Friday, June 15, 2018

Employing Superstition

History has shown that if I blog about course conditions, or make note of any sort of extreme weather pattern, the opposite comes to fruition.....so here it goes.....

IT IS DRY!!!!!



We are going through our water reserves at a steady pace.  With one pond already emptied, and another well on its way, water conservation will become a topic of conversation very quickly here.  The lack of humidity, steady winds and high skies have all contributed to very high evapotranspiration rates.  This means that the turf plant is requiring a lot of water right now to sustain health at the moment, and if an issue is encountered, it makes it very difficult to play catch-up.

This is the exact scenario that we are faced with on holes 11, 12 and 14 following an electrical issue with our control system.  It just so happens that this satellite controls more than 100 sprinkler heads (by far the most on the golf course), making it very difficult to compensate for the breakdown we experienced.  We have been fortunate to have had low overnight temperatures which has prevented this from becoming a larger issue than it has already been.

With this week's topdressing of our greens, it has been nice to see a return of our great putting surfaces.  Speed has picked up, as has ball roll, which has been noticed by many.  Thank you all for your positive words of encouragement.

I am sure many of you have noticed the drastic improvements to the gardens and landscapes surrounding the clubhouse.  Shelley, Lena and Ruth have all been diligently working away at this vast transformation, and deserve a big pat on the back for their hard work.  There is still much to come....

Thanks for reading!

Jamie

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Many Questions


Weather is always the hot topic of these blog posts and is the single greatest driver in relation to course conditions.  Over the years’ I am sure you have heard many an explanation for course conditions based upon weather, as we have attempted to keep you informed on the state of the golf course.  Today’s post will be no different….

The up and down roller coaster that we have been riding for the past 4-6 weeks has left both the turf and myself confused as to what is truly going on in the ground.  We have been dry in comparison to neighboring communities, but have also been dealing with extreme weather swings as a result of wind direction.  I have lost count of the days now in which the rest of the province is dealing with hot and humid temperatures, while that north wind keeps us right around the 10 degree Celsius mark.  With a quick shift in the wind we skyrocket into those extremes, or can plummet just as fast.  Confusing to golfers who never know how to dress for their round, but also confusing for the turf which cannot seem to get settled in any way.


A great example of this is shown in the picture above.  During the hot, dry and windy spell of last week, the turf was doing all it could to hang on, having not been accustomed to the stress of heat and wind that it was experiencing.  In what would be considered a routine practice, the simple act of vehicle traffic proved to be too much for this particular spot and the tires left damage to the frail turf plant.  This is just a small example of how these temperature fluctuations can impact turf quality.

Taking this into account on a larger scale, imagine the stress being induced during the act of mowing.  At the time of this heat wave we were still attempting to get control of turf that was growing at a very rapid pace – it was spring after all and we all know how fast turf can grow.  Cutting more than 1/3 off of a plant is never ideal, let alone doing so in the middle of a heatwave, but this is exactly where we found ourselves last week in trying to stay on top of it.  This has left some fairly brown looking turf, or “linksy” as one member put it.   Perhaps not what we are all accustomed to, but a result of weather patterns and vital maintenance on our behalf.

Looking Linksy 


The USGA has once again assisted us Superintendents with a nice blog on weather conditions, which can be found here.  Note the section discussing coastal golf courses, and the challenges that a cool body of water has on turf conditions....sounds very familiar this season....

Summer weather will arrive eventually and should bring some stability to our turf and its performance.  Steady temperatures and a little more moisture will help with consistent playing conditions.  Until then, enjoy the challenge of never knowing what you are going to get!

Oh, and make sure you keep that sweater handy…..and the sunscreen......(and maybe the parka today).

Thanks for reading,


Jamie

Friday, May 4, 2018

Spring Update


If you happen to have access to newsletter articles I have written in years’ last, or even care to scroll through the Turf Blog you will see a perpetual pattern of entries made at the beginning of May each season.  They generally say something along the lines of:

·         It’s been a frustrating spring to get turf going
·         Wet weather has hindered progress on project x or y
·         We are looking for extended periods of warm and sunny weather to really get the golf course alive and kicking
·         Our greens are still dormant, and will be for a few more weeks
·         Poa will start to emerge and frustrate us all with its disruptive seedhead production
·         Patience is key, I assure you the greens are not dead despite their white/yellow appearance.

Greens are still trying wake up

And as per the norm, all of the above is true once again in 2018!

I encourage you to continue to provide us with feedback with regards to the changes we have implemented this season.  I have had conversations containing mixed feelings from some of you, but the only way to truly understand how these changes have been received, is to contact me directly.  Feedback can be a gift if given and received in an effective manner and I encourage you to let me know where you stand.

The irrigation system is alive and well, with only one major line break as a result of the winter season.  This of course was right at the first tee but has been buttoned up nicely by the crew.  With the system entering its 25th season of operation, we naturally incur electrical issues usually caused by the many rodents that call Sawmill Creek home.  If you encounter a rogue sprinkler head which mysteriously turns on and off real quick, with no staff in sight, chances are we are having some sort of mouse induced electrical problem.  Please let the pro shop know as soon as you can, and they will contact me to let me know. 
The only freeze damage from winter

Finally I will ask you all again this season for your cooperation in keeping our staff safe.  We have already experienced several near misses this season with respect to golf balls and staff, and I ask that you please ensure that if you are in the vicinity of working members of our team, you please make sure that they are aware of your presence.  A simple wave will suffice and grab the attention of our team members letting them know that you are ready to hit.  Golf balls acting as projectiles have the ability to injure and harm our team members.  Please respect their safety at all times, allowing them to return home in the same condition in which they arrived.  Our families thank you for your respect.

Thanks for reading, 

Jamie

Friday, April 27, 2018

The difficulty in accepting change

Image result for change is hard


The hot topic at the club recently revolves around some of the changes made in how we maintain the golf course.  If you have not had a chance to do so, I encourage you to take a quick read at my last post for a better description of these changes which have taken place for the 2018 season.

If you are a casual reader of this blog, you will note that I have wondered down a path in the last couple seasons of questioning some of our former maintenance practices, and asking rhetorical questions.  As time moves on, necessity has dictated the need to find efficiencies and alternative means of performing our duties as economic factors continue to eat into our yearly operating budgets.  As a part of my contractual duties as a Golf Course Superintendent, it is my job to operate within the means provided to me by the club, and present the best possible product available within these parameters - the basis point for every decision made over the course of this past off season.

The decisions made to reduce garbage containers, ball washers and going to one block per tee as opposed to two, were all in an effort to reduce labour hours - an area we were forced to find savings in as a result of sweeping Employment Standard Act changes.   This is not news to anyone in the province - we have all heard the backlash against franchisees with Tim Hortons, or have personally griped about the cost of our weekly grocery bills.  The impacts have been felt by all Ontarians.

To look at the operating plan of the Turf Department, and the number of hours we spend on each task through the season, I can tell you that there are not a lot of areas of excess.  This crew is lean, efficient, and has been for many seasons.  But change is progress, and a matter of life.  If change did not occur, we would all still be blowing asbestos based insulation into the attics of our houses while guzzling lead gasoline in our big blocks.

So how did we come to the decision to make these changes?

It was quite simple really; these were the only changes we could make, without sacrificing the playability of the golf course.  To even consider cutbacks to mowing schedules or greens maintenance would have had greater implications to the business, and one which I would not even consider.  I trust that you and I are in agreeance with this.

It was not even 15 years ago that a push was made through the Canadian Golf industry to remove water coolers from courses.  The NGCOA recommended to all of its members that they ought to remove coolers following the death of an Arizona golfer from a contaminated water jug on the course.

And we did.

I bring this up now as I can still recall the passion exhibited by members at the club I worked at at that time.  Displeasure was expressed, threats of membership resignation and the likes were received, and the promise that this would drive business away from the club due to the removal of this service.  Ironically, as time passed on, and us (naturally) stubborn humans became accustomed to the change, it became a normal part of our routine - pack a bottle of water in your bag.  (And as a side note, those passionate individuals are still members of that club to this day!)  My point being, we will all get used to these changes - if we give them a chance.

The final point I want to make in regards to these changes, is that I want you to really think about those ball washers, and what is contained within them.   Think about the water that sits within these steel units, with sun light dish soap, and a week's worth of soiled water from your fellow golfers.  Baking in the sun, agitated infrequently, with who knows what growing inside - if this water was ever tested, I would hate to see the results.  Despite our best, and time consuming efforts, these units often took on the odour of our local cow pasture more than a cleaning device.

So I will ask if this is this really the determining factor between an enjoyable round of golf, and a spoiled walk?  Or does a moist towel perform the job effectively, and more conveniently being with you at all times?

Food for thought....


Thank you for reading,

Jamie

Monday, April 23, 2018

Frost Delay Reminder

With the sunshine finally gracing us with its presence, there is a greater likelihood of frost delay mornings.  Clear skies, low wind, and temperatures hovering anywhere below 5 degrees C, can cause slight delays with daily tee times.

This is as good a time as ever to remind everyone exactly why it is we must be patient on these mornings.  Being that I cannot adequately explain as well as the USGA, have a look at the below video to learn why we ask for you cooperation.




Thanks for watching!


Jamie

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Starting out Slowly

The anticipation brought on by the arrival of spring and Masters week is always subdued when you are located on the shores of a Great Lake.  As excited as we all are to get the season going, it has been and will continue to be a slow start to the year.  The long term forecast doesn't contain much to be excited about just yet, so patient we will remain.

This post will give details about some forthcoming changes to the golf course this season.  With the numerous changes made to the employment standards act over the past few months, golf course operators across the province have been forced to make changes in the manner with which they maintain their properties.  To give one such example, all GolfNorth properties - 30 in Ontario - are instituting a Rake, Clean and Place rule for this golf season as they halt all bunker raking.  A significant change to how golf courses are cared for, but necessary in today's golf climate.

Although I would argue that we are not taking such a drastic change to the operation of Sawmill Creek, some changes have been required to ensure that we can provide the best possible playing conditions on a daily basis.  The mandate set out for this department has not changed, and as such we will put forth the best product that we possibly can.  The following is a list of changes that you will notice this season:

  • Ball Washers have been removed - If we don't putt with a dirty ball, I will ask the question as to how a ball becomes dirty between the green and tee?  With the age of our ball washers, and the surprising amount of time it takes annually to care for and maintain a ball washer, this was an easy decision to cut out of the turf program
  • 1 tee block as opposed to 2 - New tee blocks have been constructed for this season which are taller for visibility purposes, these new blocks will serve a few functions.  By only placing one block on the deck, it will allow for players to expand the possibility of teeing area on a daily manner, but will also cut down on the number of times staff have to handle each block.  With 4 different teeing grounds per hole at Sawmill Creek, the amount of time spent entering and exiting a mower can add up significantly; this decision will save time during maintenance practices
  • New Garbage Stations - With the removal of the ball washers, we have also removed the garbage bins located from every hole.  There will now be 4 stations located on the golf course to place garbage into, at spots designed to capture as many hole intersections as possible,  We will have two bins in each station with one being for garbage and the other for beer cans only.  Jim has done a marvelous job at turning these former fruit bins into beautiful rustic containers!
  • Hole Changing - Hole changing was always done on an "as-needed" basis; generally around the 150-200 golfer range.  Although this will remain the goal going forward, inevitably it may be stretched at times.  Weekends will especially become tough to change positions as frequently as years' past.  
  • Bunker Raking - We will still be maintaining bunkers and aiming to fully rake a couple of times per week.  The difference you may notice is our inability to rake following weather events.  A part of the new labour laws do not allow for schedule changes without notice (although we are exempt from some of these laws in weather extreme events).  As an example, we know that Friday's through Sunday are short staffed days in the Turf Department this season and should we experience torrential rain event over these days, it will not be possible to put everything back together immediately.  You may be notified occasionally of a local rule taking place on days such as this where we do implement a Rake, Clean and Place
  • Vergeer Golf Returns - By the end of May we should welcome back Derrick Vergeer and his team to complete the fairway bunkers on #6, as well as complete the seeding of all filled bunkers.  This should wrap up the project we started a year and a half ago.
  • Increased Garden Presence - We have given Shelley some much needed help for the 2018 season, as she will be joined by a full-time helper to enhance and beautify our property.  Stay tuned on this one for some exciting eye-popping changes!
There will be a learning curve for everyone; staff and members alike, but with an open-mind I am confident that we can all become accustomed to the new way of operating this golf course.  With our entire turf staff returning in some capacity for 2018 (yay!) we have a skilled bunch of eager and motivated individuals who are just as committed as ever to provide you with a great experience.  

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at jamie.downton@sawmill-creek.com

Jamie 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Aeration Update

A cool, crisp, soggy day is the perfect time to update the ol' blog, so here is a quick rundown of how our greens' aeration went last week....

In a single word: GREAT!

The weather was perfect, we had no mechanical issues, and the task wrapped up on Wednesday afternoon.  Although the size of the cores being pulled were a bit smaller than I had hoped for, we still managed to remove quite a bit of thatch.  

It has been almost 7 days since we completed the greens, and most of the holes have already healed up.  The final application of fertilizer was put down yesterday morning, just in time for today's rain.


Coinciding with the completion of aeration, was the raising of the height of cut on the greens.  You will inevitably notice that the green speed will be slowing considerably, as we prepare the plant for the upcoming winter season.  

We started the aeration of the tee decks yesterday, and managed to get in a handful before our aerator decided it had had enough.  I am unsure when we will restart the process, and may even wait until we start the fairways at the end of the month before resuming.

As we approach the end of the year, we unfortunately have to say goodbye to our seasonal staff.  I would like to to thank both Jake and Dan for their efforts this season.  Both of which were some of the best rookies' to ever perform here in the Turf Department, and they will be missed greatly.

Thanks for reading,


Jamie

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Summer has left us

As is the norm in these parts, it appears as though summer has left us rather quickly.  The pst couple of weeks have presented highs in the high teens and lows dipping to single digits.  The weird weather year of 2017 continues...

As is also the case, I often sit at my computer at this time of year, and wonder how it has been 6 weeks since my last update.  There is no point in making excuses, it is what it is, so let's just begin.....

I would like to begin by thanking the small army of support that we received from resident's and members during the GAO Juvenile Championships last month.  For us to put our best foot forward and showcase the club, it is always imperative to have a few extra set of hands available, and we could not have done so without you.  Thank you.

I am sure you have noticed that the fescue has begun its annual trimming.  We will continue to cut the fescue over the next three weeks, in an attempt to clean it up as much as possible prior to our herbicide applications.

It is also that time of year when the aerators come out of storage, and start the very important task of allowing our turf plants to breathe.  We have started with some non-invasive slicing to the fairways, and will continue with the coring of the rough, tees, greens and fairways as we finish off the year.  There will be some disruption to playing areas at times, and if the weather is wet, do not be surprised if things get a little muddy.  As always, this is short term pain, for long term gain.

Greens aeration will begin on October 2nd, and I do anticipate this taking 3-4 days to complete.

On a final note, I know many of you are aware of the loss we had in the turf department last month, with the Turf dog Kayda.  Kayda had been with me for more than 10 years, and had been by my side from my beginnings as a Superintendent.  She was responsible for keeping us relatively goose free, and her presence is already missed (there have been hundreds of geese out on the course the past few mornings).  Although it was sudden and unexpected, Kayda left us doing exactly what she loved; running the course.  In fact, the day she passed away, she refused to ride in the cart with me - she just never gave up.  The dog lived to work, and we all enjoyed her presence in the shop every day.

As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to shoot me a line at jamie.downton@sawmill-creek.com

Thanks for reading,


Jamie

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Perfectly Imperfect

It has been an incredible run of 4 days now without any measurable precipitation; a trend which appears to be coming to an end with the forecast showing four days of storms rolling in.  Generally the forecast can be spotty at best, but being that tomorrow is Thursday, and it has seemingly rained every Thursday this season, I am placing bets that we will see it once again this week...

I will admit to my brain working overtime this season in the amount of refection, and analysis of our operation in the turf department.  The turf team is well aware of some of the newly implemented processes this season, and for whatever reason, I am really rattling my own cage in pushing the envelope as to how we do things.  I am no longer satisfied with the typical "that's' how we've always done it" mentality, and have gone searching for improvements.

Case in point, the current state of our putting greens.  They are rolling great, hitting our target green speeds 90% of the time, growth rates are typical, disease pressure has been minimal, and they just received a great topdressing on Monday.  All things considered, they are acting the way we have become accustomed to over time.

However, have a look at this photo and tell me how some areas of our putting greens look.....


What do you think?  Is that a good or bad look?  Do we even care what they look like, so long as they putt great?

So here's the deal; contrary to popular belief, this is not a bad infestation of dollar spot.  This is simply the Poa annua throwing a tantrum, screaming for food.  Poa is that needy child; the always hungry, always thirsty, always has to go to the washroom the second you pull out of your driveway type of thing.  It wants food, it wants water, and it wants it now!

And I've got some news for it - IT'S NOT GETTING ANY!

With the issues we have had the past two seasons in the quantity of Poa infestation, one of the best management strategies is to quit catering to the needs of the less desirable plant, and start favouring the species you want to thrive.  Bentgrass is less needy; it does not need to be fed as often, it does not need to drink near as much (which has been tough to control in a wet year), and is simply more hardy.  By us not tending to the needs of the Poa and giving it what it wants, you will be able to see the bent outcompete the Poa as it begins to undergo stress.  And this is where we are today.

This does not mean that we will be 100% bentgrass after a single season of this type of management, and certainly the weather will dictate how we can proceed, but it does give our bentgrass the opportunity to fight back.  There is no knockout cure, but this is one round in which we can compete.

Thanks for reading,

Jamie

Monday, July 10, 2017

Why is there garbage in roadside ditches?

After a brief flirtation with hot and dry conditions last month, the summer of 2017 has proven largely a warm and wet affair thus far.  This can create challenging conditions for turf managers to cope with, as stressors are increased on turf health in times like this.

If you are questioning why the odd title for this blog post, there really is a simple answer.  You see, we as a golf community often question the need for the constant reminders to golfers, in adherence of common etiquette matters.  Why do we need to remind someone to look after the mess they made such as in the photo below?  And I think the answer is simple; we are, as a species, inherently lazy.  How else can you explain this?  Or how can you explain the volume of roadside garbage, or the fact that most corner lot homeowners, experience wear and tear on their property from those cutting across their property to reach the sidewalk on the other side?

We all know that these actions are wrong, yet unless we are being monitored, unless we believe that we are going to get caught "breaking the rules" so to speak, we do not think twice about saving ourselves the extra effort....

 But enough of my psychological ramblings for today....

With the heavy rains yet again upon us, we took the opportunity to get out in front of them this morning, to break the crust which has been thickening on our fairways, and slice them open a bit to allow for some fresh air.  The process is not very intrusive whatsoever, however, the payback is large.

You may notice that a few of our collars have taken on a not so glamourous appearance recently.  They look as though they are burnt out, and starving for water.  This is not the case however, as these areas have been attacked by the Annual Bluegrass Weevil (ABW).  The ABW burrows itself into the crown of a plant, and starts munching away.  When we experience any sort of high heat or environmental stress situation, these areas succumb to their injuries, and give off the appearance that you see below.



The great news about this is, however, the ABW only chews on Poa plants, and thus keeps our bentgrass population healthy.  So look on the bright side; this give us the opportunity to reclaim these areas as bentgrass!

Thanks for reading, 



Jamie