Friday, April 24, 2015

Golf course update

April is always a challenge on the golf course.  As quick as warm weather moves in for a few days, right behind it is a series of frost mornings or even what we witnessed this week. SNOW!  The golf course is still in a process of waking up from the long cold winter, and for the most part we are in very good shape.  The greens survived the winter with minimal snow injury, and are in very playable condition.  Some of our challenges happen during freeze/thaw events through the winter where low lying areas hold melt water, which then turns into ice.  The end result is thin or dead pockets of turf where these events occurred.  As the grass wakes up from dormancy these areas become more apparent.  This year we have a few areas on  the golf course in fairways and roughs with some damage, most noticeable #16 fairway.  These areas will be addressed over the course of the next few weeks when the temperatures become more favorable for promoting new seedlings to grow.

Also I would like to address the fluctuations in greens color over the past week.  This is a result of a chemical application to prevent POA seed heads from developing.  The greens surface has a non uniform yellow tinge, as certain varieties of POA are effected a little differently, and as well the bent grass plants still hanging onto a green color.  Seed heads will develop in May, and can create an undesirable bumpy greens surface.  Although our applications will not eliminate 100% of the seed from emerging we have had very good success in minimizing their impact on greens.

12 Green showing regulation
POA seed head uncontrolled

 The main challenge to start of the 2015 season has been turning on the irrigation system.  Miles of piping and irrigation heads are subject to shifting and heaving due to the frost layer moving deep into the soil.  This year we have had numerous breaks that we have been working through to ensure our system is reliable. The night time temperatures still dipping under 32F also posses a unique problem for us, as hydraulic controls freeze leading to additional complications.  As most players seldom see some of the challenges we have with irrigation, I have included a few pictures form this spring.

Filling Hydraulic satellite boxes with straw to prevent night time freezing

Irrigation break on #4 fairway
This is the culprit of the above break a shattered 1.5" rotary sprinkler
Not a new water feature, but instead a broken impact sprinkler

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Course Projects

It's already been a busy 2015 for the greens staff.  Many hours were put towards snow removal on our greens, as well as snow removal on the club grounds.  Equipment repair and servicing is our largest time consuming project through the winter.  Special thank you to our equipment technician Jose, for overseeing all of our equipment needs.  Most recently we have been using most of our efforts on spring cleanup and preparing the golf course for an early start to the 2015 season. We also have had several projects that we have finished or are still working on through the early start of this year.  Below are a few photos to highlight a few of the improvements and additions to the golf course.

Tree work;  We had a tree service address many of the broken limbs that still existed from the July 2014 storm.  The greens crew also cleaned up many of the dead under stories of our Spruce and Pine trees.

Re-roofing of the middle section of our maintenance building.

Refurbishing our irrigation pumps and minor plumbing upgrades in the pump house.

New maintenance fence after 50 years in service.



Walkway brick paver repairs in front of clubhouse

Driving range staircase (In progress)

Original stairs in failing condition
Cap removed and construction started

Front profile of current condition
Side profile of current condition

Course Update

Welcome back to the FLCC Golf Course Maintenance Blog!

Throughout the season we will be posting course photos, projects and providing updates on course conditions.

As the warm weather of spring nears upon us, we are all looking to come out of hibernation, or start making our way back home to our favorite retreat "Forest Lake Country Club".  The greens staff is eager to welcome you back, and kick off an exciting 2015 season.  While many of our members were away the Greens staff have been busy, and would like to get a chance to catch you up to speed.

This winter the Greens maintenance staff embarked on a different strategy to minimize potential winter damage on our putting surfaces.  The start of process involved laying a thin permeable tarp on the greens, to add a small buffer between winter extremes and the turf surface.  Through the winter the greens crew removed all the snow off the greens during periods of potential melt, to eliminate melt water from refreezing.  This process took an average of 2-3 days depending on the amount of snow.  This winter we removed snow 6 times from January through March.
Half way done!
Snow removal #6 green March

#18 green April 7th 2014.
#18 Green April 1st 2015
The great news is that we have little to no winter injury to our putting greens, which we feel this process helped us achieve this goal.  When we start the 2015 golf season we will be playing all of the greens, with the exception of 1.  This being hole #17 which was renovated late fall, and still needs some warm spring weather to knit in sod seems and transitioned into playable condition.  What a difference from last season! On the right side is a stark difference in the greens from 2014-2015. This is consistent result for all 18 greens, including the practice facilities.

Flags are in!
When will the course be fully open?  We opened the greens for play on Friday, and they will remain open as long as weather cooperates.  The golf course for the moment is open for walkers only, and as the rest of the frost leaves the ground and the course firms up, golf carts will be allowed.  The putting green and chipping areas are as well open.  The driving range will have a delayed start until the ground firms up in the landing areas.  The greens committee would like everyone to be aware of the impacts a player can have on the golf course through the early season.  Divots, ball marks and cart traffic scars do not heal very quickly in April.  So do your part in "Caring for the course", so that these blemishes have a minimal impact on our course.

In the maintenance staff news; 

This past winter Jim D. Lough a 30 year employee on the greens maintenance staff passed away.  We truly thank Jim for all of his years of hard work, dedication and his impact on the grounds at Forest Lake.

New to the maintenance staff this year, is Assistant Tyler Cooper.  He is a MSU graduate in Turf Management, with working experience on golf courses throughout the country.  We are looking forward to Tyler helping us improve our day to day maintenance procedures, turf quality and playing conditions.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Golf Course Update

The crew has busy out aerifying on the golf course.  Starting on September 22nd we aerified the greens.  We had a great stretch of sunny weather and were able to finish all of the greens and fill in the core holes with sand in 2 days.  Capitalizing on the great fall weather we moved right into finishing the tees on Wednesday and started our journey on the fairways over the following days.  Generally 2 fairways are aerified in a day including busting of the cores and blowing off left over debris.  We currently have 3,4,5,6,7,8 fairways to finish which should be accomplished next week.  We have had good success and have seen very good recovery in all aerated areas as greens are playing fairly smooth and the core holes are shrinking daily.  Limiting factors in aerifying late fall include amount of sunlight and fall rains that leave soils saturated.

Greens aeration #14
Core cleanup #7 Tee
On October 6th we will start construction on hole #17. The greens committee has prioritized the surrounds and greens complex as an area that needs improvement.  Due to the loss of several green side Norway Spruce as well as a large corpse of White Pines the character and attractiveness of this golf hole was compromised.   With the help of C.W. Golf Architecture, a plan was developed to improve this signature Par3 hole.  Major improvements will include fairway extension up the left side of the green, a pot bunker on the left side to frame the golf hole, a small greens extension on the left side, smoothing out the ground and contours, cart path rerouting and relocating irrigation control boxes.  The project is estimated to take 2 weeks to complete.  The 17th hole will be removed from play for the remainder of the year.

#15 White Oak
#3 Green (2008)
Over the last few years trees have been a major area of focus.  Several mature Spruce and White Pines have been removed from the property.  Also we have experience several storms, including late July this season which has contributed to tree loss.  One of the greens committees main focus is planting new trees in key locations on the golf course.  Although trees are attractive and can add functional improvements and challenges to the golf course, it is important to understand the relationship trees and turf have between them.   Trees need space and as they grow they start creating challenges such as shade, roots, air flow and create debris.  They directly compete with turf for water and nutrients in the soil.  As shown in the bottom right picture of  #3 green in 2008.  Shade played a significant role in the quality of turf for this green, as well as limited frost from burning off and moisture being trapped in the greens surface.  Also as these trees shed their needles it littered the greens surface with debris.  This is 1 example where trees in this area were not beneficial and offered little value.  The large White Oak on #15 is an example of a tree that was planted in a place that defines the golf hole.  Not only does the stateliness of this tree show up from the tee box, it also protects the right side of the golf hole.  The grouping of Norway Spruce that used to be in this area blocked this trees full beauty, as well as created thin turf full of surface roots.  As the greens committee moves through the tree selection and planting process simple examples of past planting successes and failures will be used as guidelines. Our current goal is to identify areas on the golf course and tree species to be planted in Spring 2015. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Golf Course Update

With in a blink of an eye we are in the last week of August, summer sure flew by.  It was not to long ago in early July when we were managing expectations of our resent regrown greens.  We entered into a busy golf calender with new seedlings which we just hoped would survive through daily play.  Forecasting best case potential greens speeds to be 10, and mowing heights left above our usual standards for the season, boy were we wrong.  Mother nature provided us with a relatively mild temperate summer with significant rainfall, this coupled with the greens crews hard work, the putting greens improved in density and thin areas disappeared quickly.  The greens, tournament after tournament became stronger and greens speed improved from 10 up to 12 for events.  Heights of cut have been restored very close to tradition and the impact of frequent mowing and rolling has shown minimal set back.  The greens crew have received many great compliments on the course.  Thank you for showing your support!

On July 27th we experienced one of the worst storms to hit our property.  Forest lake Country Club was right in the epicenter of straight line winds which reached 70mph.  The damage to the trees was so extensive that the course was closed for 4 days.  We have numerous amounts of pictures and debris littered through the golf course. Below are a few

#9 Tee box with Oak limbs making this hole impassible
Silver Maple between 12/13
Spruce Tree left side of #18
Little Leaf Linden #15/16, snapped off at the base
3 Silver Maples down on the left side of #11
Our main focus was to create a safe environment by removing hazardous trees and limbs, while trying to tackle the damage in a systematic manor to resume playing the golf course. In total 62 storm damaged trees blew over or were severely damaged, along with several smaller limbs.  We have removed 54 of these to date.   The effort of cleaning up storm damage of this magnitude is not accomplished alone. Special thanks to Schilbe Tree care for their quick response and hard work.

Kevin Schilbe clearing out debris on #9 Tee
Over 600 yards of wood chips were hauled off property
4 transport truck loads of logs were hauled off property
 Currently the golf course is in good shape with the majority of tree work completed.  The greens crew will be working on filling in the remaining stump holes and grassing these areas.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Greens Update

It has been an extremely interesting and educational journey the past 3 months.  Reflecting back to mid April where there was little to no grass that survived the winter on the majority of our greens.  Mid June we opened all 18 greens for play and there were still areas of sparse and thin turf but definite signs that the putting greens were going to recover in the near future.  The second week of July was a major turning point for the greens as we were able to put them into tournament form and host our traditional Flat stick event. 

There are definitely more challenges and hurdles in the future, as the greens slowly are being groomed into pristine playing surfaces.  Although the greens are rolling fair and greens speeds continually rise to develop a consistency from green to green and day to day, we are still tentative on how much stress these greens can tolerate.

The one noticeable thing about the greens is the amount of POA seed head that is evident.  In a traditional year we would use growth regulators to interrupt seeds from forming early spring and they would be a minor nuisance for a short period. 

New POA plant removed from #11 Green

POA seed freckled through 13 Green
Seed head in general is apparent on our greens from new POA seeds that have germinated during our recovery and have come to flower (or seed).  POA will also seed, if it feels it is under stressed conditions such as low fertility, low mowing heights, and low moisture.  The mentioned conditions are also all factors that can positively influence green speeds and ball roll.

We may deal with seed heads throughout the season but have been using different mechanical techniques such as top dressing, verticutting and brushing to minimize the influence it can have on a putt.

One question that has been consistent since we inter- seeded bent grass into our greens to help them recover.  That question being is.. Will the greens be bent grass or POA in future years?  The simple answer at the moment is both.  Both grasses are growing on our greens, and both play good when groomed into a putting surface, which we plan to continue to do during the 2014 season.  In the future both grasses varieties have different characteristics and cultural practices that influence health and competitive edge on 1 another.  As we monitor theses characteristics and amount of each grass we have on the playing surfaces we will be able to implement a management plan moving forward. 

Can you see the difference in the 2 grasses below?

Non seeding POA the bottom 1/3 of picture. New Bent grass The top 1/3 of picture

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Greens Update

The greens crew has been working extremely hard to recover the greens areas that were lost from the past winter.  There are a few thin areas on edges of greens, but we have been very successful in growing a lot of grass on the turf surface.  All of the greens have been but in play, but still require significant attention and, many grooming practices to improve how they play.
This week we started that journey.  The greens were verti-cut on Wednesday, to eliminate some lateral growth as well as thinning out some of the dense POA areas.  Many seed heads from new POA that re-established itself was removed during this process.
Cleaning up the debris after verti-cutting
On Thursday we top dressed the greens as well as brushed the sand into the canopy.  The drag brush stood up an abundance of unwanted growth, and we were able to mow quite a bit of this grass off the greens.
Long runners standing up after brushing
POA plant that was stood up from brushing in foreground.   #3 Green in the back ground with tons of grass standing up waiting to be cut.
Mower has arrived
These processes removed some of the puffiness feel out of the greens, and created a better surface.  The greens this weekend have shown a little injury from our maintenance but will continue to improve.   You will see similar processes as above being preformed over the next few weeks as we slowly restore the greens into form.