Course Notes, 4/21/2020

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

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Tom Thome meticulously mowing 15 green

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

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Ducks enjoying 3 pond

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

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

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Hole 18, under April snow cover

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

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Solid tine holes, 18 fairway

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

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New Sugar Maple tree, left side of 16

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

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New butterfly garden footprint, 13 green/14 tee

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

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

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Ryan

 

Course Notes, 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, 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.

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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″.

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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.

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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 ryan@elconacc.com.  Have a great weekend!

Ryan

Course Notes, 10/1/2018

0926181343~2.jpgWe have had some incredible weather in the last month for the beginning of fall golf season, and hopefully everyone has had a chance to take advantage.  Leaves are beginning to change color, and even begin to fall in areas.  It is truly hard to believe that both Ladies Closing Day and the Men’s Hole in One Stag are this week, signifying the end of the main golf calendar.  Even with that approaching, there will still be ample opportunities for some great fall weather to come out and enjoy your golf course.

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Mowing fairways on a foggy morning.

Our staff was quite busy in the last couple of weeks beginning our fall agronomic practices.  Greens and fairways were verticut, a process that removes some excess growth and organic matter.  A video of our fairway verticut mower in action on #6 can be viewed here.

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The end result of tee aerification.  Lots of thatch removed!

Tees were aerified on September 4th, and as you can see to the left, we removed a lot of thatch from them! With the warmer temperatures we had, the holes have already healed in for the most part.  Here is a link to a video of all staff performing their role in clean up.  The process involves many persons on blowers, as well as drag mats and manual removal of the excess grass in the end.  They all did a wonderful job!

0725180935_HDR.jpgGreens will be aerified on October 4th (Front 9 and the Large practice green) and 5th (Back 9 and Small practice green) using a solid 1/2” tine.  Both before and after poking these holes, a generous amount of sand will be applied to incorporate into the surface.  We will then use brooms and blowers to get that sand into the holes, and finish off with a roll.

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Final product at the short game area with a happy staff member.  
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Final product

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fairways will be aerified the week of October 8th, using a solid 5/8″ tine. Both processes will involve no plugs being brought up, which is how we aerify them in the spring.  All of this is of course, weather permitting.  With the multiple chances of rain in the 10 day forecast, it is best to call ahead to the pro shop for the latest information on the golf course.  I will also send out updates via this blog.  Below are a couple pictures of us fine tuning the process on the short game greens last week. Bowser and I were pretty happy with the result given the drizzle that fell when we were trying to brush and blow the sand in.

While a short term inconvenience to ball roll and playability, aerification is the foundation of proper soil and turf health and a critical component of any agronomic program. It provides new channels for root growth, oxygen to the rootzone, additional avenues for drainage, and relieves compaction.  The USGA has a few nice articles further explaining the benefits and importance of aerification, a couple of which you can view here and here.  Thank you for your patience and understanding during this busy and quite necessary time in our maintenance schedule!

If you have any questions about aerification, or the golf course, please email me at ryan@elconacc.com.  Please enjoy the great weather that October usually brings to our area.  I hope to see you out on the golf course!

Ryan

 

Course Notes, 4/24/18

It has been quite the busy couple of weeks here at Elcona.  Mornings like the one pictured above are very pretty to stand and admire, and one of the many reasons why I love working in this 340 acre office.  These frosty mornings also cause delays in the start of your round.  I wrote an article explaining why we delay for frost, which you can read here.  

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

Aerification has been completed on greens, tees, fairways, and green surrounds.  in case you have never seen an aerifier in action, below is a video showing our aerifier on #9 green, and how the machine creates the holes using 1/4″ solid tines.

Soil temperatures also have finally warmed enough to make now a great time for applying our pre-emergent herbicides that prevent the development of grassy weeds, like crabgrass.  If you take care of your lawn at home, this is a great time for you to do the same.  Green surrounds will also receive their spring nutrition to promote more consistent playing conditions. 


The pool landscape project continues to move towards its completion.  We have re-aligned the paver walkway to meet up with the shift in the new concrete stairs that were poured in February.  We have also begun adding topsoil to prepare the lower areas for the plants that will be adding color along the wall stone.  One of my favorite parts of the project has started as well, installing the cap stones that sit on top of the wall.  This involves cutting many angles to make the top a seamless course.  With my love for woodworking, this part of the project is right up my alley. 

The club entrance will finally start receiving its final transformation as well this week.  On Thursday, sod will be delivered and laid over the areas where the dying spruce trees once stood.  The entrance columns will also be installed in the next couple of weeks. 

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

Ryan