Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Taking advantage of a break...

After a long stretch of weather in the 90's (upper 90's in some cases) we have finally moved to a little cooler weather pattern.  As we should, we are taking advantage of the cooler weather to catch up on some much needed work.  We will be out in force over the next couple days eradicating the many weeds that have taken hold this summer.  We will be using both physical removal and herbicide treatments to get the job done (see picture) and hope to have most of the weeds killed or removed by the time the hot weather comes back.

During the most recent heat wave, we were unable to deal with the weeds for several reasons.  First, selective herbicides tend to lose their selectivity when applied during periods of high heat or when the turf is under stress.  It is safe to say that our turf has definitely been under some stress lately!  Secondly, the labor it takes to physically pull weeds was being directed at other projects, many dedicated to hoses just to keep our turf alive.

As we slowly transition from summer to fall, we will be out re-seeding many areas affected by the summer of 2010, and in some cases even laying new sod.  Please continue to be patient and respect any "traffic directing" items such as ropes and/ or arrows.  Soon we will be able to again enjoy the beauty that is Champaign Country Club!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Why does turf die in the summer?

The summer of 2010 has proven to be a difficult on for turf managers.  Nationwide, with very few exceptions, golf courses have borne the brunt of Mother Nature be it too wet, too dry, and without fail too hot.  Here in central Illinois we are no exception.  Our golf courses have experienced turf loss on a grand scale with very few exceptions.  As it has worked out, the problems have been mainly with Poa annua.  Naturally then, golf courses who have more Poa annua have had more difficulties and golf courses with less Poa annua have faired much better.  The embedded video was produced to help explain the effects that heat has on turf.  As you watch the video, consider the fact that here at CCC we have routinely seen 2" soil temperatures spike at 97 degrees in the heat of the afternoon! Difficult growing conditions to say the least!

We will continue to fight the fight, man the hoses, and baby our turf until cooler temperatures prevail (I can't wait) at which point we will begin making our way around the course to reseed areas that are too far gone to recover.

While we certainly haven't been the hardest hit in our area, we do have some trouble spots.  Let's hope for a fall that is conducive to seed germination and subsequent growth!

Saturday, July 24, 2010


I'll be brief today as I have a golf course to try and baby through another day.  Today I measured the 2" root zone temperature and, as you can see it is hot! About 96 degrees in fact... Supra-optimal is what the experts call this... I call it something else (which I will keep to myself).  Combine the root zone temperature, humidity and nighttime lows in the upper 70's and you can see why we struggle to keep things pretty.  Improvements will come, but right now we are simply focused on maintaining a solid stand of turf.

The weather is supposed to break tomorrow and we will drop our daily highs about 10 degrees, more importantly our nighttime lows will be dipping into the 60's for the first time in what seems like forever...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Drainage Pimple, Bunker Repairs (again)

Mother Nature continues to keep us on our toes.  This afternoon we recieved around 1" of rain in about 30 minutes while the Golf Shop guage showed nearly 2" (just about 220 yds north of our shop).  After touring the golf course, it is apparant that the northen half of the golf course took much more rain than the south half!  Crazy weather...

The deluge caused a rather large bulge in the 9th fairway due to an old clogged drain line.  See picture and video to see just how much water was trapped under the sod!


As always, the heavy rain caused our bunkers to washout.  We were able to start repairs right away and will continue the process tomorrow.  Kudos to the crew for their hard work fixing our bunkers after heavy rains!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Disheartening Irony

As I mentioned in my previous post, we suffered some turf loss due to "too much, too long" referring to the heat, humidity, and water on the golf course.  Since that post, the humidity has pretty much left along with all excess water from the course, although the heat remains.  Good news, right? Well not entirely.  When I say the humidity left, I mean it really left!  We have been experiencing ET's (evapotranspiration - a numerical value that refers to the amount of water lost during a day due to evaporation and plant transpiration) in the 0.3" range for over a week now.  That basically means we have to supplement 0.3" of water just to break even, more to re-hydrate the soil.  Currently, I am watering to the maximum capability of our irrigation system, about 320,000 gallons of water per night.  It takes our system from 9pm to nearly 7am to put out this amount of water due to the supply situation at the pumphouse.  With all of this water being used, I struggle to match the 0.3" of water. 

Now to the irony...  we have been seeing the worst wilt and dry turf around the areas where we lost turf due to an overabundance of water!  I believe this is largely due to a compromised root system from the heat and saturated soils.  So here I am watering the "wet spots" to prevent further turf loss!  Frustrating to say the least.

We have been seeding into the areas where the turf will not recover and will continue to do so until we make it through the entire golf course.  With cooperative weather I would expect this to be by the end of this week. 

Monday, June 28, 2010

Too much, too long...

Rain, heat, humidity...  it all fits into the "Too much, too long..." title.  Recently we've endured the toughest stretch of weather for several years with heat, and rain approaching record levels in June.  Consider the following:

-  As of today (June 28th) we are finishing up the 2nd wettest June on record, dating back to 1895.  The average rainfall throughout the state is at 7.92", 4.1" above normal.  Here at CCC we have recieved closer to 9" for the month, more than double the average.

-  The month of June has been a warm one with the average temperature of 74.9 degrees, 3.9 degrees above normal.  As of June 25th, this is the 10th warmest June on record.  While 74.9 degrees does not seem all that warm, consider that it is the average, not the high.  Our daytime high tempertures in the month of June were regularly in the upper 80's and lower 90's.

Anytime you combine near record heat and precipitation, you're bound to run into problems... and we did.  Over the past week we had excessive rain, creating multiple areas on the golf course that were saturated with water, and in some cases submerged for days.  With temperatures exceeding 90 degrees during the day and not dipping much below 75 degrees at night, the turf (specifically the Poa annua) in these wet areas was brought to the breaking point and we have been left with areas in our fairways and first cut of rough that will need some seeding and special attention.  Over the next week or two we will be addressing these areas to bring them back to health.  You will likely see some rope or stakes directing you away from the newly seeded areas.

Pictured below is #18 fairway where water sat for several days.  This area has a higher Poa annua population due to the persistant wetness and suffered damage.

Now have a look at #9 fairway where we recently patched some damage with bent sod.  This area stayed rather wet throughout the recent heat and the Poa suffered.  Notice the healthy bent.  This is a pretty good reason to press forward with our Velocity work to eliminate Poa and allow bent to flourish.

As I have said before, only bad things happen quickly on a golf course.  Most of this turf damage happened in a matter of days, yet it will take weeks to recover.  We will be treating the affected areas with extra special attention to ensure the fastest recovery possible.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Hot, Humid, and Wet...

Three words us superintendents don't like in combination.  Unfortunately we are in the middle of them and there doesn't seem to be much end in sight.  Although our course is covered with fungicides and the immediate threat of a disease outbreak is minimal, the conditions are wet.  We have roped off several areas (like the one shown on #17 fairway) to keep traffic out, hoping to minimize any golf cart damage during the wet period.  The forcast is not showing much for rain over the next few days, so it is likely the ropes will be coming down.  I would ask that all golfers use some common sense while negotiating our course and steer clear of noticeably we or roped areas!

In the meantime... go after those pins, the greens are holding!!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Persistance Pays Off

Over the past four weeks we have been watching a mallard hen sit on her nest near our bag drop.  She managed to pick a spot that was in the middle of two of the busiest sidewalks at the club, and right in the middle of a flower bed!  Why would a duck pick such a spot that is so far from water and completely void of any sort of peace and quiet?  Maybe she knew something... bowls of water and oyster crackers appeared as members and staff did their best to keep her comfortable, and from what I hear she even inherited a name... "Madeline" I think it is...

Either way, "Madeline's" persistance and patience have paid off as she has hatched a brace of baby ducks!  Carley Cresap, our club horticulturist, counted seven babies and two unhatched eggs.  Seeing that "Madeline" has some mothering skills, we will let her care for the babies and not disturb her.  If you see children harrassing her, please instruct them to let her be.  We will be excited to watch her raise her young..

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Tough Call...

Making the decision to park all electric carts on a Saturday morning is not a decision many superintendents take lightly.  The decision instantly kills a substantial amount of revenue for the day and turns away a fair amount of golfers.  It's a lose-lose scenario across the board.

However difficult the decision is, superintendents know that it is their job to make tough decisions with the condition of the golf course in mind.  If carts run when they shouldn't, the result is muddy wheel tracks throughout the golf course.  These tracks will linger and ultimately result in poor conditions and thinned turf.  Keeping the carts parked when it is too wet will cause an inconvenience for a day or two and will certainly frustrate golfers, but will prevent long term damage to the golf course.

Pictured above are some tracks produced when carts ran through a wet area.  The damage is somewhat superficial, but nonetheless is there.  There are areas of the course that are much more prone to damage than the spot pictured, which is why we decide to keep carts in when the course is too wet.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Research Dividends...

After five seasons of research in conjunction with the University of Illinois, we have finally begun our large scale Velocity program!  You have surely heard me talking about Velocity in the past, but if not I'll give you a quick crash course.  Velocity is one of the only (and certainly the newest) products on the market that will successfully and selectively take Poa annua out of bentgrass.  Here at CCC we have been doing test plots and trials for what seems like forever, and have finally honed in on a rate and application interval that will produce satisfactory results, but with minimal damage.

Our "large scale program" as I refer to it will include all fairways and tees.  We will be treating every four weeks, depending on weather conditions.

To say I am looking forward to analyzing the results would be an understatement.  My hope it that we are on the cusp of some major improvement in our bentgrass population, however it may take a couple seasons to come to fruition. Check in periodically for updates on our progress.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Silver Maple Blues

What do you get when you cross a bunch of Silver Maples with a windy day in April?  A mess!

Today and tomorrow the National Weather Service is issuing a Wind Advisory for Central Illinois with sustained wind between 25 mph and 35 mph with gusts of 45 mph.  Combine that with a very warm spring that has produced a bumper crop of seeds and it makes for a frustrating day for both golfers and maintenance staff alike.  A Buffalo Turbine Blower behind a light duty cart is our only tool that has a chance at keeping greens remotely clean.  Despite our efforts however, this green will be covered with seeds again in about 15 minutes.

Fairways get covered just as quickly.  Keeping fairways clean in heavy wind is near impossible.  We will clean fairways once in the morning and concentrate on greens thereafter.

As we develop our tree plan you can be assured there will be no Silver Maples on the planting list...

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Poa annua seedhead supression

According to the Forsythia blooms, Growing Degree Day counters, salesmen, other superintendents, and last but not least my gut, it is time to take action against Poa annua seedheads.  Annually here at CCC we enter into a many faceted battle against what many industry personnel have called the "super weed".  We begin the battle with an application of growth regulators to control the emergence of seedheads.  This application must be timed right in order for it to work, and the timing depends on a whole host of variables.  Unfortunately, the growth regulators do produce some negative side effects ranging from off colored turf to increasing susceptibility to certain diseases, to increased problems with worm casts.  Most of the side effects are related simply to the fact that we are slowing the growth of the turf (including the bent) during a time of year where we would like to have some good growth.

This year we are leaving #11 and #12 fairways out of the growth regulator application and will be observing the results.  These two fairways were treated last year with Velocity and we will be using seedhead production to gauge our results.  Once we have seedhead emergence, we will then treat with Velocity again to test its ability to "knock seedheads off" the plant.  If this proves to be successful, we may be able to avoid some of the negative side effects of the spring growth regulator application in the future.  The early Velocity application will segway nicely into the planned Velocity program that we will carry out throughout the 2010 season.

For a turf geek, these are indeed exciting times in our battle against Poa annua!

Please stay tuned to this blog to follow the many progress reports that will be coming this season...

Friday, April 2, 2010

What's With the Plastic??

I talk a lot about the golf course and how much work we do to keep it beautiful and playable, but I don't very often talk about the landscaping at the club that so many have grown to love.  It is entirely possible that the reason I don't talk much about the landscaping is because I don't have to think about it very often... I've got Carley for that.  Carley, as many of you know, is responsible for (among other things) all landscaping at the club.  She works incredibly hard to make sure I don't have to think about it.  This spring she's drawing some attention with her "green" weed control efforts.  She has selected several flower beds that have shown to have weed problems and sealed them in plastic.  This seal will effectively sterilize the top few inches of soil (where the annual weed seeds are) and greatly reduce the need for in-season weed removal.  We are hoping this experiment will prove successful and will free Carley's time this summer to tend to her many other tasks.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Little Bit Closer...

Although we began today with a good freeze, temperatures rebounded quickly and the guys were able to get out and make some progress.  Today marks the third greens mowing of the year (not including the rolling done prior to mowing) and the day we started in on bunkers. 
Steve Horsley mows #10 green

Carl, Alan, and Kenny get a bunker ready for the season

Over the next several days we will be working through the bunkers, working on general cleanup and Carley will be hard at getting her beds ready for the spring.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Congratulations Carley!!

The Crew had the privelage this past weekend of watching one of our own tie the knot.  Carley, our Club Horticulturist/ Arborist was married on March 6th to Marshall Cresap.  It's not everyday that our crew dresses up in shirts and ties, let alone wedding dresses, so I couldn't resist the photo op!  Our congratulations to Carley and Marshall and here's to a long life together!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Wild Goose Chase??

Normally we try to avoid a wild goose chase, but with Lucy, we seek them out!  As is normal for this time of year, we have a flock of non-resident geese that have taken a liking to our #13 pond.  I haven't actually counted how many are in the flock, but I've been told there are about 70 individuals.  While the geese are a nuisance and messy, all but about four will soon move on and not return as they are likely in migration and just "stopping by" to use our open water.  Lucy has been working the flock and keeping them on the move the last few days, just making sure they don't get too comfortable at CCC! We recently received our 2010 Nuisance Animal Removal Permit that allows us to legally disrupt the nest of any mating pair that decides to call CCC home.  The DNR strongly encourages property managers in urban areas to aquire this type of permit and take measures to not allow nesting.  If geese are allowed to nest and hatch goslings, those goslings will likely attempt to nest in an area very near the spot they learned to fly.  Just a few nesting pairs can reproduce into a very large resident flock if measures are not taken to control the population increase.  I am hoping that Lucy's work will prevent any new pairs from nesting at CCC and possibly prevent our perennial nesting pair to move elsewear. 

During my trips around the course with Lucy this spring we not only have been chasing geese, but have been keeping an eye on a hawk who has been on our property for some time now.  This hawk is obviously quite mature and well fed as he is a very large bird.  He has kept a close eye on our wearabouts also, frequently appearing in nearby trees when Lucy is out working the geese.  We don't get too many opportunities to view wildlife other than squirrels here at CCC because of the urban nature of our location, so watching this hawk hunt has been quite a treat!

Monday, March 1, 2010

In Like a Lamb?

I seem to be spending a lot of time lately listening to my kids talking about how March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb, but today seems more "lambish" than "lionish".  Either way, the passing of February into March does something to me.  It means the beginning of the NCAA Tournament ("March Madness" if you will), the gradual melting of snow cover, and the subsequent influx of last year's laborers checking in to find out when we will need them back.  Today seems to encompass all three of the aforementioned milestones:  we spent lunch determining that my assistant Mick will be handling the annual NCAA pool this year, one of my seasonal guys showed up at the shop to tell me how "ready" he was to get back to work, and I got a chance to drive the course and actually look at turf for a change.  What I found was predictable based on the winter we've had this year.

Based on data from the Illinois State Climatologist Office, we have had measureable snow cover since Christmas.  Around Central Illinois, that is a long time.  Any time there is snow cover for that long (65 days to be exact) us turf managers start to worry about snow mold.  During my drive around the course today, I confirmed my suspicion that snow mold will indeed rear its ugly head in 2010.  My observations were as follows:  Our greens (at least the sections that aren't still covered with snow) are generally clean.  I found a few small patches of what I believe to be Pink Snow Mold.  I am not terribly worried about the greens.  Our fairways and tees did not fare so well however.  I noticed areas of fairways, mostly areas with the highest Poa annua content, had multiple patches of most likely Gray Snow Mold (see top picture).  Gray Snow Mold forms under snow cover and has a Gray ring of mycellium around a dead patch of turf.  Gray Snow Mold is very familiar to turf managers up north of us, but generally is not much of an issue here in Central Illinois.  We usually do not have enough snow cover to allow its development.  Pink Snow Mold is more common, but historically has not been a big issue at CCC.  In addition to the Gray Snow Mold on our tees and fairways, we have a "patch disease" (see lower picture) that is present on some of our collars.  I will be doing a bit more observing to diagnose the exact fungus responsible, but it seems to be rather superficial in nature.  I will be watching all of these diseases in the coming week or so to determine if a fungicide treatment is necessary.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

2010 Golf Industry Show

Working in the Midwest affords me the pleasure of having some “down time” in which to work on things I don’t necessarily have much time for in the summer. Recently, I have been working on some continuing education by attending the annual Golf Industry Show in San Diego, California. This year (due to the locale) my family chose to attend with me, although they opted out of education and visiting the trade show and chose relaxation and visiting the beaches instead! Smart family if you ask me…

I didn’t get to frequent the beach or partake in the relaxation as much, but instead furthered my education and spent a day at the trade show learning about some of the industry’s newest innovations. I attended three seminars that seemed very appropriate for upcoming events at the club. The first seminar was about planning and costing a major project on the golf course. As many of you know, 2010 will be a year of “planning” rather than “doing” on the golf course. We will be working with a golf course architect to come up with solutions to the various challenges we face on the golf course. This planning will give us a blueprint as to how to most effectively and economically tackle these challenges. In the seminar, much time was devoted to how to effectively organize a project and ensure its success. I greatly look forward to the planning process that will happen in 2010.

The second seminar I attended was more about personal goals than big picture goals. It has long been my professional goal to become a Certified Golf Course Superintendent. I have made it my personal goal to achieve this in 2011. The seminar thoroughly laid out all that is involved with applying for and succeeding in the certification process. It will be a challenge to complete all of the facets in a 12 month period, but it will be a challenge worth taking!

My final seminar was all about the maintenance facility itself. As many of you can relate, the maintenance facility is not a place that is “seen” by the membership, in fact, some members may not even know of its existence. It is largely for this reason that maintenance facilities are forgotten about and largely misunderstood. The “barn” as most refer to it is actually a far cry from a barn. Nationwide, maintenance “barns” house an average of $1.2 million dollars worth of equipment and inventory needed to protect and maintain the backbone of the club. Our scenario is not much different than the national average. In our case, we house 16 employees in peak season and spend $700k of the club’s money on the course. An efficient operation is a necessity, especially in these financial times. It will be my goal (one of many) in this planning year of 2010, to investigate and diagnose inefficiencies within my department. The ultimate goal will be to find solutions that will be included in future club improvements.

Besides the seminars, I spent the better part of a day at the trade show looking at some of the many new products available this year.  High on my list of things to research is the new Jacobsen Eclipse triplex mower.  We currently have "E-plexes" which are all electric triplexes and occasionally have issues with the longevity of the batteries.  Our lease expires after this year and we will be replacing those E-plexes with something different.  The new Eclipse hybrid has a small gas (or diesel) engine that runs a generator that, in turn, runs the on board electric components.  This unit is much improved from our current units and I can't wait for my demo this summer.  The other product that sparked my interest was a bunker liner that doesn't require you to hand rake bunkers after installation.  I will be researching this product more this year in preparation of our upcoming bunker work.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Blogging about Blogging

I was talking with a member the other day and he was telling me how much he enjoyed reading my newsletter articles and the e-mail update I used to send out.  "How come you don't send out that E-Update anymore?" was the next obvious question.  I obviously took the opportunity to promote my blog and directed him on how he could navigate his way to the blog.  It got me thinking though... I've spent a considerable amount of time setting up this blog, adding "gadgets" that make it both user friendly and aesthetically pleasing, updating the blog with as much regularity as possible (I'm getting better), learning to add pictures, videos, etc, but I have no idea if anyone is even looking at it!

I called upon my neighbor (who is way smarter than me) to help me out and he pointed me to Google Analytics, a free program to track gobs of information on any website.  I subsequently investigated Google Analytics signed up my blog to be tracked.  I now have the ablilty to track how many hits per day my blog gets...

...and I can even see from which cities the hits originate...

This is probably not very new technology, but "wow" I say, it's pretty cool what you can do for free these days!  Now that I have the ability to track hits and find out some information about each hit (don't worry I can't find out "who" is on my blog, just what you are looking at) my next challenge will be to get the word out to my membership and have them use this blog for it's original intent.  This blog is such a great tool to get information out to the masses in a very short time, it would be a shame if it's intended audience isn't watching.  Feel free to comment with any suggestions!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Tree Work Continues...

We lost all of our snow over the weekend due to the warm weather we had.  Now with temperatures going back down below freezing we should see the ground re-freeze and our outdoor work will be back in full swing.  Today, with the ground still soft, we were limited in where we could go, but were able to take down the Oak on #12 tee that has been dying for several years due to a vascular disease.  We have been watching this tree for several years and decided this summer that we would finally take it out this winter.  As you can see in the picture, it was nearly void of leaves this past year and several branches were beginning to rot.

We will also be taking down a medium sized Ash tree on the opposite side of the #12 tee.   The absence of these two trees will allow for more sunlight on the tee provide for a more open tee shot. Their absense should also help improve turf quality and lessen the impact of earthworms on the tee.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Dangerous Situation...

Our recent "warm up" has melted away quite a bit of our snow cover and caused our underground drainage system to flow again.  The result is the melting of our pond ice both from the top and the bottom.  While it is never a good idea to venture out on our ponds in the winter, the next few weeks will be more dangerous than usual.

Our ponds are "in-line" with our drainage system and quite a bit of water travels through them on a daily basis.  Because of this water movement, the ice that forms on the ponds is rarely predictable.  It may seem thick enough to walk or skate on, but there are plenty of thin areas that are largely unnoticeable from above.  The pond on #13 is especially prone to this and, in fact, rarely completely freezes over.  You, or your children, should NEVER be on the ice on #13 pond.  Our ponds are relatively shallow, about 5' to 6' deep, but plenty deep if a child should happen to go through.

Please make it a practice to avoid our ponds in the winter and remind your children the same.  As I make my occasional rounds throughout the winter,  I am always impressed with the amount of use our course gets in the off season.  With a little common sense we can ensure that it is a safe off season!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Time flies when you're having fun...

How do you survive the monotany of painting the lettering on all 144 tee markers?


Audio/ Visual Master (also pronounced as-sist-ant sup-er-in-ten-dent) Mick Tempel has once again set up his TV with a surround sound home theater system for the annual tee marker painting project (also known as the "CCC Film Festival").  Staffers have submitted their recommendations for movies to watch, tee markers are prepped, and the party is on!  We expect to be finished with the tee markers in about a week.  Last year the entire season of "24" was viewed along with a few choice movies.  This year Jack Baur is being pushed aside for some newly released movies! 

Sometimes creature comforts make even the most tedious of projects go by quickly!  Now please excuse me, I've got some popcorn to make...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Tee marker, tee markers, and more tee markers...

As I mentioned in my last post, the recent snowfall has sort of forced us indoors and caused us to change modes from tree work to indoor jobs.  One of the many required winter tasks is the refinishing of all of our wooden course accessories, most notably our custom tee markers.  We have been making significant progress on the tee markers with nearly all of the prep work complete.  Pictured below are some of the grounds staff hard at work.  Each marker must have all of the lettering cleaned out and must be completely sanded down before new paint and sealer are applied.  We usually plan for the better part of two weeks just to get through tee markers.  The end result is a custom tee marker that is easy to read, and well protected from the weather extremes of the golfing season.  Kudos to the maintenance staff for their hard and very tedious work on the tee markers and all of the course accessories. 

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Winter Bliss!

As memories of the 2009 golf season slowly fade to the deeper reaches of my mind, I am reminded of yet another reason I love living and working in the Midwest....SNOW!  Last night we were treated to a 6" snowfall which puts our snow cover total to around 8" (depending on where you measure, of course.)  This is good news for the winter activists as cross country skis and sleds will be the common mode of transportation around the course for the next few weeks.  The 8" of snow is bad news, however, for our outdoor winter work as turf equipment does not fair well in the deep snow.  Until the snow melts down a little (or blows away) we will be concentrating our efforts indoors.  Our many "refinishing projects" will see some progress and, with a little help from Mother Nature, we'll be back outside in a few weeks.