December 9, 2013

Expanding Drainage in 3rd Fairway

We have expanded and upgraded the drainage at the end of the 3rd fairway.  After heavy rains inundated this area in late June we discovered that there were a number of existing drains that had failed or were ineffective.  The saturated turf conditions heading into the extreme heat of July proved too much for some of the turf to withstand, and we suffered turf loss in some depressions and areas with little or no surface drainage. 
Clogged drain pipe discovered earlier this summer
We identified the most susceptible areas as well as the source of water that led to these problems.  After exploring the existing drainage and determining where we could restore or expand the system, we devised a solution that would collect water before it gets to the fairway to minimize ponding on the surface.  We installed new drains at the bottom of the 3rd approach, replaced the pipe that collects water flowing under the road, and added a surface collector where we tied into the existing drains.  We also added surface collectors and trench drains to intercept the water shedding off Blackstone road.  This will reduce the amount of water that reaches the left side of the fairway, which tends to see the heaviest amount of play. 
We will continue to monitor the situation and determine if we need to expand or revive other drains in this area, and will continue to aerify and topdress the turf to improve the playing surface, even during periods of wet weather.

November 22, 2013

Mission Accomplished

The greens aeration and topdressing is complete.  We filled over 95% of the 3/4"x8" holes with sand, and then double rolled to smooth the surfaces.  It was a long, and at times tedious process, but the benefits will definitely be worth it.  The internal drainage will be enhanced throughout next season and beyond.  If this becomes the standard closing procedure we will realize deeper, more vigorous rooting in the greens and an increase in the percentage of bentgrass.  Ultimately this will allow us to be more aggressive in our efforts to provide dry, firm, fast playing surfaces throughout the year, and will improve our water management by allowing us to water deeper and less frequently.
The pins are back in the greens, for now.  Unfortunately there is also an excessive amount of sand left on the surface to protect the greens from the cold, dry winter winds that can damage the turf.  We will watch the weather in the coming weeks to determine the playability of the greens.  Once they begin to freeze and thaw I will make a recommendation to the Green Committee to close them for the season.  This is never popular, but it is the right thing to do.

We have installed stakes for snow fences around the 3rd, 5th, and 13th greens.  The fences will be installed in the coming weeks to protect from damage caused by sleds and snowboards, and these greens will remain closed for the winter.
As spring approaches we will determine the best strategy for working as much of the excess sand into the greens.  The sand absorbs heat from the sun and warms the turf in April, and will provide smooth the putting surfaces as the turf breaks dormancy and resumes growth.

November 13, 2013

Going Deep

We are preparing to put the finishing touches on another challenging season at Pine Orchard.  Granted we did not have a major storm, but the season was extremely dry and July was the hottest month in recorded history.  I have learned not to complain about the weather, since it can always get worse, choosing instead to focus on the opportunity to improve things moving forward. 
We have spent the last few weeks focusing on leaf cleanup, which is almost complete.  Soon we will shift to completing projects on the golf course and beginning our seasonal maintenance on the equipment.  Before autumn turns to winter we have a few more things to do to prepare for winter and the beginning of next season.  This includes dormant seeding, final fertilizer and fungicide applications to greens, topdressing, and a little more aeration.  Today I scheduled a deep tine aeration for the greens, which will be completed Wednesday, November 20th. This will be the final major step in preparing the greens for winter.

What is going to happen?
A contractor is going to bring a machine mounted on a tractor that will punch holes in the green surface 3/4" wide and hopefully 7"-8" deep. Weather permitting we will apply a heavy load of sand on the greens the day before, so that it will instantly fill the bottom of the holes with sand. We will follow his macine with a brush to move more sand into the holes before they collapse or bridge with sand. The deep holes will be much farther apart than our traditional aeration making it difficult to move the remaining sand far enough to fill the holes completely. We will use our machine to make smaller holes in the surface on a much tighter spacing.  This will allow us to incorporate the majority of the sand into the root zone.  Finally we will roll and brush the greens until the holes are filled and the surface is firm and stable.

Why are we doing this?
Years of traditional aeration have created a 3"-4" modified root zone composed of native soil and sand. Below this layer there is a compacted layer of native soil that restricts water infiltration and root development. By breaking this layer water will penetrate deeper encouraging root growth beyond the upper 3"-4". This will allow us to manage moisture more effectively and maintain firm playing surfaces on the greens. Deeper root growth will also favor more resilient turf species, such as bentgrass over Poa annua, which will allow us to use less water and push harder for green speed. These results do not occur overnight, but when this strategy is adopted as part of a comprehensive program the playing surfaces are better earlier in the spring, and are more durable throughout the heart of the golf season.

What can you expect next week?
Greens will be closed once we begin top dressing, hopefully on Tuesday. Once the process is complete I will determine if the greens are stable enough to tolerate traffic and approach shots. If they are we will do our best to make them as playable as possible. If not, we will be establishing temporary greens in the approaches for people that want to get in a few late rounds. I will continue to monitor the surfaces until they begin to freeze, at which time I will make a recommendation to the green committee to close them for the season. All season we have done everything in our power  to make the course as playable and accessible as possible, and I intend to continue this approach until I feel that it will put the long term health of the turf in jeopardy. 
I will keep you posted as we approach and complete this process. 

Season wrap up.

Considering the cold weather that will dominate the next week, I am comfortable saying that the 2013 golf season has come to an end. It was by far the most difficult season I have experienced in almost twenty years working on golf courses.  In general I feel that the season was a success considering we survived extreme weather conditions with minimal damage to prime playing areas, and I have a much better understanding of the golf course and its limitations. 
Coming out of a winter that blessed us with a blizzard that dumped 3 ' of snow, we were faced with the challenge of completing the recovery from the second storm surge in as many years. Thankfully the extent of the damage was minor compared to the year before. As March turned to April, we were trying to transition from winter maintenance to spring cleanup, while building a new forward tee and developing a plan to replace the damaged tree on the 3rd fairway. 
April was extremely dry and cool, which made it difficult to establish new grass from seed and delayed recovery from our early greens aeration. The greens recovered just in time for the spring member-member, and the deep verticutting helped smooth and firm up the putting surfaces for the first half of the year. We followed up this process with minor cultivation practices as part of the "Greens Maintenance Days" that were built into the golf calendar. This strategy allowed us to survive the extreme conditions that were right around the corner. 
June was dominated by heavy rain events, including one that dumped over 5" in one night, flooding the 1st and 18th fairways forcing us to cancel a Golf Breakfast. In one ten day stretch we received over 9" of rain, which revealed a number of drainage issues especially on the 3rd fairway. Coming out of the extreme rains of June, July  and August seemed to occur simultaneously.  If you read this scenario in an almanac one would expect significant significant turf loss due to extreme disease pressure and decreased root mass. The wet weather in June typically affects the depth and density of deep roots, since there is little oxygen in the lower root zone. July was the warmest month in recorded history, largely due to the fact the overnight lows remained in the low to mid 70's.  We almost made it through with minimal damage, but a heavy downpour in the last week was too much for the struggling turf on the 6th tees and the 5th green.  
Thankfully August was manageable and even gave us an opportunity to begin recovery efforts a few weeks early.  We started aerifying rough and weak fairway areas and seed was flying everywhere. Unfortunately the sky dried up and August was the start of an extended period of drought that continued through November. On a positive note, the cool, dry weather meant that the course was in great shape and we were able to keep the greens dry and firm from the Invitational through the end of the season. 
To end the season we have been focusing on topdressing and aerifying, which will set us up for another great season next year. We hired a contractor to deep tine the greens using 3/4" tines that made holes up to 8" deep, more than twice as deep as we make with our machine. We incorporated over 30 tons into the greens which will allow them to drain better and set up earlier next season. 
Looking forward I will be reviewing our programs from last year and making adjustments that will make our department more efficient and effective. 
We hope you enjoyed your time on the golf course this year and wish you all a very healthy, happy holiday season. 

October 19, 2013

A Behind the Scenes Look at a Golf Course

Here is an excellent article from the USGA regarding the equipment that is required to maintain a golf course. Many people see our equipment around the shop and think "they have more than enough to get the job done". We do have a wide variety of units, but most of the key units were purchased used many years ago. Each piece of equipment will eventually be replaced, which takes a lot of careful planning and even more capital money.
We recently presented a proposal that includes some of our capital equipment requests. Last year we took advantage of an opportunity to purchase two key pieces of equipment, a rough mower and a fairway mower. These units came from a high end facility and have served us very well this season. We also added a blower that helped improve the appearance and an aerifier that improved the condition of the course throughout the year.
For 2014 we are asking for utility vehicles to replace our aging units that were purchased used over ten years ago. Looking forward we will continue to evaluate and address needs based on the age and performance of our existing equipment.
While you read the article keep in mind that you can not just cut the numbers in half since we are not just 9 holes, but we are actually closer to the size of a small 18 hole course. Also take special note of the facility that is required to store and maintain the fleet, and preserve the value of a key capital asset.

Sent from my iPad

October 11, 2013

Rounds played are up for first time in '13 - News - News -

Finally good news for the golf industry. Hopefully we can continue to grow the game moving forward.

Pete Gorman
Golf Course Superintendent
Pine Orchard Yacht & Country Club
Branford, CT

September 16, 2013

4th fairway aerified today.

If you have played the course over the last few weeks you may have noticed the turf at the end of the 4th fairway thinning out.  This is due to a fungus knows as Gray Leaf Spot.  It is a disease primarily of Perennial Ryegrass, and its early symptoms mimic drought stress and wear damage.  The fungus started in late August as we were trying to dry out the course in preparation for the club championship.  The first infection occurred in areas where cart traffic to the 4th green is constricted by the fairway bunkers, and where players that fall short of the 13th green park and turn their carts to return to the path.
Once the humid weather of late August returned, the infected turf declined rapidly.  Once I determined the cause of the decline I immediately filled my sprayer and treated the 4th, 5th, and 6th fairways.  The treatment halted the progression of the disease, and the remaining turf is now healthy enough to withstand the recovery process.
Today we aerified, seeded, and topdressed the affected area.  This initial seeding was completed using disease resistant and wear tolerant varieties of bentgrass, which should germinate in 7-10 days.  Once the threat of Gray Leaf Spot has passed, which comes with the first killing frost, we will overseed with a Gray Leaf Spot resistant variety of Ryegrass, which is more wear tolerant than bengrass.  The combination of these grasses will provide a wear tolerant turf that is dense enough to provide a good playing surface. 
While the seedlings are becoming established we will keep the area roped off to carts.  As the turf matures we will continue to topdress the area to improve soil structure and surface drainage.  The long term solution will require additional aeration and topdressing to improve the overall health and wear tolerance of the turf in this area.
On a more positive note, the greens are healing ahead of schedule considering the aggressive aeration that was completed two weeks ago.  The smoothness and speed of the greens should improve noticeably with each passing day, and they should be in fantastic shape for the Fall Member-Member.

July 31, 2013

Warmest July on Record

Today we close the warmest month ever recorded. I am not surprised and am very happy to see it go. 
My staff and my back are as tired, if not more so, than the turf on the golf course.  The extreme heat and humidity that dominated the middle of the month were compounded by overnight lows that rarely dropped below 75 and storms that dropped as much as 1.5" of rain in 20 minutes. These conditions are extremely stressful to the turf due to high disease pressure, and the fact that the plants consume far more energy than they can produce.  This results in rapid depletion of energy reserves and root mass, which combine to make the turf susceptible to decline.  
When these conditions are combined with wet weather turf loss is inevitable, as we experienced on the 3rd fairway, 6th tees, and 5th green. Wet or moist soil retains heat while dry, well aerated soil dissipates heat more efficiently. It is hard to say what the direct cause of death was in these areas, and in all likelihood it was a combination of hot, wet soil cooking the roots and incubating fungus. At the end of the day it really doesn't matter, it's still dead. What is important is looking at what we can do in the future to reduce the stresses that led to the decline. In most cases this involves additional aeration and top dressing, adding or expanding drainage, and maximizing sun exposure, especially during the morning hours. 
Many areas (not including my back) are recovering nicely during the recent break from the heat and humidity. We did not waste any time waiting to initiate recovery when the extreme heat broke last week. We seeded and fertilized many areas, and restricted cart traffic to damaged areas, all contributing to rapid recovery of stressed turf. There are still areas that will need further renovation, but sometimes it takes the most extreme conditions to reveal the underlying causes to a problem. In some areas such as the 3rd and 5th fairways it means adding drainage to collect and remove surface water. In others such as the 5th green it will be a combination of drainage, aeration, and a host of other tools and techniques to compensate for the poor growing environment. 
As we head into the premier golf event of the season I am happy to report that much of the turf is healthy and resilient enough to withstand the rigors of tournament preparation. I expect the course to provide a fair challenge to the field, and I am confident that all our hard work and preparation will allow the conditions to improve every day. 
We hope you are enjoying yourselves this summer, and as always we look forward to seeing you on the golf course. Perhaps I will be lucky enough to be carrying my clubs rather than dragging a hose. 

July 1, 2013

Greens maintenance rescheduled.

The greens maintenance day that was scheduled for next Monday, July 8th, is being completed today. The cool weather and high chance of thunderstorms makes it a good time to verticut and top dress.
Another key factor is that George is almost ready to grind some cutting units. The sand we put out will be picked up and then he can sharpen the mowers which should carry us through the member guest.
I don't expect there to be any inconvenience to the golfers from this change, and the greens should be in great shape by the holiday.

Pete Gorman
Golf Course Superintendent
Pine Orchard Yacht & Country Club
Branford, CT

June 17, 2013

Persistent rains inspire drainage upgrades.

This is a section of a drain from the 3rd fairway. The pipe has holes along the bottom of the pipe for water to enter. It is plain to see that the pipe has been rendered all but useless by sediment that has clogged the bottom of the pipe. I have added a 12" sump in a low area that will not only collect water from the surface, it will also allow us to flush the pipe periodically to prevent this condition.
We are installing a similar collector at the bottom of the 5th fairway. 

Venting greens today

We are venting the greens today. This was originally scheduled as part of last weeks greens maintenance day, but was postponed so that we were sure all of the greens would be top-dressed in time for the rains. The topdressing was a success, and the venting will help dry the greens out after a week that delivered 9" of rain. Not only will this help the greens dry out, it will provide much needed oxygen which will stimulate root growth heading into the dog days of summer.
We will mow and roll them throughout the week, and I expect them to be in excellent condition for the Ladies Guest Day and Member/Member later in the week.

June 13, 2013

Golf Course Greens Drainage System

The greens at Merion are holding up to the persistent rains thanks to the XGD system installed in the greens. This internal drainage system has preserved classic greens across the country by allowing them to perform up to modern expectations without having to be rebuilt.
Here is a link to their website that explains more about the design and installation process.
FYI, this is different than the subaire system that has been mentioned during broadcasts of previous golf tournaments this season, which involves the use of suction to remove the water from the drainage system.

If you look at the list of clubs in their portfolio you may find a few familiar names from the Northeast.  Share a comment about any that you have played, or if any are on your "bucket list".

Sent from my iPad

June 10, 2013

Greens topdressed today

Today is one of our greens maintenance days. We verticut, mowed, topdressed and brushed the greens. The surface has been significantly disrupted and will be bumpy and slow until we mow them tomorrow.
There is a good batch of rain headed our way this afternoon which will help wash the sand into the turf canopy. Over the next few days the greens will become increasingly more firm and smooth. I expect them to be in very good shape this weekend and ready to handle the stress of preparing for the Member-Member at the end of the month.

June 8, 2013

Flooding forces cancellation of golf breakfast

Flooding on the 1st fairway after 5.25" of rain lead to the cancellation of the golf breakfast. After the fairway renovation project the elevated fairways and increased storage in the wetlands will make it possible to play after extreme rain events such as this, most likely with carts on the fairway. 
The fairway drained over the course of the morning but flooded again when the gate closed at high tide. After the project is complete the tide gate will remain open longer allowing the watershed to drain faster.

Fwd: IMMEDIATE ACTION NEEDED - Call legislators to OPPOSE - HB6385

IMMEDIATE ACTION NEEDED - Call legislators to OPPOSE - HB6385
Dear CAGCS members:

As part of the coalition, we (The Golf Community) should oppose HB6385.

The stated goal of the folks who are moving this legislation forward is to target municipalities, institutions and businesses next. These environmental groups  see Golf as having "big sprinklers" ,  hence the water diversion laws. The same strategies will be used to legislate our even "bigger sprayers."

This will eventually affect golf.

IMMEDIATE ACTION NEEDED- Call legislators to OPPOSE - HB6385 An Act Prohibiting the Use of Pesticides on School Grounds

We are OPPOSED to this legislation and are asking you to call your member of the House of Representatives at:

House Democrats: 860-240-8585
House Republicans: 860-240-8700

Unsure of who to call click here: or call us at 203-758-7297.

The state legislature is expected to vote on HB6385 - EXPANDING the pesticide ban on school grounds to all schools K-12 and CHANGING the definition of IPM (Integrated Pest Management) to eliminate pesticides.

To Read the Bill Language/Summary:

Need more information? Please call the office at 203-758-7297.

Talking Points: Oppose HB 6385, Prevent the Loss of Safe & Effective Management Practices for School Grounds

The bill will disallow sustainable and thoughtful approaches to the control of pests: weeds and insects, jeopardizing the safety and quality of playing fields.

Background: IPM is an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that relies on a combination of common-sense practices. IPM programs use current, comprehensive information on the life cycles of pests and their interaction with the environment. This information, in combination with available pest control methods, is used to manage pest damage with the least possible hazard to people, property, and the environment.

  • IPM has provided for safe, reliable and judicious use of pest control applications in lawn care, turf management, farming and inside buildings.
  • IPM allows for well maintained athletic fields and playgrounds, free of pest hazards.
  • Greatly reduces the use of chemical pest and weed controls
  • Prevents injuries to student athletes from rough playing surfaces, weed and insect allergies.
  • Reduced liability claims against towns and schools due to injuries.
  • Protects the financial investments towns have made in athletic fields and school grounds.
  • Greatly reduces the amount of pest control utilized for maximum effectiveness.
  • Utilizes IPM trained, regulated and licensed professionals for pest control applications.
  • EPA calls for IPM to be in every school by 2015.
Scott Ramsay, CGCS
Government Relations Chairperson
Connecticut Association of Golf Course Superintendents, Inc
P.O. Box 3678, Woodbridge, CT 06525
Telephone: (203) 387-0810
Toll Free: (888) 561-7778
Fax: (203) 387-7866
E-Mail Address:

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May 29, 2013

Greens Maintenance Days

The 2013 golf calendar includes new events called greens maintenance days.  These are days that were built in to allow us to complete our routine cultural practices such as grooming, topdressing, and venting the greens.  The timing of the events allows us to prepare for and recover from the premier golf events.  The nature of the practices will vary based on their proximity to tournaments or other cultural practices. 

Yesterday we verticut the greens to thin out the turf and smooth the putting surface in preparation for the Sid Noyes Championship this weekend.  Essentially this was more of a grooming and less of a verticutting, therefore the disruption to the putting surface is minimal.  What does this mean?  Not much to the average golfer, but to turf nerds like me it is exciting. 
Verticutting is an important tool that we use to control thatch and smooth out the surface.  Earlier this spring we used the Graden to remove a lot of material from the surface, which produced the firm smooth surfaces we have enjoyed this spring.  This time we just tickled the surface, but we did it in three directions.  In a couple of weeks we will be a little more aggressive and lower the blades to help with our topdressing application. 
So how does this affect the average golfer?  
In addition to the short term benefits realized by the tournament participants, and the long term benefits over the course of an entire season, golfers will be able to check the calendar before they invite guests out to enjoy the course or schedule an important match.  Additional information will be available on the blog to inform golfers about the level of disruption they should expect, and how long it will take for the greens to recover. 

Here is a link to a USGA video that explains the "Venting" process.


May 11, 2013

New Tree on 3

The new sugar maple has been planted on the 3rd hole. It is one of three trees that were approved by the Golf Long Range Committee, and is part of a larger plan developed by Tim Gerrish. It was the largest tree we could install considering the cost and equipment available.
Most people have commented that it is smaller than they expected, which is reasonable considering the size of the other trees in the area. The mature size will be 50'-70' tall and almost as wide and will compliment the other trees on the hole very nicely. It will take time to fill in the void and restore the penalty for an errant tee shot, but we will be fertilizing the rough in the area to add additional penalty to shots that stray left off the tee. We hope to add money into next year's budget to add more trees in the area.

We finally received a few showers this week which will promote a lot of growth throughout the course. The tees bounced back nicely from the dry spell as did the greens. The rough seems ready to explode which will pose many challenges for golfers as well as my staff. We Aeravated the fairways last week using our new aerifier. This shattered the firm dry soil allowing the rain to penetrate deeper and rehydrate the root system. After we mow them this week you will not know we did anything. We performed a similar "venting" of the greens last week which will provide oxygen for the root system for about three weeks. We will complete this periodically throughout the season to help the turf survive the heat and drought stress of the coming months.
The coming weeks will be dominated by fertilizer and chemical applications that will set us up for what I anticipate will be a great summer.
Thanks for checking in, and I look forward to seeing you on the golf course.

April 28, 2013

Opening Day is a success.

Thankfully the weather cooperated this week, especially for the Opening Day Golf Breakfast. We had a good turnout to enjoy the beautiful weather and much improved course conditions. The greens were much better, and except for one or two, were just about where we would expect them be this time of year. The fairways were firm, but the turf was a little lush, which may have stolen a few yards from people's drives.
The cool dry weather is excellent for the turf, and the plants are expending almost all of their energy producing roots that will support them through the heat of summer. I decided last fall that I was never going to complain about the weather again, but I would not mind a good day of rain in the near future. The greens are very firm, but the top 4" is a lot drier than I would like. We will be working on grooming the surfaces tomorrow in preparation for the Member/Member next weekend, and will irrigate heavily to help rehydrate the greens.
Looking ahead, tomorrow will be our first Greens Maintenance Day. I will have a separate post explaining what that means, but for now, things are looking very good so far.

April 23, 2013

Sod coming this week

We have started repairing damage on the 1st, 9th, and 18th holes. Last week we stripped the turf from the areas that were damaged last fall or did not completely heal from the previous spring. We have already replaced the fairway turf and corrected some surface drainage. We will be working on the rough areas early this week in between rain storms.
We have been closely monitoring the progress of the greens as they continue to heal from aeration. The below average temperatures have delayed the process, and I have been reluctant to try to push the issue with excess fertilizer. When soil temperatures are low, nutrients remain in the soil until the plants are ready to use them. Adding more will add to the reserve in the soil which can lead to excessive growth and slower greens later in the spring. I have scheduled two sprays this week which will help, especially if we get the rain that is forecast for the middle of the week.
We have been gradually lowering our height of cut over the last couple of weeks. A lot of the sand that we applied last fall was pulled to the surface during the aeration, and dulls the mowers each time we mow. We have been gradually lowering the height of cut to avoid the sand and are on schedule to be at or slightly above our normal mowing height by the Opening Day Golf Breakfast. I will keep you posted on any developments over the course of the week.

April 18, 2013

New tee complete

We installed the sod on the new forward tee on #13 today. I am rather pleased with many of the features, and I learned a lot from this project.
We still have work to do to finish repairing the work area surrounding the tee, including grinding the tree stump, and aerifying/seeding the rough in the surrounding area. Most of this work will be completed next week and the area should be repaired in time for the grand opening.
This project has been in the works for a long time, and there was even a pile of material that was placed in the area a few years back, but the tee was never completed. Once the decision was made to finish the project, it was clear that we were going to do it right. We did not build a "Ladies Tee", we added a forward tee that will provide a challenging shot on a difficult par 3 for golfers of many skill levels. We extended the tee back to add flexibility and variety. We consulted with Tim Gerrish a few times to be sure that the size and alignment were correct for the length of the hole. The materials were selected after careful consideration and consultation with other clubs (the root zone mix is the same that was used to build the tees during the recent renovations at Mohegan Sun).
Many of the design features and materials will be evaluated and may be used for the future tee projects, including the 1st/18th fairway project.
It will take about five or six weeks for the turf to become established, depending on the weather and how much work it takes to prepare a proper playing surface. If everything goes well we could have the tee open as early as May Madness, but worst case scenario would bring us closer to Memorial Day.

April 14, 2013

Aeration update.

You may have noticed that the spring aeration is complete, and at the surface appears to be less aggressive than in years past. It was also completed a month earlier. For a variety of reasons we chose to switch from a traditional core aeration to an aggressive verticutting. This will help us achieve most of the goals of our traditional aeration program, but focuses on removing organic matter the top 1" of the profile, a problem that has been identified in recent soil tests. The other goals of our traditional program (improving water infiltration and gas exchange, and modifying the root zone) will be addressed throughout the season by completing less aggressive treatments on a more frequent basis. Scheduling the aeration earlier in the season will reduce the inconvenience to golfers since there are very few people playing relative to a month from now, and the greens are still transitioning from winter to spring.
Looking forward we expect the benefits of this process to include firm putting surfaces and increasing the bent grass population. There are many other potential benefits that mean a lot to superintendents, but not much to golfers so I will spare you the technical details. We will be watching very closely to see how effective this process is relative to our traditional program, and how it can be implemented in the future to maximize the benefits to the turf and minimize the impact on the golfers.
On another, and perhaps more important topic, Joe Starzec and I met with golf course architect Tim Gerrish last week to examine how the removal of two key trees on the 3rd/12th and 17th holes will impact the strategy and integrity of the golf course. We shared a number of interesting ideas, and Tim will provide recommendations that will help restore the challenge lost by removing the damaged trees. I hope to have information for the Green and Golf Long Range Committees in the very near future.
Thank you for checking in, and we look forward to seeing you again on the golf course.
Remember to check your calendar for the Opening Day Golf Breakfast on Saturday April 27th, and the Spring Member-Member the following weekend, May 4-5. It looks like the course is on track to be in great shape.

April 10, 2013

Masters coverage

I am watching the early coverage of the Masters on the Golf Channel and saw a segment on their mowing pattern for the fairways. They mow all fairways from the green back toward the tee, thereby affecting ball roll off the tee and the lie for the second shot.
For me the interesting part was that they were using at least 12 mowers (the segment ended before the line of mowers did). Each of the mowers cost over $55,000, for a total of over $650,000 in fairway mowers alone.
One reason why more courses don't look more like Augusta.

Pete Gorman
Golf Course Superintendent
Pine Orchard Yacht & Country Club
Branford, CT

March 26, 2013

Tree Removal on 3rd Hole

This morning we had to remove the large white pine that guarded the left side of the 3rd/12th fairway.  One of the main leaders was split during one of the storms, leaving a serious safety hazard in a high traffic area.  Once the damage was discovered, we informed the Green and Golf Long Range Committees so that we could work together to find a solution. 
Before the decision to remove the tree was made we consulted an arborist to see if it would be possible to support the leader and save the tree.  The option he presented was to bolt through the crack, prune the limbs above the damage to remove some weight, and cable the limb to another part of the tree to provide additional support.  He stated clearly that the crack would never heal, and the stability would not be restored.  The limb that would be used to support the damaged leader was also damaged, and its condition would deteriorate over time.  Once we learned this the decision was clear that it had to come down.
As soon as we realized the limb was damaged and there was a possibility that the tree would be removed, we contacted Tim Gerrish to help us develop a long term solution to restore the strategy and preserve the character of the hole.  We are in the process of developing short and long term solutions that will provide a fair and balanced penalty for tee shots that miss the fairway, and will reward golfers that choose to challenge the left side to get a better angle for their second shot.
We will be working on this solution in the coming weeks, but for now our top priority is keeping the membership safe and informed of the situation. 

March 23, 2013

Good Friday?

I am starting to get inquiries about when the course will be open for play. We still have some work to do to wrap up our winter projects. The larger projects will take a couple of weeks, but we hope to get started with our spring cleaning this week. The main wildcard will be the storm on Monday. Any significant rain or snow will delay our ability to get out and get the course ready.
The decision to open the course is generally based on the balance between the amount of damage that is expected and the ability of the turf to recover. The damage comes in the form of ball marks, which are typically worse this time of year, and divots in fairways and on tees. Until the soil temperatures rise the turf will not be able to heal itself from divots and ball marks that are ignored or improperly repaired. In most years I am more concerned with ball marks. This year we have changed our aeration schedule and damage from ball marks will be insignificant compared to what I am going to do to the greens in a few weeks. So the focus shifts to divots. If we do decide to open the course early, we will avoid using prime teeing grounds. On some holes that may even mean off the tee surface.
I have already had a few conversations about opening the course with the Green Committee, and the consensus is that we should be sure that the course is able to tolerate the wear and tear. I will be watching the weather and temperatures closely this week, and will open the course as soon as I feel it is ready. I will continue to post updates here and in the weekly newsletter, so stay tuned. It won't be long now.

March 8, 2013

Transition to spring

Shop work update
George and the crew are working hard completing the winter service and cleaning of our equipment.  This involves engine service and maintenance, sharpening reels and blades, and checking to see which units are likely to require significant repairs in the future.  They spend extra time cleaning, painting, and waxing the equipment, which helps preserve the value of the fleet.  We also refurbished our course accessories, such as benches, ball washers, water cooler stands, tee markers, flagsticks, etc. 
We have invested significant time and money in refurbishing the roller and fairway mowers.  The roller is one of our most used units, and has a significant impact on golfers perception of the golf course.  While we have a new fairway mower as a top priority in our capital equipment plan, we felt that investing in the current units would make them more reliable and productive in the short term, and our current primary mower will become a reliable backup once the replacement is approved.

I spent the majority of the winter updating our maintenance programs, and reviewing the latest research related to fertilizers, chemicals, and cultural programs.  I focused my attention on fine tuning our maintenance programs to provide healthier turf that will be more resilient and less dependent on chemical control products.  Key changes include a more proactive approach to fertilizer chemical applications, and more aggressive cultural programs on greens and tees. 
Over the next few weeks we will complete the cleanup from our winter projects and begin the spring cleaning process.  Keep checking the blog for updates on projects, maintenance updates, and coming events that could affect the accessibility and condition of the golf course.

February 27, 2013

Winter flooding

As we expected, the heavy rains melted much of the snow that blanketed the golf course. The tide gate was closed during much of the day, and all the water moving through the watershed was trapped on the golf course. As we left this afternoon the flood gate was open, but it will take a while for the area to drain completely. Thankfully the forecast looks good for the weekend which should help dry things out.

February 25, 2013

Winter update

This afternoon I decided to take a walk, enjoy the warm sun, and check on how the golf course was holding up to the winter weather.  My first priority was to see how much snow was left on the course so that I could determine when we would be able to resume our winter projects.  Judging by the forecast we should be able to get back out there very soon. 

A thin layer of ice has formed below the snow
on the 13th green, but not enough to cause alarm.
Next, I wanted to dig a few holes on greens and examine what was going on under the snow.  Everything was just as I had hoped, and expected.  The deep snow that buried us earlier this month has served as an insulating blanket protecting the turf from harsh dry winds and extreme cold at night.  There were a few warm spells and rain events that melted a large portion of the snowpack, and that has created a thin layer of ice on the green surface.  The ice is not very thick (<1"), has not been around long (<30 days), and is very gray and grainy.  Ice becomes a problem on greens when it is thick and dense, and covers the turf for more than 60 days.  The gray grainy appearance means that there is air throughout the ice and there is no danger of the turf suffocating. 

Finally, I wanted to get out and look at some of the projects we had been working on prior to the snowstorm.  The most obvious work has been done around the 13th green.  We hired a tree company to remove a couple of large, damaged trees.  While they were on property I had them prune many of the trees surrounding the green to increase sun exposure and remove any dead or damaged limbs that presented safety concerns.  The finished look is remarkable.  The mature oaks appear much healthier and add much more character to the area.
We started filling in the cart path to the 14th tee that had been eroding, and was begining to show signs of damage.  We installed large boulders to create a shelf about 2/3 of the way down the slope, and backfilled the upper and lower portions with soil.  Once the weather is suitable we will install plugs of grass that will help support the slope while the rest of the area is planted with seed.  The grasses will be selected to compliment the natural areas that have already been established throughout the area.  The final stage of the project will be to design and install a naturalized planting using ornamentals and grasses that will add color interest in the area just below the rock outcrops.  This will provide a naturally beautiful backdrop that will compliment the ruggedness of the natural surroundings.

Before long it will be time to dust off the clubs and get back out on the course.  When you do keep an eye out for some of the changes that we made over the winter.  A few favorites (for some, but certainly not all) will be:
  • the removal of the large pine tree on the back of the 8th tee.  The fairway area is much more inviting, especially from the 17th forward tee. 
  • The mound on the 6th hole is the process of being removed.  We will soften the feature to create a manageable undulation that will still protect the corner, but will not impact the pace of play.
  • We have removed a few more trees to the right of the 5th fairway.  Hopefully you will have a better chance of finding your ball, but I doubt you will be any happier once you do.
In a future post I will share some of the things we have accomplished over the last few weeks while we have been snowed in the shop.  I hope that the changes to the timing and nature of our programs will make a significant impact on your ability to enjoy the golf course. 

January 29, 2013

2012 Review

Today I spent some time looking back at the 2012 golf season.  I reviewed my journal entries and spent a few minutes reviewing the maintenance standards developed by the Green Committee last spring. I almost forgot how challenging the year was, and looking forward I intend to use these experiences as a source of confidence and inspiration, and I am looking forward to implementing the plans and programs that I have been working on over the last few weeks.

The 2012 season started with the completion of the recovery from Tropical Storm Irene.  there were areas where the lack of internal or surface drainage prevented recovery via seeding, and portions of the 1st and 18th fairways required sod to be installed so that the course would be ready for the golf season.  In general the improvements were very well recieved by the majority of the memebrship, and although there are still a few fairway and rough areas that need to be addressed in the spring, it is nice to know that these issues are only temporary.

The warm winter that facilitated the recovery turned into extended periods of excessive heat and drought. This allowed us to maintain firm, fast conditions throughout the golf course, and I heard a number of comments that the fairways played as hard as ever referring to the firmness as well as the difficulty. I am working on a plan that will allow us to maintain similar conditions while minimizing some of the more severe drought stress that was suffered on a few fairways by mid-summer.  The plan includes a combination of fertilizer and chemical applications combined with regular aeration.

Thankfully the greens not only survived Irene’s storm surge, but were healthy heading into the golf season.  Perhaps the most important change for 2012 was the purchase of a moisture meter that allows us to measure the moisture content of the root zone.  Now when we monitor the greens we know exactly how much water is available to the plants, and can use that information to determine the need for irrigation based on the weather forecast.  It also removes any subjectivity when we are communicating with each other regarding the condition of the greens.  Terms like “the back of the 4th green looks dry” or “the greens are soaked” have been replaced with “the average on #4 was 22, but the back corner was in the mid teens” and “the greens are all still in the upper 20’s”.  This makes it much easier to focus our attention on the areas that need water, or to have the confidence that we can go another day or two without running the irrigation.  This technology proved most valuable heading into the Invitational and Club Championship weekends.  We were able to monitor conditions heading into the tournament and could tell exactly how close we were to the edge.  Participants raved about the condition of the greens, and we heard comments that “the greens were as good as they have ever been”.  Looking forward we will be focusing on reducing the organic matter in the greens which will provide firm conditions on a more regular basis.

The rough was a topic of much debate, and as usual there were as many people calling for a more severe penalty as there were begging for us to “use the mowers once in a while”.  Due to the extended dry weather rough areas that were adjacent to fairways and greens received adequate irrigation, while a few yards away the turf was thin and inconsistent.  This year we will be able to aerify the rough, and I have already scheduled fertilizer applications designed to help maintain healthy, resilient turf throughout the season.  The addition of a larger mower will allow us to mow prime areas more often, which will allow us to fertilize a little more often without slowing down the pace of play.

The highlight of last season was the approval of the Water Diversion and Fairway Renovation Project.  A lot of hard work has gone into this project for a number of years, and finally we have the right plan and the right people in place to correct the issues that have plagued the first and last holes of the golf course for decades.  The engineers and architect worked at lightning speed to develop a plan that will not only improve the condition of the turf in these areas and make it possible to survive the most extreme storms, but will ultimately take the two worst holes and transform them into the signature holes of the golf course.

Just as I was getting ready to catch my breath, Hurricane Sandy rolled up the east coast and inundated the golf course with a storm surge that was a foot higher than Irene.  Although we were in complete disbelief that the 100 year storm could hit two years in a row, we knew what to expect and were prepared for anything.  Thankfully the surge brought much less sediment and debris so the course cleanup was much easier to handle.  Unfortunately the damage to the maintenance facility was more severe and we had to perform extensive repairs to the office and shop areas.  The timing of the storm was also in our favor, as the turf was already preparing for winter and therefore the impact of the salt water was much less severe.  There are a few areas that will have to be repaired with sod in the spring, but many of them were already damaged from the extreme heat of the summer.

Looking forward, we are very excited about the coming golf season.  Last fall I worked closely with Joe to develop the golf calendar, and we included greens maintenance days built in so that the benefits would be realized during the premier golf events.  We also modified our greens aeration program so that our most aggressive aerations will occur at the beginning and end of the season.  Our in-season aerations will be much less aggressive, which will dramatically reduce the recovery time and inconvenience to the golfers.  Minor cultural practices that may impact the condition of the greens for a day or two will be listed on the golf calendar that can be accessed through the club website.  Hopefully this will eliminate any surprises and it will be easier to know when to bring guests out to enjoy the course.

Next week I will be in San Diego for the Golf Industry Show and Education Conference.  In addition to the trade show I will be attending talks about controlling insects, water management, and the politics of water.  I know it sounds pretty boring, but it is in San Diego, so I won’t complain too much.

I hope you have been able to steal away to warmer climates and sneak in a round or two of golf.  I have had to settle for watching the PGA, and so far it looks like they are headed for another great season too.