Between the Trees Blog

July 2015

As I write this article, it is a sunny and beautiful summer day-the kind of day that means the golf course is busy and our customers are happy. A busy golf course also means that the golf course begins to show its wear and tear from excessive traffic. This is particularly true in regards to ballmarks on greens which on some holes-notably the par 3’s-have become a nuisance to both the staff and the players. I know that I have been over this topic before over the years and so I will not bore people too much about the need to repair ballmarks promptly-most players know this. The problem is that many simply do not do it. I understand that sometimes in the excitement of the moment after a big shot a player might forget but I think that there are some who think that “I paid money to play here so I shouldn’t have to fix it.”

Our staff repairs all ballmarks every morning before players arrive and while nothing works better to repair ballmarks than to fix them within minutes of their making, it is the best that we can do. The problem is that ballmarks left untended affect the groups playing behind you for the remainder of the day until we make the repairs the next morning. The only way we could prevent this would be to station a person by each green throughout the day to fix ballmarks as they are made-not a realistic option.

Thank you all for your patronage and we hope to see you here soon.

Vincent Dodge CGCS

June 2015

As we move into the summer months we are, for the most part, very pleased with the condition of the golf course and the experience that we can offer to the player. Greens as of this morning were rolling 9 feet on the stimpmeter consistently on all putting surfaces. The ideal speed on these greens with their extensive contouring is 8.5’ to 9.5’. Any faster and these greens become very difficult to manage for most players-that is those with a handicap index of 5 or greater (approximately 95% of players).

With the US Open concluding at Chambers Bay this past weekend, I thought a discussion of greenspeeds might be relevant. Chambers Bay with its extensive greens contouring and fescue greens would likely play best at speeds between 9’ and 10’. Maybe even a little slower than this. US Open standards, however, call for green speeds considerably higher than this-12’ or greater is the typical green speed target for US Open preparations. My belief-remember that this is just my opinion-is that hiking the speeds of those putting greens is asking for trouble in the form of annual bluegrass (Poa annua) encroachment and an overall decline in the health of the fine fescue greens. I sometimes wonder why this is even necessary.

I fully understand the appeal of very fast greens-on flat putting surfaces the faster the better. Fast greens are fun. But I think that the design-both contouring and turf type-of a putting surface needs to be taken into consideration when determining optimal playability and I think that in the case of Chambers Bay the USGA erred on their setup requirements. Extensively contoured greens can offer their own set of challenges for the best players without exceptionally fast speeds.

The stimpmeter was originally developed to measure speeds of putting greens in order to ensure that speeds were consistent from green to green. At some point, its use has been wrongfully changed to being a measure of how “good” a putting surface is. Faster means better and in some cases this is simply not true-particularly on a golf course being set up for normal, everyday play by the general public. A golfer playing on fast, heavily contoured greens that are getting the better of them will rarely complain about fast greens. Instead, they will comment about how tough and unfair the pin placements are. Even when the pin placement is, in fact, not unfair. The fact is every pin placement can be a challenge on heavily contoured greens that are rolling fast.

See you on the golf course.

Vincent Dodge CGCS

May 2015

As of this writing it is, finally, a beautiful day on a golf course that is making the turn toward being in the full swing of the summer season. Most of the slight damage incurred by the winter is gone and we can look forward to conditions only improving going into the summer months. This transformation in golf course conditions from winter to summer did not magically happen on its own but required (and continues to require) a dedicated effort from our staff-many of whom have been working with us for well over five seasons. My appreciation for their efforts runs deep and I hope that the next time you see any grounds staff working on the golf course that you stop to say thank you for their efforts.

The reason I ask this is that sometimes grounds work can feel like one of the most underappreciated tasks on the golf course. In many ways we are like the offensive linemen on a football team-when things go well most people do not notice but when there is a problem we often get the blame. Carrying the analogy theme to a different level, the golf course staffing world can be compared to an aquarium.

Imagine an aquarium in perfect balance that contains angel fish, neons, and catfish. Equating this to golf course staff, the angel fish are the golf professionals, the neons are outside service staff, and the catfish are grounds crew. Everyone notices how beautiful the colorful fish are as they swim around going about their business-they are the first thing that the observer sees. Few notice the catfish hiding in a skull at the bottom of the aquarium, but he is busy doing his job of helping to keep the aquarium clean and in balance so that the other fish may thrive. All is good when the aquarium is in balance. Of course an aquarium out of balance usually results in the fancy fish dying, a new home being found for the catfish that usually endures, and the aquarium being sold in a garage sale. Not really sure how to fit this part into the golf course analogy but it is an amusing comparison nonetheless.

Hope to see you all on the golf course,

Vincent Dodge

April 2015

By far the most productive times for a golf course crew are the weeks after closing and the weeks before opening. This is the time of year where we try to perform our most disruptive, lasting, and satisfying work that results in an improved product for our customers. Many people think that work only occurs when the golf course is open to players and while this may be true for courses that are happy with the status quo; this is definitely not true with us. One of the latest improvements we made this past off season is the addition of the rock and chain barriers that we used to replace the rotten, ugly, and dangerous pine logs on holes 1 and 4 that were almost ready to roll off the hill and hit somebody.

Vince 6

Marine chain and blast rock barrier-Hole 1

March 2015

I was inspired to do this after a visit to Canal Park in Duluth and observing some of the ships in the area. The anchor chain we used for this barrier is strong and looks cool-beats the True Value hardware chain for a classy look. The stone varies in weight from 300 to 2500 lbs. per stone. Placing the stones and connecting them together with very heavy chain took some doing but in the end we are very pleased with the result and hope you will be as well.

Vince 7

Open field burning result – Hole 1

April 2015

Every year if conditions are favorable, we try to burn some of our fescue areas in the deep rough to help remove some thatch and other plant debris that over time can accumulate and lead to a decline in turf quality. We were very successful in our efforts this year in burning areas on virtually every hole on the golf course. We look forward to how well these areas respond to this treatment. I must stress the importance of having water on hand and ready to be delivered in case a fire goes where it should not. This is particularly important when conditions are particularly dry and winds change without warning. Also vital is working closely with the local DNR in obtaining a permit and then closely communicating your efforts to them. Fires are serious business and deserve to be treated in a serious manner.

Vince 8

Ledge on Hole 16 shortly after burning. Note undamaged tree from the burning as well as how the burning effectively removed old grasses that would swallow up any shot hit into it.

April 2015

Most of our regulars are probably tired of hearing about drainage but we again were busy last fall and again this spring in adding over 800 feet of drainage tile-most of which was 6” in diameter. The target this past year was 8 fairway, which has a low lying landing area and many springs feeding it in wetter years. I expect conditions to improve greatly on this hole. In addition, we added some tile in low lying, wetter areas on the driving range that made it difficult to manage. Those areas were just completed a few days ago and will be cleaned up nicely before opening.

Vince 9

Drainage 8 Fairway-Finish grade before sodding

April 16, 2015

On a final note, after profiling our putting greens, I have found that there really is no need to core aerify our putting greens this spring. Our program of low fertility and frequent topdressing really is paying dividends in the fact that our greens are not thatchy at all. That being said, we will aerify them with less disruptive solid tines before we open to encourage aeration and gas exchange without the level of disruption of hollow coring tines. The labor needed for solid tine aeration is a fraction of what it would be for core aeration. In the end, everybody wins-both our crew and the players.

I have included a few links below that help to explain both the merit and feasibility of reducing/eliminating core aeration practices on putting greens. This is not something we are just making up because we are lazy J In truth, it makes a great deal of sense.

See you on the golf course.

Vincent Dodge

March 2015

Really warm weather conditions at the beginning of March meant that snow disappeared rapidly from the golf course. This is a huge improvement from the past two years where the winter seemed to last forever and snowfall amounts were considerably higher. In regards to golf course conditioning, I have rarely seen this golf course make in through the winter in such clean condition. The golf course looks much the same that it did when we put it to bed last fall.

                        Vince 55                Vince 56

                                            Hole 18                                                            Hole 18

                                       March 11, 2015                                            March 23, 2015

A common problem that we encounter during this time of the year is drainage basins that do not remove water from low areas on the golf course. Usually this is the result of a basin being clogged with leaves and other debris but sometimes this is not the case. Whatever the cause, non-draining basins like the one pictured below are a cause for concern as standing water is never a good thing for golf courses or any other type of turf.

Vince 57

Standing water on left side of driving range

March 23, 2015

In this case, the culprit was a drainage line that froze solid causing water to back up onto the driving range. The line that froze is 15” in diameter and really the only thing we can do is wait for it to thaw and use pumps to keep the standing water under control. Not the first time this has happened and likely will not be the last-though this is the first time this has happened at this location. As you can see, winter poses its own set of unique challenges and every year is different.

Vince 58

Frozen Drain Line

March 19, 2015

I am sure that many people are wondering what our thoughts are in regards to an opening date for the golf course. While throwing out a date is pure speculation at this point, I can say with certainty that we will open no sooner than May 1, 2015. One thing that we need to perform this year is a thorough greens aerification-something that we were unable to accomplish in 2014 due to conditions. This process (which we hope to accomplish the week of April 20-April 24), is necessary to ensure quality putting greens well into the future. In addition to putting greens, we also may attempt to aerify certain fairways while the course is closed. Performing this work while the course is closed is a great way to perform required work without inconveniencing our customers.

I look forward to seeing everyone in 2015-a year that is shaping up to be a great year for the golf course.

Vincent Dodge

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