Course Notes, 7/16/2019

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

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8 Green showing some heat stress

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

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

The height of cut on greens has been raised slightly (from .12″ to .125″) to increase the amount of leaf tissue on the plant giving it a better opportunity to generate the necessary energy to survive.  If necessary, a mowing day may be skipped and replaced by rolling to reduce stress.  Irrigation is kept to a minimum as well. The need to minimize the amount of irrigation may sound counter-intuitive because of the heat, but we need to reduce the possibility of various types of diseases from developing.  Moist soils, thatch and leaf blades make an ideal environment for pathogens to grow and create harm to the turf. By reducing the irrigation, we reduce the moisture available to the pathogen. On days when we don’t mow fairways the dew is mechanically removed by two carts dragging a long hose across the playing surface to knock the dew off of the leaf blades allowing them to dry more quickly. In periods like this, every little trick helps.

Dragging dew off fairways

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

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Giving 15 green a syringe

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

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

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

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Ryan

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Course Notes, 6/23/2019

0607190702a_HDR.jpgThe year is already half over and the relentless rainy weather pattern is showing signs of letting up finally, with a return of summer like temperatures.  Since March 15, Elcona has received over 20” of rainfall, which the National Weather Service is saying makes 2019 one of the top 5 wettest starts to a year on record.  Our staff has done a tremendous job keeping up with the surges in growth and excess water removal on the course and I could not be more proud to work with such a great group of people.  The Walter O. Wells Invitational is right around the corner and we are excited to prepare the course for the premier event for the club.

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Staff hard at work repairing the golf course from another June downpour.

 

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Bug spray injury on 16 tee

With these heavy amounts of rainfall, it serves a great reminder that mosquitoes and ticks are out in full force now.  If you hit an errant shot into the natural areas, or are helping a buddy find theirs, please double check yourself for ticks.  If you need to apply bug repellent during your round, please apply it on the cart paths or parking lots.  Bug sprays can discolor or even kill any turfgrass and plants, especially on greens, tees, and fairways.   The picture shown above depicts what damage can occur.  You can make out the footprints and the brown turf around them.  Thank you for your cooperation on this.

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Lightning strike at the 2019 US Women’s Open.  The tree had to be removed the next day. 

Also, we are smack in the middle of thunderstorm season.  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.  This link here is a video from the Weather Channel explaining the different ways lightning can severely harm or kill you out on the course.  I have also included a pretty dramatic picture of an oak tree getting struck just minutes after the siren was sounded at this year’s US Women’s Open. Here is a link to the video from Fox Sports.   The take home message here is that when the siren sounds, please come seek shelter immediately.  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.  Your life is worth much more than finishing the hole you are playing.

0508191212A 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.

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.

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Sand topdressing applied to 15 green

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 Etiquette and other FAQ’s

Each day here at Elcona I get the opportunity to interact with many of you, whether it is when I am driving around the property or when I get the chance to show off my sub par (in a bad way) golf talent in Men’s Night Out. These interactions provide me with some great feedback on the course and the chance to answer questions that you may have. Please bear with me as this is another longer than normal blog post, but one that should be informational to you.

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Unrepaired or under repaired ball marks, 3 green

A few of you have commented to me about some poor etiquette in helping our staff maintain the golf course.  I have noticed some too in my late afternoon travels, from carts parked on the collar/close green surrounds, bunkers not raked, and ball marks not repaired.  The picture here shows how many unrepaired or under-repaired ball marks were on 3 green on Thursday, May 23rd, after our staff repaired all existing marks the morning before.  Each flag represents a pitch mark that would cause a hop in a putt traveling along the green.   There are 54 flags in all in the picture.

The Golf/Greens Committee, Tom, and I would simply ask that everyone remember to RESPECT their fellow members by following this course initiative:

Repair your ball mark and one other.

Every divot should be replaced when possible.

Sand should be thoroughly raked each time you are in a bunker.

Please park your cart 30 feet from greens and tees to help keep the surround turf more playable.

Enter and exit bunkers from the flat back side.

Care and think about the members playing behind you.

Together this will make a HUGE difference!

Thank you so much for your cooperation regarding this matter.  Here are some answers to other frequently asked questions I receive over the course of the year:

How do you repair a ballmark properly?

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Poorly repaired ball mark

 

 

 

 

The key here is to NOT LIFT the center of the mark. This pulls the turf and roots out from the surface and greatly increases the recovery time of the pitchmark. A properly repaired mark heals in 3-4 days, while a poorly repaired one (see above) may take up to 21 days to heal.

When should I replace my divot in the fairway? Sometimes they are too little to replace.

Whenever possible, you should always replace your divot. Most of the time, even the tiny divots will root back down and recover. At a minimum, replacing all your divots keeps the fairway looking clean and helps minimize any shot from having to be played out of a divot.  If you experience an exploding divot, replace what grass you can and please step down onto the divot to minimize its size of impact.

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. Also, many people 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? 

Starting this year, during a normal week greens are rolled on Tuesday, Wednesday afternoon, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  All of these scheduled days are dictated by weather and turf conditions.

What is the preferred divot pattern on the practice tee?

The above picture illustrates preference wonderfully. Either one straight line of divots taken out or multiple, small divots spread out across our hitting station is preferred. The healing time is much quicker and will provide additional hitting space for the next person. Taking out huge craters like the picture above will take quite a long time to fill in and heal.

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

This individual is “syringing” or cooling down the Poa annua leaf tissue during a hot summer day. This misting typically takes one or two minutes. 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 is the proper way to rake a bunker? Where should the rakes go when I am done?

Unraked bunker 2

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The above pictures are not preferable methods to care for the bunker sand after you play! At all times, please enter and exit the bunker at the back end, or away from the flow of play, to protect the edging around the bunker. The bunker should be raked smooth of all shot divots and footprints after the shot has been played. When done with the rake, place the rake outside the bunker, with the rake head pointing towards the direction of play. All of these help our staff maintain the course, and more importantly is a courtesy for your fellow members that will play the hole after you have finished.

What are the general maintenance principles of Elcona CC?

  • 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.

Other interesting facts about Elcona CC:

  • Elcona’s total land area is 339 acres
    • 132 acres of maintained turf
    • 47 acres of natural grassland
    • 116 acres of mixed forest habitat (prairie and wooded habitats)
    • 41 acres of farmland that is cash rented out
    • 4 ponds totaling 2.75 acres
  • The golf course was originally designed by legendary Midwest architect William Diddel in 1956, and has undergone multiple improvements with guidance from architect Arthur Hills and his staff.
  • In 2012, Elcona became the 8th course in Indiana and the 930th course in the world to be designated an Audubon Certified Golf Course Sanctuary.

Ryan

Course Notes, 6/5/2019

0509181936_HDR.jpgMay has certainly left its mark all over our region. After a whopping 5.88” of rain in April, May left us 6.18”, and it is raining again as I write this update. This obviously has made keeping up with growth a challenge, but one our staff is up to. We also had a couple nasty storms blow through the course, causing a couple of trees to split, like the maple on #5 pictured here. Here’s hoping for a drier June to allow the course to firm up and rough to slow down!0523190915_HDR

Here are some other quick hitters and happenings around the course:

0515191347_HDRThe staff has done a wonderful job keeping up with the multiple bunker repairs that we have endured with May’s showers. They continue to work on removing rocks and moving sand back to where it needs to be instead of where Mother Nature wants to wash it to.  The turf surrounding the greens has finally taken off with the warmer soil temperatures and ample rains we have experienced.  A second application of fertilizer was applied late last month to sustain the turf’s growth and vigor through July.

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Check plot on 13 green showing many seedheads where no treatment was given
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Poa annua seedheads on 13 green

 

 

 

 

 

Our changes in efforts suppressing seed heads on greens has provided fairly good results this year, however with the recent rains and warmer temperatures a late flush was noticed. The check plots on the large practice green, and holes 1,10,13,and 16 show the chemistries used this year do work to provide a smoother putting surface during the Poa “seeding” season. Regular rolling and topdressing sand, when the weather permits, will minimize any effects on ball roll.

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Poorly draining area at the bottom of 12 fairway

One positive of these rainy times is seeing where subsurface drainage would be a good idea. We have worked behind 17 green, and will be installing pipe in other areas in June, like the area on 12 fairway shown here.

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Rain Garden with a new bee hotel
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Carpenter bee inspecting the new bee hotel

 

 

 

 

 

Last month Elcona hosted Georgie Nugent from Audubon International for our periodic recertification visit. I toured the property with her, pointing out the different wildlife corridors of the property, habitat boxes we have constructed, water body management, and reviewed various ways we communicate and interact with the membership and community at large to demonstrate Elcona’s commitment to environmental stewardship. She was quite impressed with the property and I look forward to hearing a positive outcome from our tour.  One of the projects for 2019 was installing another bee hotel, this one is located by the club’s rain garden along CR 21.  I will write a more thorough post on the benefits of these boxes later this summer when pollinator activity really ramps up.  

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Family Tee layout.  All holes measure 4,311 yards in length

All Family Tee markers are out in their locations and from the initial comments Tom and I have received, they are enjoyed and a fun way to experience Elcona’s course from a shorter length. Please give them a try the next time you and your children want to visit Elcona. A map of where each tee is located is pictured here, just look for the stone markers in each fairway or forward tee.

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Family Tee Scorecard

0516191444_HDRPurdue University is using an area of native grass past 16 tee to research the effectiveness and environmental impact of a couple herbicides in these tall grass areas. So far, all the herbicides seem effective in controlling the thistle that was in this area. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

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!

Course Notes, 3/22/2019

0319191516.jpgWe are happy to announce that the golf course will open this Saturday at 12 p.m.!  Based on the latest forecast, there will be ample frost both weekend mornings, hence the noon start for tee times.  The Practice Facility will open April 2, as there is still some frost in the ground in this area.  This will give the turf some additional time to begin growing and recover from daily use.  Course conditions will be evaluated on a day by day basis for its availability for play due to weather.  It is highly recommended that you call the golf shop for the latest updates on course conditions and availability.

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Soil temperatures are above freezing!
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Dragging winter sand into the green

 

This week, we began prepping low cut surfaces for play.  The frost is out of the ground (except in areas at the Practice Facility), and turf has wintered well with no large signs of disease or stress.  As is normally the case this time of year, playing surfaces will be mowed or rolled as the weather and growth dictates.  Other practices, such as raking bunkers, will be done on an as needed basis. Our seasonal employees will begin to return next week as well, but this return is based on historical dates that have been determined by weather as well as budgetary guidelines set for the year.  As it has been the case over the years, we anticipate being fully staffed by Memorial Day.

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Different mottling (and some damage from deer dragging their hoofs) on 1 green

Many of you over the years have asked why the putting surfaces look so mottled and some of the grass looks purple this time of year.  The main reason is how the plant reacts to the transition to winter.  When frosty or below freezing nights become a regular occurrence, the chlorophyll in the plant (green pigment) can denature in some bio-types of Poa annua, the main species of turf on Elcona’s greens.  This denaturing leads to other pigments that may normally be hidden by the chlorophyll to be revealed, such as a red/purple pigment called anthocyanin.  Anthocyanin is also the same pigment that gives Elcona’s trees such vibrant reds, oranges, and purples in the fall.  When regular growing conditions arrive to our area, the plant will produce more chlorophyll and turn green again.

0319191420The staff has done a wonderful job with course clean up over the last 2 weeks.  While this winter did not bring as much snow to our area as it normally would, we experienced several days where the winds were over 30 MPH sustained.  As you can imagine, there was a higher amount of tree and leaf litter on the course than in a normal winter.  We will finish this work up over the next week or so.  We also have filled in all stump holes with top soil, and will sod or seed them when better growing conditions arrive to our area.  

0308191136A few of you have asked about the removal of a large oak tree between holes 1 and 18, just past 1 tee.  This tree began dropping leaves quite rapidly in August, which is not normal for any oak tree to do.  This tree first succumbed to Oak Wilt, the same disease that affected the oak we removed in 2016 near 1 green, and I made the recommendation to remove the tree to prevent the disease from spreading to other oak trees in the area.  When it was removed, we identified these large caterpillars, which are larvae of a wood boring beetle.  These are an indicator of a diseased tree, and if left alone, could create a safety hazard.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at ryan@elconacc.com.  I look forward to seeing you out on the golf course!

Ryan

Course Notes, 2/21/2019

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The golf season will be here soon!

The winter of 2018/19 has been full of ups and downs weather wise.  The old addage, “If you don’t like Indiana weather, just wait a day.” has been quite true the last 3 months.

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Hole 5, right after January’s ice storm
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Hole 5, 1 day prior to the ice storm

 

 

 

 

 

The golf course is holding its own so far as we head into winter’s homestretch (we hope).  Ice accumulation has been a focus of ours with the ice storms we have encountered in the last 3 weeks, however there is no cause for concern for the turf.  It is however something we will continue to monitor.  When the ice melts, we have been out with our squeegees moving as much water as we can to help prevent refreezing and crown hydration injury to the Poa that dominates the putting surfaces.

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Hole 7 on a beautiful winter day

The staff and I are almost complete with our annual tree maintenance and removal program.  This last week, we have been focusing on the area at the intersection of US 20 and CR 21.  This area has several Silver Maples that had begun to decline, as well as a Sugar Maple that had severe storm damage from last May’s MNO storm.  Once the stumps are ground and holes are filled, this area will be much improved and a cleaner look as everyone enters to use the club.

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US 20/CR 21 intersection after tree removal. 

The ice storms have kept us busy with tree clean up however, as these weather events reek havoc on softer wooded trees, like the white pines shown below.

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White pine damage behind 3 green complex
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Our tree service removing damaged pine limbs left of #3

 

 

 

 

 

Winter also means improving our facility and making it more efficient.  Lighting is in the process of being upgraded to LED technology, increasing the level of brightness and safety to the space while reducing the amount of energy needed to light the area.  The employee locker and break areas have also received a nice face lift and improved efficiencies.  The staff has done a fantastic job with this work!

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The finished break area, with LED lighting.  

For our staff, winter also means attending educational seminars and shows to further hone our skills and get the latest updates on trends happening in our industry. This year’s dominate theme is again common in most everyone’s industries today: Labor efficiency and attracting and building a great team. We also have sat in on talks centering on the increased use of data analytics to monitor growing conditions, and I got to view some of the robotic machine technology coming out within the next few years. The new Rules of Golf have been discussed quite frequently as well.  All in all, there are many reasons to be excited about the future of golf, both from a game and course maintenance perspective.

If you have any questions, please contact me at ryan@elconacc.com.  Have a great week and stay warm!

Ryan

 

 

Course Notes, 12/21/2018

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While still bringing colder temperatures, this is the first December I can remember that will receive less snow than November brought.  When we are kept indoors, the staff have been hard at work refurbishing course markers.  Our equipment manager, Steve Ott, has begun his annual thorough review of machinery, readying it for the 2019 season. Pictured below is his December project, rebuilding the clutch on our Ford tractor used to blow fairway debris during the growing season.

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Rebuilding this tractor’s clutch involves splitting the engine from the transmission (safely!) and securing both units with chain hoists.
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Leaves are wind rowed for easier mulching and removal.
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Sweeping leaves from a thick area between 4 and 5. The idea here is to promote a healthier stand of turf.

Our staff has used nicer weather to complete annual tree work and maintenance, and even catch up on leaf clean up.  One piece of equipment we have added to the mix is a leaf vacuum.  We have used this unit in the past removing aerification plugs and debris from fairways, but we have learned it can be a good tool to help clean areas where leaves are quite thick and could possibly smother the turf.

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What is going on below the grass surface on a warmer winter day.  Graphic courtesy of Dan Blanchard, assistant super at The Bay Club.

With the warmer temperatures we have had sporadically, some of you have asked if the course is open.  Course conditions are monitored daily for availability, and while it is nice to get a warm day or three in a row, once ground is frozen, it takes many days for it to thaw adequately for safe traffic and play.  To the right is a graphic detailing why.  When the warmth heats initially, the ground thaws from the top down.  If traffic is allowed while the rootzone is still partially frozen, roots can shear off and harm the plant before growing weather returns and the plant can heal itself.

 

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7 landing area on a 44 degree afternoon in December.  Not much sunshine!

While most turf areas get adequate sunshine, some areas do not this time of year due to the much lower angle of the sun. It was not uncommon to see frost in the afternoon on both 2, 5, and 14 greens last week, as well as the area on 7 pictured to the right.  Please continue to check in with the golf shop for the latest course availability.

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A piece of wood from the bee hotel.  Notice the tiny holes in the mud, evidence an egg hatched and a new bee emerged ready to live its life.

 

Lastly, a topic of conversation through the year was the bee hotel project that we installed left of 16.  I wanted to share my initial observations.  Out of the 230 holes available for habitat usage, 120 had signs of insect reproduction (holes filled and closed with resin or mud) and another 78 had what I would consider a complete usage (holes filled, with a sign that an egg hatched and burrowed out into the real world).  This was a fun experiment to compliment the club’s Audubon program, and next year we plan on installing a couple more near the rain garden and north of number 13.  I am very appreciative of the support given to me by the club to experiment and communicate to the community the great benefits that a golf course can provide to our local ecosystem.

If you have any questions, please email me at ryan@elconacc.com.  Thank you for reading, and I hope you have a happy and safe holiday season!

Ryan