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.
Below is an update on what else we have been up to lately:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Aerification 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.
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.
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!
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.
While 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks and have a great week!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com. Have a great week and I hope to see you out on the course!
With all of Elcona’s Club Championships contested by the end of this week, we have reached the point in the season where we are past the dog days of summer and the weather turns a bit cooler and crisper. Labor Day signifies that change, but as we all know, there is a ton of great weather to come out and enjoy your golf course.
I also would like to give a special thanks to our staff. I am very proud of the product they have produced for throughout the year. Throughout the next few weeks most of them will be leaving us for the season and will be missed until they return in April 2020. So a huge thank you/muchas gracias to Matt, Steve, Greg, Ron, Bob, Paul, Harold, Larry, Caity, Doug, Jorge, Abelardo, Eduardo, Vernando, Luis, and Mitch for all your hard work this year.
I came across a share on Twitter the other day from Coach Eric Musselman (via Matt Windy, thanks Coach!):
I couldn’t help but think how important this saying is to our operation here at Elcona. Each day, we are constantly looking for ways we can do things better and improve on an already great golf course. Some of the subtle changes made this year to our maintenance, combined with some great weather, have provided a great product for you to enjoy. From brushing fairway turf, to using solely mechanical rakes in bunkers, to trying different products in our agronomic plan, each of these changes may not seem like much but I believe they have made a difference for the better.
That being said, September brings a great opportunity to complete additional improvements around the course. We have already widened the rough left of #16, about 130 yards out, by scalping down the existing turf and seeding new grass into it, that will move the native area further away from play. The area should be fully grown and complete in a couple more weeks. We also will be adding drainage in the low area next to 4 blue tee.
Some other quick hits from around the course:
Golf course aerification is directly around the corner. Tees will be aerified next Tuesday (9/3/2019), and we will be pulling cores again. Greens will be aerified on Thursday and Friday, October 3rd/4th, after the Hole in One Stag. Fairways will be aerified the following week, October 7-11. Green surrounds will be aerified through the next 4 weeks depending on schedule and weather. We will be pulling cores on fairways this year to improve drainage and to better fill in divot area that have been left unprepared.
This sugar maple on the right side of 14 will be removed on September 16th, during a shut down day for the course. It was hit by lightning earlier in the year and has not shown any signs that it will recover.
With this spring and early summer’s heavy rainfall, crabgrass pressure has been through the roof and a challenge this season. We have spot sprayed the crabgrass that emerged in a few areas on the fairways and rough with great results. The bronzing of the fairway turf surrounding the crabgrass will grow out within a couple of weeks.
Another change made this summer is using a different mower to maintain the hiking trails. This mower has allowed us to mow the grass at 3.5” (compared to 5”) and drastically reduces the time it takes to mow them. If you are looking for an area to exercise or walk with your family or pooch, the Elcona trails are a perfect place for that. Maps are located in the main office or at http://www.elconacc.com.
Please use caution the next couple of weeks as you drive along CR 21, as a boring crew will be installing fiber optic lines toward US 20, and then towards the cell tower. While this will not impact the golf course, crews will be working very close to it and the roadway.
Our pollinator areas have seen a large increase in butterfly populations this year, especially Monarchs. The areas of milkweed you have noticed along the native areas are the Monarch’s main source of food and habitat for them to complete their life cycle on their migration from Mexico to Canada and back. Where appropriate, we will continue to provide habitat for pollinating insects while not impacting the golf course.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or stop me when you see me out on the course. Have a great, safe Labor Day weekend, and I will see you out on the golf course!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com. Thanks, and have a great rest of your week!
The 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a great week and I will see you out on the golf course!
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.
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?
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?
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.