One common phrase in my conversations with my peers the last 2 months have almost always included the words, “What winter??” Scenes like the one of 18 green above have been much more common than the typical snow capped pictures I normally share this time of year. According to all the latest forecasts I’ve looked at, one common theme is a warmer start to spring, with unfortunately a wetter start to it as well. No matter what arrives, the staff and I are ready to get quite the exciting 2020 season underway.
Since it has been a while since my last blog update, here is what we have been working on the last 2 months:
I am happy to report through all the warmth and rainy weather that have hampered our neck of the woods, the golf course turf is in great condition. Any time we have gotten a taste of winter with a few inches of snow, a few days of mid 40 degree temperatures have followed. Even with the warmth, some more shaded areas, like 12 green above, still held snow and ice even on a 50 degree day like when I took the picture.
I also checked off “Topdress Greens in January” box on my professional bucket list. I say that in jest, but with the warmth in December we noticed some growth on the Poa turf on our greens. Rather than mowing the turf and having to re-apply winter protectants, adding sand topdressing is a best practice to insulate and protect plant crowns from cold injury. What was more surprising was the firmness of greens at the time and being able to run the machinery on them without damage.
The staff and I are about done with our annual approved treework. We concentrated again on aesthetic improvements throughout the course and grounds, such as the above pictures between 6 and 16. These white pines were severely damaged over the past few years with ice storms, and were quite unsightly. Their removal will allow more sunlight in an increasingly popular landing area (when playing 16) and better turf conditions past the fairway bunker, as well as show off a beautiful Crimson King maple that was planted many years ago as a replacement for them. The next step is grinding all the stumps, which will begin in March.
A aerial man-lift was also rented this year to perform more tree trimming in-house, as our tree program shifts from removal to more of a maintenance plan. This lift allows us to trim up several oak trees where our existing equipment failed to reach. This rental also allows us to perform this work at our staff’s schedule and not at a contractor’s.
All preventative maintenance has been completed on the entire fleet of equipment, led successfully by our Equipment Manager Steve Ott. Besides all blade and reel sharpening and fluid/belt service, Steve and staff refurbished older utility vehicles, detailed all work vehicles and tractors, and engineered improvements to maximize efficiency. We are quite fortunate to have Steve on staff, his knowledge and experience is quite an asset.
I would also like to take a moment and thank Matt McIntyre for his 3 years of service to Elcona as assistant superintendent. Matt left us recently to pursue an opportunity at a course in Arizona, where he has family. I am also pleased to announce Adam Morr will join Elcona as our new assistant after his graduation from Purdue in mid-May. Both he and I are excited to have him join our staff.
Finally, 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, building great teams, and increased presence of technology to make informed decisions. Robotic fairway mowers, greens mowers, and drones continue to carve a niche in tomorrow’s golf course. These trends are ones that I am closely following for any potential benefits they could provide to our operation.
Our operation received two distinct honors at these shows. At the Indiana Green Expo, we were honored with the 2019 MRTF Green Award (Private Golf division), selected for our operations’s many years of commitment towards innovative stewardship and excellence in managing championship conditions while promoting our stewardship to the members and the community as a whole. This award is a testament to the vision and leadership of the people who lead our staff before I did (especially Tom Zimmerman and Greg Shaffer) and will further motivate our operation’s continued commitment to provide great conditioning the right way. On behalf of our staff, thank you for supporting our efforts and allowing us to be leaders in this area of our industry!
I also was honored to have my dog Bowser be selected as a finalist for dog of the year by the GCSAA and Lebanon Turf. While he did not win, it was quite a treat to have the club gain exposure through a couple of radio interviews and other media opportunities during the Golf Industry Show in Orlando. I know Bowser is hoping for a quick arrival to golf season and to welcome you all back to the course.
Have a great rest of February and wish for March golf!