Friday, August 17, 2018

The USPGA Championship has been run and won and it was interesting that at in June everyone seemed concerned with Pros struggling to make par in a major and then last week the scores were too low!!  Apparently Brooks Koepka earned more money at the U.S. Open and PGA Championship this year than Arnold Palmer and Gary Player won in their careers -- combined!!

The course seemed to play very well considering the weather they have had in the USA, particularly this summer.  St Louis is one of the toghest places on the planet to grow Bentgrass with extreme summer temperatures and high humidity contributing to the difficulty.  Throw in the fact that they get snow there as well which reduces the growth window and the staff did an enormous job to make it work.  I liked the commonsense sign that greeted the players in the locker room when they arrived.

Some commonsense.

The PGA tour moves to North Carolina and to Sedgefield CC which I wrote about in 2012 when they converted their Bentgrass greens to Champion Couchgrass in a very tight time frame prior to the tournament.  That was done due to the difficulty of growing Bentgrass during summer in their climate when the tournament is held.  Unfortunately some of the worst winter weather on record caused severe dieback on their greens and the staff reportedly planted 135,000 x 2 inch plugs from other greens rather than attempting to re-turf.  A monumental job and reports are that the greens are running beautifully for the tournament.  

Before and after a Sedgefield!!

Back to Cool Tweed and the weather is absolutely superb at the moment.  It's still not warm enough to get the grass really moving as we need the soil temperatures to rise for that to happen.  The River greens are still slow to recover from the shade and wear of the past few months and they got a solid tine aerate earlier this week to try and get some much needed air to the root zone.

A week of tree pruning, predominantly on the West course although we did do a little on the north side of 18R tee and I snapped the photo this afternoon of some sun hitting the surface which would be the first time since probably March.  The pruning certainly lightens the area and the bit of sunlight couldn't possibly do any harm!!  

18R tee

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Another hugely successful Vets week of golf with the amazing run of superb weather continuing for them.  In all the years I think there has omly ever been one wet day and this week the little bit of rain that came was just after play had finished on Monday night as per the radar image below.  And as always I think the courses were left in better order than they started the week!!

Only a few mm but after play!!

And now with all the West greens planted with TifEagle perhaps one of their tests was passed this week when the grazing flock of Cockatoos stayed off the greens and fed only on fairways in the late of the day.  They normally would dig the old Bentgrass greens up and cause significant damage at this time of year.
7W green untouched!

A lot of work being done in the bunkers recently with a practice we call "backfacing"being carried out.  It's a process of dragging sand back down off the bunker face and pushing it back from where players drag the sand when exiting the bunkers.  So essentially levelling the floor of the bunker which is a hard, slow and labourious task but very necessary.

18W bunker after being backfaced.

This coming week will see some tree work being carried out.  A travel tower will be onsite for the week trimming dead, dangerous and intrusive limbs and a stump grinder will also be onsite grinding and repairing stumps.  

Friday, August 3, 2018

It's certainly nice to get back to the courses and the sensational weather that is more spring like than winter.  For the sake of the turf, particularly on the greens I hope the sun continues to shine.  The River greens are having a very tough time of it with the huge amount of play almost literally wearing them out.  The shaded and heavy walk off traffic areas are feeling it the most.  It is easy to see just how much shade and wear affects the greens when you compare shaded greens like 4, 5 and 12 with full sun greens like 16 and 18 on the River course.  The West greens are not as badly shaded but 3 and 5 are having a tough time of it which is to be expected given that they are still only 9 months old.  The photo below is of 12R green at 1pm last Tuesday and shows the extent of the shade on the green that makes growing quality turf virtually impossible.

12R green at 1 pm.

All in all though the courses are in great shape and a credit to my Assistant Simon and the rest of the crew with the work they have put in over the incredibly busy golfing month just gone.  The comments from players in the Senior Amateur that was held this week were very positive which helps make all the hard work worthwhile.

I mentioned about the resistant Poa annua before I left and unfortunately there is no real breakthrough available for Poa control post emergence but there were a couple of pre emergent options that we may try.  It is hardly surprising as controlling Poa seems to be a bit like curing the common cold which for the first time in my travels I didn't get a cold whilst away.  Given we spent a week in Iceland in their "summer" where the temperature never got above 10 degrees celsius it was a bit of a surprise!!  There was an unexpected large number of golf courses in Iceland that are predominantly Poa annua so they don't need to control it that's for sure.  As an aside I think I saw at least 12 golf courses but not one person playing given the weather, despite nearly 24 hours daylight being available!!  So the upshot at Cool Tweed is that we will be trialing a couple of different options for Poa control this coming season.

And if you lost a Callaway ball on the right side of 8R recently it's caught in a tree as shown below!!


That's a Callaway up there!!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Very sad news with the passing of the legend Peter Thomson this week.  Peter was a Life Member at Victoria GC in Melbourne where I spent 15 years and I had many dealings with him on and about the golf course.  One of nature's finest gentlemen who never had a bad word about anyone.  Vale Peter.

Peter supervising construction of 17 green @ Victoria GC.

This will be the last blog post for a little while as I am heading to the first Australasian Turf Conference in Wellington next week and will then be taking 4 weeks annual leave.  One of the highlights of the Conference will be to get to hear arguably the worlds most authoritative voice on herbicide resistance.  Herbicide resistance is when an individual plant is able to survive an application that would normally (and does) control other plants of the species.  It has been a major problem in the southern States of Australia now for quite a few years and once it has developed there is no way back other than a change of chemistry and that can take a long time to happen and sometimes there is no alternative.  Poa annua is the plant that has been one of the hardest plants to control in fine turf situations and is the one that is causing concern down south.  At Cool Tweed we are now experiencing some resistance with a "crop" of Poa at the rear of 6R green that is now unable to be controlled either pre or post emergence with our current chemistry.  The first time I noticed it I thought it had just been missed by the sprayer but it is now unable to be controlled by any turf registered herbicides but we will keep trying!!  At this stage this is the only area that we have resistance in.

Resistant Poa at rear 6R.

And speaking of Poa, not everyone considers it a weed as evidenced by the greens at Shinnecock Hills last week and arguably some of the best greens in the world at courses such as Oakmont, Pebble Beach and The Olympic Club.  But that's another story for another day.  And just a final word on Shinnecock, it just shows what can happen to a course when people start overriding the knowledge of the Superintendent without really knowing what they are talking about.  As I mentioned last week the Supers I know who were there couldn't believe the quality of the turf and surface in the previous week and even though the greens didn't look very good on TV they still putted exceptionally well.  It wasn't the fault of the turf managers but moreso those that chose the hole locations.  Oh and one more word - I can guarantee that Peter Thomson would have never ever contemplated doing what Phil Mickelson did!!
The Shinny course maintenance crew last week.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The end of a pretty frustrating week with a number of irrigation issues resulting in no water being available for the courses until Friday night.  The problem was a number of leaks on the town water control line that feeds the satellites throughout the courses.  Just a small leak is enough for sprinklers to either leak and/or fully come on and finding the leaks is very difficult, nearing on impossible some times.  We use the services of a leak detector firm who are very adept at locating the leaks but it is a needle in a haystack situation even though we know where the pipes are located.  It is generally only a 16mm pipe that services the satellites and often the leak can be on the underside of the pipe and spraying straight down in to the sand and not visible on the surface.  Finally progress was made on Friday and a full irrigation program ran overnight in to Saturday.  The new greens were starting to stress and I dare say that if we still had Bentgrass greens they may have been in real danger of perishing.  Here's hoping for some settled time ahead with the irrigation system.

The bonus of the warmer sunny conditions this week was a bit of colour coming back throughout the courses though not enough to cause any real growth.  It's still very important to sand your divots and repair pitchmarks on greens as a courtesy to other players and to give the turf the best chance.  As I have said before "Leave the course as you would like to find it"!!

Obviously a lot of golf talk this week is directed at the US Open.  I have a few friends who are there either as spectators or volunteering and they are unanimous in their opinion of the incredibly good turf conditions.  I am yet to see any footage but have heard that the greens have been a little bumpy which is a common problem with the type of grass they have there which is the same as Oakmont who have some of the best greens in the world.  A crew numbering in the 40's is the normal staffing level at Shinnecock so the 150 volunteers takes the crew to near 200 for the week!!  Kind of shades the 9 crew at Cool Tweed on Friday which was unusually low though due to some annual and sick leave.

The lunchroom at Shinnecock!!

Just some of the machinery in their shed!!

Friday, June 8, 2018

So much for the call of nice winter weather last week.  A particularly cold and wet end to the week although the courses were drying so the rain was welcome for the turf but not so much for the players.  

Our irrigation control system was installed in 2002 and consists of a central computer that communicates with the 25 on course satellites which then operate the sprinklers.  As mentioned a couple of weeks back we are having issues with some of the components in the satellites and that some are now out of production and unavailable.  To ensure that we have some necessary spares we changed the satellite on RHS 9 West to a new irrigation control system known as "GWave" which we have been trialing over the past few years.  GWave is a wireless control system that sends underground radio waves from the controller to the sprinklers which overrides our existing system and so freed up a full bank of 12 components for use as spares elsewhere.  To enable the GWave system to be installed the sprinklers need to be changed over as well and that happened this week.

The US Open golf is on next week at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club  and from all reports the course is in incredibly good condition which it generally is during the golf season.  Shinnecock is one of the most private clubs in the USA and one of the best.  Normal staffing levels are around 30 on the course and that has been lifted to 40 for this season before the army of volunteers arrive for tournament week.  It is a particularly windy site and no two consecutive holes run in the same direction and some cut across each other so it is very difficult to read the wind which makes it very difficult to play.  The USGA do take over course set up for this tournament so hopefully they won't put it over the edge as happened last time they were there.

The layout demonstrating the changes in hole direction.


Friday, June 1, 2018

Well what a way to start winter with!!  If that's what is going to be served up I'd take it every day.  A couple of overnight showers to keep the courses ticking along and beautiful sun filled days!!  Let's hope for it.

The grass is still kicking along, particularly on the fairways which have been getting some liquid fertiliser applied to them over the past couple of months.  Their colour is holding very well and I intend to continue the liquid fertilising throughout the winter.  Any growth we can get on the fairways is a bonus with the divots becoming more prominent especially on the short River course doglegs.  As mentioned a couple of weeks ago please repair your divots with sand.

Whilst talking fairways, we have around 34 hectares of mown fairway area which is quite a bit when compared to the average 18 hole course having somewhere between 12 and 16 hectares.  We only have two mowers for fairways which is why you see them mowing in amongst play as we just can't get them all done in front of play.  A really good 6 - 9 am morning session will see about 12 fairways get mown obviously depending on their size and we have some BIG fairways out there.  We also don't really go out of our way to "stripe" the fairways up as you see at many courses as we can't always mow in the same direction which is how you get such a striping effect.  This is because there are many times where we just mow the fastest way possible to stay in front and/or away from play.  The lower photo below shows some of the striping effect whilst mowing 1 River fairway but if you don't keep mowing on the same lines the effect is soon lost.  Throughout the summer months the fairways have a growth regulator applied to them which has the added bonus of preventing the seedhead to form while it reduces growth by up to 50%.   

1W mower in action

1R in action with striping just visible behind.

We get to talk to lots of people on the courses and the positive feedback we get about the courses is very satisfying including one member last week whose praise for the new West greens was such that I can't print most of it but "brilliant" was part of it!  We only operate with a fairly small crew for such a big property with an average of just 11 crew members on course over the past two weeks.  I well remember when I arrived here in June 1999 and there were 19 staff available on my first day!

But when someone plays the course and takes the trouble to put pen to paper (or send an email in this case) about their experience across the whole club then that's very pleasing for all the employees within the club.  Here's what he said;

3 of my golf mates and myself played the VETS comp as visitors, not having played at your club previously and I feel it appropriate to firstly thank you for a wonderful relaxing day on such a brilliant course [ RIVER ]
The PRO SHOP staff were so welcoming and polite which set the day on a special level to begin with.
The HALF WAY HOUSE lady was delightful and friendlyWhile our golf didn't reach ex heights we all will look forward to another visit in the future
Thank you for a most enjoyable adventure