Course Notes, 9/2/2018

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Current Purdue plots

 

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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.

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Monarch caterpillar creating its cocoon

 

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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

 

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Course Notes, 8/14/2018

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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.

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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.

 

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7 tee after over seeding
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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.

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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.
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Mounding on 12 green
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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.
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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.
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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:

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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

Course Notes, 5/18/2018

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What a difference a month can make.  So far this month we have received 6.42″ of rain and unfortunately one storm packed a punch that had our chainsaws out the following morning.  The staff has done a wonderful job cleaning up the golf course and repairing bunkers after each storm.  Combined with normal to above normal temperatures (finally!!!), and all turfgrass on our property is growing like gang busters.  For our operation, this means having blowers out daily for clippings and applications of growth regulator around fairways and greens. 0515180743

A few of you have joked with me that with all the rainfall, why has Zimm’s Creek on #15 dried up?  We continue to have electrical problems with the pump that gets the water from the pond to the top of the creek.  We are working diligently with our pump contractors and will get the creek flowing as soon as possible.

0511180810aThis rainfall also has impacted the growth rate on greens turf, and coincidentally, green speed.  We are doing all we can to return green speeds to where you are more accustomed to seeing them, via growth regulator applications and getting back on our topdressing schedule.  But I also wanted to take this opportunity to discuss green speed and how we do our best each day in producing consistent and enjoyable greens on a daily basis.

It has been and always will be a top priority for me to keep the greens as consistent as possible while maintaining a healthy playing surface. It is not uncommon for speeds to vary from day to day based on our rolling program and other external factors.  During a typical week of the peak season we will roll on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  University research has shown that rolling more than 4 times/week in conjunction with a daily mowing schedule is the threshold before the turf can become overly stressed and show signs of decline .  This is especially true for Poa annua, the predominant turf on our greens, in the heat of the summer.

There are many other items that factor in to green speed, which include:

Moisture Levels: What can affect moisture levels? The two main culprits are rainfall/irrigation and humidity. It’s no secret that firmer/drier greens tend to be faster and soft/wet greens lead to slower speeds.  We combat this as much as possible by hand watering the greens in the summer and using products to help move water down through the soil profile leading to a drier, firmer surface.

Weather: What happens to your yard after it rains? It grows and typically grows much faster than it did before it rained. Rainfall provides the turf with clean, usable water that helps to flush elements from the soil that tie-up nutrients, therefore making the nutrients readily available to the turf. Nutrients lead to healthy turf which can lead to additional growth. Believe it or not, lightning also plays a large role.  The unbridled energy of a lightning bolt shatters nitrogen molecules in the air. Some of the free nitrogen atoms combine with oxygen to form compounds called nitrates that mix with the rain. These nitrates are a powerful natural fertilizer that any plant can readily take up and thus increase its growth rate.

Nutrition: The turf needs food to be healthy. Just as with humans, the healthier it is, the more active  it tends to be.  Healthy turf will grow more than unhealthy turf.

Growth: Turf is a living, breathing entity.  It doesn’t just grow at night when most of us are sleeping, it grows during the day as well.  This means that the greens will usually be slower in the afternoon than they are in the morning.  If they didn’t grow, we wouldn’t have to mow them every day.

Topdressing:  Typically in season, we apply and broom in topdressing sand, and the amount of sand varies based on the rate at which the plant is growing.  Topdressing sand helps smooth and firm up the surface of the greens.  A smoother surface provides less friction on the golf ball and a faster speed.

Growth Regulators: Growth regulators work and work very well, but despite what you may think, they do not completely stop growth, they merely slow it down.  Over the years we have found a schedule that will provide very consistent results from day to day, minimizing surges in growth, but like everything else, the performance of the product is dependent upon several of the factors listed above.

I would encourage you to spend a few moments before each round on one of the practice greens.  They are maintained the same as the greens on the golf course and will give you a good reference as to what the greens on the course will be like.

BennyFinally, our department lost a long time family member last week.  Many of you may remember Benny Kauffman, who faithfully worked Elcona’s fairways and rough for 27 years, before retiring in 2015.  Benny was a true American, serving our country during WWII, and working as a butcher for 30 years before coming to Elcona.  He still came out to visit us for coffee every once in a while after retiring from Elcona and was an accomplished wood worker.  He will be missed.

I appreciate your reading my longer than normal blog post.  If you have any questions about the golf course, please reach out to me at ryan@elconacc.com.  I am more than happy to discuss any topics with you!  Thank you for reading and I will see you out on the golf course!

Ryan