Thursday, December 1, 2011

November 2011 Weather Summary

I noticed an interesting phenomenon this morning while checking the course. In 90% of the bunkers, the snow had melted except over the underground drainage lines. This allowed me to get a visual on where these lines are located. The nice thing about that is it could allow me to find the beginnings of the drainage lines. When constructing bunkers, the drain lines will often have a "clean-out" at the beginning of the line. These "clean-outs" allow someone to easily flush the sand and silt that accumulates in the drainage over time. This may improve the speed at which these bunkers drain rain away.

Here you can see the herringbone pattern of drains in the bunker on #14.

A similar pattern on #12

On #7, I painted a yellow line on the snow to help me trace the drain to the end.

Speaking of rain, we received 4.77 inches of it in November. This brings our yearly total here at Leslie Park Golf Course to 39.42 inches. We had 10 days with over a trace of rain and 8 days with over a tenth of an inch. We had 2 days with over an inch of rain. Those days were the 22nd and 29th.

The high temperature for the month of November, 2011,was 66.4 (The 8th of November) and the lowest temperature recorded was 18.1 on the 18th. It got below freezing on 7 of the 30 days, but the daily high was always above 32 degrees.

The highest wind gust was 42 mph (Nov 9th.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

More Fall Projects

#11 is the scene of most of our projects this fall. You may remember that we built a new tee already. (You can see this tee here)

On the left side of #11 near the green, there has been a continual problem with an area of peat mixed with clay. This area holds water and is impossible to mow and also causes some unfair lies. Here is the area in 2009.

The area in August of 2011.

I went in and removed the peat and clay areas with a backhoe and replaced it with pea-stone. We put in catch basins connected to existing drainage.

We then covered the pea-stone over with about a foot of soil and graded it out to a gradual slope that forces surface water into the catch basins.

This is after we got 1.27 inches of rain last night, hence the puddles.

In the spring, we also had a large issue with standing water on the right side of the fairway, about 250 yards from the green. The water would come out of the woods and collect in a hollow near the tree line. We had so much rainfall this spring that the water would overflow and flow across the fairway. This created a huge mess and cart traffic had to be routed through standing water to play the hole. Earlier in the fall, we put in a catch basin in the hollow and we are now working on connecting the catch basin to existing drainage near #13 tee.

We will be working on trenching across the fairway next week. 

On a different note, today is the last day for golf at Leslie Park for the year. As a reminder, our sister course, Huron Hills will be open until the snow flies. It has been a good year and I hope to see you out on the course in 2012!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Picking golf balls

Every few years, a company comes in and drags the ponds on the golf course for golf balls that have been lost to the depths. The have a couple of utility vehicles with a winch system rigged up. They use the winch to pull a ball picker back and forth between them. They collect all of the balls and clean them. They then send us a portion of those balls that they recover. Here is a video of them dragging #17.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

October 2011 Weather Summary

The high temperature recorded at Leslie Park in October 2011 was 79.7 degrees (Oct 8th.) The lowest temperature was 27.4 degrees (Oct 30th.) There were 4 days where the temperature fell below freezing.  The average temperature was 52.0.

2.73 inches of rain fell in October. There were 10 days with more than a trace of rain, 7 of which had more than a tenth of an inch. Only one day was there more than an inch of rain. On the 19th, we got 1.04 inches. That brings the total rainfall for the year to 34.51 inches at Leslie Park.

The high wind speed was 32 miles per hour (Oct 15.)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Irrigation Blowout

We blew the water out of the irrigation lines yesterday. This is to prevent the water in the lines from freezing and cracking the pipe. In order to do this, we rent an air compressor from a large equipment rental company in Detroit. About a dozen golf courses around Ann Arbor go in on this compressor together in order to cut down on costs. We rent it for 3 weeks and shuttle it from one course to the next until everybody is done with it. You may have seen lawn care companies around town blowing out home lawn irrigation systems. They will usually use a 175 cubic foot per minute (ft3/min) air compressor. The one that we get is 825 ft3/min. The pressure that we run is around 60-70 psi. This contrasts with the normal water pressure of between 108 and 118 psi.  Anything higher that 75 psi with air and the irrigation heads are at risk of breaking. Here is a picture of the compressor set up in front of the pumphouse.

Here you can see the 2 inch hose running directly into the 10 inch steel line coming out of the pumphouse.

This is the view of the pump controller.

Our two 50 horsepower, variable speed, vertical turbine pumps.

When blowing the water out, the goal is to get 90 percent of the water out. In theory, as long as 70% is out of the line, the pipe should be able to withstand water freezing. The problem is that with the pipe changing in elevation, some low areas might have 2 or 3 times the water that high spots do.

When you first turn on the irrigation head, you get out pure water.

After a few minutes, most of the water is gone.

When you have a large volume compressor, you can have up to 20 heads running at any one time.

Here is a video of the process on #5 green. I apologize for the shakiness.

I borrowed a dump truck from NAP to take the compressor to Tim Dark, Superintendent at Barton Hills Country Club.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Fall Projects

It has been a busy couple of months here at the golf course. We are almost done with aerification. Only #16 fairway has yet to be completed. We will then do selected approaches and tees a second time. Next week, we will blow out the irrigation system.

The two biggest projects so far this fall have been a drainage project on #16 fairway and a new tee box for #11.

The drainage on #16 involves the landing area about 240 yards from the green on this long par 5. For the last several years, we have not been able to mow this part of the fairway until June or July. This year, it never really dried up. It had been on my list of things to do when we got a chance, but the wet weather this year moved it up the list.

This is the transit that we used to make sure the drainage would drain properly.

A picture of the pipe in the ground before we hooked it together and filled it in with pea stone.

Another view before pea stone was added.

Laying the pipe on the pea stone and filling in the trench.

Cutting the pipe to length.

This is how the area looks today, over a month later. The trench was seeded with bentgrass. I think you will be able to tell where the trench was for years to come, but it has dried the area up noticeably.

The second project was to add a new championship tee to #11. This par 5 was often the easiest hole during the tournaments, with numerous birdies and even eagles recorded. This tee box will add 22 yards onto the hole from the current black tee markers.  Overall length could go up to 504 yards.

This is where the tee is going to be. Notice the aerification plugs on the tee.

After removing some trees and starting the project with our front-end loader.

I decided a bulldozer would make the work go easier. Luckily, the city has it's own little 'dozer.

Here, the tee has been leveled and tee mix (80% sand, 20% soil) has been put on top.

We laid bluegrass sod around the perimeter and seeded the actual tee with bentgrass.

The view from the back, right corner.

Ten days later, the bentgrass has started to grow. (The blue pellets are mulch that we put down to help with moisture retention.)

A close-up of the seedlings and mulch.

The tee should be open for use by May. Good luck!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

September 2011 Weather Summary

It has been a busy couple of weeks. Sorry for the delay in this summary.

The highest temperature recorded was 93.7 on the 2nd. Two days had high temperatures above 90. Lowest temperature was 38.9 on the 16th.  The average temperature was 61.8.

We had 14 days of rain with a maximum of 1.00 inch on the 26th. Total rain for the month was 5.22 inches.

High wind speed was 33 mph on the 3rd.

The rain at the end of the month put off greens aerification until the 3rd and 4th of October. As it sits right now, the greens and tees have been aerified and 8 of the 14 fairways have been aerified. The weather this week has been great for aerification and the greens should heal very quickly.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Months ending in "ber"

The last four months of the calender year are the beginning of the year for a golf course. I was told this by David Heroian, the Superintendent of the Myopia Hunt Club in South Hamilton, Massachusetts, where I did my internship in the summer of 1998. The thinking behind this is that everything that you do during the Autumn is in preparation for next summer. For some reason, a large portion of the golfers put away their bags after Labor Day. This may be due to football, the kids going back to school or some other reason, but play really drops in the fall. It shouldn't be the weather, because in my opinion, the fall is the best time to play golf. On many days in September and October, the high temperature will be in the upper sixties or seventies with very few clouds. If we are lucky enough to have this type of weather in April or May, golfers will be lining up to get out on the course. Of course, after a long winter, cooped up inside, I don't blame them for wanting to get outside. During the fall, this same weather will be met with open tee times and discounted rates.

This drop in play gives us an opportunity to perform some maintenance that is disruptive to golfers. The biggest one is the dreaded "aerification." When the greens are aerified, the ball roll can be slowed down and if the holes are not properly filled, the greens can be bumpy. If we can get out and aerify while the grass is still actively growing, this disruption will only be about seven to ten days. When it is put off until later in the year (mid to late October in south-east Michigan) this period can last 2 weeks or more. If the weather does not cooperate, the greens might not fully heal until the spring. Last year, we aerified greens on the 16th and 17th of September. Many times in the month of October, I was asked when we were going to aerify our greens. They had no idea that they were already done, due to us taking advantage of the warm weather.

The tees and fairways are also aerified in the fall. This presents less of a problem for golfers. On the tees, the holes do not come into play because the golfer is allowed to choose where he will hit from and will usually put the ball on a tee. The fairways have longer grass and as with greens, if the holes are filled properly, it should be fully healed in a week or so. Most of the disruption will be one the day that we actually are working on the hole. This will usually only be two or three holes, due to the large areas that we are talking about. Most of our fairways are between one and two acres in size.

Fall is also the time when the summer stress is done with for the most part and the grass will start growing roots again. In Michigan, the predominate grasses used on golf courses are "cool-season" grasses. This includes Kentucky Bluegrass, Creeping Bentgrass, Ryegrass and Fescue. These grasses grow best with the temperatures between 60 and 80 degrees. "Warm-season" grasses such as Zoysia and Bermuda (as well as Crabgrass, which isn't a turfgrass, but a weed) don't start to really grow until the temperature reaches 75 degrees and will thrive until it hits 90 or so. When the temperature gets above 80, cool-season grass begins to shut down and go dormant. This is why areas that don't get irrigation will often turn brown in July and August. When this happens, the grass is just trying to survive and often the roots start to retract. At the end of August, we are lucky to have 2 inches of roots on the greens. By the end of October, I hope to have 4-5 inches of roots. The healthier the grass is going into winter, the better it will be in the spring.  Aerification allows the roots a nice , friendly place for new roots to grow. It also allows oxygen to get down into the rootzone.

Fall is also a great time to control weeds. Most of the weeds that we have on the golf course are "winter-annuals." This means that the weeds sprout in the summer and then over-winter and really take-off in the spring and set seed for the next generation. Because of this and the fertilizer needs of the grass (the fertilizer that we put on the fairways in the spring is pretty much gone) right now is a great time for a "weed-and-feed." This is a fertilizer that is coated with a broadleaf herbicide. It makes sense from a couple of standpoints. The first is that we accomplish two goals with one application. The second is that we can save money. If I were to buy a granular herbicide, the manufacturer would have to coat something with the herbicide. This is often ground-up corncobs. If you do a weed and feed, the fertilizer is what is coated with the herbicide. As one salesman has told me, it is like you buy the herbicide and you get the fertilizer for free. Of course, you don't get anything in this world for free, but if you compare prices, if fertilizer costs $20 and herbicide costs $25, the combined product would cost $30. (I am totally making these prices up, don't quote me on any of this.)

During the early winter months, the grass stops growing and we start on preventative maintenance on our equipment. We change the engine oil, hydraulic oil, fuel and air filters on all of the mowers. We also change the oil on the golf carts, as well as check the filters and spark plugs on the carts. The tee, green and fairway mowers all have reels and bedknives that need to be ground and sharpened. The rough mowers have blades that need to be sharpened. We also clean up the shop. During the hectic summer months, it can get quite messy.

These are just a few of the reasons that, as a golf course superintendent, you cannot trust the calender. The New Year starts in September.

P.S. A big thank you to Robb Johnston for the title of this post. Robb works for the City of Ann Arbor's Natural Area Preservation Unit.  He also is a childrens author. Check out his blog for The Woodcutter and the Most Beautiful Tree

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Greens Aerification

Leslie Park will be aerifying the greens on September 26th and 27th. Will will close down the back 9 and begin there on Monday the 26th. We will close down the front on Tuesday and finish them up then. Of course, this is all weather dependent.

We began aerifying the tees on the Tuesday after Labor Day. We did a few tee boxes at a time without ever completely shutting down any one hole. So far, we only have some boxes on holes 11, 12, 13 and 14 left. We hope to get them done tomorrow.

For a quick review of the aerification process, check out my posts from last fall.

Greens Aerification

Fairway Aerification

An explanation of the benefits of aerification

Thursday, September 1, 2011

August Weather Summary

After the July we had, it kind of turned around for August. We had zero days above 90 degrees in August. The closest we came was 89.0 on the first of the month. Lowest temperature recorded was 49.6. (29th) Average temp was 70.1.

We had 4.64 inches of rain. 6 days had over a tenth of an inch and one day (the 9th) had over an inch. (2.42 inches)

Highest sustained wind was 30 mph on the 20th, while the average wind speed was a meager 2.2 mph.

We have turned a corner in the turfgrass growth. At the beginning of the month, we had almost 14 and a half hours of daylight. By the end of the month, we had lost over an hour to 13 hours and 12 minutes of sunshine. The temps are dropping overnight and spends more time in the optimal temperature zone where grass can actually grow and recover, as opposed to during the heat of summer when we are just looking to maintain what we have. Civil sunrise (the time when there is enough light to see) was at 6:29 AM with actual sunrise at 6:58. Sunset is at 8:10 PM with civil sunset at 8:38. What this means is that first tee times are pushed back until almost 7 and the last golfers should be off the course by 8:30PM.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Wildflowers and sunrise

Some pictures I took the other day in my travels around the golf course.

Honey bees on spotted joe-pye-weed (Eupatoriadelphus maculatus)

Joe-pye-weed (Eupatoriadelphus maculatus)

Blue Vervain (Verbena hastata)

Goldenrod (Solidago spp)

Evening Primrose(Oenothera biennis)

Joe-pye-weed and other plants in the buffer strips along Traver Creek

Irrigation running on #9 at 6:45 AM