Between the Trees Blog

February 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 the work only occurs when the golf course is open and while this may be true for courses that are happy with the status quo, this is definitely not true with us. The latest improvement we made this past off season is the rock and chain barriers that we used to replace the rotten, ugly, and dangerous pine logs on holes 1 and 4.

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Marine chain and blast rock barrier-Hole 1

March 2015

Hope to see you out on the course,

Vincent Dodge

October 2011

We hope that everyone is enjoying the fall season. While the golf course is now closed, we are as busy as ever performing work on the golf course with both routine maintenance and some extra projects on the golf course.

A few of the projects that will be noticeable to the golfing public next season will be the addition of a new white tee on 3 as well as a white tee enlargement on 7. These two tees in particular have taken a beating from heavy wear in past years and the additional teeing area should help us to avoid this in the future. In addition, the new tee on 3 offers a different angle and overall feel of the hole that should be of interest in coming years.

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View from new tee on Hole 3 (note cover on green)

Projected opening August 2012

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Enlargement of 7 white tee

Projected opening June 2012

As of the writing of this article, all greens covers are in place and most of our winter preparation work is complete. Winters in this area are long and harsh but we are confident that the steps we take now help us to present a product in the spring that should make everyone happy.

We wish everyone a very nice off-season and we hope to see you after we open in 2012.


Vincent Dodge

October 2014

Another successful golf season is almost over and this year, like most others, has flown by way too fast. I would like to thank everyone who has made it out to visit our facility for their patronage. The subject matter that I would like to briefly mention for this newsletter is one of intensity of maintenance.

I remember attending a presentation years ago by the superintendent of St. Andrews in Scotland. One thing that stood out in my mind from that speech was the fact that the golf course spent about $600 a year in fertilizer. This is a small fraction of what most facilities in the United States spend on their fertility programs and to hear that such a famous place that hosts regular major tournaments is managed with such minimal inputs was very enlightening.

Somewhere in the past three or four decades, golf course maintenance in the United States has taken a turn away from what works best for playability and instead has focused more on aesthetics-mostly in the form of green color. Thank you Augusta National for misleading the television watching public into thinking that green means good. The main focus of golf course maintenance-especially with the current environmental and economic pressures-should be on playability over green color. Firm and fast conditions (low fertility and dry) should be the goal-not green and lush which leads to other problems-usually in the form of excessive thatch formation that requires more frequent aerification (and more inconvenience to players). The substantial additional costs in the form of fertilizers, additional irrigation requirements, and the labor needed to mow the extra growth are, in the end, not necessary for a fine playing golf course.   My belief is that golf courses that embrace this maintenance philosophy in the future will remain profitable and survive future environmental challenges the best.

To illustrate how the Wilderness has embraced this maintenance philosophy on the golf course, I have included two photos. One is of hole 10 over 10 years ago during grow in. Both high fertility and heavy watering are necessary for turf establishment and it shows in the photo in the form of deep green color.

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Hole 10 during grow-in over 10 years ago.

The next photo was taken just this past August. Note the areas of the rough that are not deep green in color-in fact they are tan or even brown in some locations. This is intentional for a variety of reasons-better playability, less water consumption, less fertilizer usage, and less money spent on labor mowing and aerifying the areas. My experience has been that most players prefer the leaner, drier surface.

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Hole 10 August 2014

I am not saying we totally stop using our irrigation systems and other tools that help us to grow strong turf-we still need them. My point is that we should strive to minimize our inputs to the golf course as much as we can while still providing excellent playability. If the result means the golf course is not always green, so what. As players, we all need to understand this. Anybody can make grass green all the time-the skilled superintendent keeps inputs to a minimum while providing optimal playing conditions. I have attached a recent article by the USGA that mirrors some of the before mentioned concepts with a focus on water conservation.,-Health,-Not-Color/

Have a great off season and we hope to see you in 2015.

Vincent Dodge CGCS

August 2014

We have been blessed to be avoiding the heavy rains that have hammered other parts of the state during the past few weeks and for that we are all truly thankful. This has given us the ability to present a relatively firm and fast playing surface that I hope everyone is enjoying. With these firm conditions come perfect conditions for aerifying turf areas and we have been busy over the past few weeks performing this important function on tees and par 3 approaches.

Some people may wonder why we are performing this somewhat disruptive process during the summer months and I will attempt to explain why. The first reason is, as I alluded to before, that the conditions are dry enough at the moment to effectively pull an aerification core. Trying to aerify in wet conditions-particularly on these soils-does not work very well. The aerifier simply does not pull the thatchy matter from the turf and running an aerifier over it is simply a waste of time. An extended wet period could shut down aerification for weeks and with our short season this can mean the difference between having a firm surface over time or spongy turf that stays wet all the time. We have to “make hay while the sun is shining.”

The second reason is labor availability. Cleaning up the mess left by the aerifier-particularly on tees-is a labor intensive process. Some of our help (both high school and college students) are pretty much gone by the last week of August. We have to take full advantage of the larger workforce while it is available for our use and thus able to accomplish this extra work without neglecting the other golf course chores-such as mowing and raking bunkers-that need to be done in order to present the product that everyone deserves.

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4 Tee 8-14-2014


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4 Tee 8-14-2014

Note tight spacing-This is a very thorough aerification

After aerifying tees, we apply a very thick layer of topdressing sand to the cleaned surface. This action performs two functions: First, the sand dilutes the layer of thatch (old stems and roots) created by the growing turf which results in a firmer surface that drains better. Second, dragging this layer of sand into the teeing surface helps to level all the imperfections on the tees caused by divots. Left alone, a heavily trafficked par 3 tee could be pitted with old divots over time and while these indentations might have grass on them, they are not level.

All this being said, we do our best to be as non-disruptive as possible by only performing work on a few tees at a time and having most work done before most golfers ever see us. The impact on the playability of the golf course is negligible though aesthetically some may notice. For those of you that do, we ask for your understanding as we try to do the best we can to offer a fine golf course not just for now but for years into the future.

See you on the golf course.

Vincent Dodge CGCS

July 2014

As of the writing of this article today we just endured yet another substantial rain event-seems to be the main theme this year. Just when the course begins to firm up and offer optimal conditions, we get rain. This has been the story really everywhere in the upper Midwest. That being said, I feel that it is apt to discuss everyone’s favorite topic-water movement in soils.

Drainage consists of two types of drainage-surface drainage and internal drainage. Surface drainage is the movement of water on the top of the turf into drainage basins while internal drainage is how water behaves once it penetrates into the soils. Surface drainage of the Wilderness is quite good-water moves quite readily into drainage basins within a few hours of even the heaviest rain events. Internal drainage is a little different story and requires further explanation.

As a brief overview, the Wilderness Golf Course was built in what was originally forest land consisting of wetlands, ledge rock, and clayey soils. This underlying sub grade either drains very slowly (in the case of clay) or not at all (in the case of ledge rock). This presented its own set of challenges during construction in that all topsoil used for construction had to be imported from a pit about four miles from the property. This material is very fine sand mixed with silt and in itself is not a terrible growing medium. The material drains moderately well and is spread out over the entire golf course to a depth of about 6-8 inches. Total quantity used was approximately 180,000 cubic yards (about 9000 semi-loads). This part of the project was one of the most costly parts of construction and while making the layer thicker would indeed help us out in wetter years (though this year the difference would not be that great), the additional cost would have made the project cost prohibitive. The project would have cost millions of dollars more.

The behavior of water-particularly in a wet year-is as follows. Excessive snowfall melting in the spring saturates this top layer of soil to begin the year. This water, once it hits the underlying sub grade of clay and rock, has nowhere to go but either up (evaporation) or in the case of ledge rock the water moves over the surface of the rock as it follows the path of least resistance. These are called springs and we see many of them this year-especially on hole number eight. This is then followed by consistent rainfall in subsequent weeks with too few days in between these rain events to dry these soils. That is why we have had the cart path rulings on so many occasions this year. We cannot control the laws of physics.

Discussion of this topic brings to mind an old instructional soils video I remember seeing in college about 25 years ago. That film was old when we watched it (we had watched it on an old school film projector that some of you may remember from high school-the one that the nerds in class operated) and it is as action packed as I remember it. Anyway, I managed to find the same film on You-Tube and have attached a link to it below. Watch the entire thing if you have trouble sleeping at night but seriously if you can spare a few minutes of your time watch 6:15 through 7:40. This short excerpt illustrates the behavior of water on our soils and should assist in your understanding of why some of you may have experienced wetter playing conditions.

Have a great day and see you on the golf course.

Vincent Dodge CGCS

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