Thursday, February 23, 2012

Sectional Management

A couple difficult growing seasons in a row are great for exposing the weaknesses in your management programs on the golf course.  Whether it is a re-evaluation of agronomic programs, confirmation that you are doing things right, or exposing the need to completely re-think your approach, many times there are changes that are needed.

This winter we are doing just that, tweaking some agronomic programs, tree root pruning in areas that turf suffers from tree root competition, and changing our philosophy in how we attack the management of our golf course.

For years,  our crew has been spread throughout the golf course.  Often times our crew has been assigned jobs that "start on #1 and finish on #18" encompassing one small element of the entire golf course.  This approach works, and is widely used, but has it's weaknesses.  Pride in work and ownership have been two areas that I have seen slip recently and I think it has its root in the fact that most of my staff does everything everywhere!  In many cases I have five or six people doing the same repeated task throughout the week and when something goes wrong, it becomes the norm to just blame one of the other guys!  Frustrating for sure, and with the recent difficult growing seasons it has come to a head.

To address this problem we are going to tackle the golf course a little differently this year.  We are going to a "Sectional Management" philosophy that will hopefully inspire our staff to take ownership in their work and at the very least create some accountability that will help in the efficiency of our management of the staff.  Here's how it will work...

We have broken the golf course up into four sections, and have included the clubhouse grounds and practice range as the fifth.  Each section will be the responsibility of two staff members (one for the clubhouse section).  This "sectional team" will have the responsibility of everything in their section, with the exception of large area mowing (fairways and rough), and chemical applications.  All of the green and tee mowing will be their responsibility.  They will tend to their bunkers and fix edges that need to be repaired.  They will be responsible for all of the "detail work" in their section.  Expectations will be thoroughly spelled out and will be constantly checked for quality.  The trade off for the employee is that, provided they are keeping up with their expected duties, they will have a great deal of freedom in how they go about meeting those expectations.  Autonomy and a sense of accomplishment will be their reward for doing their job well.  As a manager, the sectional approach will drastically improve my ability to efficiently manage our staff.  I will always have a "go to guy" for things I see on the golf course.

Training will be critical, along with establishing and enforcing our expectations.  If Ben and I do our jobs, the net result will be a more engaged, more efficient staff who provide consistantly better conditions on the golf course!

Because of this new philosophy and other off season changes, I am more excited about the upcoming year than I have been in a long while!!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Welcome Ben Christie!

Ben Christie started this week as our new Assistant Superintendent.  Ben grew up just blocks from the Club and attended Champaign Central High School.  He spent several years working his way up through the ranks at the University of Illinois Orange and Blue Courses where he eventually landed the position of Second Assistant Superintendent.  Working for former CCC Assistant Superintendent Allen Wall, Ben was able to gain valuable working knowledge of the art of golf course management and was frequently given the reigns to run the crew.  With Ben's local ties to the Club and his willingness to learn, I am confident that he will be a great addition to the management team at CCC.   I look forward to this season and beyond working with Ben! 

During his first week at the Club we have put Ben to work!  We removed several White Pines from the back and right side of #15 tee, opening it up to some air movement and some morning sun.  We have a few more trees to prune in this area and the memorial garden behind the tee will be reduced in size.  These changes will have a drastic impact on our ability to grow bentgrass on this tee!  Standing on the tee, you will feel a little less crowded by the pines to the right.

Also this week, we begun work on our Section Bays in the Quonset building.  These bays will house all of the tools needed to maintain each of the four "sections" on our golf course.  Next week I will write about our new "Sectional" approach to managing our golf course.  I believe this new approach will translate to consistantly better conditions on the course and clubhouse grounds.  Stay tuned for more information!!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

I Gave Up...

I can't help but feeling that the winter we are having is slowly slipping away.  We are now into the second week of February and the ground remains completely unfrozen.  With the long range forcast calling for continued "above average" temperatures, I have given up the notion that we will get frozen ground suitable for tree work.  With that in mind, we have officially begun an abbreviated "tree season" where we will be pruning or removing trees from the course that pose safety hazards, are adversely effecting turf conditions, or are effecting golfers' ability to navigate a hole.

We have quite a few trees that are simply dying or are already dead that will be near the top of our removal list, and have many more that have outgrown their location and are overhanging a tee or fairway, or are inhibiting the growth of a nearby, more desireable tree.  With proper pruning and selective removals we will highlight "specimen trees" by eliminating the clutter.

 We ventured off the cartpath with our dumptruck to help speed up the process, but will likely keep it at ourshop and haul branched in with carts and trailers due to the soft ground.  It is difficult to see in the above picture, but we did a little damage to the turf just getting our equipment set up on the grass.  This is where frozen ground makes tree trimming much easier.
Because of the soft conditions, we are forced to "piece down" as many limbs as possible, leaving them piled at the base of the tree to act as a cushion for larger limbs and logs.  This process also adds significantly to the amount of time it takes to remove a tree.  With frozen ground we are more likely to drop the tree and then cut it up on the ground.  This way is much safer and much more efficient.  Unless we see frozen ground, we will continue to drop trees in small pieces.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Frosty but not Frozen

I'm starting to worry that we won't have winter, but more of just an extended Indian Summer of sorts.  While this warmer than average "off season" has been pleasant to work in, it has greatly inhibited our ability to get tree pruning and removal equipment onto the golf course.  We have an abundance of tree work to do and so far have not been able to start because ground conditions have been too wet and too soft.  This morning we had some freezing fog roll through that turned everything white and frigid looking (see pictures), but our ground is still soft and wet.

With the extended forcast looking like more of the same, we will likely give up on waiting for the ground to freeze and begin an abbreviated tree program.  Instead of bringing our truck and chipper to the trees, we will leave it at the shop or on the perimeter of the course and bring trees to the chipper.  This will be much slower and less efficient, but will avoid the damage that the heavy equipment will cause to the course.  Maybe we'll have a cold snap later this month and in March that will allow some better progress.

 The freezing fog seemed to produce a real life
black and white photo

 Our driving range netting looked almost solid with
frost crystals

A close up of the frost crystals.  Mother Nature's
lattice work!