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.

IMG_1115
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.

IMG_1152.jpg
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

IMG_0899.jpg

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:

IMG_1009
12 Green, 2/2/2020.  54 degrees, except where shadows exist.  

 

IMG_0920
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.

IMG_0935.jpg
White pine areas, between 6 and 16
IMG_1033.jpg
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.

IMG_1051.jpg
Spotters on the ground helping shape our final trimmed look
IMG_1052
Oak at the corner of 18 fairway, after trimming.  

 

 

 

IMG_1065.jpg
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.

IMG_1073.jpg
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!

IMG_0972.jpg

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

IMG_0716

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:

IMG_0626
Matt McIntyre aerifying the Practice Fairway
IMG_0773
Sand topdressing on 15 green

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_0770
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.

IMG_0606
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.

IMG_0765
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.

IMG_0653
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.

IMG_0141

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.

IMG_0552.jpg
16 Green, 10/4/19
IMG_0591.jpg
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!

IMG_0590
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.

1125181244_HDR1125181317a.jpg

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!

IMG_0141  Ryan

 

Course Notes, 9/30/2019

IMG_0402.jpg

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.

IMG_0522.jpg
The new pond on 8 created by last weekend’s deluge
IMG_0523
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!

IMG_0141

Ryan

Course Notes, 8/26/2019

IMG_0327

With all of Elcona’s Club Championships contested by the end of this week, we have reached the point in the season where we are past the dog days of summer and the weather turns a bit cooler and crisper.  Labor Day signifies that change, but as we all know, there is a ton of great weather to come out and enjoy your golf course.

2019 Grounds Staff
2019 Grounds Department Staff

I also would like to give a special thanks to our staff. I am very proud of the product they have produced for throughout the year. Throughout the next few weeks most of them will be leaving us for the season and will be missed until they return in April 2020. So a huge thank you/muchas gracias to Matt, Steve, Greg, Ron, Bob, Paul, Harold, Larry, Caity, Doug, Jorge, Abelardo, Eduardo, Vernando, Luis, and Mitch for all your hard work this year.

 

I came across a share on Twitter the other day from Coach Eric Musselman (via Matt Windy, thanks Coach!):

tweet

I couldn’t help but think how important this saying is to our operation here at Elcona.  Each day, we are constantly looking for ways we can do things better and improve on an already great golf course.  Some of the subtle changes made this year to our maintenance, combined with some great weather, have provided a great product for you to enjoy.  From brushing fairway turf, to using solely mechanical rakes in bunkers, to trying different products in our agronomic plan, each of these changes may not seem like much but I believe they have made a difference for the better.

IMG_0392
Brushing fairway turf up before it gets mowed.
New Rough 16
Expanded rough left of 16

 

That being said, September brings a great opportunity to complete additional improvements around the course. We have already widened the rough left of #16, about 130 yards out, by scalping down the existing turf and seeding new grass into it, that will move the native area further away from play.  The area should be fully grown and complete in a couple more weeks.  We also will be adding drainage in the low area next to 4 blue tee.

Some other quick hits from around the course:

Golf course aerification is directly around the corner.   Tees will be aerified next Tuesday (9/3/2019), and we will be pulling cores again.  Greens will be aerified on Thursday and Friday, October 3rd/4th, after the Hole in One Stag.  Fairways will be aerified the following week, October 7-11.  Green surrounds will be aerified through the next 4 weeks depending on schedule and weather.  We will be pulling cores on fairways this year to improve drainage and to better fill in divot area that have been left unprepared.

IMG_0374This sugar maple on the right side of 14 will be removed on September 16th, during a shut down day for the course.  It was hit by lightning earlier in the year and has not shown any signs that it will recover.

IMG_0377With this spring and early summer’s heavy 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.

Hiking Trails MowingAnother change made this summer is using a different mower to maintain the hiking trails. This mower has allowed us to mow the grass at 3.5” (compared to 5”) and drastically reduces the time it takes to mow them. If you are looking for an area to exercise or walk with your family or pooch, the Elcona trails are a perfect place for that. Maps are located in the main office or at http://www.elconacc.com.

Please use caution the next couple of weeks as you drive along CR 21, as a boring crew will be installing fiber optic lines toward US 20, and then towards the cell tower.  While this will not impact the golf course, crews will be working very close to it and the roadway.

Pollinator pic 2 (1)
Monarch caterpillar enjoying some lunch
Pollinator pic 2 (2)
Monarch on some Purple coneflower

 

 

 

 

 

Our pollinator areas have seen a large increase in butterfly populations 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 the golf course.

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 Labor Day weekend, and I will see you out on the golf course!

IMG_0141

Ryan

Course Notes, 7/16/2019

IMG_0149.jpg

D-fence1

The popular motto “defense wins championships” rings true, not just in sports, but in turf management as well. It’s not necessarily what we do when the heat and humidity arrives, but more about what we don’t do.  For example, for a majority of the year we have experienced cooler weather.  This, combined with some changes I have made in our maintenance and agronomic practices, has allowed for some spectacular playing conditions.

58473561620__0D4C76AA-05CF-4050-80FE-6559CBFB3DBA
8 Green showing some heat stress

Now, as we work through our second hot stretch of the summer, it is time again to play defense.  This past Monday, we vented greens, which entailed punching .25″ holes 4″ into the soil profile to release harmful gasses that build up in the root zone over time, and replace those with fresh oxygen.  Normally we would also apply a nice layer of topdressing with this venting, but due to the excessive heat on Monday I decided to apply and work it into the canopy on Sunday night, when it was much cooler and the views were spectacular.

IMG_0163
4 Green after venting
IMG_0162
The Sunday sunset while watering in topdressing on 18 green

The height of cut on greens has been raised slightly (from .12″ to .125″) to increase the amount of leaf tissue on the plant giving it a better opportunity to generate the necessary energy to survive.  If necessary, a mowing day may be skipped and replaced by rolling to reduce stress.  Irrigation is kept to a minimum as well. 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. By reducing the irrigation, we reduce the moisture available to the pathogen. 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.

Dragging dew off fairways

Plant protectants are helping us as well, although they have been performing well without increasing rates.  The humidity combined with these defensive measures will lead to some decreased green speed, with the added moisture in the air being taken up by the plant, creating larger leaf blade surfaces.

IMG_0168
Giving 15 green a syringe

Many afternoons have the staff and I syringing the greens turf to help cool it down.  When temperatures get above 85 degrees, Poa annua has difficulty photosynthesizing (making energy), and uses more energy then it can produce, causing stress damage.  By applying a fine amount of water, the turf is temporarily cooled off to relieve some of that stress.  This syringing creates the same effect as your skin feels if you ran quickly through a sprinkler.

The picture below is 15 green taken with a thermal camera, and notice that the higher heights of turf are 10-20 degrees cooler than the green, and that the 100 degree canopy temperature on the greens turf is only cooler than the aluminum on my cart, which measured at 114 degrees.  The lower height of cut on the turf, the higher the canopy temperatures can be and the need for our syringing.

15 Green.  Hot!

The great news is that the heat wave and humidity is expected to return to more manageable levels just in time for next week’s Walter O. Wells Invitational.  Please keep in mind that these changes are only intended to be temporary and that the ultimate goal is to provide you with a golf course that you can be proud of during the Invitational as well as the rest of the year.  With that being said, until the heat and humidity begin to drop, we will continue to play defense.  As always, I encourage all of you to please contact me with any questions or concerns at ryan@elconacc.com.  Thanks, and have a great rest of your week!

IMG_0141

 

 

 

Ryan