Between the Trees Blog

January 2014

The Christmas season is a time to reflect back on those things that are most important to us-a time to be thankful for family and friends. I would also be thankful for an end to these horrible December and January low temperatures.

Temperatures of -30 degrees F have been a fairly regular occurrence over the past few weeks. The golf course is under about two feet of snow that looks to be going nowhere. In all honesty, this is a decent scenario so far for golf course overwintering (snow cover is our friend) though I kind of hope that we do not receive extremely large amounts of additional snow since this might delay our opening in the spring.

A nice amenity that we offer to the public is our groomed cross country ski trail system which we put on holes 1, 2, 4, 5, 9, 17, and 18. These trails are free for both guests and the public to use and give us the opportunity to get out on the golf course to give the dogs some much needed exercise as the photos below illustrate.

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Bob and Boomer chilling out on 5 tee

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Not much else to report from the northwoods-winters here are cold, quiet, and remind one of The Shining by Stephen King. My hope is that we can get through the winter in a little better shape than Jack Nicholson did J

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I hope that everybody had a wonderful holiday season and look forward to seeing all of you on the golf course in few months.


Vincent Dodge, CGCS

November 2013

In my mind, one of the most rewarding parts of the year is the time period from when we close until weather conditions make it so that outside work becomes unproductive. Typically at the Wilderness, this time period is from October 14 until Thanksgiving. Much of the work that we perform during this time of the year would be highly disruptive to our players-much more so than aerification-but it ensures improvement of the facility from year to year. For a good portion of this time, we do not have much in the way of seasonal staff to assist with the labor so it is an opportunity for both me and Assistant Superintendent Trevor Rintala to get away from management and build personal character with work in the field.

One of the projects completed during this time period is a new culvert installation on the cart path leaving 11 green and going to 12 tee. Many of you likely remember the very bumpy ride due to a culvert heaving upward from frost in the ground. This old culvert was removed and replaced with a custom built culvert that should work much better.

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                   Removing old culvert-11                                                    Finished culvert-11                                            

Drainage installation is another fall ritual and this year was no exception. We installed additional drainage tile on 2, 3, 5, 9, 11, and on the hotel front lawn. We used about 500 linear feet of drainage tile and over 25 cubic yards of pea gravel for these projects. Note the snow present on the drainage trenches on 9-we continue to work outside until cold or snow impedes our work too much.

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Drainage-9 Tee

A final project of interest is a tee restoration on the white tee on 9 which has never really drained well and is rarely as firm and playable as the other tees on the golf course. Historically, this tee has been damaged by winter diseases and ice more than any other part of the golf course. We have, in effect, raised this tee up about a foot, increasing its surface area from 1300 square feet to close to 2300 square feet. In addition, the soil medium we are using to raise this tee (about 85 cubic yards worth or 4 semi-trucks) is a much better draining soil that should make the tee much more playable during wet periods. The bottom line here is that the playability of the 9th hole is being improved for our customers with a projected opening date of the enhanced tee of around July 20.

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9 tee-Note grade stakes to establish surface grade

Thank you all for sharing our facility this past season and I wish a wonderful holiday season to all of you.

Vincent Dodge

October 2013

Another season of golf is over and work is progressing on winter preparations on the golf course. The work typically begins the evening of the day we close with a deep tine aerification on greens. In this process, a machine creates a hole about a half inch wide and 8 inches deep. The purpose of this work is to both alleviate compaction and to improve gas exchange deep within the soil profile.

Within a few days of this process we then cover greens to help prevent them from drying out during periods with little precipitation. While this has not been the case this year (we have been receiving plenty of rainfall) we would not do this aggressive aerification to the greens this late in the year without covering them as there would be substantial risk of having stressed out-or as we say in the industry, “smoked” greens next spring if we did not use the covers. This is the primary reason why we close when we do as performing this process results in us not having to aerify greens earlier in the fall and thus disrupting the putting surface for times at which we are busy. Staying open for the eight paying customers we might get per day in the third week of October simply makes no sense in any way (agronomic or financial) even when weather is nice. Ten years of history has proven this to be true.

Just have one photo at the moment showing some player buffoonery in front of 18 green. Note direction in which divots are pointed.

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18 Approach-Divots from shots in direction of 9

We-the crew and I-would appreciate if some people would stop acting like inconsiderate and selfish people on the golf course as it not only affects the work we try to do but the other players as well. Fix your divots and ballmarks. Be careful where you drive and refrain from being “one of those people.” We try to present a golf experience that is memorable in a good way for both its conditions and customer service. We do not want to end up being like this course…

September 2013

I am always interested in comments made by customers in our weekly feedback document that I often use to review how we are doing with staff. A large part of the feedback is much appreciated and helps us to present a better product to you our customer. That being said, there are sometimes comments made that require explanation. The latest one was from a player wondering why we were aerifying so late when it was around September 10th. After spending my entire working life in this industry I can safely say that the middle of September is one of the best times to aerify. First of all, at most resort facilities players are paying a reduced rate. Secondly, temperatures are generally cooler this time of the year so the process puts less stress on the playing surface. Thirdly, less staff is consumed in mowing the golf course due to the cooler temperatures and so we can focus our labor on tasks which, though disruptive, are necessary to ensure the long-term health of our facility. This allows us to perform the work without the need to hire more staff-thus controlling costs and allowing us to continue to offer affordable greens fees. All this being said, I feel pretty good about our process and how we go about getting work done in the morning before players show up and then in the afternoon after players have cycled through the golf course. Making 60,000,000 aerification holes on fairways (I actually did calculate it) takes a long time and makes a big mess and all that we look for is your understanding as we perform the process. In the end, the playability of the golf course is affected in a very minimal way by fairway aerification-so find something else to blame the errant shot on J.

I have attached a brief article by the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America that relates to aerification-in this case on putting greens but many of the principles apply. It brings up some nice points and hopefully can explain to you why exactly we aerify in the first place. The concepts here are relevant to not just our golf course but to any golf course you may frequent. Thank you in advance for your understanding and hope that you have had a great golfing season.

Why aerify?

It's a perfect, sunny morning and you've just reached the first green in regulation. You feel great and you know you're within birdie range. Then, you see them, those little holes in the green. Arrrgh! They've just aerified the course, and it's going to ruin your round, right?

Well, maybe not. Consider the fact that PGA Tour legend Tom Watson shot a sizzling record 58 at his then-home course, Kansas City Country Club, just days after the greens had been aerified.

Consider also that aerification is merely a short-term disruption that has long-term benefits for the course. When you see them, remember that without those little holes, the greens would eventually die.

Like so many things, the quality of a good putting green is more than skin deep. In fact, the condition of a green has a lot to do with what goes on below the surface. In order to keep grass growing at 3/16-inch you have to have deep, healthy roots. Good roots demand oxygen. In good soil, they get the oxygen from tiny pockets of air trapped between soil and sand particles.

Over time, the traffic from golfers' feet (as well as heavy mowing equipment) tends to compact the soil under the putting green - particularly when the soil contains a lot of clay. When soil becomes compacted, the air pockets on which the roots depend are crushed, and the roots are essentially left gasping for air. Without oxygen, the grass plants will wither and die.

Aerification is a mechanical process that creates more air space in the soil and promotes deeper rooting, thus helping the grass plants stay healthy. In most cases, it's done by removing 1/2-inch cores (those plugs you sometimes see near a green or in fairways). The spaces are then filled with sand "topdressing" that helps the soil retain air space and makes it easier for roots to grow downward.

Other aerification techniques use machines with "tines" or knives that simply poke holes through the soil profile. A newer technique even uses ultra high-pressure water that's injected through the soil profile to create small holes that relieve some compaction but heal quickly.

The bottom line is that aerification is a necessary practice. But before you curse the superintendent for ruining your day, just think of Tom Watson.

August 2013

The weather for August was the type of weather pattern that most superintendents prefer in that rainfall was scarce and temperatures-other than a short period this past week-have been seasonably cool. This kind of weather makes it much easier to present a better playing golf course though it may at times show signs of stress-particularly in the rough where heavy traffic creates compaction areas. With the course so busy with players, this sort of stress is to be expected. Dry, fast, and firm makes a much more enjoyable test of golf than wet, slow, and soft for most players. My hope is that many of you will be able to come out and play the golf course in the condition that it is in now.

Speaking of golf, I had the opportunity to make a trip to Pinehurst, North Carolina this past week and was able to play Course #2-the site of both the Men’s and Women’s US Open in 2014. What we found there was a golf course that confirms many of the points I was trying to make with last month’s article in regards to the sustainability of golf. The crew at Pinehurst has been busy trying to present the golf course in the way it was intended over 60 years ago before the age of more intense golf course maintenance. All of the rough has been removed and replaced with naturalized areas that are basically sand (the soils in that area) interspersed with native wire grasses and whatever volunteer plants that show up. The amount of irrigated and intensively maintained turfgrass areas has been reduced dramatically. The golf course now is in harmony with the surrounding terrain and the playability is fantastic. The need for both water and fertilizer on the golf course is much less than what it was before the restoration. I give a huge tip of my hat to the crew at Pinehurst #2 for making such a bold move and know that Donald Ross would be very proud of what they have done by bucking the trend of higher maintenance and the associated costs that go with it. Please check the link below for more information about the restoration-including some photos. Remember to check out the part of the website labeled “course information” for a detailed description of just how environmentally sound this restoration really is.

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

Vincent Dodge CGCS

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