Between the Trees Blog

June 2014

In the decade or so I have lived on the Iron Range, I think I can safely say that this June has been among one of the wettest ones I have had the pleasure of being around. The timing of these rain events has been horrible with much of the rain occurring during our busiest times. Getting work done in these conditions has been a real challenge and has set us back in some areas while we simply wait for conditions to improve. One area where we have been set behind by the weather is on putting greens. Normally by this time of the year we have already topdressed greens (added a light layer of sand) twice. We were able to get out on greens on June 17 for the first time after spring aerification and the resultant increase in putting green quality has been quite noticeable. We plan to continue this process on a bi-weekly basis to maintain quality putting surfaces-all we need is the cooperation of the weather.

One of the biggest complaints from players is when we are forced to implement a cart path only ruling during wet conditions. This is not something that we enjoy doing-in fact we hate to do anything which makes a round tougher for our customers. But when widespread areas appear like the photo below, we have little choice but to mitigate the damage that can be done. We need to consider the future condition of the golf course.

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Adjacent to 10 cart path, June 2014

Even with our efforts to control damage, many of our cart path edges are now damaged due to cart traffic from both players and staff as the picture below illustrates:

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Cart path edge on 5

Our request from you-our customer-is that you consider the golf course and try to stay out of wet areas if possible. Stay on the higher, firmer parts of fairways and avoid driving through the wettest areas adjacent to drainage basins. Stay on the cart path as much as possible-even on days when you may leave the cart path. This kind of attention from all players will result in a reduction of ugly areas like the photo above-and ultimately result in a better experience for everyone.

See you on the golf course.

Vincent Dodge CGCS

June 2014

As I sit here watching the rain fall on the golf course, I think that a good topic to write about is the excessive amounts of rainfall we have experienced over the past few weeks. This was especially true on the week of May 20th through the 27th when the golf course had close to five inches of rain in a seven day period. After these events, the course was as wet as it has been in the past three years. Springs began to emerge on 1, 5, and 10 and will likely be hanging around for the next month or so depending on how much more rain we get. Of note is how these springs occur in areas that were either blasted out of ledge rock during construction (1 and 10) or on parts of the golf course that are actually built on top of ledge rock (4 and 5). These phenomena are just one of the many idiosyncrasies of this site that we have to manage. While this site is one of the most beautiful ones that I have had the pleasure of being a part of, with this beauty comes challenges.

Springs are difficult to manage with drainage though we will be tacking some of them this fall after closing. The difficulty lies in the fact that the location of these springs sometimes changes over time depending on fractures in the ledge rock below. Every winter, water freezing within the rock fissures can create new avenues for the water to travel through. A spring might be in one area one year and 30 feet over the next and so planning the location of drainage tile can be challenging-but not impossible.

Overall, we are very pleased with the look and feel of the golf course this year. We have made notable improvements with new tee signs and a new landscaping program around them. We have new tee markers as well. Please note that we no longer have red “ladies” tees but rather green “forward” tees. This golf course can play extremely long for some folks and we would like for people to utilize the proper set of tees for their skill level. There is no shame in playing from forward tees-in fact it may make your round more enjoyable. On a related note, we have opened the tee extension on seven and the new tee box we built on three is growing in nicely. Projected opening on this tee will likely be around August 1st of this year-though it may be sooner if conditions permit. Both of these additions will give us more area to distribute wear on and on three in particular will give the player a new “look” at the green.

As we move into the summer months we will be systematically performing some maintenance work on golf course tees-a topdressing and aerification program that will make for a firmer playing surface over time. Please be assured that this work will in no way interfere with the playability of the golf course and will help to ensure a better playing surface for years to come (especially during wetter conditions). Work on the golf course is never truly done and there is always room for improvement.

For you reading enjoyment, I have included an article on golf cart usage and safety. With potentially wet conditions in the forecast, please be aware that golf carts can both cause a great deal of turf damage and become hazardous to its occupants if used carelessly.

Golf cars & cart paths

Golf cars are a convenience enjoyed by millions of players and a necessity for many golfers with disabilities. However, when they are driven improperly, they can cause serious damage to the course. More important, unsafe operation can lead to accidents and injuries. Here's some information about the use of golf cars and how to use them responsibly.

Interesting facts

  • The first golf car was invented in the late 1940s strictly for people with disabilities.
  • About two-thirds of all regulation 18-hole rounds are played with golf cars (NGF, 1994).
  • Several states now allow golf cars to be registered for "street" usage.
  • Since the introduction of golf cars, caddie usage has dropped to only 1 percent of regulation rounds (NGF, 1994).

Safety first

  • Golf cars should only be operated from the driver's side.
  • Never drive with more than two occupants or allow riders on the back of the car.
  • Be sure your passenger is fully seated and check for obstructions before moving.
  • Keep your entire body -- particularly your feet -- inside the car when moving.
  • Drive slowly through turns and drive straight and slow up and down slopes.
  • Be certain to set the brake when coming to a complete stop.
  • Use extra care when operating a golf car in reverse, or on hills, wet turf, loose surfaces or rough terrain.
  • Remove the key when the golf car is not in use.
  • Do not operate a golf car when impaired by alcohol or drugs.
  • Golf cars do not provide protection from lightning -- seek appropriate shelter if lightning is present.

Follow the rules

The wear-and-tear of golf car traffic can cause unsightly and expensive damage to the golf course. Tire ruts in soft, wet areas can take weeks to heal. Compaction caused by heavy traffic can also ruin the playing surface. You can help prevent damage by following the course's standard golf car policy and obeying temporary restrictions caused by weather, construction or other factors.

Drive friendly

If you "drive friendly," your use of a golf car won't impede the play of others:

  • Park your golf car behind or beside the green -- never in front -- to allow players behind you to hit sooner after you've finished the hole. (You should generally always avoid driving a golf car into the "approach" area 20 to 30 yards in front of the green.)
  • Stop your vehicle to avoid distracting a nearby player who is preparing to hit a shot.
  • Never drive into yards or neighboring properties.

General tips

  • Never drive a golf car through standing water in fairways or any turf areas that are obviously wet.
  • Never drive onto a green, collar or tee or any marked hazard.
  • Never drive into any area that has been recently seeded or sodded.
  • Avoid abrupt stops and sharp turns that cause skidding.
  • Spread out wear-and-tear by avoiding compacted areas.
  • If golf cars are allowed in the fairway, follow the 90-degree rule: Stay on the path until you come even with your ball, then make a 90-degree turn into the fairway and drive directly to your ball. After your shot, drive directly back to the path.
  • Watch for special signage or other markers that direct traffic.
  • Avoid driving over sprinkler heads and yardage markers.
  • Don't drive cars into out-of-play areas that may be environmentally sensitive (such as wildflower patches, native grass plantings and marshes).
  • Golfers with medically certified disabilities may need access to areas not normally open to golf car traffic. Their golf cars are generally marked with a flag to let others know they have special access.
  • Avoid pulling off the path near tees and greens.
  • Keep all four tires on the path whenever possible. Do not park with tires off the path.

We appreciate your patronage and look forward to seeing you soon.

Vincent Dodge CGCS

May 2014

What a difference a month makes. We went from record-breaking cold temperatures directly into record-breaking warm days for the month of May. I for one will take the warm weather any day and hope that all of you can find ways to enjoy the summer-like weather after the worst winter in recent memory.

As some of you may be aware, we aerified greens on Sunday May 18 and Monday May 19. Luckily the weather held out well for us and we were able to get all greens done without any major problems. It was particularly important that we get greens core aerified this year since we did not perform the work last year due to a lingering winter and poor conditions at the time we scheduled the work. One week later, greens are almost fully recovered and while slow at the moment will pick up in speed over the next few days. Aerification is a stressful process on both plants and people and believe me when I say that we would not do it if it were not necessary. I would like to offer a sincere thank you to all the great people on our staff who performed the work this year.

I have posted a few videos below to illustrate the aerification process. That the greens are in the condition that they are now just one week after this beating is encouraging.

Aerify May 2014

Cleanup May 2014 

Moving on to another item of note, some of you may have noticed this sight on the right side of hole number 11:

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Hole 11 May 2014

The dead and dying trees are the result of excess road salts that drain from the hotel/casino parking lots and into the woods on the right side of 11. This damage started last year and we asked the Minnesota DNR foresters to come out and have a look to confirm this. Upon closer review they found the telltale sign of excess salinity damage:

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Note discoloration of needles starting at tips. Sign of excess salinity caused by road salts. Some species-particularly White Pine-are more susceptible than others.

On another note, I would like to thank the seven or eight people that repaired their divots on the 12th hole on May 24. Your concern for the golf course and those around you is very much appreciated not only by our staff but the golfing population in general. Keep up the good work and tell your friends how much this helps everyone on the golf course.

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Finally, Assistant Superintendent Trevor Rintala took this picture on the golf course recently. Could be a good test of your wildlife knowledge. See you on the links.

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Vincent Dodge CGCS

April 2014

I decided to continue with the sequential photo theme in this month’s article since there is no better way to explain to everyone the condition of the golf course. This winter simply refuses to go away.

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Hole 18 – March 20, 2014

Snow drifts on 18 are well over 4 feet high.

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Hole 18 – April 25, 2014

Snow still here…

Thankfully the forecast for the next week or so looks much better with warmer temperatures on the way. Most of this new snow should be gone in the next few days but snow will continue to linger in areas where it had drifted for at least a few more weeks- but not enough to prevent us from doing what needs to be done on the golf course in preparation for opening.  

The snow has retreated enough for us to know that the golf course has weathered the winter very well with the photo below showing just how much of an impact our winter preparations are having on conditioning.

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Hole 10 – April 21, 2014

Note area treated for snow mold diseases on the left

100% snow mold damage on untreated area to the right.

Also notice vole damage on green turf in foreground.

Besides winter disease pressure, a common form of damage prevalent this spring is due to voles (a mouse-like rodent that likes to burrow on turf underneath snow cover). They basically make elaborate tunnel systems that while ugly in spring are quickly cleaned up with all signs of their presence gone in a few weeks as soon as normal growth resumes. This damage differs from mole damage which occurs underground and causes more lasting damage. They are very different animals:

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Meadow Vole

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I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter and we look forward to seeing everyone soon.

Vincent Dodge CGCS

March 2014

Greetings everyone. Hopefully we are all making it through this long winter without acquiring a case of seasonal affective disorder. Maybe the first picture of this month’s newsletter will cheer everyone up:

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Hole 18 – March 18, 2012

The year when the Wilderness at Fortune Bay had its earliest opening ever.

Sadly, the reality this year is this:

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Hole 18 – March 20, 2014

Snow drifts on 18 are well over 4 feet high.

Needless to say, an early opening this year is out of the question and while I cannot offer a solid opening date to anyone, we are pretty sure that our opening date will likely be later than in most years. Honestly, this year in many ways is harsher than last year when we opened on May 17 and so we all must find ways to spend our time productively until the weather breaks. One way that we do this in the golf course maintenance department is through continuing education. While attending one such event I came across the following picture:

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While the quality of the picture here is not the best, the content in it is most apt and illustrates many of the preconceived notions about our profession. In this time of financial challenge, both environmental and human resource regulation, and intense competition the days of managing with Carl Spackler at the helm are long since done.

Have a great first day of spring and hope to see everyone this summer.

Vincent Dodge CGCS

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