Course Notes, 11/28/2018

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Good morning from a snow covered Elcona.  Just as we had very little time to transition from winter to summer, it seems like we received little time to transition back to winter.  November was much below normal temperature wise, and quite snowy.  Unlike last year, November has unfortunately presented next to no opportunity for you to enjoy your golf course.  A good sign though is the return of a healthy herd of deer and turkeys that utilize the property as habitat.  Many of you have asked where they disappeared this year, and I can attest that they are around and have been frequently observing our staff’s work on the course.

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Deer near the clubhouse, picture courtesy of Jennifer Evans
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Turkeys enjoying an acorn feast along 12

 

 

 

 

 

 

As with all of 2018, this early beginning to winter has presented new challenges to course winterization efforts, but these are almost completed as of this writing and have gone fairly smoothly.  Final mowings, blow out of the irrigation system, applications of plant protectants, and a heavy blanket of topdressing sand have been applied to best protect the fine cut turf from the conditions that these next 4 months bring to Northern Indiana.  I have written about the benefits of each of these here, and below are some pictures of this year’s efforts.  In our industry, we liken this final heavy sand application to putting a blanket on the greens and “tucking them in for the winter”. Bob Vavrek of the USGA wrote a great article further explaining this application that you can access here. I want to thank my staff for their tireless efforts preparing the course so that we could fit these activities in between weather events.

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Close up of the sand blanket on 15 green
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Application of plant protectants to 16 green
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Fresh blanket of sand on 15 green

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The renovation of 17 tee has also been a focus of our time in the last few weeks, and as you can see from the pictures, turned out great. The blue and black tees are now one tee complex, and the tee is now 6 feet wider than the old tee. In the spring, we will finish the grade work around the rough in this complex to complete the project.

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17 Blue/Black Tee, October 2018
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17 Blue/Black Tee, November 2018

 

 

 

 

 

We now are beginning a transition of duties during the winter season.  Evaluations of our agronomic plans and staff plans are on going to better our operation for 2019.  Equipment maintenance, such as deep cleaning and blade sharpening is in full tow.  We have also began our winter tree work on the course.  The focus this month was on the storm damaged trees from last May.  Other areas of tree work focus involved the border with US 20 and CR 21, and transforming the aesthetics along the native area on 15.  We also have planted a few trees strategically on the golf course per the Master Tree Program and recommendations from the Golf/Greens Committee.  This work will continue throughout the winter, weather permitting.

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Machinery cleaning is essential for a good start to the next season. 
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New trees between 13 green and 14 tee

 

 

 

 

 

 

We also have added a new tool, called the Root Hog, to our winter work.  Best described as a hand held stump grinder, this tool has been implemented to shave down roots in various areas that will smooth transitions for our mowers and golf cart traffic.  We will continue to utilize this tool throughout the year to improve areas on the golf course.

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Close Up of the Root Hog
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Roots along 9 tee ground down, with soil and seed added

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, Greg Stump and his wife Sharon have worked their magic yet again transforming the clubhouse into an awesome spectacle of Christmas spirit.  I cannot thank them enough for their efforts and hope you continue to enjoy the many hours of decorating that they put into the 2018 Holiday Season.  1125180928.jpg

If you have any questions, please contact me at ryan@elconacc.com.  I will have a final blog article in December that will take a look back at 2018.  I hope that each of you have a safe and enjoyable December.

Ryan

 

 

 

 

 

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Course Notes, 10/25/2018

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Late October is always one of my favorite times of the year.  The color contrast on the golf course created from horticulturist Greg Stump’s hard work and beautiful design palette starts being replaced by Mother Nature’s vibrant display on the oaks, maples, and even tulips this year.  As the sun starts to set on the 2018 golf season, the grounds staff and I have been busy finishing up fall agronomic practices, starting fall leaf clean up, and beginning late fall activities.

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Thinning turf on hole #4

Many of you have asked me about areas that had thinned out in the intermediate and primary rough, like the area on 4 pictured to the left.  These areas have suffered in the last 8 weeks from a combination of a fungal disease (called Gray Leaf Spot) and traffic wear from machinery and cart traffic.  The early arrival of summer left many of these plants shallow rooted and over the course of the season, weakened to the point where wear and disease took their toll.  We have seeded many of these areas with better varieties of grass, and have seen good recovery in many areas.  With the end of the growing season here, any areas that are still thin will be seeded next spring.  These areas will also be roped off to allow the seed to properly germinate and fill in before the heart of the 2019 season arrives.

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Tom Thome overseeding the Practice Tee.

The practice tee has also been a topic of discussion.  With the major increase in use it has experienced in the last few years, a major challenge for us is to allow enough time for new grass to germinate and fill in before it is opened back up to use.  This year, Tom and I started dividing the tee into 3 segments, to better distribute the wear and maximize the time the other sections have to heal.  The divots taken on the tee are filled weekly by our staff.  After a section is taken out of service, we heavily overseed the area.  The tee also receives a monthly application of fertilizer.  We will continue to experiment with different methods and seed varieties to better fill in the used sections and further provide you a quality tee to hone your skills on year round.

 

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Marking the new areas of 17 tee.  Well, one of us is.
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The sod is cut for easier removal or transplanting.

 

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With sod stripped, the footprint of the new tee on 17 

 

 

 

 

The blue and black tee on #17 is also being renovated.  The rough in between the two tees have been heavily contaminated with Poa over the years, and its width has dramatically shrunk as well.  The two will be combined into one tee with a gentle slope separating the areas, and widened back to its original size.  The project is expected to completed by next week.

 

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A boat is needed to properly thin the cattails in 14 pond.

While the golf activity on the course has dwindled down, many jobs need to be accomplished before the real cold air shuffles its way here.  The native areas are mown down for the year, cat tails are thinned in the ponds, 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 November 5-7.  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 5th 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.

1024180825We 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.

0723180910_HDRTopdressing.  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 made it to the end of this longer than normal blog post, thank you for reading.  As you can gather, fall is the busiest time of year for our staff.  If you have any questions, please reach out to me at ryan@elconacc.com.  Have a great week, and I still hope to see you out on the golf course!

Ryan

 

 

Course Notes, 10/5/2018

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

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

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

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The final result on #7.

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

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

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

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

Ryan

Course Notes, 10/1/2018

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

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Mowing fairways on a foggy morning.

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

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The end result of tee aerification.  Lots of thatch removed!

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

Ryan

 

Course Notes, 9/2/2018

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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

 

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