Course Notes, 7/19/2021

Good morning on an actually sunny day here at Elcona, where final preparations are being completed for this year’s Walter O. Wells Invitational. Our staff has done a wonderful job through all the record near 14″ rainfall we have received in the last 24 days, and I could not be prouder of their efforts.

Many of the preparations that lead up to the Invitational include mowing down native areas (which help with pace of play and controlling weed populations), adding sand to edges and any place in bunkers that need additional depth, topdressing new recovery areas that were created last year, and pruning up selected trees and trimming pond areas. Below is a video of how we added sand to bunkers this year, using our topdresser. This saved a lot of time and man power to this important task.

We also hosted our first Divot Party of the season last Tuesday night. A HUGE THANK YOU to the 28 members and their families that joined Bowser and I on the course, filling divots on every hole in 2 hours while enjoying each others company and a beverage or two. We all had a great time and I am planning on having another party in August before the Club Championship and Indiana PGA Championship. Stay tuned!

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A few of you have asked about some fluctuations in green speed recently. 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 mow greens daily, and roll them on Tuesday, Wednesday afternoon, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. All of our maintenance practices are dependent on weather allowing us to do so without harming turf health or playability.

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. With the record rainfall in the last month and high humidity days, it has been a challenge to dry the surfaces out. One way we try to dry out the rootzone is by “venting”, or aerifying them with .25″ solid tines, as depicted in the video below. After the holes are poked, we topdress and roll the green smooth. These holes allow fresh oxygen to get to the roots of the plant in addition to drying out the soil below.

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. Again with the record rainfall this last month, greens are growing at a much higher rate than they were in May and June. We have verticut them today to remove some of the excessive growth.

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 on that given day.

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

Ryan

Course Notes, 6/25/2021

Good morning from a quite soggy Elcona. Last weekend, we received 5.6″ over a 3 day period, and that same forecast is possible this coming weekend, lasting into next week. Tom and I highly recommend calling the Golf Shop before heading out to make sure the course is open and playable this weekend, as there are several waves of heavy rain forecasted. The golf course drains very well, but it does take some time for the water to fully drain in spots.

The staff has done a wonderful job this past week (and the whole year) cleaning up and maintaining the course after each weather event. We lost 3 trees with the winds that blew through Friday, including the tree next to 13 tee. As fast as the rains came, we did have washouts to repair, and a couple of the sump pits that the bunkers drain into overfilled and backflowed into the bunker. While the Better Billy liners did their job preventing sand contamination and holding most of the sand up on their edges, there are not many shapers or products available to us currently that will hold a 2.25″ rainfall within 30 minutes and leave all of the sand completely intact. I am happy that instead of an average 42 man hours to remove silt and repair the old bunkers, it took 6 man hours to push the sand back up and pump out 4 bunkers via the installed sump pits. Those other hours were used to mow and roll greens, and blow debris for a much cleaner golf course for everyone to enjoy.

One issue we definitely have is the fairway bunker on 17, where water flows off of the fairway and rough into the low area, and if enough rain falls, the collection spills over the edge into the bunker. We have a solid plan in place to address this opportunity, and we will accomplish this later this fall with our staff.

The heavy rains have created areas around drain pits where the sod has settled well below the drain. Our staff has filled these areas with additional soil, and these will be marked Ground Under Repair until the sod roots back in.

Finally, the Golf/Greens Committee, Tom and I want to again reiterate the importance of helping our grounds staff in maintaining the golf course. Lately, several bunkers are being played out of, then not raked by the player, new tee markers are getting damaged, ball marks left unrepaired, and carts are driven way too close to greens and bunkers. Divots are being taken out of the Short Game greens as well.

How can you best help? By following simple courtesies that we all learned visiting the golf course for the first time. Arnold Palmer, the King himself, wrote his 10 simple rules for Golf Digest in 2008, and they are a simple 10 that we all can learn from. The entire article can be found at www.golfdigest.com/story/arniesrules but here are a few that caught my eye:

IV. Repair the ground you play on

I have a penknife that’s my pet tool for fixing ball marks, but a tee or one of those two-pronged devices is fine. As for divots, replace them or use the seed mix packed on the side of your cart.
Rake bunkers like you mean it. Ever notice that the worse the bunker shot, the poorer the job a guy does raking the sand? Make the area nice and smooth — don’t leave deep furrows from the rake. Before you exit the bunker, ask yourself, Would I be upset if I had to play from that spot?

VI. Make your golf cart ‘invisible

Carts are very much a part of the modern game. Think about it: They’re mentioned on the backs of scorecards, discussed in the Decisions on the Rules of Golf, bags and other items are designed specifically for them, and they’re used at most courses. The sheer pervasiveness of them makes cart etiquette vitally important.
Your goal when driving a cart should be to leave no trace you were there. Because we tend to look where we’re going and not where we’ve been, it’s easy to damage the turf and not realize it. Avoid wet areas and spots that are getting beaten up from traffic. Golfers tend to play “follow the leader” and drive in single file out to the fairway before branching off. It’s usually better to “scatter” — everyone take a different route — so cart traffic is spread out.

I will interrupt Arnie by mentioning music in the golf carts as well being a part of making your cart “invisible”. Music is totally acceptable, but please be respectful of the volume playing music on the course for your fellow member.

VII. Always look your best

From Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen to Ben Hogan and Sam Snead to Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, the best players have been meticulous about their appearance. Their clothing has been sharp, and not one of them has shown up on the first tee with his cap backward, mud caked on his shoes, or his shirttail hanging out. (My shirt often came untucked, but it was my swing that did it. I started with it tucked in!)
Your appearance speaks volumes about you as a person, and the neatly appointed golfer, like a businessman or someone headed to church, gives the impression he thinks the golf course and the people there are special
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X. Learn the little things

There are a hundred bits of etiquette I haven’t mentioned, like laying the flagstick down carefully, tamping down spike marks when you’re walking off a green, letting faster groups play through, and so on. All of these things are learned by observing, with a sharp eye and a considerate heart. Just know that golf has a way of returning favors, and every piece of etiquette you practice will be repaid tenfold.

It is written in the Elcona Handbook that members and guests have a responsibility to take care of the golf course. By following these simple courtesies, the golf course will remain in great shape for everyone to enjoy each day!

Please repair your ball mark and one other on the greens.
• Replace all divots, stepping on them firmly.
• Properly rake bunkers. The sand should be smoothed out evenly with the provided rakes.
• When using a golf cart, please follow all directional signs and use cart paths where available.
• Please keep carts 30 feet away from greens and 15 feet away from tees. The surrounding turf will remain much more playable!

A huge thank you for your cooperation in these matters, and together with your help Elcona’s golf course will continue to be the gold standard and best in the area!

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at ryan@elconacc.com. Have a wonderful weekend, and I hope that the weather will allow me to see you out in the golf course!

Ryan

Course Notes, 5/16/2021

It continues to be awesome to see so many of you enjoying your golf course and club, and to see so many new faces around Elcona. 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 am asked year after year, along with a few other points of information. Please bear with me as this is another longer than normal blog post, but one that is hopefully informational to you.

Parking your cart this close to a green can create poorer lies and make the surrounding turf less playable.

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

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. With the emphasis on keeping the rough around the greens as playable as possible, these cart path courtesies are critical to that mission. Courtesies that should be followed all year and especially during the stressful times include: parking 30 feet away from greens and 15 feet away from tees, utilizing cart paths where available, not driving carts 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?

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.

Not replacing a divot can lead to weed encroachment in the fairways, not to mention a possible poor lie for your fellow member playing behind you.

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 a 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?

They are around! The turkeys are hunkered down in the woods as well as along the Nature Trails. Ducks are nesting currently and I look forward to seeing a new batch of ducklings on the ponds soon. 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.

Black-legged tick.
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.

On another nature related note, 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.

What is the preferred divot pattern on the practice tee?

The above picture illustrates preference wonderfully, which was taken from the new sign next to the practice tee. One straight line of divots taken 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 or multiple smaller areas will take a much longer time to fill in and heal. The practice tee is seeded each week, and sections are seeded 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?

While we haven’t had the weather for it yet, there will be many afternoons this summer that our staff will be out “syringing” or cooling down the Poa annua leaf tissue on greens. 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 do we do if thunderstorm or severe weather approaches?

Don’t shelter under trees!

Obviously I hope these people in the above video are alive and going to be ok, but this shows what can happen if people make a poor shelter choice during a thunderstorm. 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. Your life is worth much more than finishing the hole you are playing. The take home message here is that when the siren sounds, please come seek shelter immediately, either at the clubhouse or the weather shelters behind 3, left of 11, or at the halfway house. 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. It may take 30-90 minutes for water to drain down on the golf course before the course is deemed playable again. If you have any questions on our severe weather policy, please ask Tom or myself.

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

Course Notes, 4/11/2021

The old adage “April showers bring May flowers” will hopefully ring true this year, as we have received almost 3″ of rain in the first 10 days of the month. A couple days near 80 also help turf’s emergence from dormancy too! The color change in the turf from dormant brown to spectacular green has been amazing to see in the last few days. The flowering trees that dot the Elcona landscape also are beginning to pop with vibrant color, so this coming week may be a great time to snap a few pictures if you wish. As more of you come out to enjoy your golf course this month, below is an update on what our staff has been working on as well as a couple of friendly reminders.

We have began more regular mowing of greens, tees, and fairways as the warmer weather has increased the color and growth of the turf. With the forecast cooling off to more normal temperatures this week, we will continue to mow turf as needed. The long range forecast has me thinking our regular “in season mowing” schedule will begin later this month.

Greens and fairways were aerified this week using solid tines to relieve compaction and increase fresh air to the rootzone of the turf. Additional sand topdressing will be applied tomorrow to greens to further smooth them out. Tomorrow we will be aerifying tees, and later this month bringing our deep tine aerifier out to select areas to further aid in drainage and the health of those areas.

As I mentioned above, we have had a few heavy rain events this month, and many of you have asked how our new bunkers performed. One word comes to mind: SPECTACULAR! In the above photo montage, I took a screenshot of the radar on 3/31, when we received almost 2″ of rain in 3 1/2 hours. As all of you remember, a rain event like this would leave the bunkers totally ruined and take on average 44 man hours to completely repair. The next morning, we had only 6 bunkers that needed minor repairs (pushing sand back up onto the edge) and 2 bunkers that needed pumped out due to flash flooding overtaking the drain pit. These bunkers were pumped out via the drainage system installed below ground. All bunkers were ready for play in the normal time it takes us to rake them during a sunny day, and the “repairs” needed took a single person 1 hour and 9 minutes. Those extra labor hours were used to prepare other areas of the course and perform much needed debris clean up. On behalf of my staff, a sincere thank you to your investment in the golf course.

We have also begun detail work around the golf course as more staff return to help us achieve that. Our semi-load of bark mulch arrived late last week, and will be installed in the beds throughout the next couple of weeks. You will also see painted dots and lines out on the course to help our staff define mowing lines for this year. Our sprinklers will be edged and work will continue expanding the practice tee to the north and east. Above are pictures from our efforts to clean up the pond edges along 3 and 14, by thinning out the cattails that have overgrown in these areas. We are leaving small pods of these for wildlife habitat. Mechanical removal of these was a better option compared to chemical control, and will be much more manageable through the summer to keep an aesthetically pleasing look to these water features. By the looks of all the balls we removed, thinning these areas out will help anyone find a ball they hit here too!

5 Green from above. The right side and back will be roped off to help turf recover from cart traffic wear.

You will also begin to see more ropes and stakes out on the course to help control cart traffic wear, as the playability of the green surround rough has been a topic of discussion the last few years. The pictures above show one such example near 5 green. Much of the cart traffic around this green is right and behind the green, and any of you that have been long of the green know that the lies there are quite penal. Roping these areas off for a few weeks will help the turf recover and increase its playability. A great rule of thumb is keeping your cart 30 feet away from greens at all times, and to please heed to any roping, stakes, or signs that are out on the course. Another great rule of thumb is to please keep your carts on the paths where applicable.

Finally, another friendly reminder to repair your pitchmarks and rake any bunkers that you are in. We are early in the season, and I have already seen the above pictures on the golf course. The Golf/Greens Committee, Tom, and I ask out of respect for your fellow member that plays the course after you, please take care of your golf course by performing the simple art of golf etiquette. Anyone would hate for their lie or ball roll to be impacted by images like the above. Repairing 2 pitchmarks and raking footprints out of a bunker takes seconds but will be much appreciated to those who share the course with you. Thank you!

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

Ryan

Course Notes, 3/21/2021

It has been great to see some of you celebrate the Vernal Equinox (first day of Spring!) by enjoying your golf course here at Elcona. What a beautiful stretch of weather we have for late March golf. Our staff has done a wonderful job cleaning up all the winter sticks and debris from the hellacious ice storm we endured on New Year’s Day, and we have turned our attention to preparing turf and landscape areas for the 2021 golf season.

One question I get a lot is how often are you mowing greens and other playing surfaces? The simple answer is “as needed”. Nighttime temperatures are dipping into the upper 20’s still, and combined with soil temperatures in the upper 30’s/low 40’s, growth is quite slow this time of year. Playing surfaces will be mowed or rolled as the weather and growth dictates, with increased frequencies as April progresses. More than likely, we will be rolling more often than mowing to smooth the green surfaces for play while the grass is quite slow to grow.

Other practices, such as raking bunkers, will be done on an as needed basis. The USGA again has produced a very nice video explaining springtime maintenance, which you can watch here. As I mentioned in my last post, bunker sand will be compacted as staff and schedule allow. The playability of the bunkers is one of our top priorities this season.

I am also excited to welcome back our seasonal employees beginning the first week of April as well! Their 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. Most of our 2020 staff will be returning, with a couple of new faces being added as well.

As March winds down, you will also notice more roping out on the golf course, for a couple good reasons. Some of the sod installed last fall for the Golf Course Improvement Project has not quite rooted fully yet, and is not ready for play. Most of this sod is located on holes 1 and 2, which were the last areas of the project. All of the new approach and fairway sod areas will be subject to aerifying, rolling, and topdressing to further smooth them out over the next few weeks. Some of the ground settling around drains are roped off for your safety, and Golf Creations will be out to repair these areas the first week of April. Additional roping will also be incorporated this year to increase the playability of the rough around greens, such as around 1 green. Reducing or eliminating cart traffic will stand the turf up much better, allowing for a nicer lie should you find yourself in the rough.

I would also like to remind everyone of 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 help make the rough in these areas much more playable (and 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.

One big spring time project we have started is filling in the old practice bunker and drainage pit behind it to further expand the practice tee to the east. We have hauled in over 75 loads of fill dirt from the north end of the property to accomplish this. Over the next few weeks as the schedule and staffing allows, we will be finalizing the grade and plant new bentgrass seed. My goal is to have this tee ready for use in late June or early July.

Finally, we have a few events coming up out the course that you need to be aware of. We will be turning on our irrigation system this Tuesday, March 23, and they may be a few sprinklers running here and there as we bleed all the air our of the piping. We will do our very best to work around any play on the course but you may encounter a sprinkler running here and there. Our staff will also be out applying a fertilizer and crabgrass preventative to the roughs. This time of year, through mid April, is the best time to be applying this control for both the golf course and your lawn as well for a healthy stand of turf all summer long.

Greens aerification will take place Monday, April 5th. We again will be utilizing a small solid tine to incorporate sand into the soil, increase air and water flow into the rootzone, and relieve compaction. Fairway aerification will take place throughout the week of April 5th, again using solid tines. We will be core aerifying tees Monday, April 12th. All of these dates are weather permitting, and any changes to this schedule will be communicated to you via our blog.

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

Ryan

Course Notes, 3/8/2021

With the warmer temperatures here for a few days this week, many of you have checked in to see what the availability of the golf course is. The answer Tom and I always give is when proper turf and soil conditions allow, we will immediately open. We do our very best to get you out enjoying your golf course as soon as we can while preventing damage to the course that lasts well into the golf season. I understand that other courses are opening in our area, but I can only speak for the turf and soil conditions that we manage here at Elcona. Currently, numerous greens, tees, fairway areas, and bunkers still have much frost in the ground, and we will not be opening this week for play. I will further explain why below.

Tom and I enjoy walking the course in the winter to exercise and discuss any needs of the course. It is a walk that I always enjoy because it gives us a chance to properly assess the conditions and plan any changes or adjustments necessary for the upcoming season. Yesterday was one such walk. Below is are a couple videos I shot on 13 green and the new bunker next to 14 green, demonstrating how shallow the soil has thawed out, even in full sun and the warmth we have experienced in the last 10 days.

The winter of 2020-21 was one that we haven’t seen in a few years: We actually had what we Northern Hoosiers call a winter! Very cold temperatures with bare ground in December, one hellacious ice storm on New Year’s Day, followed by many days of snowfall on top. Before warmer weather arrived a week ago, the frost layer in the soil was about 8-12″ deep on average, and our snowpack reached 20″ here. Melting and thawing this out takes a lot of time, especially in shaded areas. Nighttime temperatures below freezing only delay the thaw out further by refreezing what melted during the day.

Bowser demonstrating snow and frozen soil at hole 7 on Sunday. Shade prolongs thawing out of the golf course!

Why is this so important for us to decide when to open? One simple reason is for playability. We cannot get a cup cutter in the ground to move hole locations, and you certainly would not like the feeling when your wedge impacts a frozen area of sand hitting out of a bunker, although Tom may like the possibility of increased wedge sales. Another important reason is root shear. Increased cart and foot traffic on turf that has thawed near the surface but is still frozen below can rip roots to quite shallow depths, and while the damage may not be evident immediately, the impact of opening too early can last well into the meat of the golf season. The USGA Green Section has an awesome video demonstrating root shear below.

So while temperatures feel like later April, soil conditions are fall behind. This week’s temperature forecast and the good chance of an all day soaking warm rain on Thursday will greatly help thaw out the remaining frost and help us get open, as weird as that sounds. I appreciate your patience and understanding in this matter. I would like nothing more than to see everyone out at Elcona, we will just have to wait a bit longer.

While we wait out the frozen tundra, the staff and I do have areas where we can work without causing damage. Stick and winter clean up is ongoing, and we were able to grind all of our tree stumps from this winter’s tree work. Below is a slo-mo video of our grinder in action. We them remove the grindings and put them in our compost pile, where in 3-4 years they will turn into valuable soil for other projects on the golf course.

All observations are that the golf course wintered very well. One nice change I noticed is our bunkers. Normally, it would take a week or so to repair all of the sand and soil washouts from winter’s precipitation, however the above picture shows the worst washout on the course. I am so thankful for all of your support to get the Golf Course Improvement Project approved and completed last year, and I cannot wait for all of you to experience the fruits of your investment into Elcona.

When we do open, you will be able to play out of all newly sodded areas and bunkers, except where it is painted or roped off. Golf Creations will be coming back out in a couple weeks to perform some “punchlist” items left over from the project, like repairing some settling around drains and one small liner breach on 7 fairway. These areas will be marked as Ground Under Repair for your safety. We do also have fairway sodded areas that need additional time to heal in, such as the area in front of 14 green pictured above. These will be aerified, topdressed, and overseeded to heal in as quickly as possible.

Also, it is important to understand that it will take a few months for us to achieve the sand consistency you expect here at Elcona. New bunker sand can be quite fluffy when first installed, and the excess snow fall received in February was a great first step in packing the sand down. We will be out as much as possible compacting the sand down using our bunker rake tires, as well as wetting down the sand and using a plate compactor. We also purchased newer rake attachments that the Better Billy folks recommend for sand maintenance that will help us achieve the end goal for playability. But all of this will take time. Please bear with us as we find the best combination of techniques to manage your new bunkers, as it will take some time.

If you have any questions, please reach out to me at ryan@elconacc.com. I again appreciate your patience and understanding as we prepare for the 2021 golf season to begin. Have a great week and stay tuned!

Ryan

Course Notes, 2/25/2021

If you are like me and are a native Hoosier, you probably love the peaceful setting that winter brings to our area. Go out on any morning this time of year and take stock of scenery like above. But if you are also like me, you look at the calendar and see it is late February which creates excitement for another great year of golf here at Elcona. Golf will be here soon enough, but it will take more than a few days to melt the almost 20″ of snowpack on top of the course, as well as thaw out the frozen soil. We will keep all of you abreast of the latest course conditions and when it is ready for the 2021 season to begin.

The ice and snow on greens were a strong focus for us this month. In past years where we had ice storms and a prolonged ice cover on turf, we have had to remove the ice to prevent suffocation of the turf from harmful gas buildup. Fortunately this year the ice was quite porous and we have not observed any irregularities or damage from this winter. We will continue to monitor all playing surfaces as temperatures stay above freezing the next few days to ensure the health of them.

During the deep freeze that was February, the staff and I continued to work on preparations for your golf course. Our tree management program has taken a different direction the past couple of years. While there will always be a few trees to remove for various reasons, gone are the years of removing 70-80 trees off of the property in any given winter, with our focus shifting to more of a maintenance approach to the trees that define the playability and aesthetics of the course. To accomplish this, a telescopic lift is rented for a few weeks to safely raise us high enough to remove lower hanging branches, any dead branches that are stuck up in the tree, and create a more uniform look to any stand of trees lining the golf course. Our goal with this rental this winter was to tackle 5 holes of trimming, and by the end of the week we will have accomplished that. This will be an important activity of our winter program going forward.

On the days where we cannot work outside, work inside continues. We have completed 95% of all equipment objectives, both repairs and winter maintenance. One extra project this winter has been the refurbishment of the above pictured 1965 Toro Parkmaster. This piece used to mow rough and spray fairways back in the 70’s and 80’s, but now has an important role as our water buggy. All new tree plantings are watered with this machine. The before pictures showed that is was well over due for replacement of the driver’s floor and needed a paint job. The staff took great pride in this work and did an excellent job of making this piece look new again.

Please stay tuned for the latest course news and conditions. As soon as it is ready for play, you will know and we will get you out playing. If you have any questions, please let me know. Thanks for reading and have a great rest of your week!

Ryan

Course Notes, 1/15/2021

Happy New Year to each and everyone!

The golf course is quiet and peaceful this time of year, with exception to the 12 deer that we have observed in our walks and drives. Bowser and I walk the property many occasions to check turf (and the new bunkers this year) and I am happy to say all turf is doing well. There is a fair amount of porous ice on playing surfaces, but nothing that concerns me at this point in time. Seeing all the new bunkers gets me quite excited for the 2021 season, as I am sure all of you are as well. In the meantime, below is a video I created from the best pictures and videos I captured in 2020. Elcona is such a wonderful canvas to capture, I hope you enjoy the video as much as I enjoyed compiling it.

This winter so far has been about the same as 2020, weather wise. Warmer and drier than normal, with one large icy exception on New Year’s Day. As you can imagine, clean up from this has taken the majority of our time in the past 2 weeks, but if you look at it from a positive angle, we have gained about 4 loads of mulch that I was not expecting to have, and we will utilize it later this spring in beds on the course that could use freshening up.

Along with this clean up, our annual tree maintenance and removal has been going at full steam the last 2 weeks. Each fall, the Golf/Greens Committee, Tom Thome, and myself review trees that are considered safety hazards to members, impede proper playability of the golf course, detract from the natural beauty of the course, or impede proper turf growing conditions. The GG Committee then approves these trees for our staff to remove. Above are some pictures of this week’s work, where we removed two additional Sugar Maple trees between 10 and 18. One of these maple trees was hit by lightning a couple years ago, while the other had a severe ant infestation. Both were becoming severely rotten, had much falling debris, and were a safety hazard to anyone close to them on a windy day. In their place, 4 maple trees will be planted in a line between 10 and 18, one of which was planted in November.

While each year we remove a fair amount of trees as part of our annual tree maintenance, we plant our fair share too, in the right places. We were fortunate to have forward thinking staff members years ago plant a significant tree nursery north of the short game area. Many of these trees have been transplanted on the course over the years, and in 2021 we will be transplanting 15 additional maples onto the golf course from this nursery. Unfortunately most of them are too big for our digger, so Dogwood Hills will be visiting Elcona to perform this work. Their spade can move 7″ diameter trees, which these maples have grown to be.

The staff and I also have much work over the winter to do inside to prepare for the 2021 season. All equipment is serviced, blades are sharpened, plaques and signs are cleaned and painted, and the shop is deep cleaned for our benefit. Our equipment manager, Steve Ott, is doing his usual magic on our large fleet and we are quite fortunate to have him at Elcona, as he is beginning his 43rd year of service here.

Elcona CC Assistant Superintendents Austin Dance, left, and Adam Morr

We also have welcomed Austin Dance to the Elcona team, as a new assistant superintendent. Austin and his wife are South Bend natives, and Austin graduated from Purdue with a degree in Turf Science. He has worked previously at the Chevy Chase Club in Maryland. We are quite happy to have Austin on our team and he is excited to be here too. When you see Austin out on the course this spring, please say hi and welcome him. Along with our other assistant Adam Morr, our team continues to grow and learn together.

Finally, in cleaning out some older items from the shop, we came across many of the older wooden informational signs that were on property years ago, and they are pictured above. Since we do not have any use for them any longer, I would like to offer them to anyone interested in one or multiple, free of charge. Most need some paint and TLC but they are in rather good shape for anyone’s Man Cave or She Shed. They will be available first come, first serve, so please email me at ryan@elconacc.com with which signs you would like.

I hope everyone has a great, and safe January. Lots of exciting things happening at your club this winter, all in preparation for an AWESOME 2021 season of golf, food, and fellowship! As always, if you have course questions, please let me know at ryan@elconacc.com.

Ryan

Course Notes, 12/22/2020

We as a staff have begun the transition to winter maintenance in full force, while still being able to work outside on projects, such as adding irrigation heads along our western entrance with US 20. This area dries out quite quickly so the turf will benefit tremendously and look much better to all who travel by it each day.

One other large step we completed this month was preparing the turf for winter, whenever it decides to show up here. Plant protectants were applied 2 weeks ago to all playing surfaces and green surrounds to defend the plant against fungal disease. Yesterday, a heavy blanket of topdressing sand was applied to the greens, and you can see by the below picture, was thick and not broomed in like other sand applications.

4 Green, tucked in for the winter

The reason behind this is to maximize the protection and insulation the sand provides the Poa annua, the predominant grass on Elcona’s putting surfaces. The close up view with a microscope below shows how the sand tightly protects the crowns of the plant from winter desiccation and cold temperatures. This sand also promotes a smoother, firmer surface coming out of winter.

In our industry, we liken this final heavy application to putting a blanket on the greens and “tucking them in for the winter”. Bob Vavrek of the USGA has written a great article further explaining this application that you can access here. This application combined with the beginning of frozen soil conditions, it means also that the golf course will be closed for the foreseeable future until conditions permit safe play again.

What a great year for golf 2020 has turned out to be. The most rounds since 2007 were played at Elcona, and it was so nice to see many of you enjoying your golf course, trusting it to be a safe haven for you and your family to recreate. We also hit the jackpot weather wise to complete a major renovation of the golf course, something that was in doubt 3 months ago. Thank you for all of your support and I hope each of you have a Merry Christmas with your families!!

Ryan

Course Notes, 11/22/2020

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2020 has been a year that has tested all of our abilities in some form or fashion on how to accomplish our goals successfully, and November has been no different than the 10 months that proceeded it, with abnormally warm and dry weather conditions. These conditions all fall have been perfect for completing the Golf Course Improvement Plan and I again cannot thank our staff enough for their tireless efforts in accomplishing our goals this year.

Golf Creations came back last Monday and Tuesday to lay the last 2 acres of bluegrass sod surrounding the newly constructed bunkers. There was sod left over, so our staff used it to complete the area behind the new practice bunker. In total, it took 8 weeks to complete all changes to the golf course. The project has now entered what is called the “Punch List” phase, where the design committee will walk each hole with Golf Creations, and any small item or area that needs tweaking will be completed by their staff. Our staff has a bit of fairway sod left to lay on 1 and 4, and then the road begins to prepare all the new sand and grass surfaces for member play in 2021. I will blog more on how we will accomplish that later on this winter.

The staff and I have been working on other things on property as well in the last 2 weeks. Leaves came down hot and heavy before Veteran’s Day, but have been all swept or mulched up now. We also performed our annual fall deep tine aerification on greens, for the first time using our own aerifier! The process involved 1/2″ holes punching 9″ deep, with rolling and a smoothing layer of topdressing sand applied afterwards. I am quite thankful for the membership’s continued support and investment in equipment to better maintain the golf course. A video of the process is below. Our winterization of the golf course continues this week with application of plant protectants, and after Thanksgiving a heavy blanket of sand and fertilizer to both protect the plants from winter injury, and give them the food necessary to begin 2021 on the right foot. I wrote about the steps we take to prepare putting greens for winter and why we do it in this blog post.

We also are beginning in house project season, and our big project is expanding the practice tee north and east. The plan is the fill in the old practice bunker and the pit behind it to create an additional 5,000 square feet of hitting surface. The first step is taking fill dirt from our north field and hauling it to the site. My goal is to have this tee ready for use in the middle of 2021.

Dogwood Hills was also out this week to plant 3 trees from Elcona’s tree nursery on areas on 12 and 18 approved by the Golf/Greens Committee. Dogwood will return next spring to plant more trees from the nursery before they become too big to move.

As always, if you have any questions please do not hesitate to reach out to me at ryan@elconacc.com. From my family to yours, have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving. We all have so much to be thankful for in these challenging times!

Ryan