Course Notes, 5/9/2020

IMG_1387.jpgWith the announcement of Governor’s 5 Phase Plan to reopen Indiana, I believe we can finally see a return to some sense of normalcy here at Elcona, and to our lives personally.  Many of you have commented to Tom and I that having our course available to get some fresh air and socialize with friends have been the best medicine for this worldwide pandemic.  I could not agree more.  Thank you from our staff for your continued support of our efforts to take care of your golf course.

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Bunker edging has been a focus of ours the last 2 weeks with staff’s return.

We are slowly bringing staff back and catching up on details that were set aside during the height of the shutdown when our focus was on mowing and very  basic maintenance.  I could not be happier to bring our talented staff back, and I am so proud of their efforts.  Thank you for your understanding as we worked through the restrictions this virus put us in.

 

A few notes on what we have been up to lately:

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The Golf Ball EZ Lyft on 10 green

Thanks to a generous contribution from Scott York, we have installed the Golf Ball EZ Lyft, and many of you have commented what a great idea this was.  Above is a picture of what it looks like if you haven’t been out to the course, and here is a link on my demonstration on its use.  And if you have played golf with me before, you know it took me a few takes to sink the putt.  Thank you Scott for your idea and donation to Elcona!

 

IMG_1425In working with Tom and the guidelines set forth from the Indiana PGA, it looks like when the state reaches Phase 4, bunker rakes and trash cans will be placed out on the course.  We will continue as staffing levels allow to maintain the bunkers, but there may be days where we need to focus on other maintenance tasks and not rake the bunkers.  As you are able, please help us out by smoothing out your footprints as you exit the bunker at the back side of the bunker.  Thank you for your help and understanding as we slowly ramp our staffing levels back to normal.

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Cart traffic off 2 tee path.

You may also notice more ropes out to guide cart traffic.  While I do not like ropes, they allow carts to drive away from grass that needs relief from continuous cart traffic.  We will be giving these areas some additional fertilizer and aerification to aid in their recovery as well.  It’s a good problem to have, as it shows how much you have supported your club during these difficult time!

 

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Black legged, or deer tick.  A carrier of Lyme disease and one I have found on me within the last 2 weeks.  Photo courtesy of Tim Gibb, Purdue University.  

If you happen to walk the hiking trails out in the back 40 or hit a shot into the native areas, be on the look out for ticks.  They seem to be higher in population this year, as I have found a few on me and our dogs.  Here is a link for Purdue on tick safety if you want any additional information on these parasites.

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Lightning at the 2019 US Women’s Open.  

Also, we are in the beginnings 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 last 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.  Usually after a heavy thunderstorm, Tom and I will check the course on its availability and condition before allowing play to resume.  Your life is worth much more than finishing the hole you are playing.  If you have any questions on our severe weather policy, please ask Tom or myself.

 

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Family Tee Layout.  4,311 yards in length.  

Finally, it has been nice to see many of you bringing your children out and playing the Family Tees that are located at the course. They are a fun way to experience Elcona’s course from a shorter length. If you haven’t already, 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 above, just look for the stone markers in each fairway or forward tee.  Tom has printed unique scorecards as well if you wish to keep score, located in the Pro Shop.

 

If you have any questions about what is going on outside, please stop me out on the course or email me at ryan@elconacc.com. I am more than happy to talk shop with you.  Have a great week and hope to see you out on the golf course!  .

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Ryan

Course Notes, 4/21/2020

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Good morning everyone, and I hope that all of you are staying safe during these unprecedented times for our country.  While we all wait on some return to what will define normal going forward, it has been nice to see so many of you enjoying the beauty of spring at Elcona and playing golf.  I hope that Elcona continues to be a safe haven for you and your family to get some sunshine, fresh air, and to get away from all the stressors that grace our lives today.

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Tom Thome meticulously mowing 15 green

During these last few weeks, we have been operating at lower staff levels, like many of you and your businesses have.  While it has been a challenge, it also is an opportunity to assess current operations and find ways to make them more efficient.  One of the capital purchases the club made this year was a newer triplex mower.  These mowers are much improved on lower heights of cut and allow a higher quality of cut than our older unit, allowing us to better mimic the quality of a walk mower.  I also wanted to take a moment to thank Tom Thome for helping out our operation.  Tom has helped mow greens and fairways for the last month, allowing our staff to work on other needed jobs.  He is a pro’s pro, and a tremendous asset to Elcona, and a friend to all of us.  Please thank him the next time you see him for his love for and all he does for Elcona.

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Ducks enjoying 3 pond

The Grounds Department has not been immune to implementing extra safety measures for the well-being of our staff and to you, the member.  The last 15 minutes of each day has always been dedicated to cleaning our shop and surrounds, but extra sanitizing measures of high contact areas have been taken daily.   Along with flipping cups upside down, bunker rakes and trash cans will continue to be absent from the golf course until it is safe to put them out.  The Practice Facility will continue to operate under reduced hours (Tuesday-Sunday, 8am-5pm, weather dependent).  Our staff has been working hard to get the golf course in shape for the 2020 season, and I could not be more proud of them and their efforts.  Please be patient as we work together through these challenging times to get your golf course into peak conditioning.

Mornings like the one pictured at the start of this article are very pretty to stand and admire, and one of the many reasons why I love caring for and enjoying my 319 acre office. However, we have also experienced many frosty mornings, causing delays in the start of your round. I wrote an article explaining why we delay for frost, which you can read here.  The USGA also has a great video explaining frost delays, which you can watch here.

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Hole 18, under April snow cover

These mornings (and those late April days that the highs stay in the 30’s with snow showers, like the scene we saw on 18 pictured above) are also not the best growing conditions for turf here in Northern Indiana. This is the reason why many areas are thinner and lacking typical summer color, like fairways and green surrounds. It is also the main reason why we have not mowed fine playing surfaces as often as the meat of our season. Rolling greens has been a great tool for us to maintain putting surfaces while limiting traffic and wear on the turf. When weather finally returns to a more average Indiana spring, the growth and vigor of the turfgrass will return as well and conditions will improve.

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Solid tine holes, 18 fairway

Aerification has been completed on greens, tees, fairways, and practice facility. This year, given our reduced staff, all areas were solid tined to provide relief against compaction and let fresh oxygen into the rootzone, while saving our staff many hours of clean up.  This coming Monday we will be performing a deep tine aerification on select green and fairway areas, as we do each year at this time with one change.  In the past, a contractor has been paid to do these services.  Thanks to you and the Board of Directors, the club has purchased a deep tine aerifier that will allow us to do these in-house, at our schedule.  It will also allow us to deep tine fairways and other areas that were cost-prohibitive in the past.  Thank you very much and I will be posting more information on this process in my next blog article.

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New Sugar Maple tree, left side of 16

We have also been busy planting trees in accordance with our tree maintenance plan, as well as some that were donated by members.  We continue to look for areas to move the many trees we have in our tree nursery before they become too big to move.  The new sugar maple on 16 pictured above takes the place of several White Pine trees that were severely damaged by a few ice storms and had become unsightly.  Most of the surrounding area will become grass and improve the playability of this area in due time.

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New butterfly garden footprint, 13 green/14 tee

Finally, a few of you have asked what we are doing at the corner of 13 green and 14 tee.  This area has been prone to standing water and barren since the removal of many blue spruce trees a few years ago.  Thanks to the contributions of a few members and the keen design eye of Greg Stump, we are installing a butterfly garden that will instantly add much needed color and visual appeal to this area.  I will post its progress in my next blog article as well.

Thank you again for your understanding as we work as best we can on getting the golf course up to prime conditioning.  If you have any questions, please reach out to me at ryan@elconacc.com.  Please stay safe and continue to come out and support your club.  I look forward to seeing you all soon out on the golf course!

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Ryan

 

Course Notes, 3/13/2020

IMG_1151.jpgTom and I are happy to announce that the golf course will open this Sunday 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 around the first of April, 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.

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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Mottled look 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.

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Flagged stump hole on the right side of 18

The 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 had to postpone filling stump holes from this winter’s tree work to prep the golf course for opening, so they have been flagged in high traffic areas.  Please heed caution when driving your cart near them.  All stump holes will be filled in with top soil next week, and then be sodded or seeded when better growing conditions arrive to our area.

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!

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Ryan

Course Notes, 2/26/2020

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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:

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12 Green, 2/2/2020.  54 degrees, except where shadows exist.  

 

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Practice putting green

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.

IMG_0772.jpgI 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.

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White pine areas, between 6 and 16
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6/16 area after

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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Spotters on the ground helping shape our final trimmed look
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Oak at the corner of 18 fairway, after trimming.  

 

 

 

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Oaks getting a trim between 4 and 14

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.

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Chipper and utility cart receiving service

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.

IMG_1074.jpgOur 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!

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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!

Ryan

Course Notes, 12/20/2019

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Although hit and miss, winter has certainly let its presence known here at Elcona.  November brought an early foot of snow on Veteran’s Day, bringing the 2019 golf season to a grinding halt.  The staff and I have switched gears to equipment maintenance and preparing for a great 2020 season, while also reviewing how we can improve upon a great 2019 season.  Below is a link to a video I created that shares some of the great scenery and wildlife we observed on property throughout the past year.

Elcona CC 2019 Pictures

Below is an update on what else we have been up to lately:

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Matt McIntyre aerifying the Practice Fairway
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Sand topdressing on 15 green

 

 

 

 

 

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6 Green mid-topdressing.  A heavy blanket!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before the November snows came, we finished aerification and our annual winter application of plant protectants to playing surfaces and green surrounds.  Right after Thanksgiving, a heavy blanket of sand was applied to greens to act as a blanket and insulate the crowns of the plant against winter temperatures.  The last course focus was on removing as many leaves as possible from the course, either through mulching or sweeping.  The leaves that were swept will be placed into our compost piles, creating some great soil to use on future projects around Elcona.

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Growth blanket on the practice tee

We also pulled the growth blanket off of the practice tee.  The thought behind trying this blanket was to see if it created better late season conditions for seed germination, and we observed some positive results.  Next March when the weather breaks we will be utilizing the cover on additional areas that need better turf coverage.

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Tulip tree right of 2 snapped by high winds

The day before Thanksgiving Mother Nature blessed us with quite the wind storm, severely damaging a few trees on the course, although none that were critical to the playability of the golf course.  We have started our planned annual tree work on the course, of which I will cover in greater detail in my next blog post.

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Collar dam removal, back right of 13 green

The staff and I were able to complete a couple of small projects around the course before the ground froze.  An area on the back of 13 green was lowered a bit to better allow surface water to drain properly off of the green.  The back tee on number 1 was also reshaped a bit, creating additional playing area at the front of the tee, while improving the look next to the landscaped area behind it.  We will continue to work on this tee complex, as well as 9 and 15 tee complexes when the ground thaws next spring.

I hope that each of you have a safe and enjoyable holiday season with the ones you love.  I know I am looking forward to an exciting 2020 season here at Elcona.

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Ryan

 

 

Course Notes, 10/11/19

IMG_0569.jpgAerification season, for the most part, is now behind us.  Many of you have shared my sentiments that this was the best stretch of weather we have had to complete aerification in a long time.  Greens have healed nicely for being aerified one week ago and fairways are well on their way.

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16 Green, 10/4/19
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16 Green, 10/11/19

 

 

 

 

 

While I have blogged a few times about the benefits of aerification (the USGA has a great video you can watch here), below are 2 video links that demonstrate the processes we aerified both fairways and greens.

Greens Aerification           Fairway Aerification

To some of you, it comes as no surprise I am some what of a math and science nerd.  Below are a few facts about the last 14 days out on the golf course:

  • 7,668,000 holes were made on the green surfaces at a 1.5″x 2″ spacing, impacting 12.63% of the surface
  • Approximetely 84 tons of sand were applied to fill holes on greens
  • 43,908,480 holes were made on the fairway surfaces at a 2″x 2″ spacing, impacting 7.67% of the surface
  • Counting tees and the entire Practice Facility, a total of 62,016,480 5/8″ wide holes were created on the property
  • 205 man hours used to accomplish all aerification

To accomplish this and only have one snapped belt cause an issue/turf damage is a testament to our operators and especially our equipment manager, Steve Ott.  Their efforts and long hours these last few days are very much appreciated.  Thanks fellas!

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Expanded intermediate cut, Hole 13

We have also began small project season here at the club.  One such small project is expanding the intermediate cut at the beginnings of holes 9, 10, and 13 to reduce the length of carry from the tees to the fairway.  Other small projects in the next 8 weeks will include re-aligning tees on hole 1,9, and 15, and installing drainage/irrigation around the property to better manage water.

 

1106180848_HDRWhile the golf activity on the course has began to dwindle down, many jobs need to be accomplished before the real cold air shuffles its way here. Leaf clean up consumes most of our time in the next 6 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 water features are pulled in for the year. Two major jobs ahead for us include winterizing the irrigation system, which will take place October 31-November 2. 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 4th 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 .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.

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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.

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

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Course Notes, 9/30/2019

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As the sun has begun to set on the 2019 season, I had jotted down some notes about how dry September and how the National Weather Service had placed Elkhart County in its Moderate Drought category.  The abnormally dry and warm September was great for late season golf for sure.

 

Drought Map of Indiana as of 9/24/19

Then last weekend’s storm happened.  While we needed the rain, we did not need a month’s worth in a 72 hour time period.  The course received nearly 4.5″ of rainfall over the weekend and the staff has hustled to get everything ready for this final week of main club events.  Final clean-up of leaves and debris left from the storm will take place over the next couple of days.

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The new pond on 8 created by last weekend’s deluge
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17 fairway bunker after the rain had ended.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other notes and happenings around the course:

  • Aerification of greens and fairways is right around the corner.  weather permitting, the front 9 greens and large practice green will be solid-tined on October 3rd.  The small practice green and back 9 greens will be aerified on October 4th.  Fairway aerification will begin on October 7, and we will be pulling cores this year to aid in drainage and better fill in any divots that may be present on the fairways.  I anticipate this process taking all week and ask that you be cautious around any staff member that may be on the fairway you are playing, as they may not hear or see you right away.  Thank you.
  • The Elkhart County Health Department has been in contact with me about mosquitoes and the threat in our area of the Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) virus.  Below is a press release from them with information and safety tips on how to protect yourself.  There is bug spray available for you in the starter hut next to 1 tee, and if you do apply bug spray, please do so on the cart path only, as bug spray can harm or kill turf.  Once a hard frost is seen in our area, the mosquito threat will diminish rapidly.
EEE Press Release
ECHD Press Release
  • Work has started already to prepare the practice tee for the 2020 season.  Last week the center and north sections of the tee were core aerified, topdressed, and seeded to fill in gaps in the turf.  These 2 sections will remain closed for the rest of the year.  After October 13th, the south section of the main tee will close for the season and the same process will take place.  Between October 15th and October 31st, the lower section will be available for you to practice.  On November 1st, the Practice Facility will close for the season.  All of this will allow the main practice tee to have the best opportunity for the seed to germinate, and fill in fully for the 2020 season.  If you have any questions about this, please ask myself or Tom.IMG_0469 IMG_0470.jpg

 

 

 

 

  • You may have noticed the cattails on 14 pond turning brown.  After years of attempting to control their spreading only by cutting them, we had to make a herbicide application to thin out the population before they overtook the entire pond.  Over the next 2 weeks we will be removing the dead material by hand and leave a single pod of them on the northwest corner of the pond.  IMG_0495

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

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Ryan