Saturday, October 3, 2015

Arbor Day

The Arbor Day "Street fight" has become a fall tradition at Forest Lake.  This event brings together friends and families to compete as rivals, as they represent their Alma Mater in a modified scramble event.  The main goal, to raise funds for future tree and beautification projects on the golf course.  The traditional colleges of MSU, Michigan and Notre Dame fielded teams, and this year Ohio State entered the competition.
        The field this year consisted of 66 players, dressed in their respective game day colors ready to win the major prize.  The winning team flies their team flag for 1 week on FLCC's flag pole, bragging rights, as well as a leaf on the memorial tree signifying their victory in FLCC's history. As shown in the picture on the right, tradition allows all teams to fly their flag during the event before a champion is named.

        After enjoying a great fall day on the golf course, competitors enjoyed an awesome outdoor barbecue while the golf professionals tabulated scorecards to see who this years winner would be.  With great anticipation there was 1 school that was the clear cut winner.  Congratulations to this years Arbor Day champions, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish! The Notre Dame team has been strong over the last 5 years winning the event 3 times.  Final Scoring: Notre Dame 59, MSU 61, Michigan 61, and Ohio State 64.

     The Greens Committee would like to thank all participants who attended this years event.  Everyone who was involved thoroughly enjoyed, from the comradery, golf course, barbecue, and the suspense in watching the scoreboards to determine a victor.  During the late fall of this year, the greens crew will be planting new trees in strategic areas on the property.  Events like Arbor Day help us reinvest into the property, improving it for future generations.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Course Update

Summer has finally arrived!  The past week temperatures have increased, putting the wet weather from spring and early summer as a past memory.  Looking at the forecast ahead, a consistent trend of hot weather will offer a great opportunity to get outdoors and enjoy some golf.  Of course with this great weather, challenges lie ahead in maintaining the golf course.  The abundance of early season rains have lead to shallow root zones and compacted soils.  These conditions create an environment where grass can go under wilt stress very quickly during full sun, wind and low humidity.  One key to manage this, is to lightly syringe with water in the afternoon when humidity is low.  Small amounts of water can cool the turf canopy allowing  it to have a positive response without creating soaked conditions.  You will see us on the golf course over the next several weeks hand watering greens and hot spots throughout the course.  On a larger scale we will run short syringe cycles on our fairways and areas of need.  Since there is no perfect opportunity to water at high heat stress times, these syringe cycles will happen while you are out there playing the golf course.  The key thing to keep in mind, "and stay dry" is the sprinklers always move from the green down the fairway to the tee, and are on for approximately 5 minutes each.  There are as well rough areas on the golf course that are not irrigated, which will rebound with the help of Mother Nature.

Maintaining the golf course for play, consumes the bulk of our time through the summer but we always manage to fit a few improvement projects along the way.  Over the past month one of the most significant improvements was to address sand levels, and improving some of the deficiencies in our greens side bunkers.  Most significantly was removing the sand and fixing the drainage on the front of hole 14, where the drainage gravel became mixed into the playable sand.  * New bunker sand can play penal for the first few weeks, but over time the sand compacts eliminating most "fried egg lies".  A few photos from hole #14

Old sand removed
Installing bunker drainage
New bunker sand
All done!
Another challenge we face year to year at the start of July is the Japanese Beetle.  This pest is mostly attracted to our Little Leaf Lindens and Rose bushes, but can be seen foraging on the leaves of other trees on the property. When the beetles are hungry they are not very picky on their food source.  You may have noticed mass amounts of the dime sized beetles on the ground almost resembling a swarm of bees at first glance.  It has been difficult pest to control this year, as many of the effective insecticides have restricted use on flowers and flowering trees.  The restriction is due to harmful effects on the honey bee population.  Although we did treat the beetles with a more selective insecticide, it had minimal effect.  The positive about our Lindens and Roses is their resilience to rebound from extreme leaf damage by these pests.

Group of Beetles feeding on leaf tissue
Defoliation of a Little Leaf Linden #16

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Course update

It's been a busy last 4 weeks on the golf course trying to maintain playing conditions with warmer weather, and consistent rains.  Overall the course is in good shape, but has been held back from it's full potential, because of the abundance of moisture. There are definitely times through the hot dry summer we hope for a rain event but enough is enough!  Below are a few pictures from this past Sunday's storm, which closed down the golf course.  The challenges that we face as a greens crew can become complicated and I hope to highlight a few that may not be apparent when the rain stops and the sun comes out, and golf resumes.
View of  13 fairway from the maintenance building as we hide for cover.  The challenges will arise on Monday, Tuesday  trying to mow wet roughs, fairways and put the course back together to produce a quality golf course.
16 fairway a predominately low lying area, after the rain.  This area takes time to alleviate most of the standing water, but we are still left with some birdbaths filled with water.  This  fairway will play wet for the following days.  Ropes are used frequently to keep cart traffic off of this area

This is a picture from early May of 16 fairway.  The pattern of winter kill damage is the same areas that are holding water from these storms.  We have seen this pattern in most of the areas that suffered from the winter across the course.  Improving drainage in most instances will correct these situations promoting better turf health.  Areas that remain wet, have thinning turf and recovery can be very difficult
#14 Green with a pocket of water slowly dissipating away.  The green does not have enough pitch in this area for surface water to runoff.  Mowing and rolling greens during wet soft conditions can cause scalp injury and compaction injury.
This is a picture from March 2015 of the same bird bath on 14 green.  This shows how the winter melt water accumulated in this spot killing most the POA in this particular spot.
The sand traps only had minor washouts from Sunday's rain.  But during each heavy rain event soil washes in from the edges, and mixes into the desired sand at the bottoms of the trap.  This causes the bunker sand to drain poorly and to hold onto moisture.  We have noticed a decline in drainage of many of our bunkers on the golf course.  20 plus years of rains have contributed to their condition  today.   Significant efforts are made by the greens staff to try to keep these bunkers playable and consistent across the golf course.

The rains did bring us a few visitors.  Here is 1 of the large Snapping turtles spotted beside 2 green.
In the midst of mowing and prepping the course for play, their are many projects going on around the course.
Arborvitae planting along side #18 ladies Tee.  This project will be finished early next week
Resetting the waterfall boulders at #2 green.  Over time the boulders had settled, sealing off water from entering into the pumping station that controls the waterfall feature as well our pond level control pump.
We are making our way around the course, pruning and elevating tree canopies.  Mulch has also been added around trees that have been planted over the last few years to prevent damage to the bases from mowing and line trimmers
This was a nice find while pruning!  Hornets like to build their nests under a dense canopy, where an unsuspecting person might not identify right away.

The MSU research team has also been conducting a research project on "Summer Patch"  on #13 fairway. More to come!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Course Update

It's been a great start to the 2015 golfing season, the golf course is in great shape and all the colors of spring are in full bloom.  As seen above at the entrance drive of the clubhouse, flowering trees in full bloom show sharp contrast to very lush green grass on the course.

The maintenance crew is working hard at keeping up with the surge of grass over the past week.  A perfect storm of warm weather with rain showers has accelerated the growth.  Management of the course this time of year focuses many man hours to double and triple cut areas with a secondary crew in behind blowing and picking up grass clippings to keep a clean appearance.  Players will notice the challenge of hitting shots out of the rough as balls nestle into the dense canopy.

On greens, fairways and tees we use a combination of PGR's (Plant growth regulators) to control growth as well as suppress seeding of Annual Blue Grass (POA).  This grass makes up a large portion of our shorter mowed surfaces.  The goal of slowing down the growth to manage greens for speed and to reduce clippings on fairways can be a challenge.  Since different grass types as well  as varieties within in a species react slightly different to the PGR's we can notice a separation in color and growth rates.  These symptoms will balance out as the season progresses.  Seed head suppression in the spring allows the greens to roll smoother with out the bumpiness (chatter) that the seeds create.  Since we mow and roll our greens during the morning, through the day the chatter can become more apparent.  This year we have noticed a significant amount of seed head around the golf course as well as on greens.  This seeding cycle will be short lived through the month of May.

Close up seed head
#9 Green with patches of seed

Even though mature grass is growing, it is taking a little longer then expected for new plants to emerge in fairway areas damaged from the winter.  We will be making efforts in reseeding these areas to encourage new growth over the next week.  Some of these areas exist in wetter ground on the course that we will also be doing some drainage work to create a longer term solution.

#16 fairway April
#16 fairway May 15th trying to fill in
One of the great benefits of working on the golf course is enjoying the outdoors and nature everyday.  A few photographs below to highlight some things you may have missed on the course over these weeks.

Remodeled #17 hole opened  for play
Green Green Grass!!
Wild Turkeys
Cooper's Hawk beside #7 Green
Golf Boarding

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.