Course Notes, 11/8/2022

It looks like the last truly warm “Bonus Days” for golf are this week. Please call to make a tee time and remember it gets dark early!

We will be blowing the irrigation system out this week, so if you do come out for a round of golf, please be aware of water and air flying out of the ground. We will do our best to work around you but sometimes will not be in an area where you are.

Another project we have been busy with (besides leaf removal and mulching) has been the renovation of 3 pond. If you recall, this pond over the years has become overrun with undesired vegetation, mainly cattails, along its eastern bank.  These cattails have caused several key issues affecting the health of the pond, including lower dissolved oxygen levels, clogging the waterfall pump intake, and destabilized the pond bank by creating a desired habitat for muskrats, who in turn have burrowed holes in the liner and led to a daily need of 15,000 gallons to be pumped in to maintain proper levels.  The goal of our project all along has been to totally restore this pond back to a beautiful native habitat and reduce our footprint and impact on water resources.

Elcona was very fortunate to receive a grant from the Fairways Foundation to help cover costs of this project. The Fairways Foundation directly funds local and global projects that advance the conservation of our natural resources. These projects will help to preserve the environment we live and work in whilst encouraging education and stewardship not only within our own industry but also within wider communities. I was introduced to this foundation in 2019 and over the last few years have followed their wonderful support of projects like our opportunity. I am very appreciative of their support of our club and look forward to achieving the final results of our project next April.

The first step of this project was to dry the pond so that equipment can work safely and find out just how deep the pond was and how much muck was needed to be removed. Mother Nature, old bentonite that was used to line the pond in the 60’s and hidden irrigation valves made this a tedious process but overall we were able to get 95% of the water out within a week. A large excavator was rented first to rid some of the old liner and muck to create drainage avenues for the water to naturally be removed, while pumps were used to move the water from the pond to a natural area about 200 feet away. A small pod of cattails was set off to the side to be replanted as a more manageable habitat for ducks to nest each spring.

Overall about 17 dump truck loads of muck were removed, and the rest was scattered about the new pond floor to mix with sand and become somewhat usable soil for the new pond. The excavator also moved a few of the rocks off to the side for future outcroppings and landscape features. These will remain on the cart path until next spring. The max depth of the pond was about 12 feet, or about 2 feet lower than what we remembered it to be.

Tom Zimmerman then got to work re-shaping the small pond and building a new, larger waterfall ledge on the north side of the pond. The smaller pond was expanded to the south and east somewhat to create a healthier water habitat. Basically, the deeper and larger a pond is, the better its ability will be to be self-sufficient in turning over its temperature and keeping itself healthier by preventing unwanted growth, such as algae. We then went to work lowering the leading edge into the pond as well as establishing grade on the banks of the pond. All of this activity was to maximize surface drainage, especially on the east side in front of 4 tee. A small drainage pipe will be trenched in to capture any remaining water and take it to the pond.

In the next week we will be renting a small bulldozer to firm up the bank grades and re-doing the electric to the pond pump, clearing up all sides, and upgrading irrigation pipe and sprinklers. In early 2023, the new liner will arrive and will be installed, followed by rocks and Kentucky Bluegrass sod. The final step in the renovation will be planting the new buffer zone on the east side of the pond and to stock the pond with fish to use any unwanted vegetation as food to keep the pond healthy and looking great.

If you have any questions, please reach out to me at ryan@elaconacc.com. I enjoy talking shop and turf with all of you. I hope that everyone has a great week and hope to see you out on the golf course before this weekend’s snow showers!!

Ryan

Course Notes, 10/21/2022

Fall is beginning to show its true beauty around here, as you can tell by the drone picture Dan Hood took this week. Peak leaf foliage will be on display for the next week or so, and it just so happens that the temperatures will be in the low to mid 70’s for the next few days. A perfect opportunity for you to get out and enjoy your golf course! A few notes on what we have been up to the last couple of weeks:

The mini-renovation of 9 green was completed last week and turned out great. Our team tried a new method of sod removal by rolling up the sod into big rolls to minimize the amount of seams. For the most part it worked out ok, given the shallower rooted Poa that we have on our greens. Soil was moved from the back of the green to the front to create a overall general back to front slope of 3%, a decrease from the 6% it was. This allowed us to have more cuppable areas on the front right of this green. The green will remain closed for the remainder of the season to allow it to root in and heal. A special thanks to Tom Zimmerman for all his help completing this project!

We also re-contoured a few spots on the new practice green, to further repair some of the major settling that occurred on this green over the past 12 months and added small sprinklers to keep the rough around it healthier and while not overwatering the green to do so. We continue to topdress this green heavily to further smooth it out and better the playing surface. This green will also remain closed for the remainder of the golf season to further ready it for Spring 2023.

When we have some time, we have been cutting some of the shrubs and bushes down to a height of 6-8 feet. This has been something that we simply have not had labor or time to accomplish the last couple of years and the growth had gotten a bit out of control. These bushes should heal properly before winter sets in and be ready to bloom come spring time.

Our project on 3 pond begins next week. Heavy equipment began arriving this week. Please be aware that this machinery will not be easily movable and that it will be working as play is happening. Trucks and trailers will be hauling muck to the north fields as well so please be aware of this traffic. I will blog more about this project as it is happening, and you can read more about it here.

While the weather looks great this weekend, golf activity on the course will begin to dwindle down and many jobs will need to be accomplished before the real cold air shuffles its way here. Leaf clean up consumes most of our time in the next 4 weeks. The native areas are currently being mown down for the year, herbicides are applied to take care of any weeds on the course, and ballwashers and other course features such as bunker rakes are pulled inside for the year. Two major jobs ahead for us include winterizing the irrigation system, which will take place November 7-9th. 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 14th as well. These 1/2″ holes, penetrating the soil profile about 8″, create three advantages: additional channels for spring root growth, aid in relieving any deeper compaction within the rootzone soil profile, and extra drainage capabilities for ice/snow melt to prevent ice formation on the plant surfaces. The greens are rolled immediately after being aerified, and these holes do remain open throughout the winter for the above mentioned reasons.

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

Raising mower heights. The height of cut on greens from the normal height of .110″ to .145″ 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. Normal maintenance will be mowing as needed, while rolling on the other days.

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. When the grass stops growing, a final granular fertilizer application will take place that will aid in spring green up and plant health. 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.

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

If you have any questions, please reach out to me at ryan@elconacc.com.  Thanks and enjoy this beautiful weekend!

Ryan

Course Notes, 10/3/2022

We 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.  As I write this, we are experiencing our first frost of the year this morning. The arrival of frosty mornings serves as a good reminder why we delay tee times when there is frost. On mornings where the temperature will be below 40 degrees (like this weekend!!!), it is always best to call the pro shop for the latest availability of the course. The new push notification system with Clubhouse Online will also communicate to you this information.

Frost is essentially frozen dew. It can form when the temperature approaches near freezing. The ice crystals that form on the outside of the plant can also harden or freeze the cellular structure of the plant. When frost is present, the normally resilient plant cells become brittle and can be easily crushed internally or pierced like a knife from the outside ice crystals. When these cell membranes are damaged, the plant loses its ability to function normally. Think of this like cracking an egg: once the shell is broken, it cannot be put back together. Although damage will not be immediate, the proof will emerge within 48-72 hours as leaves turn brown and die.

As the picture above shows the typical foot traffic of a normal foursome on a green, damage could be extensive if played or mowed during frosty conditions. Recovery from frost damage can take several weeks depending on weather. For more information on frost delays, below is a great USGA video explaining them.

This week is quite the busy one for the Grounds Department. While we are closed for maintenance today, tomorrow is our Ladies Closing Day, and Wednesday is Elcona’s annual Men’s Hole in One Stag. Both events are fun to set up for and ones that I look forward to each year. Hopefully everyone participating feels the same way!

Greens aerification will occur on October 6th (Front 9) and 7th (Back 9) using a solid 5/8” tine. As you can see from this video I made in 2019, 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. Fairways will be aerified the week of October 10th, 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.

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 great video that I embedded above further explaining the benefits and importance of aerification. Thank you for your patience and understanding during this busy and quite necessary time in our maintenance schedule!

9 Green project

A reminder that weather permitting, improvements on 9 greens will begin on October 11. Sod will be removed on the right side of the green and 1-2” of soil be transferred from the back to the front, utilizing in house labor and equipment. The resulting grade work will take the entire back to front slope on the green from 5.5% to 3%, within USGA guidelines, while leaving the left side and middle undisturbed. Given the large amount of settling with last year’s practice green construction, we believe there will be much less chance of settling due to the much lesser amount of disruption to the subsoil. The work can be completed within 7 days, weather permitting. The left side of the green would reopen for play after work was completed, with the right side open for play late spring 2023. 2 flags will be placed on 18 green for you to get 18 holes in. This improvement has been discussed for a few years now, and I look forward to completing it this month!

Another project we will be undertaking this fall is a renovation of 3 pond. This pond over the years has become overrun with undesired vegetation, mainly cattails, along its eastern bank.  These cattails have caused several key issues affecting the health of the pond, including lower dissolved oxygen levels, clogging the waterfall pump intake, and destabilized the pond bank by creating a desired habitat for muskrats, who in turn have burrowed holes in the liner and led to a daily need of 15,000 gallons to be pumped in to maintain proper levels.  The goal of our project is totally restore this pond back to a beautiful native habitat and reduce our footprint and impact on water resources. As you can see with the above map, we will be digging out the muck and old liner after draining the pond, replacing approximately 2/3’s of the rock edge with a grass slope, lowering the land in front of the pond to allow more visibility from all sets of tees, and create better surface drainage in the surrounding area while creating a visually stunning buffer area with pollinator landscaping. This project will be broken up into 2 phases, this fall we will be performing all the excavation and rock moving, and in the spring of 2023 a new liner will be installed, along with the new landscaping.

Elcona was very fortunate to receive a grant from the Fairways Foundation to help cover costs of this project. The Fairways Foundation directly funds local and global projects that advance the conservation of our natural resources. These projects will help to preserve the environment we live and work in whilst encouraging education and stewardship not only within our own industry but also within wider communities. I was introduced to this foundation in 2019 and over the last few years have followed their wonderful support of projects like our opportunity. I am very appreciative of their support of our club and look forward to achieving the final results of our project next April.

If you have any questions, please reach out to me at ryan@elaconacc.com. I enjoy talking shop and turf with all of you. I hope that everyone has a great week and hope to see you out on the golf course!

Ryan

Course Notes, 9/20/2022

With summer on its last legs, the staff and I are beginning to switch maintenance gears to projects, reduced mowing on playing surfaces, and debris removal. The rough is growing at a rapid pace, given the perfect temperatures for Kentucky bluegrass, so our blowers are out almost daily eliminating clippings. I keep staring at the leaves knowing that while their beauty will begin showing in a couple weeks, they all will drop down and need the bulk of our October and November time to mulch and clean up. A few quick updates on other things we’ve been up to:

Another friendly reminder that it takes all of us to help maintain your golf course. We continue to find divots being taken out of greens, bunkers not being raked, and divots not being replaced in the fairways. With our staff dwindling down, bunkers will be raked as needed and course set up will not be on a daily basis, depending on how busy the tee sheet is on a given day. Please help us take care of your course by following basic course etiquette, filling divots on the par 3 tees where sand is supplied, replace divots in the fairways, and be careful on the putting greens. Accidental or not, divots on greens WILL NOT HEAL and will only infuriate the members behind you playing that day! Thank you on behalf of every member and my staff!

Its no secret that we’ve struggled with extreme settling on the reconstructed practice green next to 1 tee. Yesterday, we began attacking the issue with an aggressive aerification, followed by double rolling it with a 1-ton vibratory roller to smooth out much of the waviness that has developed as a result of the settling. The aerification gave the turf extra room to flatten with the roller. After the rolling, a heavy dose of sand was applied, and after brooming the sand in many of the lower spots were easily identified. We will be letting the grass grow through these sandy areas to help raise them. The green was seeded and fertilized, and will be closed to activity for a week to 10 days to allow proper healing. While not ideal timing, this green needs good growing weather to heal in from the aggressive approach to smoothing it out. This approach may also be needed a couple more times to aid in the continuing maturation process. Below is a video of the roller and broom in action.

The fairway area left on 17 is healing in quite nicely. We core aerified it, added a high amount of sand, and overseeded it to improve conditions. The seed has germinated well and we have mowed it a couple times. This area will continue to be roped off from cart traffic and will be ground under repair for the remainder of the season.

Fall is also a great time to demo the newest equipment out there to see if it helps make our operation more efficient while making the end product on the course better. Above is a video of one such piece. It uses blades to slice up to 10″ deep into the soil, alleviating compaction while aiding drainage capacity. We demoed this piece on the low area on 12 and in front of the cart path going to 10 green to see if those areas improve in the coming year. I came away quite impressed, so stay tuned on its results over the next few months!

Finally, we have a new team member on our staff. This is Rizzo, and he is 7 months old. Rizzo loves tennis balls like Bowser did and has already taken charge of chasing geese and squirrels away. He will be coming out to work on afternoons to keep everyone in line when my schedule allows. It will be nice again as I have missed having a partner in crime riding with me this year. My other boxer Luna was deathly afraid of riding on the golf cart, so she will be manning the homestead while I am at work.

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

Ryan

Course Notes, 9/3/2022

Hard to believe how fast the summer has flown by. While a few hot days will still be possible, the chill in the morning air, football kicking off, and all of our kids back in school signal a transition into what I think is the best time of the year. Fall still provides many great days for you to come out and enjoy your golf course! When you visit, below are a few notes on what the team and I have been working on:

I start with my team. As most of you can probably relate, finding quality people for your operation is a challenge this year, and ours was no different. While we had our struggles, we were very fortunate to have a great group of core people on our team work through some challenging conditions this year. Many of them have returned to school, and everyone that worked through the entire year with us has done a tremendous job. Our fall hires have picked up where the summer crew left off and I am very fortunate to work along side these great people. A big thank you to Adam, Ron, Jim, Paul, Harold, Larry, Manual, Armando, Dave, Andrew, Jake, Issac, Ethan, Jason, Chandler, Tevin, Matt, Janeva, and Jackson for everything you do for Elcona. It does not go unnoticed!

Aerification season is starting this month. Tees will be aerified September 6th, and we will be pulling cores during this closed day for the golf course. Greens will be aerified on October 6th and 7th, leaving one 9 closed each day. Fairway aerification will be performed the week of October 10th. All of these dates are of course, weather permitting. I will have more on these and other happenings in my next blog post later this month.

The creek on 15 again has an electrical issue with the pump. The part needed will be in in mid-September. As is the case in many industries, supply chain delays are prevalent in getting conductors, capacitors, and other electrical supplies. We will get it up and running as soon as we can.

We had over 30 members come out last month for our annual member divot party. I am so appreciative of everyone that participated filling divots on all 18 holes while sharing some laughs, great conversation, and pizza and beer afterwards. A large thank you to Tom Elkin and Bob Giel for their help organizing. We will plan on having 2 or 3 on next year’s golf calendar.

Fall signifies the beginning of course improvement season, and 2022 is no different. We have utilized our new slit seeder this past week to seed areas in the rough that have thinned out due to weather and insect damage. This new unit works great and it is awesome to have a membership that continually invests and supports what we do out on the golf course.

The left side of 17 fairway also was worked on last week. This area was aerified and sand was incorporated to improve the soil structure and drainage in that area. The seeder also planted additional bentgrass seed to create a denser stand of fairway turf this fall. This area will be ground under repair for a couple weeks until the new seed germinates and matures, with the area roped off to eliminate cart traffic from damaging the new seed.

We also will be working on improving the new practice green later this month, with a series of aerifications and rolling using a one ton roller. Low areas that have settled will have the sod removed and soil added to help eliminate the pockets that hold water. The rough around the green will be extended lower as well to eliminate some of the uneven turf surfaces. The amount of settling that we have experienced on this construction is incredible and we will continue to work on this green as it matures to provide a great area for you to practice before your round.

Finally, the Board of Directors has approved improvements to 9 green that the Golf/Greens Committee recommended at their last meeting. The week after the Hole in One Stag, sod will be removed on the right side of the green and 1-2” of soil be transferred from the back to the front, utilizing in house labor and equipment. The resulting grade work will take the entire back to front slope on the green from 5.5% to 3%, within USGA guidelines, while leaving the left side and middle undisturbed. Given the large amount of settling with last year’s practice green construction, we believe there will be much less chance of settling due to the much lesser amount of disruption to the subsoil. The work can be completed within 7 days, weather permitting. The left side of the green would reopen for play after work was completed, with the right side open for play late spring 2023. 2 flags will be placed on 18 green for you to get 18 holes in. This improvement has been discussed for a few years now, and I look forward to completing it in October.

If you have any questions, please reach out to me at ryan@elaconacc.com. I enjoy talking shop and turf with all of you. I hope that everyone has a safe and enjoyable Labor Day weekend, and I hope to see you out on the golf course!

Ryan

Course Notes, 8/1/2022

The popular motto “defense wins championships” rings true, not just in sports, but in turf management as well. It’s not necessarily what we do when the heat and humidity arrives, but more about what we don’t do.  This year has brought a few stretches of high heat and humidity that we haven’t experienced for a couple summers. Luckily, so far we have combated these stretches with solid planning with our maintenance and agronomic practices, which in turn has allowed for some spectacular playing conditions. As many of you have noticed, with the recent deluge of rain we have been fortunate to receive (6.75″ in July total, 3.5″ over the last 2 days of Invitational week), the growth rate of all grass, including greens, has been very high. Combined with high humidity, this has lead to decreased green speed, with the added moisture in the air being taken up by the plant, which creates larger leaf blade surfaces.

Having a solid plan is important in both times of cool weather as well as hot/humid weather, with my goal no matter the week being the long term health of the golf course turf. For each stretch of heat that we experience, including the one we are forecasted to have this week, a common practice I enable is raising the height of cut on greens slightly (from .12″ to .125″) to increase the amount of leaf tissue on the plant giving it a better opportunity to generate the necessary energy to survive.  If necessary, a mowing day may be skipped and replaced by rolling to reduce stress.  Irrigation is kept to a minimum as well. The need to minimize the amount of irrigation may sound counter-intuitive because of the heat, but we need to reduce the possibility of various types of diseases from developing.  Moist soils, thatch and leaf blades make an ideal environment for pathogens to grow and create harm to the turf. By reducing the irrigation, we reduce the moisture available to the pathogen. On days when we don’t mow fairways the dew is mechanically removed by two carts dragging a long hose across the playing surface to knock the dew off of the leaf blades allowing them to dry more quickly. In periods like this, every little trick helps. These temporary measures are best practices to maintain great putting surfaces throughout the year. If you have any questions regarding any decisions we make to the golf course, please reach out to me. I would be more than happy to discuss with you.

We will be having a Member Divot Party on Tuesday, August 16th at 5:30 and everyone is invited. Last year we had 28 members and their families help cover each hole on the course. Come out, enjoy a beverage or 2, and help us keep your golf course in great shape from the season’s play. If you are interested in coming out on the 16th, please email me at ryan@elconacc.com.

Speaking of divots, many of you have asked the best way to repair divots and a ball mark. Please click on the video below for my insights on how to do this the best.

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 to see you out on the golf course!

Ryan

Course Notes, 7/5/2022

I sincerely hope everyone enjoyed their 4th of July holiday. At Elcona we dodged a few rain showers to enjoy yet another spectacular night of fellowship, fun, and fireworks. Most of the weather in the last 4 weeks has been dramatically different than what “Spring” brought us. Wet and cool was replaced with hot temperatures, low humidities, and very few chances of rainfall. In the last 7 days we have been fortunate to receive a small reprieve from the heat and some rain, like this morning’s 1.3″.

Final preparations are being completed for this year’s Walter O. Wells Invitational. Our staff has done a wonderful job through all the record heat this season so far 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 any areas in bunkers that need additional depth, pruning up selected trees and trimming pond areas.

Many of you have voiced to me the continued issue with simple golf course etiquette, or the lack of it. From repairing ball marks, replacing divots, taking divots out of a green, littering tees with broken tees, driving carts way too close to greens/tees, and playing out of a bunker and then not raking your prints, the list goes on and on. As I wrote last month, all of us have a responsibility to take care of this wonderful course. Please think of your fellow member playing after you and help our staff maintain your course. If you have any questions or do not know how to repair a pitchmark, please reach out to me.

The dry weather also has put our irrigation system through a test. There have been a few issues with the system this year that we continue to work through, but even the finest tuned system is not 100% efficient. Any irrigation system is designed to supplement, not fully provide, the plant’s full water needs. Rainwater is much better for the turf and its health compared to the higher sodium and bicarbonate hard water we have below. Water applied through a sprinkler will often run off sloped areas and small knobs, thus causing us to hand water those areas extra to give the turf what it needs. Debris in the groundwater can clog nozzles causing inefficiencies in coverage. It is definitely a balancing act keeping everything happy between turf health, system efficiency, and playability of the course.

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. Higher humidity days can be challenging to dry the surfaces out and keep the turf from being “sticky” and having slower ball roll. 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 the green with sand 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 are plant protectants we apply on a regular basis to slow down, not stop, the growth rate of the turf on greens, tees, and fairways. 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, 6/10/2022

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.

A couple of quick updates before I answer a few of the more frequent questions I am asked on a monthly basis. The creek pump on 15 has failed due to a power surge off of the supply line. All new wire has been run and a new pump has been ordered. We are anticipating it being back up and running by the end of June. Also, Golf Creations will be out next week to spray the new bunker at the short game area. After spraying, it will need to cure for 24-36 hours before being quality checked. If it passes, our staff will add sand and it will open for your practice needs. This bunker will be plate compacted over the course of the summer and will be more consistent with the bunkers on the course as the summer passes on. If you have questions on either of these issues, please see me.

Frequently Asked Questions

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 each 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.

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. If you can’t find your mark, find 2 others and repair them.

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.

Why is someone hosing down a green and interrupting my round?

While we haven’t had had many hot weather days 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 on the green, 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 should we do when severe weather approaches?

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. Elcona Club Policy states: 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 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, Zach 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 Zach or myself.

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, 4/27/2022

If you think this streak of continued frosts and freezes is abnormal, I was reminded this morning that we had a trace of snow fall accumulate on Mother’s Day last year, and the last freeze was on May 1. Looking at the long range forecast, there is light at the end of the tunnel for warmer weather at least.

Given the below normal temps, the color of the turf on greens, tees, and fairways is quite slow to come. I am hopeful in 2 weeks time to see a much improved difference in turf color out there. A couple of quick updates on projects we have been working on:

The renovated practice green will open for use on Saturday, April 30. The goals of this renovation were to provide a better representation of the green topography (i.e. flatter) on the golf course, provide additional cupping areas, and alleviate drainage issues that the old green had. These goals in my opinion have been achieved. A couple of friendly reminders as you start using this green:

First, we still have smoothing work to do on the south and east end of the green where the soil continues to settle, pictured in the above slideshow. We will be working on these transitional areas in the next week and they will be marked so that traffic stays off of them. Secondly, with the weather putting us behind everywhere, this green will need a full season of maintenance to fully mature into a smooth, consistent putting surface like the others on the course. The process of using the existing sod is one that allows a more immediate impact visually and provides better consistency with the other greens on the course, but takes a lot of extra rolling, topdressing, fertility, and maintenance to fully heal all seams and smooth the surface out. The maturity timeline will be similar to the renovation of 18 green, in which it did not fully perform like a mature green until later in the fall. We will do everything in our abilities to quicken this process, and I appreciate your understanding in this matter. Please reach out to me if you have questions regarding this.

Our staff is finishing up installation of the drainage sump pit on 17 fairway this week. This pit has a pump that operates off a float switch that when triggered, will pump any excess water towards our turf nursery to the east and away from areas of play. The pit will be operational very soon and our goal is that this improvement will make this area much more playable for you.

Finally, I have received word that Audubon International has again recertified Elcona as one of 6 Certified Golf Course Sanctuaries in Indiana. For those new to Elcona, designation as a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary is awarded to any golf course upon meeting environmental management standards in 6 areas: Environmental Planning, Wildlife & Habitat Management, Outreach and Education, Chemical Use Reduction and Safety, Water Conservation, and Water Quality Management. Achieving certification demonstrates an organization’s leadership, commitment, and high standards of environmental management. To be designated, golf course personnel develop and implement an environmental management plan, document the results, and host a site visit with Audubon International staff. Recertification is required every three years to maintain the Certified Sanctuary designation. Elcona has been a Certified Sanctuary since 2011 and is an achievement every member should be proud of.

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

Ryan

Course Notes, 4/18/2022

Monday snow, Wednesday rains, weekend sun and wind, rinse, repeat. While the weather continues to figure out what it wants to do, many of you have taken advantage of the few good days we have had to enjoy your golf course. We have also used these days to get a couple projects started, and to begin training our new staff members about Elcona, and the jobs that our staff perform on a weekly basis. This year we have many new staff joining us, so training them on the correct (and safe) way to do the job will be critical to our success this season. Mowing and other in season maintenance is still on an as needed basis, and by the looks of the 10 day forecast, will become more regular by this weekend and into next week. While we wait on that, enjoy the below updates on a few other course happenings:

You may have noticed white dots on the greens and approaches this past weekend. I am utilizing these for 2 reasons: To help our new staff learn the boundaries between green and collar, and to re-establish a consistent collar width. Human nature is to stay away from the collar while mowing the clean up pass on the greens, which means in turn the collar can widen over time. This pipe tool measures the exact width of our collar mower (22″) and helps our staff keep those widths true.

I wanted to remind all members new and long time that we have a wonderful Practice Facility, including a second to none Short Game area. I spent some time here last Friday and it has many areas that provide creative lies for you to hone your game on. This is a club amenity that few, if any, have in our area and is a tremendous asset to your membership here at Elcona, and saves the golf course from excessive wear from practicing on it. The new bunker north of the small short game green will be completed in May when Golf Creations can come and spray the Better Billy Bunker liner.

The new Practice Green continues to round into form. The mowing height is down to .150″ and will continue to be lowered weekly until it is the same as the other greens on the course (.115″) to lessen scalping injury. This week the green will be aerified using our deep time aerifier to further aid in drainage, and a 1 ton roller will be rented to help further smooth out some of the settling that occurred over the winter. Scalped areas will be plugged out this week as well. I am still optimistic that the green can be opened by late April/early May, however the weather has put us behind a bit. I also wanted to remind everyone that this green will need a full season of maintenance to fully mature into a smooth, consistent putting surface like the others on the course. Given the process of using the existing sod, extra rolling, topdressing, fertility, and maintenance will be required to make this happen as quickly as possible, but it will be similar to the renovation of 18 green, in which it did not fully perform like a mature green until later in the fall. We will do everything in our abilities to quicken this process, and I appreciate your understanding in this matter. Please reach out to me if you have questions regarding this.

Stump holes should be sodded this week as well. Our sod farm is not immune to the poor weather we have had this year, and they are just now beginning to cut sod. Any areas that need to be seeded will be done this week as well, now that I see consistent soil temperatures above 55 degrees on the horizon.

Speaking of sod jobs, the right side fairway expansion on 17 as well as areas on the left side have been completed using sod from our nursery as well as a bit from the beginning of the fairway, where it could be eliminated. Our staff did a great job getting this done in some less than ideal weather. This week, we will be digging the pit for a sump pit that will pump water on demand from the left side of 17 off site and hopefully keep that area much drier during rain events. The thin rough right of the fairway expansion will be slit seeded and stump holes sodded where the 2 maple trees used to be. The overall goal of this project is to dry out the landing areas on this hole, as well as provide much more playable turf for all shots here.

These areas should and will be treated as Ground Under Repair. The GUR boundry will be defined as the roped off areas on either side. If you hit into these areas, you have two options under the USGA Rules of Golf, Rule 16.1: 1) play the ball as it lies, except on newly sodded areas or 2) take free relief by finding the nearest point of complete relief from the ground under repair and drop your original ball or another ball away from the ground under repair and within one club-length of that point not nearer the hole. Please do not hit off of newly sodded fairway or rough areas, as these will need some time to root down and become playable. Take free relief if you ball lies on new sod. If the weather cooperates, I anticipate these areas being in play by early to mid May. Again, thank you for your cooperation.

If you have any questions, please reach out at ryan@elconacc.com. I look forward to seeing you out on the course soon!

Ryan