November 4, 2012

Sandy vs. Irene

Where to begin?
I am finding it hard to begin this post.  There is so much to discuss that it is hard to decide where to start.  I told myself once it was certain we were going to be hit by another major storm that I was going to write a brief update every day before I went home, both to keep people informed and as a record for future use.  As it turns out I am 0 for 5.

Sandy vs. Irene
This storm feels very different than Irene, it does not seem as bad at first glance. Although the storm surge was listed as 3' higher than ten months ago, the damage seems less awesome.  Just like last year, many people came down to the club to witness the damage, but this time very few people got out of their cars. I realized yesterday that I was taking fewer photos, probably since they looked just like the ones that are still in my phone. The clubhouse fared better than expected, and thanks to the hard work of Dan Colburn and his staff the exterior shows little evidence that anything happened at all. The new tennis courts will need to be cleaned up before next season, but they will require far less work than last year.  Cross the street and it is a very different story. The water level was at least a foot higher based on the water marks in my office, but the debris lines on the course suggest a greater rise than that.  The impact of this storm may not seem as impressive because we just experienced a similar ordeal a year ago, but also because we were much more prepared.  My staff spent two days before the storm working extremely hard to minimize damage from the storm surge.  We continually asked ourselves "Is that high enough?", as we lifted everything that wasn't bolted to the floor. Every piece of equipment was brought to higher ground out on the golf course or behind the staff apartments.  Everything in the shop was moved up to the lofts or into one of the apartments.  Strategies that we employed last year to save the greens were revisited and evaluated as we developed a plan for the first days following the storm.
All of that hard work paid off, as we suffered little major damage to equipment or supplies.  As we left Sunday afternoon to begin protecting our homes, it was hard to imagine that it was possible that we were going to be faced with the challenge of cleaning up after another major storm.

Recovery - Part II
I was on the course before dawn the day after the storm to begin flushing any areas that had emerged from the flood waters. The water had risen a little higher and flooded areas a little deeper than last year, but the plan was the same.  Wash the salt off the turf and out of the soil as soon as possible, starting with the greens, and then moving to any areas that could be reached as the water receded.  By the end of the first day all four greens and most of the tees that had been submerged had been flushed at least twice. Much of the area was still under water or inaccessible, and we learned last year that turf under salt water suffered the worst damage.
The staff returned to work Wednesday, and immediately began cleaning and restoring our shop. Everything was pressure washed. The walls, the floors, the equipment, and the parking lot.  While the crew worked on the shop, I continued to flush greens, tees, and fairways.
Thursday we headed out on the course to clean the debris that was left from the surge. Work continued on the shop, and we continued to flood salt affected areas.
Friday we sent our mowers out to the rest of the course to cut areas that had not been submerged before trying to mow the mud off of the exposed grass.  It became clear that we were going to have to look deeper into the shop for possible damage.  We decided that we would have to remove the heaters and lower portion of the walls from the office and locker room.  We feared that mold and mildew would grow in the insulation and sheetrock, and felt that the wiring should be examined by an electrician.
Saturday we finally pulled out the chainsaws to clean up the trees that had been damaged by the wind. All day we watched the line crews as they replaced damaged poles and hung new wires along Totoket Road and Club Parkway.
We will not know exactly how much turf was lost to salt water for some time, but the worst areas are already showing signs that lead me to believe we will be buying sod again in the near future.  Thankfully we now know that a permanent solution has been developed and will be implemented, hopefully before the next 100 year storm.

Moving on
It is easy to find the similarities between Irene and Sandy, such as the track of the storm and the fact that it hit during an abnormal high tide.  Hopefully the impact of the storm on the club will be significantly less, but the damage to the golf course will be very different.  We will not have the luxury of reseeding damaged areas due to the fact that winter is only weeks away, not months. I have been assured that sod is readily available this year, but I will have to winterize the irrigation system before the turf is established.
I am sure that once we have completed the cleanup and recovery from the second 100-year storm in as many years, we will all look back and realize that the impact was not as significant for a few reasons.  We were better prepared and took the steps necessary to minimize the damage and facilitate the cleanup.   The hard work of the staff and the  teamwork across departments made the cleanup process much more efficient.   Finally, the fact that we survived a similar ordeal a year ago, and were able to come back as strong as ever gives us the strength and confidence to know that we can handle this, or any other challenge that is thrown our way.

August 25, 2012

Trees vs Greens

I found a tree root the size of a shoelace at the bottom of this cup this morning.
The dry weather we have been experiencing is revealing the effects of root competition on some of the greens, especially 3, 9, and 13. When a 60' tree competes with an 1/8" grass plant for water, guess who is going to win.

July 28, 2012

Incredible Vision

Recently the Golf Long Range Committee presented the Water Diversion and Fairway Reconstruction project to the membership. The presentation involved a description of the drainage and elevation problems on the 1st and 18th fairways, and how the proposed project will address them.
The problems are not new, and have influenced a number of capital projects that the club has supported in recent years. The irrigation system was not replaced on the first fairway or the driving range fairway in anticipation of a future larger project that had been discussed but never initiated.
In recent years, the Golf Long Range Committee hired an engineering firm to examine the problem and develop a solution that would elevate the quality of these areas to match the rest of the golf course. Although this relationship had been in place and the plan had been initiated years ago, the project did not have significant momentum until last fall. After Tropical Storm Irene devastated these areas, it became clear that this was an idea whose time had come.
In the weeks before the storm, the club had been working with Tim Gerrish on a design for the 6th green. Once the storm hit this project was immediately placed on the back burner, but not before we had an opportunity to experience his vision.
It did not take long to realize that his talents and experience working on golf renovations would shift this project from making the first and last holes of the course better, to making them great.

The engineering solutions combined with the architectural changes included in the plan will do just that. The design addresses the problems that affect playing conditions, limit accessibility, and prevent the members from fully enjoying their golf course. The architectural changes will improve the accessibility, playability, and strategy of the golf holes, as well as dramatically improve the practice range, which is the weakest facility in the club.
The problems in this part of the golf course are not new, nor is the idea that something needs to be done about them. The plan that was presented Monday was initiated long before the storm hit last fall. Irene has been called a perfect storm because the conditions were ideal for it to strengthen as it neared the coast and that it hit at a peak high tide. I would argue that it was perfect in that it hit toward the end of the golf calendar, and that the pieces and players were in place to develop a solution that would take the worst holes on the golf course and elevate them to a level of quality that rivals and compliments the view from the Marine Lounge.
The hard work and vision contributed by the professional consultants are quite impressive. The project has evolved at a blinding pace, and as we shift from the planning to the permitting/approval stage it would be a shame not to recognize Nick Torello for the time and energy he has put into this project over the last 10+ years. His passion and determination have transformed this project from merely improving drainage on a couple of fairways to improving the health and quality of the golf holes and revitalizing the coastal wetland ecosystem.
There has been a lot of discussion about this project in the last year, both in support and opposition. Monday we laid out the details of the plan and shifted the emphasis from the architecture to the engineering, and in doing so eliminated a lot of the emotion associated with the proposed changes. The final step will be to find a way to fund this project such that the benefits of the renovation do not come at the expense of the long term health and viability of the club. As with the design of the project, please keep an open mind about the cost and financing of the project until the package is finalized and presented for a vote.
The crew is cleaning the debris on the second green left at the high water mark while the first green is being flushed.  Notice the water level between the first and second greens.
This photo shows that the areas that were submerged for less than 24 hours were saved by flushing the salts from the turf and through the soil.  Compare the damaged turf in the rough with the water line in the previous photo.
This photo was taken four days after the storm, and the pin is already back in the green.  The 1st and 18th fairways were closed for months.

June 29, 2012

Course conditions

Wow! Two updates in one day. Must be important!
I have been working very hard to maintain firm, fast playing conditions on the golf course. Last week was a challenge with the mid-week heat wave, but thankfully the weather broke in time for the weekend. With the help of our moisture meter and roller we were able to get the most out of the greens for the 3 day Member/Member. This week we refocused on the health of the turf and began preparing for the Invitational in August.
As ridiculous as that sounds it is true. I recorded the steps we took this week to get through the heat and transition into tournament mode, and will review them the week before the tournament. We made a fertilizer application to fairways that will start releasing next week, and will meter out Nitrogen over the next few months so that the turf will be healthy, but not too lush. Now that the rough is slowing down, I will make a similar application to the green surrounds so that there is a reasonable penalty for an errant shot to the green, but not so severe that it affects the pace of play or your ability to enjoy a casual round.
I played a quick late round today and learned a lot about how the course is playing. First, I was surprised to discover how well the fairways were playing. The firm conditions allow the ball to bound and roll down the fairway, and sometimes into the rough which still offers a penalty. Second, as I feared the heat and humidity have the caused the greens to be a little lush. They still roll true, but I would like to see them a little leaner and roll out a bit more. I will watch the weather and fine tune my chemical and fertility programs, and try to get in a light topdressing. I am being a little cautious since we have a lot of golf to play, but I am committed to getting the most out our greens without sacrificing the long term quality and consistency.
Looking even beyond the Invitational, I have started looking at ways to further improve the condition of the greens through a variety of cultural programs for the early and late fall.
I am very excited about what we have done so far this year, and feel that I am hitting my stride as far as managing the conditions on the golf course.
Your feedback is always welcome and appreciated, especially if it goes through one of my committee members. Thanks again for your support.
Thanks again.
Pete Gorman
Golf Course Superintendent
Pine Orchard Yacht & Country Club
Branford, CT

Srike Guard Procedures

Once again it has been far too long since I sat down to write a blog post, but things have been a little busy with tournament preparation and the recent heat wave.  We were just called in from the golf course by the Strike Guard Lightning Detection System.  Considering the recent incident at Lake of Isles I thought I would provide some information about how our system works so that everyone clearly understands what the warnings mean, and that we can avoid any similar problems here at POYCC.
During the 3 Day Member/Member we had one brief weather delay when the Strike Guard system sounded an alert that lightning was in the area and golfers were called in from the course.  There was some confusion about what the signal meant, and what they were supposed to do.  The main detector is located in the golf shop, and it is connected to a computer that shows any potential risks in the area.  Once lightning is detected within 15 miles an alert goes off in the golf shop indicating that there is potential for lighting in the area and that we should prepare to call people in.  Once a strike is detected within 5 miles, the system will sound an alarm on the golf course, and a strobe light will flash at the pool.   The units on the golf course have small lights on the side that flash green to signal that the system is working, and turn red when in alert mode until the "All Clear" signal sounds.  The system will be in alert mode for 30 minutes, or until lightning is detected again which resets the 30 minute delay.  There is no manual "all clear" option.  The system is completely automated to prevent possible accidents from people making judgement decisions.
So, to clarify what you should do when the alarm sounds:
  1. Everyone must clear the golf course and pool/dock area and seek shelter immediately when the alarm is sounded.  Mark your ball and head in immediately.  Do not finish the hole or continue on.
  2. Seek shelter inside an enclosed building.  The clubhouse, maintenance facility, or golf shop are appropriate.  During the tournament the field returned to the golf shop, but people remained outside, and some were even practicing putting (which may be a violation of USGA rules).  We should have directed everyone to go into the clubhouse until the all clear signal had been given.
  3. Wait for the "All Clear" signal to sound and the strobe light to turn off before returning to the course, pool, or docks.
The club leadreship made a decision to make a significant investment in this system to protect its members, and they should be applauded for it.  You can recognize and reward their forethough and committment by following a few simple steps to make sure we do not have a tragedy here at Pine Orchard.
Thanks for checking in, and we look forward to seeing you on the golf course.

June 2, 2012

Great feedback

I have been getting a lot of great feedback from members lately. Some are extremely encouraging, like the groups that commented on the condition of the first fairway this morning after 1.5" of rain in 6 hours. Another favorite is the condition of the rough, and how well we have done managing a reasonable penalty in spite of the wet weather we have been experiencing. We have dedicated a lot of labor resources on the areas immediately surrounding greens and fairways, and have been working closely with committee members to address the fescue areas that have too much influence on playability and pace of play.
The one comment that I found almost amusing came from one of my favorite members. He told me that he loved my blog updates. I almost fell over, since it has been so long since I have made time to sit at my desk and share some thoughts and ideas about the golf course and the work we have been doing.
I missed the follow up on the opening of the 1st and 18th holes, and I am embarrassed that I did not take a few moments to explain why we had to "ruin the greens just as they were getting good".
Well, it has been an extremely busy spring with Summer weather in April and April Showers coming in May just as the rough was kicking into high gear.
I will keep this short and sweet and let you know what is coming in the near future. I will be asking for photos from Tropical Storm Irene for a photo book to keep in the club archives. If you have photos of the club or golf course from late summer, during, or just after the storm, I would love emailed copies to include in the book. Make sure to include your full name so that I can give photo credit in the book.
The next topic will be a discussion of the Achilles heels of the 1st and 18th holes. The surface may look as good as it has in many years, but we have yet to experience extended heat and humidity. The poor soil and irrigation coverage will make it extremely difficult to maintain the current condition over time.
Enough for now. I promise to write more often, and one of these days I will dust off my clubs and will need someone to play with. If you ever need a fourth, please keep me in mind.

April 29, 2012

Long time coming!

It has been 244 days since Tropical Storm Irene inundated the golf course with her storm surge, and severely damaged a significant portion of the property. This weekend we decided that the new turf on the 1st and 18th fairways is established well enough to withstand play, an the holes were reopened for the Opening Day Men's Breakfast. Rick Ross and I tested the turf with an 8 iron on Friday to see how the sod would hold up. It took me four swings before I could bring myself to touch a blade of grass with the club, but once I did I knew it was ready. We received a lot of positive feedback, and your patience and support have meant a lot to us throughout the project.
There is still a lot of work to do to fine tune the fairways, and establish turf in the rough beyond the sod. After a little more seeding, aeration, and topdressing I am confident that the holes will be in much better condition than they were before the storm.
The weather will have a lot of influence on the final outcome. We have been extremely fortunate this winter and spring in that we have not had a lot of rain, but the 3" rain event early last week reminded us of our weaknesses and limitations.
As we learned last week, we are still vulnerable to flooding from the creek and pond when the tide gate is closed during high tide. After rain events the fresh water moving through the property from Young's Pond and the rest of the watershed backed up and flooded the fairways for the first three high tides. Thankfully the gate is closed and the water had a very low salt content. If that had been brackish water we would have suffered injury in the newly sodded fairways and approaches. The majority of the recovery effort has been focused on adding drainage that will help move water off the surface. The nature of the soils and the lack of elevation change make typical French drains ineffective so we installed surface collectors and created contours that will move water over the surface to the drains.
We will continue to work to improve the health and playability of these areas throughout the season, but continued improvement will require additional drainage, expanding irrigation, and specialized maintenance programs including fertility, aeration, seeding, and topdressing.
It is a huge relief to be able to open the holes this weekend, but we still have a long way to go before we achieve a level of quality consistent with the rest of the golf course and the other facilities at the club.
At this point I would like to thank my staff for their hard work and commitment to restoring the fairways, the Green Committee for their support and encouragement throughout the process, and the board for giving us the resources we needed to restore the areas. In spite of our efforts to keep the project simple, the limitations required us to spend more money on soil and sod than I had anticipated, and the club was always there with the resources we needed every step of the way.
Future blog updates will explain the problem an the proper solution in more detail, but for now I just want to enjoy this milestone. I hope you do too.

April 8, 2012

You can look, but please don't touch.

As many of you have seen, the sod has been installed on the 1st and 18th fairways.  The GreenCommittee and staff have worked very hard to get to this point in the recovery process.  Initially we tried to minimize the cost of the recovery by seeding the renovated areas, but in spite of the record warm weather this spring, complete recovery would have taken too much time so we made the decision to purchase sod.  Although this approach was more expensive, it improved the project dramatically for two reasons.  First, and most important to members, the fairway will be open for play much sooner.  Second, and most important to me, it allowed us to rework the surface drainage which will expand the area covered by the drains we installed last fall.  Ultimately this will improve the condition of the fairway, especially after heavy rain events.  
The turf that we installed has been growing in southern New Jersey for over a year.  This is significant because it allowed the turf to be harvested in large rolls that require less maintenance and will be ready for play sooner.  We tried to purchase sod in November, but there was extremely high demand for bent grass in the northeast last year due to the late summer storms and the renovation project at the Mohegan Sun golf course.  The persistent rains in October prevented the fields from maturing in time for a late fall harvest, but we were assured that they would be ready this spring.  Well, spring came early for most, but the sod in Rhode Island was still very tender and could not be harvested in large rolls.  In late March, the only source of large rolls I could find was in Buffalo, New York.  Last week I was approached by someone who had access to a field that was reserved in New Jersey, but the buyer backed out.  We jumped at the chance, and within a week the fairways were green again.

Due to the high cost of shipping the sod, we only ordered enough to cover the largest areas of the fairways.  This week I will measure and order local sod for the rough around the fairways.  We have small pieces of turf that we saved along the way that we will use to fill in small depressions that remain on the fairways.  Over the next few weeks the seeded areas and sod will continue to mature, and before long we will be playing the holes again.

Until the holes are open, please resist the temptation to walk on the sod.  
We have been watering heavily to wet the sod, as well as the soil beneath that is extremely dry due to the lack of rain.  This has created some very soft spots, and we must be very careful until the roots start to reach down into the soil.  Yesterday I began rolling the areas, and I hope to finish the first rolling early next week.  We will continue to fertilize and roll as needed, and will begin topdressing and aerating as soon as conditions allow.

Ultimately all anyone really wants to know is when the areas will be open for play.  I have a goal in mind, but it may be a bit too ambitious so I will wait until I see what the weather has in store for us in the coming weeks before I say anything.  Last October I was asked to put together a recovery strategy and timeline and said the best case scenario was that it would be open May 1, and in pre-Irene condition by Memorial Day.  The weather last fall was far from a best case scenario, but the winter and spring have helped us catch up.  I think the initial estimate is still realistic, except the fairways will be far better than before.
Complete recovery will be an ongoing  process, especially in the rough areas left of the 1st fairway and on the 2nd hole.  We will continue to work on the problems that have plagued these areas for many years until we have restored the entire area.  I will continue to provide updates and share photos from time to time.  Please remind me if it has been a while since I have posted, as we are extremely busy working on the project and getting the course ready for summer, and it is hard to find time to sit at the computer.  
For now, I am excited about seeing so much new grass, as well as seeing golfers on the course again.  Thanks for checking in, and we look forward to seeing you on the golf course.

March 20, 2012

A New Approach

The recent warm, dry weather has allowed us to get a great head start on preparing the golf course for the spring.  The greens are open and appear to have come through the “winter” with flying colors.  We have groomed and mowed the putting surfaces, fairways and tees, and the bunkers have been raked, weeks ahead of schedule.  We will continue these efforts as needed in the coming weeks.  The turf throughout the course is starting to break dormancy, and conditions will continue to improve as long as this weather pattern holds up.

The recovery of the 1st and 18th fairways is well under way.  Last fall we focused our attention on installing drains and improving surface drainage.  We fertilized, seeded, and covered large areas in hopes that we could get enough recovery to avoid purchasing large quantities of sod.  The mild winter and warm temperatures helped the grass that germinated in October, but the early spring came a month too late for the dormant seed to establish in time for the golf season.  We have been working this week to strip the weakest areas prepare them for sod.  I have been in regular contact with sod farms and will take delivery of fairway turf as soon as it can be harvested.  We should have the majority of the areas ready in the next few days, and I hope to install the first shipment by the middle of next week. 

The sod brokers with whom I have been in contact all have the same message.  They can get turf, but it is not very mature and it is extremely delicate.  This might be acceptable for use on small areas such as tees, or areas that will not be used until late spring, but large areas that must be playable as soon as possible require thicker rolls of mature sod that will establish more readily.  I will continue to monitor the progress of the turf, and may even travel to Rhode Island to walk one of the farms later this week.  If I am not confident that the sod will be ready by the end of the month, I may have to look as far away as Buffalo for more mature, resilient rolls of sod.  We are working very hard to make sure that we choose the option that will have the areas open for play as soon as possible, give us the best chance for long term success, and allows us to work within our budget.

I am borrowing a machine to help us reseed weak areas throughout the property next week.  This will include the bottom of the 5th and 9th fairways and rough areas on 1, 2, 3 and 5.  These areas will be fertilized to promote growth, and we may even use covers to speed up the process if temperatures return to normal in April.

This has been an extremely challenging spring, and I am looking forward to a time when we can shift our focus away from the recovery and concentrate on improving playing conditions throughout the rest of the golf course.  I will do my best to take a few minutes each week to update you on the recovery and course conditions.  I will include updates in the newsletter and emails from the golf shop, but the best source of information will be found on the blog.  Thanks for checking in, and we look forward to seeing you on the golf course soon.

March 9, 2012

It won't be long now...

What a difference a year can make!  This time last year I was just getting the first glimpse of my lawn in the Hartford area.  This year I think I shoveled more snow in October than I did in December, January, and February combined.
I have been getting a fair amount of pressure to open the greens over the last few weeks, mostly from the same person.  I am well aware that he is not the only person that wants the greens open, but he is the only one that has approached me directly about it.  He happens to be on the Green Committee so I feel it is appropriate that he do so, and I appreciate that he comes to me directly, makes his argument, and leaves me to do what I feel is best for the course in the long run.  I also appreciate the fact that the rest of the members that are just as eager to get out and play have not been beating down my door pressuring me to open.  That would put me in a difficult situation; make the easy decision to satisfy the group of members that want to play early, or make the difficult decision that is in the best interest of the entire membership and wait until the greens are able to recover from ball marks.  In both cases I have been allowed to make the recommendation that I believe gives us the best opportunity to start the season off on the right foot.

We discussed the issue at the Green Committee meeting the other night and I want to share some of the things that I consider each year when we make the decision to open or close the greens;
  1. This is not my golf course.  I am hired by the members to make recommendations that are in the best interest of the members first, and the golf course second.  
  2. I resist the temptation to compare your course to others in the area that may be open (or closed) at a given time.  Our situation is extremely unique in that the majority of our greens receive twice the wear and tear per 18-hole round relative to most golf courses, since we play all but one of our greens twice each round.  To those that may say that I tend to be too conservative I would argue that this is the most important risk/reward decision of the year.
  3. Once I feel that the turf is able to withstand the rigors of preparing the greens for play, I begin daily conversations with the Green Chairman.  The first conversation describes the steps that will be taken, and when we will be able to begin the process.  The last few conversations do not occur on the phone or via email, they happen on the golf course.
At the Green Committee meeting on Tuesday I gave a brief description of the steps I intend to take to prepare the greens for play, and how long I expect it will take.  On Wednesday I toured the course with my assistant and equipment manager to see which greens might be ready, and if there were any that might give us reason for concern.  We determined that the mild winter was very kind to the course and agreed on a series of steps that we would take to get the greens ready for play.  This will help us prepare the  equipment and personnel so that we are ready as soon as the time is right to initiate the process.  Again, the conversation took place on the golf course, not in my office.

"So, what is the process" you might ask.

  1. First, we will roll the greens to ensure that the surface is firm enough that the triplex mower used in the subsequent steps will not damage the surface.
  2. The second step is to verticut the greens to redistribute the sand topdressing that was applied in December.  This will help provide a firm, smooth surface in the coming weeks.  
  3. Next, we use brushes to help work the sand into the surface to protect the mowers that will be used for the first mowing.  A little rain after this step also helps in the process.
  4. Once we feel that the sand has been worked in, we will roll the greens again before the first mowing.  This mowing cleans up any growth left over from the end of last year, and triggers a growth response within the plants.  The next few mowings usually take place every 4 or 5 days.
We should be able to complete steps 1-3 on most greens in a single day if the conditions are right.  The weakest greens in the poorest growing environments may require a less aggressive approach or an individual timetable.  The 4th step will be completed based on the success of steps 1-3, as well as the weather.  Subsequent mowings will take place as needed.  We will begin the process early next week, and I expect to complete the initial mowing prior to next weekend.  I will provide regular updates on our progress, as well as a description of what you can expect over the next few weeks, but rest assured, it won't be long now.
One final thought to keep in mind, especially when the daytime temperatures climb into the 60's; plant growth and recovery is based on soil temperature, and overnight lows have a greater influence on soil temperature this time of year than the daytime highs.  This means that the putting surfaces will be inconsistent until the different types of grass break dormancy.  But that is for a later discussion.

#5 Green - March 11, 2011

February 26, 2012

Recovery Update

The golf season is right around the corner, and we are preparing to complete the recovery for the 1st and 18th fairways.  The storm surge submerged the fairways and rough areas for more than 24 hours causing significant damage to the turf.  The bentgrass in the fairways is extremely sensitive to salt damage and was completely lost.  Elevated and well drained areas such as greens and tees survived because the water receded within 24 hours and we were able to flush the salts from the soil immediately.  The flood gate prevented the sea water from returning to the sound, and therefore it took over two days for the water to recede.  By that time the turf was already dead.

Our recovery efforts began with an application of gypsum to greens, tees, fairways, and clubhouse lawns.  The gypsum provides calcium which helps remove the sodium from the soil.  This is most effective in well draining soils that can be flushed with fresh water.  It is less effective in poorly draining areas because water can not infiltrate the soil and the sodium remains in the root zone. 

Once the fairways were dry enough we seeded the damaged areas with salt tolerant varieties of grass.  Germination and establishment occurred rapidly in areas that had adequate surface drainage and good soils.  Due to the persistent rains in October the seed would not germinate in depressions and other areas with poor surface drainage. This clearly indentified where we needed to focus our attention on drainage.  We expanded existing drainage and installed new drains to correct as many problem areas as possible.   We then removed the dead thatch and brought in new soil to improve surface drainage and move surface water to the collectors.  We seeded and covered the areas in hopes that we might be able to get some turf established over the winter.  We are currently working to complete this process on the 18th fairway.  These areas will be finished with topsoil and prepared for sod in the next two weeks.  We will continue to evaluate and expand the drainage as needed. 

I have been in regular contact with sod farms, and we will begin installing rough sod in early March.  I will continue to monitor the availability of fairway sod which is more delicate and won’t be available until the fields break dormancy near the beginning of April.  We will begin taking delivery of fairway sod for smaller areas as soon as it is available.  For the larger fairway areas we intend to purchase large rolls of sod that is cut thicker.  The larger rolls tend to establish more readily and will require less maintenance to achieve acceptable playing conditions.  The sod will take 4-5 weeks to establish depending on the weather in March and April.  I will be hiring my seasonal staff next week and I expect to take our first sod deliveries in early March.  Aeration, topdressing, seeding, and fertilization will take place throughout the spring until we are satisfied with the condition of these areas.

Our initial goal was to have the fairways open for play at the beginning of May and in pre-storm condition by Memorial Day.  I am confident that we are still on schedule, but complete recovery will be an ongoing process and our efforts will continue throughout the season.  I will continue to update you on our progress in the club news letter, as well as on my blog.

February 13, 2012

Geoffrey Cornish, ASGCA Fellow, dies at 97 -

The game of golf has lost one of its great stewards. Geoffrey Cornish's design influence is most prominent in New England, but his contributions to the game know no bounds. He was a mentor for numerous golf course architects, and worked closely with superintendents and researchers to help advance the art and science of course maintenance. His close ties with the University of Massachussetts turf program allowed him to interact with many leaders in the golf industry from their time as turf students, assistant superintendents, and throughout their careers. Perhaps his greatest contribution can be found hidden in the courses he designed. He is well known for challenging all skill levels without punishing the beginning or novice golfer, a philosophy that greatly contributed to the popularity and growth of the game throughout the region.

Geoffrey Cornish, ASGCA Fellow, dies at 97 -

February 9, 2012

New England Regional Turfgrass Conference

This week I attended the New England Regions Turfgrass Conference and Show in Providence Rhode Island.  This is one of the top regional turf shows in the country.  It brings turf managers, researchers, and vendors together to share information and ideas related to current research, the latest products or trends in golf, as well as experiences related to challenges we are facing in the golf industry.  The conference provides educational sessions and seminarscovering a variety of topics related to turf management, project/budget management, and professional development.  I thought I would provide a brief summary of the conference and how I feel it will benefit the club in the future.

The first day of the conference includes half day seminars on a variety of topics.  Each year I try to select one class that is related to business or personnel management, and one that focuses on turf management.  This year I selected a seminar on project management and another on surface sealing of putting greens.

The project management class was instructed by Bruce Williams CGCS, former superintendent at Los Angeles Country Club and Bob-O-Link in Chicago.  A few of the highlights from this class include determining when to do work in-house and when to hire a contractor, the role and value of a project manager, and the importance of communication during all stages of the project.

He shared a number of personal stories from his time at both Bob-O-Link as well as complete renovations of both courses at L.A.C.C.   A few things that stayed with me were his description of Jack Niklaus’s $50,000 wave (Those bunkers should be moved 20 yards down that way, or Move that tee over there so the water comes into play).  That led to a discussion about change orders and how the altering the original scope of a project affects both cost and time.  He also shared the importance of offsetting the cost of change orders by keeping close watch of how much labor and materials the club contributes in the form of repairs, use of the club’s equipment, fuel, etc. 

Another story involved the renovation of the practice facility at L.A.C.C.  The former commander of the pacific fleet instructed him to renovate the range for $500,000,  when the estimates were closer to $1 million.  Bruce explained that he “would rather do half of the project the right way rather than do all of it half-assed.” 

Finally, he made a point to spend time discussing the importance of communication during all phases of the project beginning with planning and approval, providing frequent progress updates, and most importantly upon completion.  He focused on clearly defining the end of a project so that the members could determine what they got for their money, and to celebrate the event with a special tournament or party.  Hopefully each completed project will serve as the foundation and inspiration for future work.

The afternoon class was presented by one of the top soil consultants in the industry, who discussed surface sealing of putting greens.  The material is a bit technical, but there is always more to learn about soil science and how it influences the health and performance of putting green turf.  The majority of the material dealt with the interaction of water and soil, and why some greens tend to remain wet long after rain events or irrigation.  The solution was developing effective aeration and topdressing programs based on your specific conditions.  I had already been looking into this over the winter as we look to review the frequency and nature of our cultural programs, and I intend to follow up with him over the next few weeks.

I will put together more entries for the blog that review the USGA presentations, explain some of the current research that I will utilize, as well as the time spent with architect Tim Gerrish at the Trade Show.  Keep an eye out for more entries in the next few days.

January 30, 2012

Damage control -

I read an interesting article this morning about the impact of "soft" spikes on greens.

I do not remember this being a significant problem at Pine Orchard, but have definitely seen it at other clubs.
Have you noticed any damage from aggressive alternative spikes? Have you tried the less aggressive shoes made by Ecco or Nike?
Share your thoughts and observations.
I watched a bit of golf over the weekend, and with Pebble Beach coming up I am starting to get more excited about golf in 2012.