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 - TurfNet.com

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 - TurfNet.com

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.