please do not hesitate to reach out at ryan@elconacc.com or when you see me out on the course.  Have a great, safe 4th of July holiday and I hope to see you out on the golf course!

Ryan Bowser Signature Picture.jpg

Ryan

Course Notes, 6/7/2020

IMG_1557It continues to be awesome to see so many of you enjoying your golf course and club during these unprecedented times.  When the weather is good, the golf course is packed.  The staff and I appreciate all the comments everyone has told me regarding the conditioning of the golf course.  We continue to work hard each day to provide you the best conditions that weather allows us to produce.

Each day here at Elcona I get the opportunity to interact with many of you while out working on the course.  These interactions provide me with some great feedback on the course and the chance to answer questions that you may have. Below are some of the more frequent ones I have been asked this year.  Please bear with me as this is another longer than normal blog post, but one that is hopefully informational to you.

Why is the rough so thick right now?

The combination of a regularly scheduled fertilizer application and 5.86″ of rain in the month of May has caused a flush of growth in the bluegrass, especially around greens and tees.  A growth regulator application will be applied this coming week, and normal growth and playing conditions will return soon.

Why are there so many cart tracks in close proximity of greens?

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Please park on cart paths around greens and tees where available.

With the increase rounds and usage of the golf course, this is the perfect time to remind everyone about some simple, but often overlooked courtesies when it comes to driving golf carts.  Courtesies that should be followed all year and especially during the stressful times include: parking 30 feet away from greens and tees, not driving carts where they don’t belong (next to greens/tees and in the tall grass areas), and carefully applying the brakes so that the tires do not lock up and leave skid marks on the paths and turf. All of these should be common sense, but you would be amazed at how many times I witness all of these on a daily basis.  Please help our staff take care of your golf course by following these simple courtesies.

 

How do you repair a ballmark properly?

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Poorly repaired ball mark on 4 green

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.

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A dandelion growing in a fairway divot.  

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. If you experience an exploding divot, replace what grass you can and please step down onto the divot to minimize its size of impact.  Not replacing divots can also provide an avenue for weeds to germinate, as was the case in the picture from 6 fairway above.

 

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 cleaner. 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. Adding soil could potentially  introduce weed seeds to the fairway.  Many people can also overfill the divot with sand, leaving an unsightly pile of soil, which leads to dull mower blades during the next mowing. The grounds staff periodically fills all fairway divots during the golf season.

What is the greens rolling schedule on a weekly basis?

During a normal week, greens are rolled on Tuesday, Wednesday afternoon, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. All of these scheduled days are dictated by weather, golf schedule, and turf conditions.  Our greens maintenance program continues to focus on providing  consistent green speed each day as weather allows.  I will be blogging soon about factors that effect green speed, so stay tuned for that.

Where are all the wildlife this year?

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Newborn deer running along 12 fairway
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Ducklings on 14 pond

 

 

 

 

 

 

They are around!  We have observed 3 newborn fawns on property, including one that jumped out in front of me yesterday at the Practice Facility.  The turkeys are hunkered down in the woods as well as along the Nature Trails.  I observed 6 new ducklings learning how to swim on 14 pond last week as well.  Pollinators such as butterflies and native bees are also starting to increase in activity too.  One of the best parts of my job is interacting with nature on this beautiful piece of land they get to call home.

What is causing the sand mounds on certain greens?

Many of these mounds are caused by the Seed Corn Beetle.  The second picture above shows the beetle in its burrow.  They are not damaging the turf and should disappear soon.

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Ant mound, 1 green

A few greens also have small colonies of ants that are creating unsightly mounds along the green/collar interface, such as the one pictured above on 1 green.   These will be treated with an insecticide this week.

 

What is the preferred divot pattern on the practice tee?

The above picture illustrates 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 areas like the picture above will take a much longer time to fill in and heal.  The practice tee is seeded each week, and sections are overseeded heavily after they are turned over, which averages once a month.  A staff member will be out hand watering divot seed each afternoon to further aid in a quicker divot recovery.

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. We do our best not to interrupt your enjoyment of the golf course, but if you see a maintenance staff member working around 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 are the general maintenance principles of Elcona CC?

  • To 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.

Thank you for taking the time to read this longer than normal update. If you have any questions about what is going on outside, please do not hesitate to contact me at ryan@elconacc.com. Have a great week and I hope to see you out on the golf course!

Ryan Bowser Signature Picture

Ryan

Course Notes, 5/9/2020

IMG_1387.jpgWith the announcement of Governor’s 5 Phase Plan to reopen Indiana, I believe we can finally see a return to some sense of normalcy here at Elcona, and to our lives personally.  Many of you have commented to Tom and I that having our course available to get some fresh air and socialize with friends have been the best medicine for this worldwide pandemic.  I could not agree more.  Thank you from our staff for your continued support of our efforts to take care of your golf course.

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Bunker edging has been a focus of ours the last 2 weeks with staff’s return.

We are slowly bringing staff back and catching up on details that were set aside during the height of the shutdown when our focus was on mowing and very  basic maintenance.  I could not be happier to bring our talented staff back, and I am so proud of their efforts.  Thank you for your understanding as we worked through the restrictions this virus put us in.

 

A few notes on what we have been up to lately:

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The Golf Ball EZ Lyft on 10 green

Thanks to a generous contribution from Scott York, we have installed the Golf Ball EZ Lyft, and many of you have commented what a great idea this was.  Above is a picture of what it looks like if you haven’t been out to the course, and here is a link on my demonstration on its use.  And if you have played golf with me before, you know it took me a few takes to sink the putt.  Thank you Scott for your idea and donation to Elcona!

 

IMG_1425In working with Tom and the guidelines set forth from the Indiana PGA, it looks like when the state reaches Phase 4, bunker rakes and trash cans will be placed out on the course.  We will continue as staffing levels allow to maintain the bunkers, but there may be days where we need to focus on other maintenance tasks and not rake the bunkers.  As you are able, please help us out by smoothing out your footprints as you exit the bunker at the back side of the bunker.  Thank you for your help and understanding as we slowly ramp our staffing levels back to normal.

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Cart traffic off 2 tee path.

You may also notice more ropes out to guide cart traffic.  While I do not like ropes, they allow carts to drive away from grass that needs relief from continuous cart traffic.  We will be giving these areas some additional fertilizer and aerification to aid in their recovery as well.  It’s a good problem to have, as it shows how much you have supported your club during these difficult time!

 

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Black legged, or deer tick.  A carrier of Lyme disease and one I have found on me within the last 2 weeks.  Photo courtesy of Tim Gibb, Purdue University.  

If you happen to walk the hiking trails out in the back 40 or hit a shot into the native areas, be on the look out for ticks.  They seem to be higher in population this year, as I have found a few on me and our dogs.  Here is a link for Purdue on tick safety if you want any additional information on these parasites.

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Lightning at the 2019 US Women’s Open.  

Also, we are in the beginnings of thunderstorm season.  When inclement weather approaches the course, or if lightning is detected within 10 miles of the golf course, the Pro Shop staff will blow the siren indicting that it is mandatory you seek shelter immediately.  This link here is a video from the Weather Channel explaining the different ways lightning can severely harm or kill you out on the course.  I have also included a pretty dramatic picture of an oak tree getting struck just minutes after the siren was sounded at last year’s US Women’s Open. Here is a link to the video from Fox Sports.   The take home message here is that when the siren sounds, please come seek shelter immediately.  Please shelter in place until you hear a second siren, which sounds only when the threat has passed and it is safe to resume play and the golf course is in a condition to do so.  Usually after a heavy thunderstorm, Tom and I will check the course on its availability and condition before allowing play to resume.  Your life is worth much more than finishing the hole you are playing.  If you have any questions on our severe weather policy, please ask Tom or myself.

 

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Family Tee Layout.  4,311 yards in length.  

Finally, it has been nice to see many of you bringing your children out and playing the Family Tees that are located at the course. They are a fun way to experience Elcona’s course from a shorter length. If you haven’t already, give them a try the next time you and your children want to visit Elcona. A map of where each tee is located is pictured above, just look for the stone markers in each fairway or forward tee.  Tom has printed unique scorecards as well if you wish to keep score, located in the Pro Shop.

 

If you have any questions about what is going on outside, please stop me out on the course or email me at ryan@elconacc.com. I am more than happy to talk shop with you.  Have a great week and hope to see you out on the golf course!  .

Ryan Bowser Signature Picture.jpg

Ryan

Course Notes, 4/21/2020

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Good morning everyone, and I hope that all of you are staying safe during these unprecedented times for our country.  While we all wait on some return to what will define normal going forward, it has been nice to see so many of you enjoying the beauty of spring at Elcona and playing golf.  I hope that Elcona continues to be a safe haven for you and your family to get some sunshine, fresh air, and to get away from all the stressors that grace our lives today.

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Tom Thome meticulously mowing 15 green

During these last few weeks, we have been operating at lower staff levels, like many of you and your businesses have.  While it has been a challenge, it also is an opportunity to assess current operations and find ways to make them more efficient.  One of the capital purchases the club made this year was a newer triplex mower.  These mowers are much improved on lower heights of cut and allow a higher quality of cut than our older unit, allowing us to better mimic the quality of a walk mower.  I also wanted to take a moment to thank Tom Thome for helping out our operation.  Tom has helped mow greens and fairways for the last month, allowing our staff to work on other needed jobs.  He is a pro’s pro, and a tremendous asset to Elcona, and a friend to all of us.  Please thank him the next time you see him for his love for and all he does for Elcona.

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Ducks enjoying 3 pond

The Grounds Department has not been immune to implementing extra safety measures for the well-being of our staff and to you, the member.  The last 15 minutes of each day has always been dedicated to cleaning our shop and surrounds, but extra sanitizing measures of high contact areas have been taken daily.   Along with flipping cups upside down, bunker rakes and trash cans will continue to be absent from the golf course until it is safe to put them out.  The Practice Facility will continue to operate under reduced hours (Tuesday-Sunday, 8am-5pm, weather dependent).  Our staff has been working hard to get the golf course in shape for the 2020 season, and I could not be more proud of them and their efforts.  Please be patient as we work together through these challenging times to get your golf course into peak conditioning.

Mornings like the one pictured at the start of this article are very pretty to stand and admire, and one of the many reasons why I love caring for and enjoying my 319 acre office. However, we have also experienced many frosty mornings, causing delays in the start of your round. I wrote an article explaining why we delay for frost, which you can read here.  The USGA also has a great video explaining frost delays, which you can watch here.

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Hole 18, under April snow cover

These mornings (and those late April days that the highs stay in the 30’s with snow showers, like the scene we saw on 18 pictured above) are also not the best growing conditions for turf here in Northern Indiana. This is the reason why many areas are thinner and lacking typical summer color, like fairways and green surrounds. It is also the main reason why we have not mowed fine playing surfaces as often as the meat of our season. Rolling greens has been a great tool for us to maintain putting surfaces while limiting traffic and wear on the turf. When weather finally returns to a more average Indiana spring, the growth and vigor of the turfgrass will return as well and conditions will improve.

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Solid tine holes, 18 fairway

Aerification has been completed on greens, tees, fairways, and practice facility. This year, given our reduced staff, all areas were solid tined to provide relief against compaction and let fresh oxygen into the rootzone, while saving our staff many hours of clean up.  This coming Monday we will be performing a deep tine aerification on select green and fairway areas, as we do each year at this time with one change.  In the past, a contractor has been paid to do these services.  Thanks to you and the Board of Directors, the club has purchased a deep tine aerifier that will allow us to do these in-house, at our schedule.  It will also allow us to deep tine fairways and other areas that were cost-prohibitive in the past.  Thank you very much and I will be posting more information on this process in my next blog article.

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New Sugar Maple tree, left side of 16

We have also been busy planting trees in accordance with our tree maintenance plan, as well as some that were donated by members.  We continue to look for areas to move the many trees we have in our tree nursery before they become too big to move.  The new sugar maple on 16 pictured above takes the place of several White Pine trees that were severely damaged by a few ice storms and had become unsightly.  Most of the surrounding area will become grass and improve the playability of this area in due time.

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New butterfly garden footprint, 13 green/14 tee

Finally, a few of you have asked what we are doing at the corner of 13 green and 14 tee.  This area has been prone to standing water and barren since the removal of many blue spruce trees a few years ago.  Thanks to the contributions of a few members and the keen design eye of Greg Stump, we are installing a butterfly garden that will instantly add much needed color and visual appeal to this area.  I will post its progress in my next blog article as well.

Thank you again for your understanding as we work as best we can on getting the golf course up to prime conditioning.  If you have any questions, please reach out to me at ryan@elconacc.com.  Please stay safe and continue to come out and support your club.  I look forward to seeing you all soon out on the golf course!

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Ryan

 

Course Notes, 3/13/2020

IMG_1151.jpgTom and I are happy to announce that the golf course will open this Sunday at 12 p.m.! Based on the latest forecast, there will be ample frost both weekend mornings, hence the noon start for tee times. The Practice Facility will open around the first of April, as there is still some frost in the ground in this area. This will give the turf some additional time to begin growing and recover from daily use. Course conditions will be evaluated on a day by day basis for its availability for play due to weather. It is highly recommended that you call the golf shop for the latest updates on course conditions and availability.

This week, we began prepping low cut surfaces for play. The frost is out of the ground (except in areas at the Practice Facility), and turf has wintered well with no large signs of disease or stress. As is normally the case this time of year, playing surfaces will be mowed or rolled as the weather and growth dictates. Other practices, such as raking bunkers, will be done on an as needed basis. Our seasonal employees will begin to return next week as well, but this return is based on historical dates that have been determined by weather as well as budgetary guidelines set for the year. As it has been the case over the years, we anticipate being fully staffed by Memorial Day.

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Mottled look on 1 green

Many of you over the years have asked why the putting surfaces look so mottled and some of the grass looks purple this time of year. The main reason is how the plant reacts to the transition to winter. When frosty or below freezing nights become a regular occurrence, the chlorophyll in the plant (green pigment) can denature in some bio-types of Poa annua, the main species of turf on Elcona’s greens. This denaturing leads to other pigments that may normally be hidden by the chlorophyll to be revealed, such as a red/purple pigment called anthocyanin.  Anthocyanin is also the same pigment that gives Elcona’s trees such vibrant reds, oranges, and purples in the fall. When regular growing conditions arrive to our area, the plant will produce more chlorophyll and turn green again.

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Flagged stump hole on the right side of 18

The staff has done a wonderful job with course clean up over the last 2 weeks. While this winter did not bring as much snow to our area as it normally would, we experienced several days where the winds were over 30 MPH sustained. As you can imagine, there was a higher amount of tree and leaf litter on the course than in a normal winter. We will finish this work up over the next week or so.  We also had to postpone filling stump holes from this winter’s tree work to prep the golf course for opening, so they have been flagged in high traffic areas.  Please heed caution when driving your cart near them.  All stump holes will be filled in with top soil next week, and then be sodded or seeded when better growing conditions arrive to our area.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at ryan@elconacc.com.  I look forward to seeing you out on the golf course!

Ryan Bowser Signature Picture.jpg

Ryan

Course Notes, 2/26/2020

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One common phrase in my conversations with my peers the last 2 months have almost always included the words, “What winter??”  Scenes like the one of 18 green above have been much more common than the typical snow capped pictures I normally share this time of year.   According to all the latest forecasts I’ve looked at, one common theme is a warmer start to spring, with unfortunately a wetter start to it as well. No matter what arrives, the staff and I are ready to get quite the exciting 2020 season underway.

Since it has been a while since my last blog update, here is what we have been working on the last 2 months:

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12 Green, 2/2/2020.  54 degrees, except where shadows exist.  

 

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Practice putting green

I am happy to report through all the warmth and rainy weather that have hampered our neck of the woods, the golf course turf is in great condition.  Any time we have gotten a taste of winter with a few inches of snow, a few days of mid 40 degree temperatures have followed.  Even with the warmth, some more shaded areas, like 12 green above, still held snow and ice even on a 50 degree day like when I took the picture.

IMG_0772.jpgI also checked off “Topdress Greens in January” box on my professional bucket list.  I say that in jest, but with the warmth in December we noticed some growth on the Poa turf on our greens.  Rather than mowing the turf and having to re-apply winter protectants, adding sand topdressing is a best practice to insulate and protect plant crowns from cold injury.  What was more surprising was the firmness of greens at the time and being able to run the machinery on them without damage.

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White pine areas, between 6 and 16
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6/16 area after

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The staff and I are about done with our annual approved treework.  We concentrated again on aesthetic improvements throughout the course and grounds, such as the above pictures between 6 and 16.  These white pines were severely damaged over the past few years with ice storms, and were quite unsightly.  Their removal will allow more sunlight in an increasingly popular landing area (when playing 16) and better turf conditions past the fairway bunker, as well as show off a beautiful Crimson King maple that was planted many years ago as a replacement for them.  The next step is grinding all the stumps, which will begin in March.

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Spotters on the ground helping shape our final trimmed look
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Oak at the corner of 18 fairway, after trimming.  

 

 

 

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Oaks getting a trim between 4 and 14

A aerial man-lift was also rented this year to perform more tree trimming in-house, as our tree program shifts from removal to more of a maintenance plan.  This lift allows us to trim up several oak trees where our existing equipment failed to reach.  This rental also allows us to perform this work at our staff’s schedule and not at a contractor’s.

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Chipper and utility cart receiving service

All preventative maintenance has been completed on the entire fleet of equipment, led successfully by our Equipment Manager Steve Ott.  Besides all blade and reel sharpening and fluid/belt service, Steve and staff refurbished older utility vehicles, detailed all work vehicles and tractors, and engineered improvements to maximize efficiency.  We are quite fortunate to have Steve on staff, his knowledge and experience is quite an asset.

I would also like to take a moment and thank Matt McIntyre for his 3 years of service to Elcona as assistant superintendent.  Matt left us recently to pursue an opportunity at a course in Arizona, where he has family.  I am also pleased to announce Adam Morr will join Elcona as our new assistant after his graduation from Purdue in mid-May.  Both he and I are excited to have him join our staff.

Finally, winter also means attending educational seminars and shows to further hone our skills and get the latest updates on trends happening in our industry. This year’s dominate theme is again common in most everyone’s industries today: Labor efficiency, building great teams, and increased presence of technology to make informed decisions. Robotic fairway mowers, greens mowers, and drones continue to carve a niche in tomorrow’s golf course. These trends are ones that I am closely following for any potential benefits they could provide to our operation.

IMG_1074.jpgOur operation received two distinct honors at these shows.  At the Indiana Green Expo, we were honored with the 2019 MRTF Green Award (Private Golf division), selected for our operations’s many years of commitment towards innovative stewardship and excellence in managing championship conditions while promoting our stewardship to the members and the community as a whole.  This award is a testament to the vision and leadership of the people who lead our staff before I did (especially Tom Zimmerman and Greg Shaffer) and will further motivate our operation’s continued commitment to provide great conditioning the right way.  On behalf of our staff, thank you for supporting our efforts and allowing us to be leaders in this area of our industry!

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I also was honored to have my dog Bowser be selected as a finalist for dog of the year by the GCSAA and Lebanon Turf.  While he did not win, it was quite a treat to have the club gain exposure through a couple of radio interviews and other media opportunities during the Golf Industry Show in Orlando.  I know Bowser is hoping for a quick arrival to golf season and to welcome you all back to the course.

Have a great rest of February and wish for March golf!

Ryan

Course Notes, 12/20/2019

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Although hit and miss, winter has certainly let its presence known here at Elcona.  November brought an early foot of snow on Veteran’s Day, bringing the 2019 golf season to a grinding halt.  The staff and I have switched gears to equipment maintenance and preparing for a great 2020 season, while also reviewing how we can improve upon a great 2019 season.  Below is a link to a video I created that shares some of the great scenery and wildlife we observed on property throughout the past year.

Elcona CC 2019 Pictures

Below is an update on what else we have been up to lately:

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Matt McIntyre aerifying the Practice Fairway
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Sand topdressing on 15 green

 

 

 

 

 

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6 Green mid-topdressing.  A heavy blanket!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before the November snows came, we finished aerification and our annual winter application of plant protectants to playing surfaces and green surrounds.  Right after Thanksgiving, a heavy blanket of sand was applied to greens to act as a blanket and insulate the crowns of the plant against winter temperatures.  The last course focus was on removing as many leaves as possible from the course, either through mulching or sweeping.  The leaves that were swept will be placed into our compost piles, creating some great soil to use on future projects around Elcona.

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Growth blanket on the practice tee

We also pulled the growth blanket off of the practice tee.  The thought behind trying this blanket was to see if it created better late season conditions for seed germination, and we observed some positive results.  Next March when the weather breaks we will be utilizing the cover on additional areas that need better turf coverage.

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Tulip tree right of 2 snapped by high winds

The day before Thanksgiving Mother Nature blessed us with quite the wind storm, severely damaging a few trees on the course, although none that were critical to the playability of the golf course.  We have started our planned annual tree work on the course, of which I will cover in greater detail in my next blog post.

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Collar dam removal, back right of 13 green

The staff and I were able to complete a couple of small projects around the course before the ground froze.  An area on the back of 13 green was lowered a bit to better allow surface water to drain properly off of the green.  The back tee on number 1 was also reshaped a bit, creating additional playing area at the front of the tee, while improving the look next to the landscaped area behind it.  We will continue to work on this tee complex, as well as 9 and 15 tee complexes when the ground thaws next spring.

I hope that each of you have a safe and enjoyable holiday season with the ones you love.  I know I am looking forward to an exciting 2020 season here at Elcona.

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Ryan

 

 

Course Notes, 10/11/19

IMG_0569.jpgAerification season, for the most part, is now behind us.  Many of you have shared my sentiments that this was the best stretch of weather we have had to complete aerification in a long time.  Greens have healed nicely for being aerified one week ago and fairways are well on their way.

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16 Green, 10/4/19
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16 Green, 10/11/19

 

 

 

 

 

While I have blogged a few times about the benefits of aerification (the USGA has a great video you can watch here), below are 2 video links that demonstrate the processes we aerified both fairways and greens.

Greens Aerification           Fairway Aerification

To some of you, it comes as no surprise I am some what of a math and science nerd.  Below are a few facts about the last 14 days out on the golf course:

  • 7,668,000 holes were made on the green surfaces at a 1.5″x 2″ spacing, impacting 12.63% of the surface
  • Approximetely 84 tons of sand were applied to fill holes on greens
  • 43,908,480 holes were made on the fairway surfaces at a 2″x 2″ spacing, impacting 7.67% of the surface
  • Counting tees and the entire Practice Facility, a total of 62,016,480 5/8″ wide holes were created on the property
  • 205 man hours used to accomplish all aerification

To accomplish this and only have one snapped belt cause an issue/turf damage is a testament to our operators and especially our equipment manager, Steve Ott.  Their efforts and long hours these last few days are very much appreciated.  Thanks fellas!

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Expanded intermediate cut, Hole 13

We have also began small project season here at the club.  One such small project is expanding the intermediate cut at the beginnings of holes 9, 10, and 13 to reduce the length of carry from the tees to the fairway.  Other small projects in the next 8 weeks will include re-aligning tees on hole 1,9, and 15, and installing drainage/irrigation around the property to better manage water.

 

1106180848_HDRWhile the golf activity on the course has began to dwindle down, many jobs need to be accomplished before the real cold air shuffles its way here. Leaf clean up consumes most of our time in the next 6 weeks.  The native areas are currently being mown down for the year, herbicides are applied to take care of any weeds on the course, and ballwashers and other water features are pulled in for the year. Two major jobs ahead for us include winterizing the irrigation system, which will take place October 31-November 2. If you are out on the course these days, please heed caution as sprinklers are automatically turned on and off during this process.

 

The greens will have their annual deep tine aerification performed on November 4th as well. These 1/2″ holes, penetrating the soil profile about 8″, create three advantages: additional channels for spring root growth, aid in relieving any deeper compaction within the rootzone soil profile, and extra drainage capabilities for ice/snow melt to prevent ice formation on the plant surfaces. The greens are rolled immediately after being aerified, and these holes do remain open throughout the winter for the above mentioned reasons.

We also have begun other activities that will maximize turf health and protection from the severe winters that can visit our area. For the greens, that entails the following:

Raising mower heights. The height of cut on greens from the normal height of .120″ to .135″ slowly. Raising height of cut allows more leaf surface for the turf to maximize their photosynthetic capabilities and carbohydrate storage. Raising height will also lessen stress to the plant and create a deeper root system going into winter. While raising heights may not create the speeds that summer brings, it is best for the long term health of the greens going into winter.

Fertility and Plant Protectants. While we limit nutrients on finely maintained turf during the season to provide great playing conditions, the fall is the best time to feed the turf to maximize carbohydrate storage going into winter. The more carbs the plant stores, the quicker it will break dormancy when temperatures warm up in the spring. Winter can also bring the threat of snow mold to all varieties of turf on the golf course, and our sprayers will be out applying plant protectants to help prevent infection from those fungal diseases.

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Topdressing. When growth has ceased for the year, we will apply a thick coating of sand topdressing to bury the crowns and as much leaf tissue as possible. This sand helps protect and insulate the crown of the plant from any extreme cold temperatures. This practice is very effective in protecting the turf from any potential ice damage and helps maintain a smooth surface when the course opens next year.

If you have any questions, please reach out to me at ryan@elconacc.com.  Thanks and have a great week!

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Course Notes, 9/30/2019

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As the sun has begun to set on the 2019 season, I had jotted down some notes about how dry September and how the National Weather Service had placed Elkhart County in its Moderate Drought category.  The abnormally dry and warm September was great for late season golf for sure.

 

Drought Map of Indiana as of 9/24/19

Then last weekend’s storm happened.  While we needed the rain, we did not need a month’s worth in a 72 hour time period.  The course received nearly 4.5″ of rainfall over the weekend and the staff has hustled to get everything ready for this final week of main club events.  Final clean-up of leaves and debris left from the storm will take place over the next couple of days.

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The new pond on 8 created by last weekend’s deluge
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17 fairway bunker after the rain had ended.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other notes and happenings around the course:

  • Aerification of greens and fairways is right around the corner.  weather permitting, the front 9 greens and large practice green will be solid-tined on October 3rd.  The small practice green and back 9 greens will be aerified on October 4th.  Fairway aerification will begin on October 7, and we will be pulling cores this year to aid in drainage and better fill in any divots that may be present on the fairways.  I anticipate this process taking all week and ask that you be cautious around any staff member that may be on the fairway you are playing, as they may not hear or see you right away.  Thank you.
  • The Elkhart County Health Department has been in contact with me about mosquitoes and the threat in our area of the Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) virus.  Below is a press release from them with information and safety tips on how to protect yourself.  There is bug spray available for you in the starter hut next to 1 tee, and if you do apply bug spray, please do so on the cart path only, as bug spray can harm or kill turf.  Once a hard frost is seen in our area, the mosquito threat will diminish rapidly.
EEE Press Release
ECHD Press Release
  • Work has started already to prepare the practice tee for the 2020 season.  Last week the center and north sections of the tee were core aerified, topdressed, and seeded to fill in gaps in the turf.  These 2 sections will remain closed for the rest of the year.  After October 13th, the south section of the main tee will close for the season and the same process will take place.  Between October 15th and October 31st, the lower section will be available for you to practice.  On November 1st, the Practice Facility will close for the season.  All of this will allow the main practice tee to have the best opportunity for the seed to germinate, and fill in fully for the 2020 season.  If you have any questions about this, please ask myself or Tom.IMG_0469 IMG_0470.jpg

 

 

 

 

  • You may have noticed the cattails on 14 pond turning brown.  After years of attempting to control their spreading only by cutting them, we had to make a herbicide application to thin out the population before they overtook the entire pond.  Over the next 2 weeks we will be removing the dead material by hand and leave a single pod of them on the northwest corner of the pond.  IMG_0495

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

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Ryan