Between the Trees Blog

December 2012

While I write this article, the golf course is covered in a layer of snow and we have now moved into the winter season in regards to golf course maintenance. Our work now is, for the most part, indoors performing a variety of maintenance tasks. A focus over the next few weeks or so will be on fabrication of items that will make us more productive in the year to come. We are presently building/renovating trailers for golf course use. Tasks like this are time consuming but well worth the effort-having these items will not only make our work in season safer but more productive as well.

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Smaller utility trailer in foreground

Larger trailer being renovated in background

Taking my lead from Tom, I also have taken the liberty of posting some golf course observations from a website-I have highlighted some of the items that are particularly interesting.

Golf Course Business Trends

Understanding what’s really happening in the industry and how to deal with it successfully will determine long-term profitability for golf clubs. Here are a few random statistics, facts and, perhaps, a few surprises to think about. We can help you sort them out, determine what they mean to your future and figure out how to use them to build success.

  • Golfer demographics are changing. The hot demo today is 29-49. This group doesn’t have time to plan… doesn’t have time or the finances to travel to faraway golf destinations, preferring to play at courses and destinations within a three-hour drive. Time is the new currency of today.
  • Golf brings in 1.5 to 3 million new players each year. We lose about the same number. Why? Playing a round of golf takes 4½ hours at best. We too often beat up the average player. Plus clubs don’t put enough concentration on developing casual players into avid players and investing in the service needed to make the experience less intimidating. Growth is basically flat. There have to be consequences.
  • "Overbuilt" describes an increasing percentage of regions, many of the nation’s major metropolitan regions. Yet even within undeveloped regions many golf clubs are still struggling. The problem lies outside the ratio of golf holes to population.
  • How far in advance do golfers plan their golf vacation? Not that many years ago it was one to five months. Today it’s two to six weeks.
  • Most travelers plan their vacations on the Internet. A great percentage of travelers complete their travel transactions on-line. Golfers travel more frequently than all other affluent sports participants. In fact, more golfers took a domestic trip in the last year than skiers, tennis players and sailors combined.
  • Golf course construction over the decade has been primarily high-end... and a competition for who could build the toughest challenge. Yet most golfers are high-handicappers who feel beat up by the course and the fee.
  • According to the National Golf Foundation, the number of rounds nationally were down 10 to 20% in 2008-2009. But the range in performance – from desperate to thriving – is enormous … even within regions. Specific situational analysis is needed – not blanket generalizations.
  • In the face of declining rounds, the focus at courses nationwide has been on cost containment and cost cutting – with limited impact, since so many expenses at golf clubs are relatively fixed. And reducing the level of customer service is not the answer. In fact, level of service and value for money spent are primary factors in choosing where to play. Those clubs focusing energy and resources on increasing revenues have the best chance of success.
  • High staff turnover is one of the major problems in golf course management. As the economics of golf course operations tighten, more and more golf clubs are recognizing that the human resources part of the business requires more attention. More staff recognition, better communication and competitive compensation to retain quality people should be a priority.


On a final note, old tee signs have been selling-slowly but surely. We still have numbers 2, 4, 5, 9, 10, 11, 14, 16, and 17 available for $75 each. We do not ship the signs but would be happy to reserve the signs for you when you make the trip up here in the spring, summer, or fall. The signs weigh about 50 pounds and are roughly 18” by 36” in size. A picture of one is located below.

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Tee sign with 8.5 by 11 sheet of paper for scale

Have a wonderful holiday season and we look forward to seeing you next year.

Vincent Dodge

November 2012

Some of the most meaningful work for the Wilderness Golf Course takes place in the time period from when we close in early October until conditions become to difficult to work outside effectively. This period typically stretches on until the early part of December but this can vary with weather. Last year the focus was on the new teeing areas on 3 and 7 which not only improved the playability of these holes but also allowed us to distribute wear more efficiently. We were also able to repair some of the curbs on the golf course as well as the bridge on 9. This year the primary focus was on drainage.

The wet weather we had this past June really allowed us to identify some of the most problematic parts of the golf course in regards to drainage. Some of these areas, especially 9, 10, and 11, took weeks to dry out and in some cases never really did firm up during the course of the entire season. That being said, we installed drainage on the following holes:

  • 2 - Installed drainage to correct the wet area in front of the tee as well as the front right side of the fairway. We also took the opportunity to install a few new sprinkler heads on the right side of the hole near the cart path.       Installing additional sprinklers allows us to water more responsibly in that we will now be able to reduce run times on sprinklers in the fairway-resulting in a firmer playing surface.
  • 4 - Installed drainage on low area in front of the forward tees.
  • 9 - Installed drainage in two areas on the left side of fairway.
  • 10 - Installed drainage to correct spring in middle of fairway.
  • 11 – Installed drainage on right side of cart path near green.

All told, we installed over 900’ of both 6” and 4” drainage tile and 3 semi-trucks of pea gravel. The work is messy and disruptive but the improvement in conditions is well worth the effort.

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   10 fairway drainage to correct spring                         Trevor Rintala and Eric Goede creating trenches

As always, I thank you for your interest in the golf course and hope to see you next year.

Vincent Dodge CGCS

October 2012

Another golfing season is now under our belts and with the closing of the golf course effective October 15 what is likely one of our busiest times of the year is upon us. In this northern climate in particular, we are in a race against time to complete numerous course projects and winter preparation procedures. Our goal in the next three to four weeks is to complete the following chores:

  • Deep tine aerify greens
  • Apply fungicides to protect turf areas from winter diseases. We treat greens, tees, and fairways at the Wilderness to ensure decent turf conditions are present in the spring.
  • Topdress greens and tees heavily-a heavy layer of sand acts as an insulator against cold conditions without snow cover. This also allows us to apply a thorough topdressing without any kind of inconvenience for the player.
  • Cover greens with woven plastic covers. Yet another layer of protection for our putting greens which allows us to have better playing conditions in the spring.
  • Install close to 1600 yards of snow fence throughout the property.       The state snowmobile trail runs through the golf course through the practice range and 10 and around holes 11 and 14. We also protect hole 13 from snowmobile traffic on Lake Vermillion.
  • Drainage work on holes 9, 10, and 11.
  • Brush removal on holes 13 and 15-this work can proceed throughout the winter months.

This work is in addition to removing all golf course accessories and storing them for the season.

We thank you for your patronage and look forward to seeing you next year.

Vincent Dodge CGCS

September 2012

With a heavy frost on the golf course this morning, I think we can safely say that the summer is now over and we are now moving into fall and with it come frost delays. Nobody dislikes frost delays more than we do-not only do they cause delays for the customers but they keep our crew from getting out onto the golf course and performing our preparations for golfers. I ask for your understanding with these delays and have attached an article that describes frost and its effects on golf courses.


Frost Delays

How can a footprint be a killer?

When it's a footprint made on a putting surface that's covered with frost. It's hard to believe that simply walking across a golf green covered with frost can cause so much damage, but the proof will be there in a few days as the turfgrass dies and leaves a trail of brown footprints. That's why most courses will delay starting times until the frost has melted. And it's also why golfers who appreciate a quality putting surface will be patient during frost delays.

Why does frost cause problems?

Greens are fragile. The putting surface, or green, is an extremely fragile environment that must be managed carefully and professionally. Remember that every green is a collection of millions of individual grass plants, each of which is a delicate living thing. Obviously, Mother Nature never meant for these plants to be maintained at 3/16 or even 1/8 of an inch for prolonged periods. This stress makes greens constantly vulnerable to attacks from insects, disease, heat, drought, cold -- and frost.

Frost is essentially frozen dew. It can form when the temperature (or wind chill) is near or below the freezing point. The ice crystals that form on the outside of the plant can also harden or even freeze the cell structure of the plant. When frosted, the normally resilient plant cells become brittle and are easily crushed. When the cell membranes are damaged, the plant loses its ability to function normally. It's not much different than cracking an egg. Once the shell is broken, you can't put it back together.

The proof is in the prints

Although you won't see any immediate damage if you walk on frosted turf, the proof will emerge within 48 to 72 hours as the leaves die and turn brown. And, since just one foursome can leave several hundred footprints on each green, the damage can be very extensive.

Thanks for understanding

The damage isn't just unsightly -- putting quality will also be reduced until repairs are made. Those repairs are expensive and, in some cases, the green may have to be kept out of play for days or weeks until the new turfgrass is established. A short delay while the frost melts can preserve the quality of the greens, prevent needless repairs and may even save you a few strokes the next time you play.

 Vince 85
Key points:
  • Simply walking across a golf green covered with frost can cause damage.
  • One foursome can leave several hundred footprints on each green, the damage can be very extensive.
  • Greens are fragile, so they vulnerable to attacks from insects, disease, heat, drought, cold -- and frost.
  • When frosted, the normally resilient plant cells become brittle and are easily crushed.
  • A short delay while the frost melts can preserve the quality of the greens and prevent needless repairs.

On another note, I have attached three photos of common occurrences that we see on the golf course throughout the season:

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Untouched ballmark-15 Green

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Divot adjacent to cup-16 Green

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Spike damage from a “foot dragger”-15 Green

All of these instances are avoidable if the people responsible for these events would show a little more respect for not just the golf course but for the other players as well. The divot next to the cup in particular is disturbing in that it is a deliberate action that shows a total lack of maturity. We do our best to try to keep the golf course as playable as can be under high volume traffic-these kinds of actions do not help our efforts. All we ask is that players do their best to show respect for both the golf course and other players.

Finally, you will note that we are in the process of aerifying golf course tees and fairways. While we try to keep out of the players’ way for most of the process, there will be times when you may have to play around our work. Please understand that this process is an important one and with the end of the season coming very soon, we have to take advantage of every weather opportunity we have to complete this work before winter.

Thank you for your patronage and we hope to see you out there.

Vincent Dodge CGCS

July 2012

Summer is finally here and with it has come some very nice summertime conditions. Conditions of late have been, for the most part, dry and warm. For our property here at the Wilderness, this is a great turn of events in that we now have control of the moisture levels on the golf course. Contrary to popular belief, most superintendents (those with a good irrigation system and a crew that knows how to use it) prefer dry conditions for the golf course over wet conditions. We can control how much water makes it onto the golf course and so control playability. Managing a golf course is not about keeping things green all the time-it is about playability.   This is especially true at the present time with the need for golf courses to work within smaller budgets. With less money to spend comes the need to add less input to the golf course. What comes to mind at the moment is fertilizer as we continue to reduce our usage of fertilizers on the golf course on our rough and fairways.

On the subject of golf course rough, many have wondered why we keep our rough longer than in years past. The reasons why we do this are for better drought tolerance (longer rough means deeper root systems) and less fertility requirement. This allows us to maintain healthier rough at less cost. The added definition on the golf course is another nice bonus. While this may seem penal to some, the benefits outweigh the downside. If you have trouble hitting these fairways-or at least the intermediate rough that borders them-then I suggest you take a golf lesson from one of our qualified staffJ.

Golf course greens have been measuring a fairly consistent 9 to 10 feet on the stimpmeter for the last 6 weeks or so. This is a perfect speed for these greens and the severe undulations on them. We could easily maintain these greens at a speed of over 10 feet in the summer but doing so would create numerous issues for us. Pin placement locations would be cut in half (or more) and the complaints from the vast majority of golfers would be overwhelming. In addition, all wear from golfers would be funneled into these few available pin positions, resulting in thin turf and overall inferior conditions.

Speaking of thin turf, with summer conditions come annoying insects-usually mosquitoes. When using insect repellent on the golf course, please spray yourself on a cart path or some other non-turf area or the following will result:

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Assistant Superintendent Trevor Rintala mimicking an aerosol-spraying golfer

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The end result after a day…note foot prints from where the aerosol did not hit the turf.

On a final note, I would like to share another photo of a mother snapping turtle laying eggs in one of our flower beds on the golf course.

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The course is teeming with wildlife as it always has-contrary to what many people who listen to the anti-golf course media about golf courses being damaging to the environment. While this was partially true over 20 years ago before more responsible regulation, testing processes, and proper professional training were put into place for plant protectant development and usage, the positives of golf courses far outweigh the negatives. Please read the attached article for more information regarding golf course pesticides and environment impacts.

The facts about golf course pesticides

Well-managed golf courses provide substantial ecological and community benefits.

Golf courses are:

  • Community greenspaces that provide recreational opportunities and also offer and enhance wildlife habitats.
  • "Air conditioners" that produce vast amounts of oxygen while cleansing the air of pollution and cooling the atmosphere.
  • Water treatment systems: Healthy turfgrass is an excellent filter that traps and holds pollutants in place; courses actually serve as catch basins for residential and industrial runoff; many courses are effective disposal sites for effluent wastewater.
  • Among the best ways to reclaim and restore environmentally damaged sites, such as landfills.
  • Businesses that contribute substantially to communities through employment, taxes, property value improvement and enormous charitable support.

Science is on our side.

  • Independent university research supports the fact that well-managed golf courses do not pose significant risks to environmental quality, wildlife or human health.
  • The modern pesticides and fertilizers used to maintain healthy golf course turf have been thoroughly tested and are considered safe when used according to label directions.
  • A pesticide product today has typically undergone more than 120 studies at a cost of $50 million before it is registered by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Today's golf course superintendents are educated professionals who care about environmental quality.

  • Most of today's superintendents have college degrees and substantial continuing education.
  • Superintendents are the nation's leading practitioners of integrated pest management, a philosophy that reduces the potential environmental risks of pesticide usage.
  • Virtually all golf courses employ at least one state licensed pesticide applicator who is trained in environmentally sound pesticide use.

Are golfers at risk?

  • No. There is no scientific evidence that golfers face any chronic health risks from the pesticides used to maintain courses.
  • Once a liquid pesticide product is applied and the turf is dry or the product has been watered in, there is very little chance of exposure to golfers or others who enter the area.
  • Golfers with possible chemical allergies are always encouraged to contact superintendents to find out what products might be in use.

The entire golf community is committed to being a model environmental industry for the 21st century.

  • The United States Golf Association is pouring millions of dollars into independent research to study issues such as water quality and wildlife habitat.
  • GCSAA has made environmental education a major focus of all of its education and information programs.
  • The nation's golf course architects now design courses that reduce the need for pesticides, water and costly maintenance practices while preserving habitat and environmental quality.
  • The Allied Associations in Golf have developed a set of "Environmental Principles" that offer guidance for responsible development, design, maintenance and facility operation for the future.

We are working to correct misconceptions about golf.

  • Much of the environmental criticism of golf courses seems to be linked to local opposition to community growth.
  • Local "anti-growth" sentiment has often led to unscientific claims about pesticide usage and other highly charged issues such as wetlands and wildlife habitat.
  • These isolated development disputes have led to public misperception.

Greentips are published by the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America and are designed to help those involved in golf course management keep the golfing public informed about practices on golf courses. The information provided in this publication is advisory only, and is not intended as a substitute for specific manufacturer instructions or proper training in the use, application, storage and handling of the products or processes mentioned. Always read and follow label directions. Use of this information is voluntary and within the control and discretion of the reader.

Thank you for your business and stay cool.

Vincent Dodge CGCS

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