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.

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

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.

Rain Garden with a new bee hotel
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  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.

Soil temperatures are above freezing!
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.

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  I look forward to seeing you out on the golf course!


Course Notes, 2/21/2019

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.

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.

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.

White pine damage behind 3 green complex
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!

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  Have a great week and stay warm!




Course Notes, 12/21/2018


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.

Rebuilding this tractor’s clutch involves splitting the engine from the transmission (safely!) and securing both units with chain hoists.
Leaves are wind rowed for easier mulching and removal.
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.

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.


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.

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  Thank you for reading, and I hope you have a happy and safe holiday season!



Course Notes, 11/28/2018


Good morning from a snow covered Elcona.  Just as we had very little time to transition from winter to summer, it seems like we received little time to transition back to winter.  November was much below normal temperature wise, and quite snowy.  Unlike last year, November has unfortunately presented next to no opportunity for you to enjoy your golf course.  A good sign though is the return of a healthy herd of deer and turkeys that utilize the property as habitat.  Many of you have asked where they disappeared this year, and I can attest that they are around and have been frequently observing our staff’s work on the course.

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Deer near the clubhouse, picture courtesy of Jennifer Evans
Turkeys enjoying an acorn feast along 12







As with all of 2018, this early beginning to winter has presented new challenges to course winterization efforts, but these are almost completed as of this writing and have gone fairly smoothly.  Final mowings, blow out of the irrigation system, applications of plant protectants, and a heavy blanket of topdressing sand have been applied to best protect the fine cut turf from the conditions that these next 4 months bring to Northern Indiana.  I have written about the benefits of each of these here, and below are some pictures of this year’s efforts.  In our industry, we liken this final heavy sand application to putting a blanket on the greens and “tucking them in for the winter”. Bob Vavrek of the USGA wrote a great article further explaining this application that you can access here. I want to thank my staff for their tireless efforts preparing the course so that we could fit these activities in between weather events.

Close up of the sand blanket on 15 green
Application of plant protectants to 16 green
Fresh blanket of sand on 15 green









The renovation of 17 tee has also been a focus of our time in the last few weeks, and as you can see from the pictures, turned out great. The blue and black tees are now one tee complex, and the tee is now 6 feet wider than the old tee. In the spring, we will finish the grade work around the rough in this complex to complete the project.

17 tee before
17 Blue/Black Tee, October 2018
17 tee after
17 Blue/Black Tee, November 2018






We now are beginning a transition of duties during the winter season.  Evaluations of our agronomic plans and staff plans are on going to better our operation for 2019.  Equipment maintenance, such as deep cleaning and blade sharpening is in full tow.  We have also began our winter tree work on the course.  The focus this month was on the storm damaged trees from last May.  Other areas of tree work focus involved the border with US 20 and CR 21, and transforming the aesthetics along the native area on 15.  We also have planted a few trees strategically on the golf course per the Master Tree Program and recommendations from the Golf/Greens Committee.  This work will continue throughout the winter, weather permitting.

Machinery cleaning is essential for a good start to the next season. 
New trees between 13 green and 14 tee







We also have added a new tool, called the Root Hog, to our winter work.  Best described as a hand held stump grinder, this tool has been implemented to shave down roots in various areas that will smooth transitions for our mowers and golf cart traffic.  We will continue to utilize this tool throughout the year to improve areas on the golf course.

Close Up of the Root Hog
Roots along 9 tee ground down, with soil and seed added






Finally, Greg Stump and his wife Sharon have worked their magic yet again transforming the clubhouse into an awesome spectacle of Christmas spirit.  I cannot thank them enough for their efforts and hope you continue to enjoy the many hours of decorating that they put into the 2018 Holiday Season.  1125180928.jpg

If you have any questions, please contact me at  I will have a final blog article in December that will take a look back at 2018.  I hope that each of you have a safe and enjoyable December.







Course Notes, 10/25/2018


Late October is always one of my favorite times of the year.  The color contrast on the golf course created from horticulturist Greg Stump’s hard work and beautiful design palette starts being replaced by Mother Nature’s vibrant display on the oaks, maples, and even tulips this year.  As the sun starts to set on the 2018 golf season, the grounds staff and I have been busy finishing up fall agronomic practices, starting fall leaf clean up, and beginning late fall activities.

Thinning turf on hole #4

Many of you have asked me about areas that had thinned out in the intermediate and primary rough, like the area on 4 pictured to the left.  These areas have suffered in the last 8 weeks from a combination of a fungal disease (called Gray Leaf Spot) and traffic wear from machinery and cart traffic.  The early arrival of summer left many of these plants shallow rooted and over the course of the season, weakened to the point where wear and disease took their toll.  We have seeded many of these areas with better varieties of grass, and have seen good recovery in many areas.  With the end of the growing season here, any areas that are still thin will be seeded next spring.  These areas will also be roped off to allow the seed to properly germinate and fill in before the heart of the 2019 season arrives.

Tom Thome overseeding the Practice Tee.

The practice tee has also been a topic of discussion.  With the major increase in use it has experienced in the last few years, a major challenge for us is to allow enough time for new grass to germinate and fill in before it is opened back up to use.  This year, Tom and I started dividing the tee into 3 segments, to better distribute the wear and maximize the time the other sections have to heal.  The divots taken on the tee are filled weekly by our staff.  After a section is taken out of service, we heavily overseed the area.  The tee also receives a monthly application of fertilizer.  We will continue to experiment with different methods and seed varieties to better fill in the used sections and further provide you a quality tee to hone your skills on year round.


Marking the new areas of 17 tee.  Well, one of us is.
The sod is cut for easier removal or transplanting.


With sod stripped, the footprint of the new tee on 17 





The blue and black tee on #17 is also being renovated.  The rough in between the two tees have been heavily contaminated with Poa over the years, and its width has dramatically shrunk as well.  The two will be combined into one tee with a gentle slope separating the areas, and widened back to its original size.  The project is expected to completed by next week.


A boat is needed to properly thin the cattails in 14 pond.

While the golf activity on the course has dwindled down, many jobs need to be accomplished before the real cold air shuffles its way here.  The native areas are mown down for the year, cat tails are thinned in the ponds, 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 November 5-7.  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 5th 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.

1024180825We 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.

0723180910_HDRTopdressing.  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 made it to the end of this longer than normal blog post, thank you for reading.  As you can gather, fall is the busiest time of year for our staff.  If you have any questions, please reach out to me at  Have a great week, and I still hope to see you out on the golf course!




Course Notes, 10/5/2018

We successfully aerified the front 9 greens yesterday with what turned out to be a gorgeous day weather wise. Below are some pictures of the process we are using this year.


The first step is applying a generous layer of sand.  As you can tell, we got a very early start since this step takes a while!  Here is a video link to the actual aerification.  We have 2 tractor mounted aerifiers that put 1/2″ holes in the soil profile, spaced 1″ x 2″.



After the sand is dry, we take a tow brush and broom the sand to get most of it into the holes, as well as more evenly distribute it.  After that, we take a blower and blow the remaining sand into the holes.  We have incorporated a blower more into this process due to it being a less-abrasive alternative to dragging sand in.

The final result on #7.

Unfortunately, inclement weather has postponed our efforts to get the back 9 aerified. The topdressing and brushing process needs complete dryness for a successful result, and the current radar is not giving us the 7 hour window necessary to complete the above process.

We will perform this necessary practice on Monday, October 8th, which is a closed day for the golf course. Fairway aerification will start the following day, with all 18 holes open during that process.

If the weather cooperates for us, during the weekend the front 9 greens will be rolled daily. The back 9 greens will be mowed and rolled as they would be normally. Any additional sand that is necessary will be applied when weather allows.

I appreciate your understanding and patience while we work with Mother Nature to complete this part of our agronomic calendar.  If you have any questions, please email me at  Have a great weekend!