Between the Trees Blog

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

December 2018

You really cannot get through a single day without hearing something about climate change and the negative consequences of it.  Recently we have been experiencing powerful and frequent storms on the east coast, uncontrollable wildfires in California and unprecedented red tides in Florida.  Whether you believe that man is responsible for these occurrences or not, there is no doubt that we as human beings have an obligation to take measures to protect our planet to the best of our abilities.  Golf courses, over the years, have been demonized for environmental recklessness-many still believe that all we do is pollute and waste water resources.  While this may have been an issue years ago, at the present time university research and better education for turfgrass professionals has led to maintenance practices that are much more environmentally friendly.  In addition, a more stringent registration/regulation process has led to an overall reduction in the toxicity of products available for commercial use-especially on golf courses.  I am very proud to be a part of this evolution in golf course maintenance and we continue to enhance our environmental efforts through our membership in the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf.

Bee Hole3 Rachels from 2014

Bees Hole #3-Wilderness at Fortune Bay

Declining bee populations have been evident nationwide of late.  The Wilderness at Fortune Bay has not applied an insecticide on turfgrass in the past three years.

The Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program (ACSP) currently has a membership of over 2300 golf courses in the United States.  The Wilderness at Fortune Bay has been a member since 2005 and has recertified on four different occasions since then.  Participation is this program has been both an excellent opportunity for us to access information and an inspiration for us to improve our efforts.  Our wash water and spill containment systems, recycling program, energy audit, electric and hybrid equipment purchases, reduction in irrigated areas, addition of butterfly habitat, and fertilizer usage reduction plan have all been a part of our commitment to the environment and to the ACSP.  Please see the following link for more information on the ACSP:

Turtle Hole16 Rachels from 2018

Turtle chilling out on drainage line.  Note white clover in out of play rough.  In areas where playability is not affected, we will let the clover take over to provide a pollinator for bees.

Our next effort will be to provide an environment for Monarch butterflies.  I remember seeing these butterflies all over the place when I was a child but now I do not remember the last time that I saw one.  Statistics say that their populations have declined by 90% over the past 20 years.  We at the Wilderness would like to do something about that with the Monarchs in the Rough program:

We have already been in touch with the administrators of the program and hope for their help in seeding an acre of the golf course with plants that allow Monarchs to thrive.  The area that I have in mind is the sliver of rough behind the 12th green running between the lake and the wood line.  A perfect, out of the way area that should be fun to prepare and seed.  As you can tell, these efforts to improve our environmental commitment are continual and, honestly, not very difficult to accomplish.  All it requires is a commitment to environmental conservation-something which the Wilderness at Fortune Bay has had since its inception.

Beaver Hole3 Rachels from 2014

Beaver Hole #3-Wilderness at Fortune Bay

Have a wonderful Christmas season and a Happy New Year,

Vincent Dodge


October 2018

This has been an interesting year to put it mildly.  A brutal winter followed by a non-existent spring followed by a summer with violent storms and heavy rains and concluding with early snow that caused an early closing of the golf course for the year.  I will be very happy to put this year behind us and move on to 2019.

The first snow that stuck was on October 5th.  This caused the course to close for most of the day and while the snow did melt promptly, it was followed by consistent rains that ensured that the golf course would be waterlogged for the next few weeks if not the remainder of the year.

Hole 9 October 5, 2018

The next batch of snow arrived on October 11th.  This time it was 3” of snow accompanied by high winds that caused drifting on many holes.  Some of the drifts, like in the picture below, were well over a foot high.

Hole 13 October 11, 2018

This weather event was, pretty much, the nail in the coffin for 2018 and caused the early closing of the golf course.  The crew, sadly, was given an involuntary week off while we waited for this snow to melt.  On the subject of the crew, I cannot express enough how happy I am with this group and the way in which they have rolled with the punches in this challenging year.  It is in times like these when you find out who your good soldiers are.
At a time when finding good help is more challenging than ever, I have been extremely lucky to retain a crew that continues to perform dependably in the most demanding of conditions.  A few of these All Stars are pictured below:

Left to right:  David Pike (14 years), Howard Ankrum (9 years), Willie Larouque (1st year), Rolf Anderson (14 years) fixing yet another bunker washout on 9
September 28, 2018

Closing the golf course is an exciting time for golf course work in that it allows us to perform the disruptive, messy work that makes a difference.  One such chore is the installation of drainage on problematic parts of the golf course.  We have acquired a mini excavator and drainage materials to install over 1000’ of golf course drainage.  The focus this year will be on holes 1, 16, and if materials remain on 11.  Pictured below is the honorable Roger Makela excavating drain lines to correct a drainage problem on the 1st hole.

Drainage-Hole 1
October 19, 2018

This is dirty work but works wonders in improving the long-term condition of the golf course.  I find this kind of work to be among the most rewarding type of project.
On a final note, we are currently installing greens covers in this the final week of work for most of the crew.  While it is a little breezy for this kind of job, I am always impressed with the efficiency of this group.  They know that as soon as this chore is finished, the sooner they may enjoy their time off from what has been a very trying season.

Greenscover Installation 18 Green
October 22, 2018

I would like to say thank you to all of our loyal customers who make the work that we do possible.  We enjoy what we do-working outside is something that everyone on the crew enjoys.  If they did not, they would not endure working in the challenging conditions with which we contend.  We only hope that the winter does not last a full six months like it did last year so that we may be better able to provide the conditions that we are all accustomed to.

Vincent Dodge

September 2018

What a wonderful month August was for us on the golf course.  We received only an inch of rain throughout the entire month-most of it in the early part of the month.  Ask most superintendents what they prefer and they will say too little rain over too much.  It felt good to use the irrigation system to its full potential for the first time in about two years-and it is good to know that for the most part the system remains solid and dependable.

I have no fancy pictures for the article this month but I can say that the difference in conditions from last month to this month is really quite dramatic.  I know that it is a good sign when the complaints go from dead grass to slow greens.  Slow greens means that you have a putting surface with grass on it-something that we have been working hard to achieve.  We are now at the point, finally, where we can now switch our focus from recovery to optimal playability.  These two turfgrass maintenance objectives are really not conducive to one another.  When pushing recovery, the growth that results, while pretty, results in a playing surface that is softer and slower that a fine playing golf course should be.  Now that we are pretty much recovered from the damage, we can now focus more on trying to firm things up and try to achieve the “firm and fast” that everyone is always talking about.  Sad to say it is now September when we hit this point, but given the circumstances, I am not surprised.  As I have said before, these things take time-especially in a shortened season like this one has turned out to be.

As I reflect on how this whole process panned out, I can think of a few things that I may have liked to have done differently if we ever have to do this again:

  1. Keep course closed until June 1st. This would have saved much wear on surfaces that simply were not growing yet (soil temperatures too cold) and made a recovery faster.  That being said, May’s weather was fantastic and play was up.
  2. Temporary greens on 7 and 14. This would have helped immensely to minimize traffic on these two most punished greens.  They would likely be fully recovered by now if we had done this.  However, I think that the complaints from being on temporary greens for a few months would have been just as bad, if not worse, than with keeping them open to play.  In addition, where exactly can you put a temporary green on 7?
  3. I think that we could have been more aggressive going after the 7th Green. Looking back, I think that we could have been much more aggressive deep verticutting/aerifying that green.  The resulting mess would have led to more complaints early but I think that the recovery would have ultimately been faster.  Like most things on this list, there are pros and cons either way.
  4. Invest in a non-disruptive seeding attachment and overseed areas with more frequency with less labor. While there were areas on fairways and greens that we seeded 3-4 times throughout the season, I think that we would have done this even more often if we had the proper equipment to do so.  I am going to make it my mission to have something like this on the shelf for these kinds of occasions.  Indeed, I already have something in mind.  We used the overseeding tines that I had purchased in March on many occasions this year and they worked well, but there are other techniques that we could add to increase the efficacy of this process.

As I talk to players about the golf course, most are extremely supportive of what we do and show interest in what is going on.  I enjoy these conversations and get valuable information from them.  For that, I thank you for the support.

See you on the golf course.

VIncent Dodge

August 2018

As we all know, this season has been one of challenges-not just for us but for many facilities in this part of the state that experienced the same long, screwy winter we had.  Sad to say that here we are in August and we still are discussing damage from months ago but it is, simply, what it is.  I have a few photos to share to show a technique we use and how well it works.

The technique is called hex plugging.  We remove hex shaped lugs from our nursery and install them on the damaged part of a putting green to assist in recovery.  The practice is time consuming and requires a great deal of patience to do properly.  Most of this work was and continues to be performed by Danny Hilmas, who has be invaluable in his performance of this chore.  Other crew members have assisted as well.  The results to date are shown in the photos below:

 16 Green 6.26.18 116 Green 6.26.18 216 Green 6.26.18 3

16 Green June 26, 2018

16 Green 7.31.18

16 Green July 31, 2018

To date, we have installed hundreds of these plugs throughout the golf course and will continue to add more as we can around the heavy play we have been receiving of late and when labor permits.  This process has been ongoing and will continue over the next few weeks.

Seeding on damaged fairways has taken hold and continues to establish, like the picture below shows:

18 Fairway 8.3.18

18 Fairway August 3, 2018

Most fairways are showing a similar kind of recovery and should continue to improve on a daily basis.  We had two waves of fairway seeding throughout May and June.  Lots of work.  The seed catch on most was good though there were a few instances, like on 6 fairway, where heavy rains after we seeded washed some of the seed away and slowed establishment.  A little rain is good, heavy rain events not so much.

As a comparison, we intentionally left the driving range fairway alone to function as a control to show the comparison with what this area would look like if we did nothing.  We will seed these weak areas of the fairway later on this season when conditions are optimal for establishment.

Untreated Driving Range 8.3.18

Untreated Driving Range Fairway August 3, 2018

The difference in the areas is striking and shows that what we are doing is working.  There is no overnight solution to this kind of recovery.  Just hard work and patience. 

I had alluded to some heavy rain events earlier.  The later part of June and early part of July were abnormally wet with rain forest like conditions.  On July 11th and 12th we received close to 4” of rain (the usual monthly amount for July).  The result was the following on the 1st fairway:

1 Fairway 7.12.18 11 Fairway 7.12.18 21 Fairway 7.12.18 3

1 Fairway July 12, 2018

This was truly a mess and took all day to cleanup with a group of people including the pictured Assistant Superintendent Trevor Rintala.  A result of this rain event was also the thorough washing out of bunkers that took a crew of 8 two entire days to repair.  Not fun.  I find the picture below useful in showing just how heavy these rains were:

2 Fairway Bunker 7.11.18

2 Fairway Bunker July 11, 2018

The drainage system underneath this lake (about 4’ deep) was simply overwhelmed by the volume.  The rain fell in a short period of time.  The water was gone within a few hours but the damage to the bunker took some doing to make right again.  A tough stretch of time for the crew but in their usual manner, they soldiered on.  I love this group.

On a related note, our crew recently sustained a substantial loss when my assistant Trevor Rintala-the before pictured silt cleanup guy on the washout picture-found a position working at a golf course in Hawaii.  Trevor had been contemplating a change for well over a year, as these winters were taking a psychological toll on him (as they do to many that live here).  I am sure that smoked turf and raking silt off a bentgrass fairway helped him in making a decision to move over 3900 miles away.  We will all miss him greatly.

I hired Trevor over 15 years ago as a seasonal golf course maintenance employee who had never worked on a golf course before in his life.  He had hair then.  Blessed with an inherent competence, intelligence, sense of humor, and ability to work with anyone, Trevor moved up through the ranks, went to turf school in New Jersey, and functioned as my right hand man for over a decade.  Best assistant I have ever had the honor to work with(there have been many over the years) and while the entire group will miss him, I cannot help but feel immensely proud that he was able to put himself in a position to make such an exciting change in his life.  Vaya con Dios Amigo.

Trev and Vince Last photo

Trevor and Vin 8-1-2018

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