A 1928 Donald Ross design located in the mountains of Western North Carolina and summer residence of founding member and course record holder, Bobby Jones.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Golf Course Mowing Goals

Our primary objective today is to get the golf course mowed back down after we stayed off of it for a number of days.  When grass is allowed to grow for extended periods, it takes several mowings to get back to where we were.  We not only stayed off of it Friday- Sunday but we also missed several days the week before.  It has essentially been mowed one time in 2 weeks!  That is why we are double cutting these next 2 days.  I wish it was as simple has a home owner's rotary lawn mower and the height of cut is adjusted by the level of the wheels.  Our reels are far more precise and far more complicated. 

Fairways are being circle cut today, which allows us to mow the turf in multiple directions giving us a very good quality cut.  However, they are somewhat messy today because we removed a lot of grass.  All staff are currently tied up with mowing leaving no one able to take the blower across fairways.  I appreciate your patience with the excess clippings and certainly appreciate your understanding of our goals today.  We will be back to normal in no time!

Above is a very simple photo of an old time reel mower.  This is the same technology used today although it has come a long way and materials are much better.  Rotary mowers aren't used because it is nearly impossible to mow under 3/4" without scalping with a rotary mower.  Throw in some contour and it is impossible.  A reel mower can achieve heights well under 1/8" without scalping.  Keeping a reel mower sharp is a time consuming commitment and that's why we have two great mechanics.  Everything is mowed using reel mowers apart from rough (rotary).  This means there is a lot of reels to keep sharp.  The cut occurs when the grass is pinched between the reel and the bedknife.  The shearing action, exactly like scissors, it what cuts the grass.  If the reel isn't sharp, the grass won't cut or will have a rough edge like the tiny diagram below.  When you have many ragged cuts, the green even looks yellow-brown from afar.  This turf is also prone to fungal diseases and other stresses because there is more surface area for pest invasion.  It is no different than a person; during surgery you would hope the surgeon uses a sharp surgical knife, not a serrated blade (Ok, maybe a little morbid but I can't think of another example right now).  You can see know how valuable a good equipment tech is!  We check mowers daily (7 days a week) for quality of cut and then make adjustments as needed.  Our mowers can go about 3 weeks to a month and then they will be put on the grinder to sharpen.  This is dictated by weather and cultural practices.  Sand topdressing damages mower reels and dulls them even though it is a mandatory process for healthy greens.  It is a balance that many mechanics and superintendents fail to understand each other's perspective.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Storm Follow up

After the storm, we came out very good with little to no damage.  I will say we fortunately dodged a bullet in many aspects. The rain could have been worse and the wind never did get as bad as initially thought. However, some of my colleagues in South Carolina didn't do as well.  In fact, some news outlets are saying this was the worst storm in 500 years in cities like Columbia!  Our 4,200ft temperate rain forest is very efficient at handling large quantities of rainfall, fortunately.  

As the NC government relations chairman of the CGCSA (Carolina's Golf Super Association) I've been asked to help look at this from another perspective. Farmers get government subsidies and disaster relief in the event of a natural disaster. Well Turfgrass Science also falls under the Department of Agriculture.  So, should golf courses be eligible for similar funds? Rather than thinking of a well to do private Club like HCC, think of a small single owner public golf course struggling to make ends meet given the down sizing of golf over the past few years. Times are tough and this storm shuts the course down, turf may be lost because it is submerged in water for extended periods.  Now, the greens need rebuilt and the owner has no cash flow. What is an owner to do?

Here is an excerpt from a conversation with GCSAA's (national golf superintendents association) government relations director.  You can see, golf is typically excluded from such relief but something our association is working on in Washington and the State level.

As you know, golf has previously been excluded from disaster tax relief after major natural disasters. Golf has never been excluded from obtaining traditional disaster relief such as from FEMA. The only exclusion has manifested when the disaster was so great that Congress stepped in and felt like additional disaster relief was needed in the form of tax relief on top of traditional disaster relief. 
When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf region, Congress passed disaster tax relief that excluded golf 
courses and the exclusion was not nationwide but rather only impacted golf courses impacted by 
Hurricane Katrina. The Midwest Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2008 also excluded disaster tax relief to golf courses but only in certain impacted states. I am not aware of any nationwide blanket exclusion of disaster relief or disaster tax relief for golf courses in the country. We work with Forbes Tate through We Are Golf to vigorously look for any instance of where this exclusion might pop up again with the next natural disaster that is around the corner. We want to make sure that if Congress starts to draft new disaster tax relief legislation that they don't exclude golf. I am going to reach out to Forbes Tate this morning to confirm there isn't anything on the radar I am missing.

Here is your Monday Turf Twister problem identification!

After 9.5" of rain, we were unable to mow greens for 3 days.  They were very hairy and after blowing and mowing the greens, we noticed black spots in several areas.  What is going on?  Scroll down for the answer below.  This picture was taken from the 16th green at HCC.
A: During heavy fall rains, leaves fall off trees and get matted into piles and lie on the greens for extended periods (up to 3 days in this case).  The wet leaves are starting to decompose and leave behind a greasy looking black spot that is composed of leaf cellulose, pollen and other leaf matter.  Another mowing and drier air will make it go away in no time.  To the novice, small patches of black turf can appear to be a major issue. 

10" of rain and ALL fairways will be OPEN to cart traffic tomorrow!

The only closed fairways today were #5,6 and 11.  How great is that!?!? Speaks volumes for our team and the drainage we've invested in.  Furthermore, it speaks volumes for the topdressing and cultural practices, that you support, that allow us to minimize water holding thatch in the top 2" of the soil profile.  Good drainage and cultural practices pays huge dividends!

Monday update

Greens are only being single cut triplexed today so labor can be dedicated to cleanup.  We will however double cut the next 2 days and be back to where we want to be come Wednesday.  The golf course drained remarkably well and the only holes that remain cart path only are #5,6 and 11!  That is impressive considering we just weathered 15.5" of rain.  By tomorrow afternoon, most all of the golf course will be mowed out. 
During the storm, I turned the irrigation pump station off because my gut feeling told me to.  This morning, we pressured everything back up.  Why is this significant you ask?  Well, it's not.  I just love this pump station...it was new 2 years ago...and night and day compared to the dinosaur we used prior.  I want to let you know how much this is appreciated!  It will be here for another 30 years and I will love then as I love it now.  I am not ashamed to say it! 
Dan Marshall (Community Association) and I met with Cashiers Paving to outline the paving project set to begin in November.  All Club roads including Hummingbird (Rd and Circle) will be re-asphalted starting the first week of November.  The parking lot at the Hudson House will also be resurfaced, but not until spring when the Hudson Renovation is completed. 

Weekly Update

This weeks forecast will hopefully give the course a chance to dry out!  Today there is a slight chance of rain through the morning, but as of 6:00 am the radar was generally clear.  The rest of the week appears to be sunny and warm with highs barely reaching 70* while overnight lows will drop almost into the upper 40's.  A chance of rain moves back in on Saturday but does appear to move out by Sunday.

On the golf course this week we will be in full clean-up mode!  With breezy conditions and cooler temperatures our annual leaf battle has begun. This morning we have the entire crew devoted to cleaning up any debris from the storm over the weekend.  This includes a bunker crew, a limb and tree crew, and lastly a large group blowing tees and greens.  With each team able to be out first thing we should be well on our way to having things cleaned up by this afternoon!  This is considering nothing else has fallen during last nights winds.  If things continue to dry out well we will hopefully be able to mow fairways and approaches tomorrow, along with walk mowing approaches on Wednesday.  Tuesday we will be spraying tees, and Thursday we will be back on our greens spraying rotation as well.  Please continue to check back with us daily, for updates on the clean up effort and any information on your golf course! 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Course damage is minimal...

After a tour of the golf course, it is apparent there is little damage.  Leaves and sticks are mainly the issues but an easy clean up is in order.  The golf course will open at 10am tomorrow.  We will blow tees and greens tomorrow as well as repairing bunker washouts and raking.  Fairway blowing won't start until Monday afternoon at the earliest because I will not put a tractor out on these wet fairways.  A majority of our mowing will commence again on Tuesday morning after the course is cleaned up good.  Again, thank you for your patience and support through this storm!     

7:00am Sunday rainfall Total: 9"

It looks like an intense day of rain today as well.  In fact, there is a chance it may be worse than Saturday because the wind is now picking up and has blown all night.  Once the sun gets up, I will ride the golf course to access damage and will be posting pictures in a little while.   Again, the course will remain closed today and pending we don't have too much damage, will reopen tomorrow at 10am.  It will be cart path only for at least 2 days while the course dries out!

This system is luckily moving south and looking like by lunch time, a majority of the rain will stop.  It is the wetness of the golf course and the wind that led me to make the decision remain closed today.  Safety will always be our priority.  Wind is traditionally worse and increases on the backside of weather systems like this.