December 21st at 5:11 PM (EST), the tilt of the earth's axis reaches the farthest away from the sun (for the northern hemisphere) and the point of least solar radiation for the year. This is called the winter solsitce and marks the begining of winter. It is also the shortest day of the year. Sunrise today comes at 8:01 AM and sunset occurs at 5:06 PM, giving us just 9 hours and 5 minutes of sunlight in Ann Arbor. After this point, the days get longer and the weather, eventually, starts to warm up. From this point, we can start looking forward to spring and a new golf season.
Things here at the golf courses have slowed down. The golf course in winter is something a lot of golfers don't see, but skiers, sledders and people out for a walk still utilize the land. Here is a picture of #3 tee at Leslie I took the other day near sunset (which means it was about 4:30 in the afternoon.) Notice the cross country ski tracks in the foreground.
The highest temperature recorded at Leslie Park during the month of November was 63.5 degrees on the 17th. The lowest temperature was 13.5 degrees (24th.) The average temperature was 37.8. Although the calender says the winter doesn't start until late December, the temperatures feel like it has started already. There were 5 days were the maximum temperature never reached above the freezing mark. Eighteen days had low temperatures below 32 degrees.
The total rain for the month was 1.83 inches. That brings the total for the year to 28.86 inches. The largest rain event was when the golf course received 0.73 inches on the 17th. Just five days saw more than a tenth of an inch and 8 days had more than a trace of rain.
The highest sustained windspeed was 43 mph on the 17th. (If you haven't been paying attention, the 17th was warm, rainy and windy. The average windspeed for the day was 11.6 mph. Looking at daily records for almost 3 years, you rarely see an average windspeed for a day that is above 5, yet alone into double digits.) That high wind speed is the highest ever recorded at the weather station at the golf course. It beat the 42 mph set back in November of 2011. Average windspeed for the month was 4.3 mph.
Chimney Swifts (Chaetura pelagica)are a threatened species of birds that spend summers in the Midwest and winter in South America. They are unable to perch like song birds so they must spiral into their nesting and roosting sites. Before European settlement in North America, Chimney Swifts would nest in caves and hollowed out trees. In the last couple of centuries, they have adapted to using house chimneys for nesting. As more energy efficient furnaces become widespread in households, chimneys are being capped and are sometimes are even being eliminated in new construction. Although worldwide population is estimated at 15 million, just a few years ago the population was much higher. In order to keep the Chimney Swift common, various agencies have begun constructing purpose built towers that the swifts can use as nesting and roosting sites. You can find out more by clicking on chimneyswifts.org or Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania In the spring of 2013, I was approached by a young man who wanted to come up with a project for completion of his Eagle Scout rank. This rank is supposed to include an extensive service project that the scout plans, organizes, leads and manages. I consulted with the City of Ann Arbor's ornithologist and she suggested the Chimney Swift tower. The golf course supplied the construction materials and a site for the tower (to the left of #14 tee). The labor was all organized by the prospective Eagle Scout.
The base of the tower.
The base is about to be set in concrete.
After the concrete is cured, the rest of the construction is completed.
You can see the completed tower from the clubhouse. It is the white line in the upper center of the picture.
The completed tower as seen from #14 tee. It is about 14 feet tall and 18 inches on a side.
The sign on the tower explains about chimney swifts and what the tower does.
We contracted an outside firm to improve the patio at Leslie Park. We flattened an area behind #3 green this spring and built a retaining wall using some of the rocks found during the excavation of Traver Creek. This area worked well as a patio but it needed something to formalize it and finish it off. We decided that brick pavers would be an elegant look and improve the aesthetics of the patio.
The area before the pavers are installed. The orange line indicates the border of the bricks.
Another view before the pavers were put down.
Pallets of bricks staged for use.
The guys in the foreground are laying bricks while the guys in the background are compacting the sub-surface.
The border is called a "soldier" course because it keeps the rest of the patio in line. Bricks will be cut into triangles to fill in the gaps. The herringbone pattern prevents water from flowing between the bricks as it drains off the parking lot.
The finished patio.
Looking from the clubhouse. It will look much nicer with tables and chairs up there.
The high temperature at Leslie Park for the month of October was just short of 80 degrees, 79.9 degrees on the second day of the month to be specific. On October 23rd, we recorded our lowest temperature for the month at just 30.2 degrees. We had four days with low temperatures below the freezing point of 32 degrees.
We saw 4.13 inches of rain for the month. The highest amount recorded on a single day was 1.39 on Halloween. That rain event started the day before and went into the following day. It dumped 1.63 inches of rain on the golf course. This would be a lot of rain for the summer, when the grass would use the water up in respiration, but during the cool, fall temperatures we are seeing now, it will take a while for the ground to dry out. October had two days with over an inch of rain, the other day was the 5th (1.21 inches.) Seven days had over a tenth of an inch and 11 saw some rain. The total for the year up until now is 27.08 inches of rain.
The highest sustained wind speed was 28 miles per hour (Oct 6th) and the average windspeed for the month is 2.2 mph. As I write this, on November 1st, the highest sustained windspeed for the month of November is 34 mph.
This picture has nothing to do with the weather. This large buck was between #11 fairway and #13 tee the other day and I was able to get a picture of him.
Hole #11 at Leslie Park will soon be the hole with the most separate tee boxes. In the Fall of 2011, we constructed a new back tee box that brought the possible yardage on this hole to 503 yards. (You can read about it HERE and HERE) With the new water feature/wetland put in front of the current forward tee, it has become obvious that some golfers have too much trouble getting over the hazard. We decided that a new tee box should be built on the other side of the wetland. This brings our total number of tee boxes for this hole to 5. The yardage from this tee will be around 325 yards.
The view from the white tee. You can see the brown hump where the new tee is going to be, to the left and forward of the wetland crossing.
The intimidating view from the forward tee.
The new tee in it's infancy.
We put some bluegrass sod around the tee to define the teeing surface as well as provide solid footing for golfers walking up the bank in the spring.
The view from the bridge.
The bentgrass seeded into the tee is coming in well. We should be able to mow this before winter.
We have begun the Fall projects at both Leslie Park and Huron Hills. We aerify in order to decrease compaction in the soil and to slow the accumulation of organic matter in the soil. We can do this by either removing the plug created when we "punch holes" or by dragging the plug until all that remains on the surface is the thatch layer.
We use the first method on greens. We remove the plug and then put down a layer of sand. This sand is then worked into the holes left on the surface.
The plugs of soil, grass and thatch removed from a green.
Spreading sand on #12 green at Leslie Park.
The finished product.
On the tees and fairways, we will drag the cores around to mechanically break them up. The soil will go back into the holes while the plant material will not and be able to be removed, usually by blowing it off the playing surface into the rough where it will be mulched into the grass.
Here we are using a tractor mounted aerifier on #8 tee at Huron Hills.
Fairway plugs. Notice the larger diameter. We use 3/4 inch tines on fairways and tees and 3/8 inch tines on greens.
A turf vehicle getting ready to drag the cores on a fairway.
All that remains after dragging is the grass and thatch.
Blowing the thatch off of a fairway.
Since Labor Day, we have completed hollow tine aerification on all of the greens at Leslie Park except #8, #9, #11, #12 and #18. We elected not to do those greens until later in the fall in order to minimize disruption to golf play. We have completed all of the tees at both Huron Hills and Leslie Park as well as a number of fairways at Huron Hills. We are now working on the fairways at Leslie Park. We have also done a solid tine aerification of the greens at Huron Hills. This is done by an outside contractor with a specialized machine. It uses 14 inch long, 1/2 inch diameter tines. This allows for air and water to infiltrate much deeper into the soil than the 4 inch long tines on the aerifers that we have. We plan on hollow tine aerifying the greens at Huron Hills next week.
We know that disrupting the playing surface, especially on the greens, is one of the least favorite things for golfers. That being said, it is necessary to do this in order that the golf courses can handle the number of rounds we enjoy at Leslie Park and Huron Hills. A small inconvenience at this time of year will allow the turf to survive during the long, hot summer months.