Between the Trees Blog

July 2019

I just walked off the 18th green after measuring green speed with a Stimpmeter and came away with a reading of 9.25’.  The goal on these greens, with the heavy undulations and our volume of play, is anywhere from 8.5’ to 9.5’.  Anything slower than this results in the slow greens complaint.  Faster than this means complaints about pin positions and a reduction in usable space on putting greens resulting in excessive wear.  I sometimes wish that I was managing flat greens again where the goal was simply to make putting greens as fast as you can while withstanding traffic.  Managing greenspeeds within a range is much more difficult than just making them fast.  I think we have a pretty good handle on where we are at now and for the rest of the season-for the first time in about 18 months or so.  We have made the transition, finally, from finishing the recovery from the previous year and are back to where we can resume our maintenance (as opposed to recovery) programs as the picture below illustrates.

Vince 7.5.19

16 Collar 7-5-2019

While admittedly not my best photo, upon close inspection you can see two things here.  Darker green patches of bentgrass (desired) interspersed with pale, sad green patches of Poa annua, also called annual bluegrass (undesired).  Look at the areas in the sunshine and you can see the difference better.  This situation is intentional in that we were able to resume our growth regulation programs on greens and fairways in June with the intent of “squeezing out” the annual bluegrass by creating a situation where the bentgrass outgrows the annual bluegrass.  The PGRs (plant growth regulators) that we use encourage the lateral growth of bentgrass while weakening the Poa annua.  These programs are especially important right now since the damaged areas last year were infested with annual bluegrass, some of which was tracked onto greens in the form of seed from golfers’ shoes.  In order to encourage the long-term health of the golf course, we need to really commit to a program of weakening annual bluegrass while encouraging bentgrass.  We had been on just such a program for over 15 years with solid success in keeping the golf course clean.  Last year, however, we had to abandon the program in order to establish new turf in many areas of the golf course and you can tell.  We have annual bluegrass throughout the course, it is not something that we cannot mitigate over a period of 2-3 years given excellent growing conditions like those that we have experienced of late.  Our hope is for conditions that continue to be warm and dry as this will help us to maintain this competitive advantage for the bentgrass.  So far, so good.  More than anything, we do not need any more 6 month long winters with multiple freeze/thaw cycles.

Funny how one year can have such long-term effects on a golf course.  Also interesting is that the management decisions we make regarding the golf course are long-term in nature-the best managed golf courses have a plan to ensure the viability of the golf course well into the future.  As opposed to continually reacting to issues that will inevitably arise if this perspective is lacking.  The challenge is in sticking to your guns in following through with these plans as sometimes the short-term pressures-both financial and from players-can cause one to deviate from the long-term goals.  Financial pressure can cause us to simply not afford to continue our programs-such as our just mentioned regulation program as well as our annual drainage work that has worked wonders in improving course conditions.  This golf course maintenance stuff can get pretty expensive.  An example of player pressure would be in the form of complaints about slow greenspeeds while in recovery.  The worst thing we could have done in June would have been to lower cutting heights below what has historically been our optimal setting as this would have tilted the field in favor of the annual bluegrass as well as encouraged the formation of moss on greens-but this could be the topic of another newsletter. 

See you on the golf course.

Vincent Dodge

June 2019

What a difference a year makes.  As has been made clear before, the golf course overwintered extremely well this past year and the course has, for the most part, fully recovered from the beating sustained a year ago.  This is a tremendous relief to the entire staff in that we are now able to focus on details on the golf course such as bunker edging and weed control.  Taking care of the “little things” is something that we try to accomplish and this year has been conducive to that.

Hole #1 6/3/19

Hole #9 6/3/19

Putting greens at the moment are rolling as true as they have been for this time of the year and will continue to improve as we get into the summer season.  We have intentionally been keeping the fertility on greens a little on the high side to continue the recovery from spring aerification.  We have been working hard to keep greens true and they are.  Speeds are a little on the slow side but this will change when we back off on the nitrogen and begin dialing things in for the summer.  This year is really shaping up to be a wonderful one.

Moving on to staff for the year, we have added a number of new people that have been a tremendous help to us.  We have “gone young” this year with many of our new additions and for me it has been invigorating.  Having been in this profession for quite some time, the technical aspects of the work have become pretty routine and it can be easy to grow stagnant in your work.  What makes things exciting for me is spending quality time with people eager to learn and having the patience to teach these new additions not only how to do the work we do but why we are doing it.  The teaching aspect of my profession is what keeps things fresh for me and I am certainly spending a great deal of time doing this in 2019.  It has been a blast.

See you on the golf course, 

Vincent Dodge

May 2019

Much has been happening since we pulled greens covers less than two weeks ago. The crew has been hard at it performing a variety of chores including drainage line sodding, nursery renovating, open field burning, snow fence removal, various landscape projects, irrigation system charging, rough dragging, fairway aerifying, bunker work, placing golf course accessories, edging sprinklers, power washing clubhouse area, and wetting agent/fertilizer applications on putting greens. Note that there was no mention of mowing as there is more to tending a golf course than just mowing stuff-but we have been doing that as well as the picture below of the driving range illustrates:

        Driving Range                                                       Driving Range
         Friday April 26, 2019                                            Monday April 29, 2019

Rare to see such a hue of green this early in the season which is a nice break from recent history. Of course, the good fortune that we had with weather for the first week we had the crew back turned to something else altogether with snow hitting the area this past Monday. We were extremely lucky in that we did not get the snow accumulation that other places had. We only lost one productive day of work due to the storm for which we are very thankful.

Bunker Maintenance 10 Green
May 2, 2019

Mention was made previously of bunker work and the picture above is a live shot of a solid group in action adding sand and getting bunkers back into playable shape for the coming season. No shovel leaners are evident in this photo. We have gone through over a semi-load of the very expensive white bunker sand for this action and will likely go through another load over the season. Last year’s wet golf season combined with our labor hours being consumed in turf recovery/renovation made trying to keep bunkers in decent shape a real difficult thing to do. This year they should not be the “hazard” that they were last year though a small part of me says, “It’s a hazard. Stay out or take your chances.”

Hotel Entrance Landscape Project
May 2, 2019

We had been asked by the resort/hotel to assist with improving the visuals of the hotel front entrance. We were happy to comply and were able to remove the old, haunted looking plants that were there and add a retaining wall to show definition and class. We look forward to adding flowers and ornamentals to this area when we begin planting at the end of the month. Experience has shown that planting annuals up here before June 1st usually leads to death by frost. 
On a final note, this year has begun as one of the most enjoyable in recent memory. The course over-wintered well, we were able to power up the irrigation system without a single leak for the first time in recent memory, and most importantly, the wonderful group that we have built here over the past 17 years continues to evolve into an even more veteran golf course maintenance crew. While there will always be changes, we have been fortunate to be able to retain solid contributors while adding excellent replacements. We really have created what is almost a family environment with people taking a genuine pride in what it is that they are doing to help make us be the best golf course that we can be. This really is a fun thing to be a part of. We hope that you, in turn, enjoy the product that we work so hard to present.

See you on the golf course, 

Vincent Dodge

April 2019

April is the month in which seasonal staff sometimes visit the shop in order to see what the plan is for the coming year and/or simply to say hi.  Like robins migrating back in the spring.  This past week was especially interesting in that one of our most valued crew members-Greg Federly-brought a drone for us to use to have a look at the golf course.  I had been looking into this technology for a while-there are indeed drones that are built for specific golf course maintenance activities through the use of both conventional cameras and multispectral sensors.  The drone we used combined with a cell phone to give us the ability to shoot video and take pictures.  Flying this drone was so easy a caveman could do it.  I think that the following pictures we took make interesting topics of discussion:

Hole 10
April 1, 2019

This picture of the green side of hole 10 shows that we still have substantial snow cover on many parts of the golf course.  The greens cover is partially exposed.  Snow pack of two feet or so is still prevalent here.  Goes to show just how much snow we had this past winter and how, sadly, it is hanging in there well into the spring.

Back of Driving Range
April 1, 2019

Some parts of the golf course have a nice southern exposure with full sun.  In these areas the snow melts at a much faster rate.  This picture in particular is very interesting in that it shows just how effective our snow mold fungicide applications are for winter diseases.  Green means treated.  Brown means non-treated.  Very easy to tell where our sprayer did its work last fall on the range targets and fairway.  For these areas of the range, we used our older spray rig that does not have GPS technology to assist in the application.  For that reason, we have the triangle shaped areas of the rough adjacent to fairways that are treated.  The limited, manual controls on the older unit, even with my outstanding skills, make it unavoidable to treat small areas of the rough that might otherwise be left alone.  This is in contrast with the next picture.

 5 Green
April 1, 2019

Note the 6th fairway on the left side of this picture and how clean the edge of the fairway is compared to the previous driving range picture.  This fairway was done with our GPS sprayer with more modern controls.  No waste on the edges and honestly, a more professional job done.  We have had this unit for over three years now and I can say that using this unit has saved us, on average, about $4000-$6000 per year in chemical costs-not to mention an increase in application uniformity and efficacy.  We really try to take advantage of the latest technologies on our golf course. 

Also note the 5th fairway in the middle of the picture and how the snow is melted on the side of the fairway.  Never underestimate the value of having full sun on a golf course.  The part of the fairway that is exposed is not shaded by the wood line adjacent to the golf hole.  Looks fantastic.  Remember this picture next time you see your golf course crew removing a tree.  There is a reason for it.

Moving on to what my thoughts are regarding the condition of the golf course for the coming season, I am cautiously optimistic that we will emerge from this winter in much better condition than the previous year.  We do not have the glacial ice layers on the golf course that we had last year for over 150 days.  Everything I have seen so far looks great-including areas under greens covers that we have looked at.  The entire staff looks forward to presenting to you the product to which you are accustomed.

See you on the golf course, 

Vincent Dodge

March 2019

I always enjoy using pictures with my writing and this article is no exception.  I could show you pictures of people painting walls, revamping golf course accessories, grooming trails, and turning wrenches but we have been over all of that in previous articles. 

The first picture gives a pretty good idea of just how much snow we have on the golf course:

Cart Path behind Practice Tee  March 6, 2019

The snow drifts have become so gnarly (over 5’ in spots) that we had to re-route the cross-country ski trails on top of the snow drifts since the existing trails became impassible.  First time this has happened in the fifteen years that we have been performing this work.  There really is a lot of snow out there.
The second set of pictures is a comparison between 2015 and the present time:

Hole 18 March 11, 2015                                                  Hole 18 March 6, 2019

As is obvious in the picture, this winter appears to be hanging on with heavy snowfall amounts in February (28”) and sustained low temperatures.  In some ways similar to last year (yikes!) but with a key difference-we have been consistently below freezing for virtually the entire winter.  This is important because we do not have the formation of glacial ice sheets underneath this heavy layer of snow.   For this reason I do not foresee the wide scale damage to the golf course as we did last year-as least not in the form of ice-suffocated, dead turf.  One thing that I do expect to see once the snow begins to leave is both pink and grey snow mold in areas of the rough where we do not treat for these diseases.  We may even begin to see disease breakthrough in treated bentgrass areas-especially if the spring thaw occurs much later than is “normal.”  This year will be a great test of the efficacy of our fall snow mold treatments-though the damage that we sustain from any kind of breakthrough is rarely anything more than superficial.  That being said, this winter cannot go away soon enough.  We have much work to do before opening in May and the more time we have to perform the work, the better product we can provide.  We sure could use an April that is conducive to turf growth and getting work done but at the moment, I see no hint of spring and with the amount of snow we have to melt, it will take a drastic change in the current weather patterns to make this happen.  Stranger things have happened. 

We look forward to seeing you in a few months.

Vincent Dodge

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