Thursday, June 19, 2014

Latest Course Condition Report

The month of June has proved to be an extremely wet month for us.  Until today we have held our own quite well.  We are blessed with a course that naturally drains well and over the course of the past 12 years we have installed a considerable amount of drainage to assist with the process.  But at some point, once the soils reach complete saturation, even the best draining course reaches its tipping point.

This morning, on top of the 5.4" of rain we have received this month, we received another 2.67".  At this point the water has no where to go.  The creek is beyond capacity and drain lines are full with no where for the water to drain.  Additionally soils in all areas are at field capacity.  Until we see a significant recession of water on the course, the course will be closed and no carts will be allowed.

I heard a report today, since January, in the Twin Cities, this is the wettest spring in history.  If you recall, last fall the club made the decision to install XGD drainage in all of the greens.  Aside from the restoration, it is probably one of the best decisions they have made for the golf course.  Drainage on greens has been exceptional this spring and has allowed us to provide extremely healthy greens with deep root systems.
Driving Range
 The beginning of 9 fairway
 A nice river of water coming down 9
 The right rough of 9
 The creek over the banks on 13
 One of the worst bunkers on the course, 12 green.  Thankfully due to the construction of the bunker 12 years ago, this is as bad as it gets.  
The bunker behind 14 green is the only one still holding water.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Spring Activities


 This past winter was tough for all of us and most Minnesotans, no matter how hardy, could not wait for winter to end.  If you thought it was a hard winter for you, I'm sure you've noticed many of the evergreen plants had an even tougher winter.  Yews, arborvitae and pine trees show significant signs of winter desiccation throughout the region.  The trees and shrubs on the golf course were no exception.



 It's obvious from the photos both the yews and arborvitae endured significant winter damage. The weather showed no mercy.  It didn't matter if the shrubs were young or mature and established, it was all susceptible to winter injury. Damaged plant material has been removed and will be replaced with hardier shrubs that are not as susceptible to winter desiccation or are a favorite for the deer buffet.

Following the restoration 11 years ago, it's been our goal to maintain the original design and intent of the bunkers designed by architect Ron Prichard.  Mr. Prichard stressed the importance of maintaining a laced edge appearance to the bunkers which provide a classic architecture design.  In order for us to ensure we follow through with this objective, we have never in the past 11 years, mechanically edged the bunkers.  In fact this is only the 6th time in the past 11 years bunkers have been edged.  Based on the design and our method of edging we only need to implement this task every other year.  

What's also interesting about our process and they way the bunkers were designed, even after we edge, the edge of the bunker doesn't appear that we did anything.  Using only a four pronged pitchfork, the individual edging simply finds the soil line and rips the sod from the edge.  One of the goals in the process is to completely avoid edging too deep outward from sand, which would place the pitchfork into the soil.  If that happens, we have just contaminated the sand with soil and that would be a big mistake.  Additionally there are many bunker lips on the face side of the bunker that have never been edged as the grass is not creeping into the sand.  These areas are not to be touched and would only ruin the edge of the bunker and ultimately create contamination.  


Aeration of playing surfaces is now complete.  Fairways aeration was completed just little over 2 weeks ago. This spring fairways were once again solid tine aerated.  This marked the 6th consecutive year when we have not needed to core aerate fairways.  Solid tine aeration, like core aeration, reduces compaction and allows for oxygen to reach the roots.  It also provides excellent channels for water infiltration.  Over the past 6 years we been able to convert our fairways back to predominately creeping bentgrass.  Since creeping bentgrass favors a less disturbed surface, this process has been instrumental in the conversion .  

The bentgrasses on our fairways consist of a wide variety of old grasses that probably date back as much as 80 years.  These old varieties do not require much fertility and since we keep fertility rates low, the plants also do not create a lot of thatch.  If and when we feel we have reached a level of thatch that needs to be removed, at that time we can certainly bring core aeration back into the mix of cultural practices. Until that time arrives we will continue to solid tine aerate the fairways.  

 This past Monday and Tuesday greens and tees were also aerated and topdressed.  The process went extremely smooth and the staff did an outstanding job completing the process in just two days.  I expect the greens to be fully healed by next week. At that time we will begin to lower the height-of-cut on greens, bringing them into summer playing condition.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

And They're Off


The greens covers were removed yesterday.  The staff endured a steady breeze all day, a few times having to fight the wind and hold on to the cover with all their might.  Fortunately we had a staff of 16 to aid with the removal process.
 It's easy to see why so many are required to removed the covers.  Any amount of wind and the covers and foam will blow away.
 All greens emerged from winter in perfect condition.  Not a blemish on a single green.  Through all the years that I have been at Minikahda, I don't recall the last time this happened.  This winter, though extremely cold, the greens were covered in snow since early December.  The snow provided excellent insulation throughout the bitter cold periods thus protecting the finer swards of turf.  Tees and fairways are also in very good condition and show no signs of winter kill.
#17 green

#13 green.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Sneak Peak

Let's face it, its officially spring and we have the itch to get back to work on the golf course.  But based on the temperatures this past month Mother Nature has other plans.  Today was the first day we were able to pull up the greens covers in a few locations and take a sneak peak at the greens.  There were only three greens we could pull the covers up enough to crawl under.  All other greens just have too much snow on them.  

The turf on greens 2, 5, and 18 looked fantastic.  Granted the total area we observed was probably less than a total of 500 sq.ft., what we observed was exactly what we where hoping to see.  The turf had excellent color from the leaf tips to the crowns.  Although the poa annua had a slightly yellowish color compared to the creeping bentgrass, we were very pleased with the visible health of these three greens.

Based on the 10 day forecast we looking at covers remaining on the greens for at least another week.  If conditions change we may be looking at the week of April 7th to remove covers.  It's always difficult to make predictions to far in advance this time of year so obviously we will make our decisions on a day by day basis and bring seasonal staff in as soon as the weather allows.

The entire course has a consistent covering of snow at this time, but there are a few select areas where fairway turf is visible.  This photo is from the beginning of the 14th hole.  The creeping bentgrass looks fantastic.  No winter desiccation and no signs of snow mold.  If all the fairways emerge from winter in this condition we will be off to a good start this spring. 

At this point during the winter season (even though it is officially spring) we are very pleased with our observation of the current turf condition.  Now if we could just get some warmer temperatures and some snow melt we will be heading in the right direction.  

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Winter Detail Projects

During the winter months we always try to find one or two projects where we can improve upon our course accessories.  If you've been following the blog you know we made a complete conversion of our previous cart traffice blocks to Ipe wood.  Ipe wood is consistent with our tee markers, benches, cooler stands and tee tables on the 1st and 10th tee.  After examining our old 150 yard stakes we felt it would be wise to upgrade the cedar stakes, that had been painted white, to the ipe wood.   



Typically we use the 150 stakes to indicate hole locations on the green, indicating the front, middle and back locations.  On the previous stakes a colored plastic cap was utilized.  The trick for this process was to find a way to use the Ipe wood and have an interchangeable cap and one that would fit properly on the wood without spinning. 

We created a notch in the stake and cap with an inserted spike that allows the cap to fit perfectly on the main 150 stake.  The Ipe wood 150 stake is now consistent with all other wood products on the golf course.  


Based on the extended weather forecast as well as the 12-18" of snow that continue to cover the land, we have plenty of time for additional projects around the maintenance facility.  We've grown tired of the color of the office hallways, locker room and bathrooms consequently we decided to change the paint color and replace the old base molding.  Alyssa did a wonderful job and we are all pleased with the color selection we made.
 Framed copies of the original Ross Prints are proudly displayed in the hall of the Turfgrass Management Facility.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Water Management and Record Keeping by Isaac Kasper

Water management decisions might be the most important agronomic choices we make as turfgrass managers.  Too much or too little water in the soil can have a detrimental effect on the playing surface.  Soil moisture content influences the playability of the course, the turfgrass disease susceptibility, the ability of turf to germinate and grow, soil compaction, and has a major influence on the turfgrass species that will thrive in a given environment.  There is also a negative public perception that golf courses waste water.  So we must do our part to defend our water usage.   We must be wise stewards with our water resource, and that is why we feel the need to collect sound data and have thoughtful reasoning for each watering decision we make. 

Since water usage is so fundamental to our success, it is imperative that we keep accurate records of water usage and moisture content for each season.  We use spreadsheets for recording this data and creating irrigation water usage charts and greens moisture charts.  It is one thing to have the numbers written in a spreadsheet, but it is way more useful to create charts with the information.  They help us simplify it and make it much easier to read. 

We recently upgraded our irrigation software to Toro Lynx.  This program has helped ease the data collection process immensely.  At the end of each season we run water usage reports and export the data into a spreadsheet which we use to create our usage charts.  The water usage charts show us how much water we used each month and where it was applied on the golf course.  It is very interesting to see and compare the water usage between seasons. 

The charts can help make informed decisions and where we may be able to reduce water use.  For example, if we decided to reduce our water usage by 10%, how would we do this?  If we had no data on past seasons’ watering we would have no place to start.  Would we want to water 10% less across all playing surfaces?  This seems like it may be a little short sighted and unrealistic.  Since greens, fairways and tees are our most important playing surfaces, could we maybe cut the 10% in other areas?  If we were to cut 10% out of our total water usage and take it all out of the rough, what would we be left with?  From our 2013 chart I see that 17% of our water used last season was in roughs, so if we take 10% of that away we are going to water our roughs less than half as much as in the past.  This may or may not be acceptable.  Since we have the numbers in front of us we can more easily make informed decisions.   Water use is currently a very big topic, and for good reason, so it is extremely important to have access to this data in the event that water cutbacks were ever mandated.

We also track moisture on greens daily.  Our greens are a patchwork of bentgrass and poa annua.  For poa to perform optimally the moisture needs to be higher than for bentgrass to thrive.  Balancing the two and finding the ideal moisture, taking in to account the weather conditions and daily play can be a tricky task.  So to better aid in our decision making process we use moisture meters.  Through the use of meters we obtain a quantifiable number which guides our watering decisions.  Each day the cup changer also brings a soil moisture meter and checks each green in nine locations and writes down the average.  This number is recorded and tallied on a spreadsheet so that we can track moisture.  We look at these numbers and have conversations about moisture daily.  How are the greens performing and where is the sweet spot for them?  Are we having to hand water a lot in the afternoon?  Is it so much that we are affecting golf play?  If the greens started at a slightly higher moisture level in the morning would they make it through the day with less hand watering?  Would this benefit them?  These are all questions we ask.  At the end of the season it can be very informative to look back and see the times when the greens moisture was up or down and compare their play quality at the same time.  By recording the daily numbers and creating graphs we can put the data in an easy to read format which helps us make these decisions and also helps us defend those decisions afterward.

As grounds managers, we take pride in our ability to read the conditions and make decisions based on instinct and experience.  That is important and it should not be minimized, however intelligent water management is so crucial to our success, we must make the most with the tools we have available to us.  By creating water use charts we give ourselves one more tool we can use to make smart watering decisions.


 

This chart makes it easy to see where on the course we are using the most water and where we are using very little.  We can also create this chart with gallons of water used labels.