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.
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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

Course Notes, 8/26/2019

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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.

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2019 Grounds Department Staff

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!):

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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.

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Brushing fairway turf up before it gets mowed.
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Expanded rough left of 16

 

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.

IMG_0374This 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.

IMG_0377With 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.

Hiking Trails MowingAnother 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.

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Monarch caterpillar enjoying some lunch
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Monarch on some Purple coneflower

 

 

 

 

 

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 ryan@elconacc.com, 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!

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Ryan

Course Notes, 7/16/2019

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

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8 Green showing some heat stress

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

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

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

Dragging dew off fairways

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

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Giving 15 green a syringe

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

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

15 Green.  Hot!

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

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Ryan

Course Notes, 6/23/2019

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

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

 

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Bug spray injury on 16 tee

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

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

Also, we are smack in the middle of thunderstorm season.  When inclement weather approaches the course, or if lightning is detected within 10 miles of the golf course, the Pro Shop staff will blow the siren indicting that it is mandatory you seek shelter immediately.  This link here is a video from the Weather Channel explaining the different ways lightning can severely harm or kill you out on the course.  I have also included a pretty dramatic picture of an oak tree getting struck just minutes after the siren was sounded at this year’s US Women’s Open. Here is a link to the video from Fox Sports.   The take home message here is that when the siren sounds, please come seek shelter immediately.  Please shelter in place until you hear a second siren, which sounds only when the threat has passed and it is safe to resume play and the golf course is in a condition to do so.  Your life is worth much more than finishing the hole you are playing.

0508191212A few of you have asked about some fluctuations in green speed recently.  It has been and always will be a top priority for me to keep the greens as consistent as possible while maintaining a healthy playing surface. It is not uncommon for speeds to vary from day to day based on our rolling program and other external factors.  During a typical week of the peak season we will mow greens daily, and roll them on Tuesday, Wednesday afternoon, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  All of our maintenance practices are dependent on weather allowing us to do so without harming turf health or playability.

There are many other items that factor in to green speed, which include:

Moisture Levels: What can affect moisture levels? The two main culprits are rainfall/irrigation and humidity. It’s no secret that firmer/drier greens tend to be faster and soft/wet greens lead to slower speeds.  We combat this as much as possible by hand watering the greens in the summer and using products to help move water down through the soil profile leading to a drier, firmer surface.

Weather: What happens to your yard after it rains? It grows and typically grows much faster than it did before it rained. Rainfall provides the turf with clean, usable water that helps to flush elements from the soil that tie-up nutrients, therefore making the nutrients readily available to the turf. Nutrients lead to healthy turf which can lead to additional growth. Believe it or not, lightning also plays a large role.  The unbridled energy of a lightning bolt shatters nitrogen molecules in the air. Some of the free nitrogen atoms combine with oxygen to form compounds called nitrates that mix with the rain. These nitrates are a powerful natural fertilizer that any plant can readily take up and thus increase its growth rate.

Nutrition: The turf needs food to be healthy. Just as with humans, the healthier it is, the more active it tends to be.  Healthy turf will grow more than unhealthy turf.

Growth: Turf is a living, breathing entity.  It doesn’t just grow at night when most of us are sleeping, it grows during the day as well.  This means that the greens will usually be slower in the afternoon than they are in the morning.

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Sand topdressing applied to 15 green

Topdressing:  Typically in season, we apply and broom in topdressing sand, and the amount of sand varies based on the rate at which the plant is growing.  Topdressing sand helps smooth and firm up the surface of the greens.  A smoother surface provides less friction on the golf ball and a faster speed.

Growth Regulators: Growth regulators work and work very well, but despite what you may think, they do not completely stop growth, they merely slow it down.  Over the years we have found a schedule that will provide very consistent results from day to day, minimizing surges in growth, but like everything else, the performance of the product is dependent upon several of the factors listed above.

I would encourage you to spend a few moments before each round on one of the practice greens.  They are maintained the same as the greens on the golf course and will give you a good reference as to what the greens on the course will be like on that given day.

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

Ryan

Course Etiquette and other FAQ’s

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

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Unrepaired or under repaired ball marks, 3 green

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

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

Repair your ball mark and one other.

Every divot should be replaced when possible.

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

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

Enter and exit bunkers from the flat back side.

Care and think about the members playing behind you.

Together this will make a HUGE difference!

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

How do you repair a ballmark properly?

Unrepaired pitchmark
Poorly repaired ball mark

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

Why aren’t any sand bottles on the carts?

Sand bottles are not supplied for the same reason as above: to help keep the course cleaner. Many times it is easier to reach for the sand bottle than walk a few yards to retrieve a divot, leaving the fairway looking littered. Also, many people overfill the divot with sand, leaving an unsightly pile of soil, which leads to dull mower blades during the next mowing. The grounds staff periodically fills all fairway divots during the golf season.

What is the greens rolling schedule on a weekly basis? 

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

What is the preferred divot pattern on the practice tee?

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

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

This individual is “syringing” or cooling down the Poa annua leaf tissue during a hot summer day. This misting typically takes one or two minutes. We do our best not to interrupt your enjoyment of the golf course, but if you see a maintenance staff member working around you, please give him or her common courtesy and make sure they see you before you hit your next shot. They and their families will appreciate it.

What is the proper way to rake a bunker? Where should the rakes go when I am done?

Unraked bunker 2

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

What are the general maintenance principles of Elcona CC?

  • To provide the finest quality playing surfaces with minimal inputs and a keen eye on environmental stewardship.
  • To prepare, preserve and maintain the golf course as the major club asset and to afford the opportunity to provide enjoyment to the club’s members and guests.
  • To protect, understand and fulfill the golf course architect’s and club membership’s vision with a goal of a fair golf challenge for all levels of player ability.
  • To plan and execute programs and procedures that maintains a superior golf experience as well as enhances and protects the environment, property, and aesthetics of the club within the standards and benchmarks set within being a Certified Audubon Golf Course Sanctuary.

Other interesting facts about Elcona CC:

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

Ryan

Course Notes, 6/5/2019

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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Poorly draining area at the bottom of 12 fairway

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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Family Tee Scorecard

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

Thank you for taking the time to read this longer than normal update.  If you have any questions about what is going on outside, please do not hesitate to contact me at ryan@elconacc.com.  Have a great week and I hope to see you out on the golf course!

Course Notes, 3/22/2019

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ryan