Friday, September 18, 2020

A beautiful week of weather and maybe spring has now sprung?  On Tuesday we had a very sleepy Carpet Python crossing 13R fairway and several bee swarms as well as the return of the Rainbow Bee Eaters to the courses, which are all good signs of spring.  Some of the grass is also starting to move which is not before time as with the amount of cart traffic and play we are experiencing some areas are just plain worn out.  The seed head is starting to show on some of the different Couch varieties around the courses which is also a sign of warmer temperatures.  Fortunately we have had better rainfall this year which helps enormously with the turf's resilience.  The past two years we had around 230mm of rain falling between May and August compared to 425 this year and most forecasts are for a wet summer so we will wait and see on that one.

A productive week on the courses with the River greens de-thatched and double mown on Tuesday which as I have mentioned before is quite a rarity for us to achieve, within our maintenance time frames.  We also started on some tree root removal in some fairways and will continue that in the coming weeks.  The tractor mounted root pruner will also make an appearance over the coming weeks down the sides of fairways.  

Tree root snaking out on 5R fairway.

The world of golf's eyes are pretty much firmly on the US Open at Winged Foot and as always there is much talk about the course.  I haven't seen any first round coverage yet but people seem to be upset that the scores were so low.  It was apparently quite soft and calm and with the shortened daylight hours at this time of year they were probably concerned about players finishing.  They are estimating that 90% of the course prep work will take place in the dark which they are well set up for with mobile light towers and obviously all machinery having lights.  The normal crew of 55 will be bolstered by 85 volunteers which is amazing that so many were allowed given Covid.  And speaking of lots of people, apparently there will be up to twelve marshals on each hole basically acting as fore-caddies to prevent lost balls.

Kudos to the crew though as the early photos I have seen has the course looking pristine.  The course was completely overhauled between 2016 and 2018 and the focus since that finished was June 2020 for the US Open.  Earlier this year thanks to Covid, that became September 2020 and threw up a major curve ball as it is the end of summer and it is a cool season turfgrass course, so they had to keep the grass totally pristine throughout a full summer, which is no mean feat.  Don't get me wrong, Winged Foot is always pristine, but to maintain US Open level pristine, including five inch long rough throughout a summer, is phenomenal.

A lot of the restoration work focused on the greens which are, and always have been, treacherous.  All bunkers and tees were re-built and several holes were lengthened.  Most of the play lines are as they were as can be seen at 18 tee below.  The photo at the top is Jim Furyk on 18 tee in 2006 and below is 18 tee for this year.  Pretty tight lines??!!

Furyk on 18 tee 2006.

18 tee this year!!

Friday, September 11, 2020

22mm in the rain event yesterday and hardly a drop ran off which was very welcome as we were getting quite dry again and the pump situation hasn't been helping.  It has been a very dry August and September period although the water table is still holding up which is evidenced by the dams at 7 / 8 West still holding a good amount of water.  The 22mm takes us over two metres of rainfall for the year with three months to go.  Rainfall records for the Tweed Heads site have been kept since 1886 and in the 134 years there have only been 30 years when over two metres has been recorded with eight of those happening since 2006.

Back to the pump station and a couple of repairs this week have us pumping at about 80% and with a new manifold delivered today and hopefully installed early next week we should be back to full capacity which will be nice.  It was a good week on the repair side as well with no pipe blow outs and just a couple of niggly little problems in the satellite control boxes.

We were able to get the greens on both courses de-thatched today which is quite rare to get that done in one day.  The forecast rain obviously put a few people off and we were able to take full advantage.  We also started to de-thatch the West collars today which is the area immediately around the green.  The constant edging and work done to the greens means that the green surface level can fall below the collar and create what us turfies call a "well'' effect.  So we will be starting to de-thatch the collars more often to try and combat this issue.

I was watching some old golf tapes last week and came across this promo from the 1998 Victorian Open and Golf Australia had their own show with none other than Cool Tweeds Nicole Lowien as host.  I must say I don't remember the show but it just shows how far golf has fallen down in the ''must watch'' stakes.  Hopefully the boom that is currently being experienced in golf around the world will lift the games profile back up somewhere near where it was.  That 1998 Vic Open was played at Victoria GC in Melbourne and the crowds were absolutely huge and it was played without any big names apart from the leading Australians of the day.  Incidently it was won by West Australian Brad King who was a looong hitter in those days....wonder whatever happened to him? 


Friday, September 4, 2020

Another frustrating week in the pump shed after a very optimistic start on Monday when the foot valve (arrow to it below) was pulled out.  Upon inspection there was considerable corrosion along one of the welds and several small holes were evident which pointed to where the air was getting in.  The rubber gasket was also badly worn which would not have helped.  We replaced the foot valve and re-connected and after pressurising the system we still had air affecting the flow rate of the pumps.  It is still spasmodic and affects different pumps so is extremely difficult to find.  Two new components are being fabricated at the moment for installation next week to hopefully solve the problem.  It is still affecting our capacity to irrigate as the pumps will sometimes shutdown mid cycle and therefore no water gets to the courses so obviously the greens are the first priority.

Suction pipe being lifted out of the well.

One of the reasons there is a skylight in the pump shed

The fluctuation of pressure throughout the courses is also wreaking havoc with the pipework and we had five ''major'' irrigation repairs that were done on Thursday.  There is already another one ready to go on Monday near 9W green.

The course closure on Tuesday this week gave us the opportunity to de-thatch and sand the River greens and the closure on Friday afternoon allowed us to get the greens double cut and rolled which is a very rare occurrence for us.  The early morning tee times and speed of the first groups makes it very difficult for us to get that amount of work done in front of play.  Unfortunately the wind has dropped a lot of tree debris around the place but other than that the River course is good to go for rounds three and four this weekend.
We have had a kangaroo out on the courses over the past couple of weeks and it has now invited a mate along for the hop!!  I have seen a wallaby on the courses a few times before but this is certainly a new one.  Hopefully they won't start breeding and take up residence as they can become quite a nuisance both with their droppings and potential aggressiveness towards golfers.
And then there were two!!

Friday, August 28, 2020

A nightmare of a morning last Sunday while trying to prep the course for the mens foursomes.  The pumps went down just after we started which was crucial as we use a high pressure hose with a special nozzle to blow debris off the greens prior to any work being done on them.  And given the way it blew on Saturday there was a lot of debris to move!!  Using the water is faster and obviously way quieter that petrol blowers so it was quite a disruption.  Then we had another pipe blow out on 13R that required some specialty fittings that we don't stock.  It was one of the ''specials'' that we so often find when we uncover pipe work!!??

Alas further pump shed dramas during the week but at least I have been able to get some water out to greens, tees and some selected fairways with the station operating at about 20% capacity.  We now have two new problems with some air getting sucked into the system which means the pumps start pumping air instead of water and overheat as a result.  It doesn't take much air to cause the overheating and finding it is exceptionally difficult when it isn't an obbvious pinhole as we have had before. 

And the foot valve that connects to the bottom of the suction pipe that is in the well has got a leak which will most likely be a gasket that has worn, or at least here's hoping anyway.  The foot valve is basically a check valve that stops the water from draining out of the suction line and cause the pumps to lose their prime.  The foot valve does all its work 12 feet down the well in the pump shed under water so it is quite an operation to get it out and a franna crane truck will be required to assist.

The footvalve.

The course closure on Tuesday this week gave us the opportunity to de-thatch the West greens and we were also able to get them done again on Friday afternoon during course preps for round one of the championships.  As I mentioned last week you get a far superior result when the greens are dry hence the confidence of going out the day before round one.  In contrast to the River greens there was no sand applied to the West as the surface is so tight there is virtually nowhere for the sand to go so it sits on the surface and then really interferes with the mowers.  Good luck to all competitors in round one tomorrow, we think the course has come up a treat and is good to go!!

Friday, August 21, 2020

We got up to 30 degrees in the shed compound on Wednesday this week which was most welcome but the nights remained a bit cooler which doesn't help turf growth.  The westerly winds that are common at this time of year have kicked in with near gale force experienced on Wednesday afternoon.  As a result this is a messy time of year with tree debris constantly being blown down.  

We did remove the covers from the River course tees in readiness for this weekends Foursomes Championships and it was interesting to see the result.  5R tee is not as shaded as 4 and 18 and it showed with the amount of growth it had put on which required mowing with an old school walk behind spin cut mower.  Considering 4 and 18 are both in total shade they did quite well although it was mainly just leaf growth and there is no real body to the turf cover.  If you have a look at 18 on the extreme RHS there was some more growth there where the tee does get some sunlight.

5R tee lush growth.

18R much greener but still sparse.
We were able to get the River greens de-thatched and sanded on Tuesday after the ladies with the course closed to play to allow some unhindered maintenance.  Both jobs get a superior result when they are done in dry conditions.  The sand applied contained some gypsum and humate which will not only benefit the greens nutritionally but also helps level the surface. 

And we will start preparing a temporary green on 1R next week just short of the creek.  This is to allow some remedial work done on the creeks rockwall and we will also be removing the foreign grass invasion into the greens surface.  This has been tried before but only one application of herbicide has been applied and the areas cut out and re-turfed only to see the foreign grass recover.  This time we will be applying herbicide on three weekly applications to ensure a kill.  The areas will then be cored and then the green will be renovated and the renovated material will be placed in the cored areas of the dead zones to re-generate and cover in.  The temporary green will be in play when the green is sprayed for at least a day at a time and then for four weeks while the turf establishes.  If all goes to plan the green will receive its first herbicide application on September 21 and then be planted during the River greens renovation week in October.

Friday, August 14, 2020

A whole week without an irrigation blowout dare I speak too soon?  We did have a leak on a town water line to one of the bubblers but that was quite minor so very happy indeed.  All is still dry and humming in the pump shed which is also very relieving.

Not much else to report on the courses this week with a fairly busy time prepping for the first two rounds of the Ladies Champs and dealing with lots of play.  A dual public holiday for Brisbane and the Gold Coast today certainly saw some players arrive.  Some mid-20's temperatures this week as well but no sun yet reaching the shaded tees but hopefully some warmth.  I haven't peeked under the covers on the tees as yet and they will probably stay on until late next week.  The cancellation of the NSW Open qualifying event, whilst disapointing, also took a lot of back tee play pressure off the tees which with Club 4somes and champs plus the Twin Towns Open will be quite intense over the coming month.

What did happen this week was that this blog turned ten years old.  So over the past ten years there have been 469 posts made on the blog to inform members of what is happening on the courses and I trust it has been an informative journey.  It isn't always easy coming up with some pertinent text every week but I think it has been worth the trip to be able to inform members of what is happening on and sometimes off the courses and in the maintenance shed.  Upon flicking back through some of the posts the weather seems to be the dominant subject throughout, which is quite understandable as it is the greatest influencing factor on the game of golf. 

Prior to the blog there was a bi- weekly email newsletter that went out to members that started in July 2006.  There was a section of that one pager that was devoted to "course matters" so members of Cool Tweed have indeed been spoiled with the information they receive from the course as I don't know of any other club that has had such a regular update from the Course Superintendent, particularly for fourteen years.
It's been an amazing ride and I well remember that first newsletter which was born from a conference I attended in 2006 where the presenter encouraged us to "use the internet to communicate with your members"!!  My now wife Michelle was Golf and Functions Manager at the time so we decided to put a newsletter together.  You must remember that that was in the day when people were very cautious in giving out their email address and bulk emails were unheard of.  But we put a sign on the bar and got 24 members signed up so we added our own and some other colleagues and staff (and family!) and the first one went out to 50 addresses with  three simple rules that there was to be no advertising, it would only ever be one page and there would be a section called "course matters" in each issue.  To our amazement the next morning we had over 20 replies saying it was the best thing the club had ever done and so the ride began.  Pretty much the only negative comment came one time when we put a 3mb photo in it and it took  "too long to download" which was of course back in the dial up speed days!!  Circulation finished up at 1100 addresses after four years and then with all the positive response to the course matters section, the blog was born.
The first newsletter in 2006

The blogs popularity grew quite quickly and by late 2011 the blog was getting around 65 hits a day.  Early days publication timing was a bit spasmodic but then I settled in to a routine of posting on Friday afternoons at the end of the week and the blog now averages around 100 hits per day and on Friday / Saturday that number regularly exceeds 500 so it reaches far and wide.  So much so that in the past week there have been 38 page views from Ukraine and 22 from Russia!!  Some of the highest page view numbers came when Cyclone Debbie slammed on to the coast in 2017 and earlier this year in February when we recorded nearly one metre of rain.

WEATHER on the blog.  2017 Cyclone Debbie this time.


Thursday, August 6, 2020

The repairs at the pump station got a couple of tests this week with the system needing to be shutdown due to pipe breaks in the field.  When this happens we have to ''re-prime'' the irrigation lines and remove the air so starting the system up from scratch was a good test for the pumps and they passed easily.

With the amount of back tee play coming up over the next two months and the poor state the shaded tees find themselves in due to lack of sun and wear from our excessive play, we gave those tees a light renovation this week.  This included a hollow tyne followed by a heavy application of fertiliser.  This was followed by covering the teeing areas with the same growth blanket that was used during the West greens establishment.  This will do two things.  Firstly it will keep any unauthorised play off the areas which is becoming commonplace and save some significant wear and tear.  And secondly, and most importantly, hopefully promote some growth by warming both the canopy of the surface and also the soil.  The photo below shows 18R tee at midday on Wednesday this week and as you can see there is virtually no sunlight hitting the surface but at least the covers will warm it up.  They are planned to be on for at least three weeks.

18R tee covered.


Friday, July 31, 2020

160mm of rain last week end which was just about exactly what the bureau forecast and although badly needed with no irrigation system available it certainly put a dampener on the golf.  Some absolutely torrential rain came down on Saturday morning and the pool noodles in the putting cups did what they are supposed to do in a swimming pool and started to float. The torrent of rain was too much for the greens drainage to handle but the greens are designed so that the water can run off in times of such heavy rain.  Five minutes after the rain eased back to showers we were putting again.The photos below show 4W green during and after the rainfall and 15W green during from the safety of half way West.

4W green with a player on 9W next to the arrow!!
4W green 5 minutes later.

15 W green during.

About the only thing the bureau did miss last week end was this front that rolled through on Sunday evening and although only lasting a few minutes, it certainly packed a punch with very gusty winds and another torrential dump of rain.
Not really what was needed.

And finally late on Thursday we finally got the pump station pumping again following the successful replacement of some of the pipework.  It was a very awkward situation to work in as each of the three pieces had to be installed in a confined space and due to the nature of the pipes, each had to be precisely fabricated to fit.  Unfortunately it wasn't possible to ''buy off the shelf'' as explained last week and the photo below shows the three new pieces under the arrows and the tightness of the work area.  It was a great effort by Assistant Simon, Irrigation Tech Dave and Machinery Tech Craig to get the job done.

Arrows on the 3 new pipe sections.

Friday, July 24, 2020

The pump station is still causing some grief after further pipework problems were discovered last week while undertaking some repairs with another section of pipe needing to be fabricated to replace a faulty fitting.  As all pump stations are different there are generally few spares available as the pump set is individually assembled to suit the layout of the shed area.  So for the past two weeks we have had no capacity to pump water on to the courses.  Fortunately it is winter, although with the recent spell of mid 20 degree days you wouldn't know it.  So we are irrigating greens and some tees by hand with a water cart which is a slow but obviously necessary process.  Apologies to the players booked to play today but the overnight and early morning rain was definitely music to my ears.  The forecast looks promising as well but not so much for golf.

The rain forecast on Thursday afternoon.

Our current irrigation system!!

I have written before about some Poa annua (wintergrass) that has become resistant to the normal herbicides that we use to control it both pre and post seeding in several areas of the courses.  Poa is a great survivor and indeed is the primary turf type for many greens around the world including Pebble Beach and Oakmont in the USA.  But for many courses it is considered a weed and a lot of effort is put in to controlling it, particularly in greens.  For a warm season turf course such as ours it is better to control it as it dies out very quickly once it warms up due to its shallow root depth.  The resistant varieties started appearing on 5 and 6R and have now found there way to the Tifeagle practice green and 10R green.  Most of the products that are available to control Poa work quite slowly with some taking up to four weeks and can have the ability to damage the other turfgrass so a cautious approach is required in using alternative products.  It is not a local problem for us with resistance being experienced in Sydney and Melbourne in particular.

Resistant Poa annua in the PPG surround.

An interesting study out of the USA recently regarding foot traffic on golf greens.  It showed that the average foursome of golfers will leave each green with an average of 500 footsteps in the process of walking on to the green, putting out and then walking off the green.  So with the 100 foursomes booked on the courses tomorrow there will be 50,000 steps taken on the greens!

Thursday, July 9, 2020

An early one this week as I am on leave for the next 10 days.  Only 31mm of rain overnight but it was enough to put us back under water again in many places.  We have never really dried out with the lower temperatures and high water table so it was expected.  The rain during today seemed to be very localised to the courses as there was plenty of blue sky on the horizon on several occasions during the day.  I had to travel to Yatala to pick up some parts for the pump filter and coming back over Tugun hill in bright sunshine there was Cool Tweed under a grey rainy cloud.  You could barely make out Pinehust high rise.

16W fairway Fiday morning with some blue sky in the distance.

The rain was certainly welcome on the greens though as the pumps have been down for much of the week with a four inch mainline needing repair at the rear of 12W green and then a flange gave way on the outlet side in the pump shed meaning we have no capacity to pump water for irrigation.  It's not easy to get some types of freight at the moment with the flight restrictions so we are still waiting on the replacement to arrive.

Mainline at rear 12W green.

Friday, July 3, 2020

We managed to get the River greens solid tined this week although it did take two days to get through them.  The photo below shows the wear on the tine with another centimetre gone and some real reduction in the diameter of the tine near the tip.  So we only get to do the greens once with each set.

The River greens also got a fertilise on Thursday morning and some sulphate of iron was added to the mix to bring out some colour which is a commonly used ploy. A beautiful day on Friday with 26 degrees in the compound might actually sneak a little bit if growth in with a bit of luck.

Friday didn't start that well though with an irrigation main blowout on 13R fairway meaning we had to shut the pumps down and facilitate the repair.  I had planned to fertilise the West greens on Friday morning but no water meant it gets postponed till next week.  The break also meant three men were occupied with the repair and subsequent re-charging of the irrigation system for the best part of five hours of unplanned labour loss each.

We were also able to get the tees fertilised this week as they are really showing the effects of the amount of play we are having and the soft conditions due to the rain.  This is particularly the case on the shaded tees such as 4R shown below with the result of just one days play.  At this time of year 4R and 7W tees don't get any sunshine at any time of the day.

4R tee in the shade.
As I have reported here previously we are having some ongoing issues with the pump station and seem to be spending way too much time in there at the moment.  One of the unseen jobs we have to do is the maintenance of the pumps and we are currently having issues with one of the main pumps which has an issue with its impellers.  So the pump technician was in this week to strip it down and find out what is happening.  The photo below shows one of the 30hp motors being lifted off the pump so we can find the problem.  The pump station consists of four 30hp and two 20hp motors and was designed so that only five pumps are required to achieve the desired flow so that a single breakdown doesn't effect water distribution.

Top arrow to motor and bottom one to pump.

Friday, June 26, 2020

I was talking to a fellow Superintendent this week and we were discussing the value of experience on the course staff and I started to consider our Cool Tweed crew.  Sunday will mark my 21st anniversary with the Club and there are still four crew who were here at the start and over the years there has been 128 staff members come and go and stay.  The current crew have a combined total of 230 years on the courses and that includes the two apprentices who have just five between them so there's lots of experience out there.

Back to the courses and we were able to complete the spraying of the tree bases this week and were also able to fertilise all River course fairways.  The West greens were aerated with solid tines which helps get some much needed air into the soil profile without disturbing the playing surface too much.  It's been hard to get it done over the past few months with the amount of play we are getting and we quite often do it on a rainy day when there is no play on the courses.  Below is a photo of one of the actual tines used this week compared to a new one on the left.  The tines start off at 140mm long and a diameter of 6.3mm and after aerating half the West greens the tine had lost 10mm off its length.  There are twenty four tines on each machine and we look to get 80mm depth with 333 holes per square metre.  So that means we ''punched'' 3,996,000 holes on the greens this week!!

This much wear after 9 greens.

The new Club website is now active and to access the ''course conditions'' where motorised buggy status is published you just need to press the ''cloud'' icon on the RHS of the home page.  You don't need to be signed in to do this and this area also includes a link to this blog.

Press here for course conditions.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Pretty much getting sick of rainbows at the moment with the constant sun showers really becoming annoying and also keeping us wet.  There are a lot of areas on both courses that are being badly cut up by motorised buggy traffic and I would ask drivers to watch where they are going and avoid the wet areas.  I saw an amazing photo of buggy traffic on a course in the USA where they have a tracking system fitted to their buggies so that they can monitor exactly where they have been driven around the course.  The photo below shows the traffic from all 121 buggies that were driven around this course in just one day which is quite an extraordinary graphic and I am sure we would probably look worse than this given current traffic levels we are experiencing.  The yellow lines are all traffic and then the blue one is just one highlighted.  At least the greens and waterways were spared!! 


Out on the courses all West fairways were fertilised this week so at least the rain did some good there and we started the exhaustive process of spraying around the bases of the trees to clean up the weeds.  We also had another couple of irrigation issues requiring some repair but the major irrigation issue this week is in the pump shed once again with a leak on a flange on the outlet to the courses.  A new flange needs to be fabricated which will take a couple of days before we can fit it which will require a total shutdown of the system.  The photo below shows the culprit with the rust only showing on the non-visible side of the pipe.

Just a pinhole size - but too much.