Friday, October 12, 2018

What a Rush

I believe in one of these posts I proclaimed that our foot comes off of the gas pedal once the calendar flips to October.

I lied.

Big time.

I will preface the remainder of this post by stating just how amazing this tiny little Turf Team of ours' is.  For a lack of a better term, this month has been wild and yet somehow these people have kept the train on the track.  I hope to pass along a little bit of praise with this post, so pardon the mushiness you are about to encounter....

Exactly what have we been up to?  Here it goes....

Municipal Drain Installation

Step One: Strip 7500 square feet of fairway sod and relocate for temporary storage
This step was extremely labour intensive as we prepared for the install.  Conditions were wet at the time, making all 1200 rolls extremely heavy.  The secondary problem was with the warm temperatures, we needed to roll out each roll knowing that it would be on the ground for approximately 9 days.  

Step 2: Disconnect irrigation system
We followed this by having to disconnect the three main lines, and our main power line to the irrigation system.  We had to remove sprinkler heads, and pre-cut all of the lines to prevent further damage when the big machinery arrived.

And then of course it rained....
The day the contractor was to move in, it rained....hard.  Nothing new for 2018, but certainly not welcomed.

Once the contractor moved in on October 2nd, the installation of the 30 inch line commenced with some very deep holes!  The contractor was very clean during this process, and despite the extended time needed, they were very gentle on the course.

Unfortunately, during this extended period of time, we still had to care for the fairway sod that had been removed.  Of course the temperatures soared and with a little bit of rain all 1200 rolls decided to root to the field it was laying in.  In what may have been the worst day of his life, Jake spent 8 hours pulling up on semi-rooted sod making sure that we would be able to get it back to its home base when needed.  An absolute awful job to hand out, but one which ensured that we would be able to re-use our turf.

 Meanwhile, as the contractor was trying to get off of the golf course, we had to work around them in an attempt to get our irrigation system back together.  In what can only be hailed as meticulous planning prior to the job, Claude managed to put everything back together with nary an issue at all.  This was no small task; anticipating all materials needed, following less than accurate maps and a nightmare of working around both turf and outside contractors.  This could have been a nightmare, but instead turned out perfectly - well done Claude.

What was most amazing out of the project was the cleaning out of the outlet of this drain in Errol Creek.  It had been discussed many years ago about the prospect of the Town cleaning out the creek  on our property and bringing it back to its original depth.  As a part of this current project, the contractor had to ensure the outlet was clean....and clean it now is.  

I lost count of the number of dump trucks that were needed to remove the material in this small area, but it was incredible.  It is now clear to see just how overgrown this waterway has become.

Fortunately, the engineer responsible for this project called in the Town to view the severity of our creek.  Upon inspection, they agreed; something needs to be done.  We have now received commitment from the Town to begin work in January on cleaning out the creek!

And finally, today we were able to revisit the fairway sod, and actually reinstall it....16 days after cutting, and 7 days longer than what we had anticipated....

Lena, Shelley, Dan, and Jake slugged it out entirely today, managing to get the fairway back together.  It was a long day, but they knocked it out of the park.

Greens Aeration

Meanwhile over the last two weeks we have taken advantage of sporadic course closures and performed our annual greens aeration.

With my time and energy being spent on the drainage project, I had to do what not many Superintendents can, or will do: I had to pass off the cultivation of our putting greens to Jim, Dan and Jake.

I had not stepped foot on our greens in days, and yet everything was perfect; holes punched and plenty of topdressing down; a supremely successful aeration!  Well done gents!

Winter Prep

Meanwhile, Shelley, Lena and Ruth tackled something that had not been touched in 5 years; the bamboo around the pumphouse.  What a jungle!  

Turf Crew Addition

We have been blessed on the crew to see the arrival of our newest member; Sasha.  He joined us on Labour Day to patrol the grounds, assist with the removal of geese, and to provide a morale boost to everyone on the crew.  So far, he is batting 1.000!  

Sasha is a Gerberian Shepsky; a half German Shepard and half Siberian Husky.  He has done remarkably well thus far, and is extremely obedient.  He is still learning however, so I apologize in advance if the puppy in him momentarily takes over...he is after all only 15 weeks old!

What is next?

The winterization of the irrigation system is slated to begin on October 22nd, and will run for two days.  We are still tackling the annual cultivation of the natural areas, and will continue to do so over the coming weeks.

We still have significant cleanup to do on #10, and hope to have it all buttoned up by mid-November.

Seasonal Staff Departing

It is also of course that time of year when we unfortunately have to say goodbye to some of our seasonal staff.  Last week, Randy finished his second season on our crew, and today we said goodbye to Tyson following his third season on the crew.  Both of these gentlemen were considerable assets to us on the Turf Team this season.  Thank you both!

Thank you for reading, 


Thursday, August 23, 2018

Swampmill Creek

Image result for it only rained twice this summer

A bit of a stretch I know, but it certainly feels as though it has rained all summer!  The dry spring is long but forgotten as we deal with the frequent rains of the past 6 weeks.  

The golf course is incredibly saturated.  I cannot recall in the past 10 years  the course holding water as much as it is at this time of year.  The challenge of course is in the attempts that we must still make to maintain the golf course despite the rain.  Grass certainly does not stop growing, and we have to find ways to get things done - albeit not as cleanly as we would like it to be.

The photo above is of the 8th fairway and the damage being incurred by traffic (both golf carts and grounds machinery).  This is just a glimpse of the many soggy areas found on the golf course.  We have installed some signage in certain areas - such as 10 fairway - in an attempt to minimize damage as we continue to experience wet conditions.  Thank you for your help in adhering to these directional signs.

On a side note, I would like to ask for your cooperation with garbage disposal on the golf course.  It has become common practice for golfers to simply drop their empty cans and garbage at a tee stone, and not in the receptacles.  At the onset of the golf season, we made a switch to using centralized garbage stations as a result of reallocating Turf Team labour.  With that change we no longer specifically spend labour hours on garbage collection daily, and empty the receptacles only a couple of times per week.  This means that the garbage being dropped on the ground, will either blow away in the wind, or sit at these stones for days on end.  This of course is not the look or reputation that you or I are trying to achieve for Sawmill Creek.  Please help us all out by utilizing the garbage stations located on the course, and allow the turf team to utilize their time on productive tasks such as keeping our playing surfaces pristine.  The Turf team thanks you for your cooperation.

Thanks for reading, 


Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Spring out of July

August has arrived - always a joyous occasion for the turf professional as the days become shorter and the finish line starts to appear on the horizon.  It is not said to wish time away, but intended as the joy that a marathon runner feels when they see the finish line - pride of accomplishment but still an overwhelming feeling of exhaustion.

This season is like most others - a wicked ride on a roller coaster of weather patterns.  What started out as one of the driest seasons I have experienced at Sawmill, has given way to a two week pattern with an abundance of rain and growth conditions that we generally see in May and June.  During the latest period of drought, our turf saved its energy and retreated to a dormancy.  All of those stored carbohydrates are now being released causing this influx of growth - leaving us short of our desired cleanliness goal as seen below:

Rough clippings everywhere!
Trying to keep up with fairway growth

It is easy to forget during extended weather periods such as what we are in right now, just how dry it was early in the season....fortunately we have this blog to remind us!  Bearing in mind that we have not had to run any irrigation cycles whatsoever in more than two weeks, we have still surpassed - this season - the total amount we used in all of 2017....a staggering statistic when coupled with the fact that we did so shortly after July began.

Which brings me to the question which has been posed recently as to why all of this wet weather has not resulted in our irrigation pond level rising.  During the period of July 16th to the 30th, we experienced close to 70 mm of precipitation.  These rain events occurred over several days, and were never much hindrance other than to keep everything growing hard. With the ground having been as dry as it was in the previous months, it simply absorbed all it could get, resulting in very little run off.  That run off is what typically refills our pond which has now resulted in its level remaining relatively flat.  With all of our storage ponds at, or near capacity and the calendar flipping into August, I am confident that we have more than enough water to get through the season, even should the tap in the skies shut off.

Pond Banks remain low

This is also a great time to point out just how great our greenside bunkers are performing after our renovation in 2016.  They are passing the wet weather test with flying colours!  Kudos to Dan W for the beautiful job he does at bunker setup each and every time he is out there.

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Almost liked we planned it.....

The last blog post started off with a bit of superstition; which has worked out nicely to be frank....I'll leave it at that....

As is the primary topic of this blog, let's talk weather.  It has been, and looks to continue staying hot for the foreseeable future.  I love the photo taken the other day from the shop....almost like an oven preheating; which as you all know has been the case lately.

The course is handling it marvelously thus far, although it is always a guessing game as to how long it will hold on.  These are extreme temperatures for cool season grasses to thrive in - especially the high overnight temperatures.  The high dew points may make irrigating easier - or absent as has been the case - but it also creates a petri-dish of potential fungal activity.  Dollar spot is certainly taking hold in our fairways and tees, with the pressure mounting on our putting surfaces.  It should be an interesting ride over the coming weeks as summer rolls along.

Clover has been quite active over the past month, with only the back nine having received any treatment so far.  The control has been marginal, but has at least knocked the flower head back.  The front nine will be taken care of as soon as possible.

Thank you to the many who have flagged down our staff lately with compliments and praise.  It goes a long way in keeping the motivation for many of us during these grueling summer days, and is nice to know that our efforts are appreciated.  Thank you!

Enjoy the heat!


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 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!


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,


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, 


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,


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!


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