Friday, October 19, 2018

Hard to believe we are on the same planet after what happened last week end into Monday!!  The difference in the courses is astounding and a credit to the hard work of the crew to get them that way.  Thanks to all the members and visitors who have paid us compliments over the past few days.  It really does brighten our day and makes the hard work worth the effort.  All main playing areas are back to normal with some areas of rough still needing a mow.  This is the time when the rough can get away on us with some heat and now plenty of moisture in the ground so please bear with us.  It's not often at this time of year we get such an extended forecast for light winds so make the most of it on the courses while you can!!

A big week next week with the re-location of a 100mm irrigation main line across the front of 4W green on Tuesday.  As mentioned before here the two front bunkers on 4W will be reduced in size to allow for the sweeping bend of the pipe.  At the moment holes 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 are supplied by only one 100mm irrigation main line following the failure of the one we are replacing at 4W which doesn't allow for required water pressure.  
The path at the rear 10W across the front of ½ way West and 15W green is also scheduled to be re-surfaced.  
If the weather is kind to us the West tees will get a renovation next Thursday.  Hopefully we will be able to get them scarified and hollow tyne aerated in the day.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The rain has finally stopped and there's some sunshine and a decent outlook at last.  The courses received 130mm over the past six days which was less than forecast which is only a good thing and for once we were spared the big numbers that fell further up the coast and  the hinterland.

The courses have bounced right back and all playing surfaces were cleared of the debris that came down in amongst the 70+ kmh wind gusts.  Only one tree came down in on the LHS 11R.  The staff did a great job today getting the courses back in shape and ready for golf - with motorised buggies on both courses - on Wednesday.  Greens on both courses will be cut and rolled for Wednesdays comp and bunkers raked with probably 3 or 4 bunkers still holding some water.  

So we are good to go!!

Some before and afters below; 

4W fairway prior to blowing.

4W fairway after.

Rear 4W green bunker.

And after.

Tree down LHS 11R.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Not a very pleasant end to the week weather wise and the forecast doesn't look good for the week end either.  100% chance of 30 - 50mm of rain for Saturday and 100% chance for 30 - 80mm for Sunday means it may be a wet one!!  The wind is also a pain with debris down across the courses but the crew did a great job again today in particular cleaning up after some gale force gusts on Thursday.  The wind was so strong that it has even started shredding the bark from the Gum trees which normally doesn't generally happen until well into November.  

Leaves on 3R green makes putting tough.

4R fway covered.

Bark being stripped from Gum trees.

No motorised buggies allowed on the West course today and virtually no play came out as a result.  The greens stay dry though so we took advantage of the situation and got the West greens de-thatched and mown while the surface was dry in the late morning which is a bonus as this is normally done in front of play while it is still dewy.  A dry surface means a much better result and the photo below shows a tiny sample of what was removed with the main thing being a lot of it was dead material that makes up the thatch layer in the turf which is the layer between the soil surface and the top of the leaf blades.  The less dead material in there the better and the de-thatch also helps create some new shoots.  We also took the opportunity to put some liquid fertiliser on the West greens after the de-thatch so although no golf it was a win win for us. 

Mainly brown dead material removed.

The new stump grinder that will primarily be used as a tree root grinder got it's first run this week up the RHS 1W fairway.  It did a great job as expected and so starts what will be a virtually never ending task of removing tree roots from fairways in particular.  At this time of year with the increase in grass growth it will be difficult to allocate time to this new task but we will get it out as often as possible.  It is a head down type of job and takes a lot of concentration so if you see it out on the courses please make sure the operator knows you are about to play.

The new addition to the fleet.

Tree root chopped off on 18W.

The forecast may not help us win next week though as a contractor had been booked to add some sand to bunkers on the West course. That requires the use of a large backhoe (and shovels + rakes) and trailers to transport the sand around.  Unfortunately if it is too wet then the job is postponed and the problem is the contractors are normally booked a month ahead and it is normally that long before I can get them onsite again.  That also puts it back into the busy time of tee and green renovations as well.  Here's hoping the forecast is wrong.


Friday, October 5, 2018

As mentioned last week the short working week was going to present some challemges then a couple of irrigation breaks added to the workload of the week.  Come Friday afternoon the courses are looking a treat and have cleaned up particularly well after a very windy Wednesday and Thursday.  Just about everything got mowed / trimmed and blown off or in the bunkers case out.  I would have to say that the courses could hardly be any better given the resources that are available on course.  Let's hope the weather behaves and the rain stays away for the Club Champs this week end which may well be wishful thinking!

A few of the fairways on the River course have quite a "stripy" look about them which is a result of an application that was made a couple of weeks ago.  We put out a tank mix of a growth regulator and a herbicide which is very commonly recommended and used throughout the world of turf but was a first for us.  For some reason we got a reaction and the mix didn't combine properly despite mixing together quite well in a "jar test" prior to application and hence the resultant stripes.

Stripy result on 2R fway.
A bit more tree work on the programme next week with a number of dead trees to be removed and a bit more trimming in a few areas.  We will also be doing some topdressing on some of the turfed areas around the West greens in amongst prepping the River course for the 3rd round of the Championships. 

Friday, September 28, 2018

A good week for the courses this week with two good dumpings of rain of 13mm each and mostly at night so no effect on the golf but a great effect on the turf.  There is nothing as good as rainfall for a golf course.  Greens on both courses were sanded this past week with a mix that contains some organic material and some gypsum.  The white fleck / granules visible on the West greens is the gypsum that has a hard time dissolving and mixing in to the very tight surface but is so fine has no effect on ball roll.

While we were commissioning the new pump control unit last week we had to de-pressurise the system several times which puts some dangerous air into the pipe network as we refill the lines and that soon exposes any weak pipe areas as it did on Tuesday morning when a mailine burst in front of 13R green.  A couple of other niggly problems connected with the installation but overall the pumps are operating very well.

A short week next week with the public holiday on Monday followed by a 2 tee start for the Ladies on Wednesday, a normal members comp on Wednesday and Friday and a double shotgun start for the veterans on Thursday.  Somewhere in between all that we will try and get the West course prepped for the first round of the Club Champs which is a 4 tee 6.30am start on Saturday!!!!

Well the golfing world was certainly abuzz with Tigers win last week end and the upcoming Ryder Cup.  The small fields at both East Lake last week and at the Ryder Cup certainly help course presentation, particularly greens, but the word from the volunteers is that the turf at Le Golf National this week eclipses East Lake for the most pure turf they have ever seen.  The regular course staff levels at Golf National is 35 and that ramps up to 80 when they annually host the French Open.  This week for the Ryder Cup there will be 180.  That's right 180.

Photos below show;  
  • Attention to detail pressure cleaning the dam bulkheads.
  • Attention to detail using hand scissors to trim encroaching runners.
  • The 7,000 seat grandstand at the 1st tee.
  • The 12 (twelve) fairway mowers on their way out to do their 
  • And lastly I have seen a video of the green in the photo below on the first practice day with 25 people concurrently working on it to mow the green, rake the two bunkers and change the hole. 

Pressure cleaning.

Hand trimming.

1st tee grandstand.
Fairway mowers on their way out.

Perfect turf.

And further in the world of golf I thought it was ironic that Golf Australia magazine had an article this month discussing the issue of the distance the ball now flies.  Turn the page and there's an article from Justin Thomas on how to increase your distance!!??

Friday, September 21, 2018

As mentioned last week the control interface on the irrigation pump station was replaced this week and it did take the predicted 3 days, one of which was 13 hours long, but it was successful and the pump set is humming away nicely.  The new controller gives an improved pump performance and a smoother flow of water dependent on demand which for an ageing pipe system such as ours is very important.  The photo below is of the installation about half way through.

Who'd be an electrician?

Bunkers are always a favourite topic amongst golfers with all sorts of opinions available on what constitutes a good bunker.  Over the course of this year we have been spending considerably more time on bunker maintenance, particularly raking. For quite some years early in my tenure at Cool Tweed we were raking bunkers 6 days a week which was a great strain on manpower and as staff numbers have reduced so has bunker maintenance.  We don't really have any set pattern on when the bunkers get raked as it depends on what type (and how much) of play is scheduled but they are probably done on average 3 times a week.  Not all bunkers get raked every time with "greenside" bunkers taking precedence.  One of the problems with the machines raking bunkers is the access point for the machine as it is normally worn out turf from the tyres and a lot of sand gets bought out of the bunker on the machine and then dropped on the surround as the machine bounces out.  Over the years I have always been on the look out for hand rakes that are suitable for use in bunkers and have finally found some having seen them at one of the clubs I visited in the USA last year.  They give an excellent finished result although not as smooth as the machine.  The main feature of them is that they eliminate the access problem and they also rake through leaves better than the machine can which is an added bonus as a lot of our bunkers are literally leaf collectors.

Sandy machine access area.


Hand rake in action.

I am an avid reader of old golf anecdotes and found this gem last week from 1908 where the smooth state of the bunkers was heavily questioned!!  Quite a few years ago a club in Brisbane started raking their bunkers on a Saturday morning.  When the afternoon field was asked if they noticed it they said no as by the time they got to them they were already destroyed by the earlier players.  Interesting to see Harry Vardon's name mentioned below who was the founder of the almost universal "Vardon grip" in golf.

Bunker was too smooth!!

Friday, September 14, 2018

A less than pleasant start to the week with the sewerage pipe that services the clubhouse springing a leak and requiring some substantial work to repair it.  The rising main runs from the clubhouse virtually straight through the middle of the course and exits into Davey Street.  We have had a few issues with it over the years and most of the time a large tree has been the culprit as it was this week.  I think after the trench was originally dug for it the soft sand made for easy digging for tree planting as there are a number of trees right on top of the pipe.  And this one this week was right on top of it as the photo below shows.  Fortunately our various contractors came to the rescue with trees requiring removal, a large trench dug and the repair completed by a licensed plumber.

The offending pipe in the middle of the rootball.
A close up of the pipe.

During the week we trialed a stump grinder around the courses.  The object is twofold in that we can start grinding up a lot of the exposed roots in the roughs and also trace some of the roots intruding into the fairways.  The process seemed to be a success although it is very labour intensive so it will be an ongoing (read never ending) process.  We also used it as a root pruner in a couple of spots as well which is certainly not what it is designed for but it may be useful in places although we are currently investigating the purchase of a purpose built root pruner similar to the one that has been used here previously.

Root pruned and a root ground out RHS 18R tee.
Two roots intruding into 9W fairway ground out.

A big week of irrigation work next week with the control interface of the irrigation pumps being replaced.  The pump station was installed in 2000 and has barely missed a beat since but the actual unit has long been superceded and the modules for the interface are no longer available so an upgrade is essentially required.  It will mean that there will be no irrigation available for possibly three days which would have been unthinkable at this time of year in the days of Bentgrass greens.  The entire switchboard will also need to be re-wired which is a tedious task for our electricians.  While the system is down we will be doing quite a bit of maintenance work around the courses lifting low and dropping high exposed sprinklers.  There are also a number of stop valves around the courses that have failed and need replacing as well as some routine maintenace on some of the satellite controllers.  All of this type of work can only be performed when the system is de-pressurised.  

Friday, September 7, 2018

Not the greatest way to start the week with an irrigation leak at the rear of 13R green.  Remarkably it was on a pipe that we didn't know existed which has been the case a number of times over the years on the courses.  One of the most famous is a 100mm mainline that runs up 18R fairway that we have tested and found to be live but we have no idea where it goes.  Fortunately this time a backhoe was on site for some other course works and was able to dig the rather deep large hole for us.  What is also remarkable is that the pipe was there throughout construction of the green and survived unscathed.

Not a great start!!

And speaking of greens, this year marks the 20th anniversary of the conversion of the back 9 River greens from Bentgrass to 328.  Wow how time flies!! 

We demonstrated an electric greens mower this week for the first time.  There have been a few hybid mowers mixing a combination of diesel and electrics but this is the first full electric I have tried.  It only got 12 greens done before losing charge and that was on the flat West greens so it would have more of a battle on the sloping River greens.  The quality of cut was quite good but losing charge so quickly is a concern.  Watch this space.

We finished up with nearly 60mm of rain this week and once again the majority was good soaking rain and the courses lapped it up.  A couple of irrigation repair holes were dug this week and it is still very dry under the surface.  We certainly fared better than Byron Bay who copped in excess of 120mm for the week.  It was amazing how coastal the rain was though with very little if any reaching out west where it is desperately needed.  And once again you couldn't knock the weather bureau who had tipped the rain for almost a week.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Maybe I should lament about the weather more often, particularly the lack of rain as I did last week with nearly 50mm of rain falling last week end.  Most of it would have soaked in which is just what the doctor ordered as they say.  Recent soil tests had sodium levels in the greens very high which is normal after a prolonged dry spell and high use of irrigation with our recycled water.  Whilst the water is free it is not perfect and does cause some issues for the turf although it is very consistent in makeup.  The rain would have helped "flush" the sodium out of the root zone and allow the greens to start growing again which has been evident from the green up this week.  Some specific fertilising will be employed as well as some solid tining of the greens in the coming weeks.

The staff did a great job getting the course ready for todays Pro am with a "playerless" course available on Thursday afternoon allowing the courses to be fully blown and mown during the course of the day.   Fairways like 2, 4, and 11R always seem to have leaf matter on them and it's not often we get the chance to get the courses so clean of debris so it's very satisfying to see them in that condition. Didn't last long though as the predicted "near gale" force winds have arrived blowing debris down and making scoring tough.

Another old saying of red sky at night a sailors delight didn't quite come true with the sunset below on 4 River on Thursday evening.  Then again I guess sailors want wind which they certainly got on Friday.

4R into the sunset.

11R spotlessly clean on Thursday afternoon.
11R not so clean Friday afternoon!!😧

A bit of a sad day to farewell Russ Davis today.  Russ has been here 21 years and whilst in my former position at Victoria GC the Pro there Brian Simpson celebrated his "21st birthday" at that club, so in my 35 years as a Superintendent I have spent 34 of them with just 2 Club Pro's which is pretty amazing.  Russ is one of natures true gentlemen which always makes me wonder how he finished up barracking for Collingwood!!  Good luck in the future with whatever you do Russ.
Interested visitor in an on course irrigation controller!!

Friday, August 24, 2018

A very cold week of low temperatures in the mornings with frost patches apparent on many fairway areas, particularly on Tuesday.  Courses in Brisbane actually had full frost cover which isn't a good thing as motorised buggies cause leaf burn as they move over the turf.  Even wheeled buggies can cause dramas so thanks to our coastal location we generally only get frost patches.  I remember Garth Shambrook telling me that he only ever saw one complete frost on the courses in all his years here.

Frost patches on 1R fairway.
And speaking of Garth, here he is on the right with his happy band of volunteer Dads Army lads circa 1998.

Dads army
This time last year I was lamenting the dry weather we were experiencing with only 4mm of rain falling in August.  That was then followed in September by the first month I had seen no rain recorded!!  Only 2mm so far this August so hopefully the forecast rain this week end arrives overnight Saturday to freshen the courses up and allow the mixed 4somes to go ahead unhindered.  It has been a dry year by our standards with just 855mm recorded YTD compared with recent years;  2017 - 1040mm,  2016 - 1310mm,  2015 - 1760mm,  2014 - 840mm,  2013 - 1925mm and 2012 - 1926.

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!!