Friday, December 31, 2010

The end is here!

Well let's hope it's the end of the rain.  It has certainly been the hot topic of the past week in particular and I signed off this morning on 469mm of rain for December, 312 of which fell from the 23rd to the 28th.  December 2010 comes in as the second wettest on record for this location behind 1955 with 487mm, which is a bit of a concern as that was the lead up to the "1956 flood" which was the second worst for the Tweed area behind 1954.  Interestingly only 1970 with 462mm, 1983 with 440mm and 1943 with exactly 300mm are other years where more than 300mm of rain was recorded in December for this location since 1886, which illustrates just how unusual this month has been.  2010's total rainfall of 2,280mm has it placed 10th for annual volume since 1886 and well up on the location average of 1685mm.

The fan at the 17th West green didn't like the rain as some moisture found its way to a control switch and caused a circuit breaker to trip out.  It is back in full operation now in time for the next month which is normally crunch time for the green.  Looking at the quality and quantity of grass cover at the moment the mind boggles as to why it is such a problem child. 

The other West greens have experienced some disease which is only natural given the intense moisture that has been about and that outbreak is now hopefully in check.  The River greens have "puffed up" with the ideal growing conditions of late and are proving difficult to maintain a level mown surface with the amount of growth they are experiencing, although the putting surface is still good..  A light de-thatching next week should help the surface level out somewhat. 

With the short working weeks and huge volume of play it is impossible for us to keep up with mowing all the rough given the exponential growth at present.  At this time of year there is no such thing as finishing mowing rough so please bear with us through the coming weeks.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The end is nigh

The end of year is approaching and the visiting golfers are about to descend upon us (if the weather holds out) once again.  Earlier this week we had a visitor of a different kind, that being a Wallaby.  Unfortunately I couldn't get my camera focused quickly enough so only got a long range shot.  We have seen it twice this week so hopefully I will get a photo next time.

5th West dam 27/12 09
I don't think the weather warrants mentioning with everyone well and truly over the rain.  It is an amazing contrast to last year when there was no rain recorded from November 24th to December 19th which followed a particularly dry spell.  This year rain has been recorded on 20 out of 24 days in December.  At least the on course dams are enjoying the rain as evidenced in the photos.   My records show that last year I pumped water down from the treatment plant for irrigation for 3 months straight 24/7 up until December 27th.  This year I can barely remember pumping any down at all! 
5th West dam 24/12/10

"Submarine" 8th West dam
Whist I am talking about dams the "submarine" that has appeared in the 8th west dam is actually a float that supports the pump that circulates water through the adjacent dams.  The pump was previously on a frame on the floor of the dam but had continual problems sucking in debris so now that it is suspended in the water we should have trouble free operation.

And dam the person in the first group who left this pitchmark on the 17th West green this morning. 
17th West green after one group today

And on a more pleasant note thank you to the Member who dropped off a case of beer and a Christmas card for the groundstaff yesterday.  You have no idea what a small gesture like that does for staff morale.  Thank you and I trust all Members have a safe and merry Christmas, with lots of dry weather golf!!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

It's been a long week hosting the Greg Norman Junior Masters but a successful one, particularly for the senior boys winner Cameron Smith who shot an amazing four round total of 24 under par.  I guess you have to feel sorry for the runner up who shot 17 under as that would normally win comfortably.  The story of the young fellow who aced the 17th River two days in a row was quite amazing too.  Most years we have some issues with the weather and this year was no exception with the final day seeing the final groups bought in off the course due to lightning.  The weather radar on the final day was looking rather grim so I rang Murwillumbah GC Super Brian Cox to see what it was like there and if there was any lightning.  He responded that there was no lightning and that it was very black but it would probably blow away around the mountain like the day before.  Five minutes later he rang back with "starting to rain a little bit", then five minutes later "raining a lot with a bit of lightning", then five minutes later "lightning every 20 seconds", then five minutes later "hailing now".  Needless to say my advice to halt play was heeded and the players got in just in time.  15 mm of rain fell in about 10 minutes and play resumed after the storm cell had passed.  News filtered through later that day of the golfer who was struck by lightning and killed at Hawks Nest GC, which was an unfortunate reminder of the danger of being on a golf course during an electrical storm. 

The humidity of the past couple of weeks has caught up with the West greens with quite a bit of disease present despite applications of preventative treatments.  The good news is that the 17th West green has withstood this outbreak thus far so here's hoping that the fan is doing its job and it gets through the heat of summer unscathed.  At least we have missed the rain for a change with only 118 mm being recorded over the first 18 days of December with only 3 days having no rain recorded.  Southport has recorded 186mm and Horton Park on the Sunshine Coast a massive 326mm.

Next week will see some trenching on both courses to replace some irrigation control tube lines.  Trenching will take place on 1 and 10 West and 13 and 14 River.  The 16th West will also have some trenching to allow for the installation for an additional fairway sprinkler.  Growth retardants will also be applied to the fairways to slow them down to allow for the four day Christmas break and onslaught of play that follows.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

It's been a hectic time since my last post and I now wish I had gone to my families Christmas party in Melbourne last weekend and avoided spending 25 hours on the courses on Saturday and Sunday!  Things started badly on Saturday morning at 4.30 am when my irrigation pump flow meter was reading 5090 litres per minute, when full irrigation cycle load is only 3,700 litres per minute.  This meant either a malfunction of the meter (wishful thinking) or a big pipe break.  Unfortunately it was the latter and a six inch mainline had blown apart next to the 1st West fairway.  Hand digging was impossible due to the roots so our backhoe contractor Pete McConnell came to the rescue and excavated the hole for us.  The best part of 6 metres of mainline was replaced by myself with the assistance of our irrigation man Dave Luxton, who already had 52 hours down on his timesheet before another 6 hours were added on Saturday afternoon.  One of the critical things to be careful of after losing virtually all the water out of our irrigation pipe network is to regenerate the system very slowly and expel as much air out as possible.  To do this I need to operate some sprinklers which would have looked quite odd on Saturday evening after it had rained most of the day.  It all ended well and the system is now back in full operation waiting for the rain to end. 

Tree roots in the trench

The guilty section of pipe

You sometimes wonder what makes people tick when you see something like the photo below.  Some idiot had emptied the wheelie bin at the half way house on the entry road this morning which cost me two men for 20 minutes cleaning it up when they would have been far more productive on the golf courses somewhere!

Entry road 5.30 am this morning

Friday, December 10, 2010

Week ending December 10

A few of tees on the courses have suffered a burn from the recent herbicide application which is most unusual.  The tees were sprayed at the same time as other areas and as mentioned earlier you would normally expect a superficial burn but the tees are far worse.  The tees are always under a degree of stress with the amount of wear they receive and this is most likely the cause.  Turf is no different from any living thing in that if it is weakened in any area it is more prone to other problems manifesting themselves.  Fortunately only a small number of tees were sprayed and therefore affected by the burn. 

Spray burn at rear 2nd West tee

The Greg Norman junior tournament is nearly upon us again and the Renay Appleby day was played today.  A 17 year old girl from Malaysia shot an impressive 5 under 68 in windy and warm conditions to win the girls event and the boys could only manage an even par round for their best score.  There was a straight drive on the 16th River today and I extended the line a little this morning with the north wind blowing but didn't figure on one of the girls bombing a straight 250 metre drive past the end of the line nearly equal to the Fig trees.!

Next week will see us starting earlier in the morning to prepare the River course in front of the juniors 2 tee start.  About two and a half hours is about all the time we get on the River course each day next week so we need to make the most of it.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Lucky so far

Well so far so good with the rainfall as we have missed most of the worst of it.  Reports of ten plus inches at some locations further up the Gold Coast although mainly inland.  We have had just under 3 inches since last Wednesday with constant "scuds" coming through which can be a bit annoying for the staff as no sooner do they get their rain gear on, the sun is back out to bake them.  A few Gold Coast courses are currently closed due to flooding and many have their bunkers out of play due to washouts and flooding.

One thing the rain and humidity is creating is grass growth and plenty of it.  The fertiliser on the fairways has also now well and truly kicked in and a growth regulator has been applied to them.  The growth regulator slows down the growth by at least half and also prevents seed head from developing on the Couchgrass which helps with aesthetics and cuts down the frequency with which mowing is required.  With 33 hectares of fairways and two mowers we are doing our best to keep up.

The Greg Norman tournament next week also affects what we can do on the courses as we can only mow on the River course in front of the field and then come back over to the West course.  At least the week leading into Christmas is normally a bit quieter on the golfing front so we have a good opportunity to catch up then.  A four day break over Christmas will also affect how much mowing we can get done. 

We are finding it hard to keep up with the roughs and that will probably only get worse. The roughs are the areas that receive most complaints at this time of year and with the growth rate we are experiencing we can only mow all the rough on both courses once in a week if we don't have any machine downtime.  So in a word be prepared for some searching for balls if you hit it in the rough in the coming weeks.  

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Summer's here?

Well the humidity might be, but the hot sun certainly hasn't arrived consistently yet, although the couple of hot days we have had are certainly a reminder of what is to come.  The constant wind of the past few weeks has seriously interrupted our spraying programs and the wet weather and humidity has seen a huge germination of weeds throughout the courses.  Most of these areas have been treated this week resulting in the brownish appearance of many areas, particularly the greens surrounds.  This is just a superficial burn and will grow out naturally in a few days.  I have actually had to resort to some hand removal of some weeds to try and keep on top of them.

The River greens have also had a large number of weeds appear but the wind has thus far prevented me from getting them treated.  I am hoping for good conditions tomorrow or Friday to get them sprayed in time for the Greg Norman tournament.  It is possible to use pre-emergent products on the greens to prevent weeds germinating but they generally have an adverse effect on root growth, so I generally steer clear of them.

I submitted the rainfall figures for November today and we had just 64mm which was a nice change from the 480mm in October.  It was recorded over 15 days though which has meant a lot of annoying rain for golfers and groundstaff alike.

The 8mm we received last night certainly wasn't annoying as it washed in the fertiliser that was put out on 8 of the West course fairways yesterday.  More fairways were fertilised on the West course today and as I write this there looks like some rain on the way from the north that will arrive just after the golfers finish for the day.
I am looking forward to the Course Information Session tomorrow at the Course Maintenance shed in Davey Street at 4.30pm DST, and hope to see a lot of interested Members there.

Friday, November 26, 2010

It's truly amazing just how many leaves trees can produce and then let the wind blow them all over the golf courses!  Surely there can't be anymore left up there to blow down.  The wind has finally started to moderate and it is a credit to my staff the way they persisted with the blowing and clearing leaves and sticks from the main playing areas.  It can be frustrating sometimes when you are literally up against the wind but they did a great job under the circumstances.  It may seem a waste of time to players to be doing so much clearing in the windy conditions but the more sunlight we can get to the turf the better and the better the enjoyment of the game.

The fan at the 17th West green has had its final tweakings and has now been permanently mounted on some scaffolding and prettied up with some shade cloth.  There are still lots of people asking about it so it will definitely be a topic of conversation at next Thursdays course information session.  The fan produces air flow of 35 kmh 2 metres from it and I have recorded flow of up to 7 kmh at the front of the green.  It may seem strange for it to be operating in the windy conditions but it is important for the air movement to continue whenever there is a drop in wind velocity.
Final resting place

We are slowly but surely updating our rubbish bin / ball washer / NTP card holders.  They do take quite a bit of time to assemble and are being done as time allows our Head Mechanic Craig Plowman.  They look quite smart with the stainless steel post a great improvement over the old timber.  
Very nice addition

The Yagi antenna that was mentioned in an earlier post has operated faultlessly and three other locations will now have them installed over the coming weeks.  With the temperatures rising it is crucial that the irrigation control system is operating at its best.

Monday, November 22, 2010


One of the more annoying things that can happen to a golf course is when morons decide to drive their car on the course, and in particular the greens.  I have seen worse damage and the green is still basically playable but it is most annoying.  The sad part is that when you look at where the tyre marks lead, i.e. straight between the bunkers, it is obvious that the driver was well acquainted with the golf course. 
Add to this damage the six divots that have been taken out of the greens over the weekend and you can tell their are some angry people on the courses.  Having the "pleasure" of watching some of the attempted golf swings out there, they may be better to harness their anger, invest in some lessons and improve their game......and leave the golf course alone!!

11 River green

Friday, November 19, 2010

Encroachment 4

The West greens were treated today with a product that helps control and prevent Couchgrass from flourishing in the greens.  As I have mentioned before there is no sure fire method of completely removing the foreign Couchgrass and the best we can hope for is containment.  There is a stain on the greens from the application that should wash in and/or grow out over a couple of days.  In contrast to the new product I have trialled on other greens that has resulted in quite a distinct dis-colouration, this stain is not permanent.

Staining on sprayed areas

The pump that re-circulates water through the dams at 7 / 8 West has broken down and is currently being assessed for repair.  The water in these dams is very salty/muddy and there is an abundance of aquatic weed and mussels of all things that make the life of a pump in this situation difficult to say the least.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Air waves

The irrigation control system has now been installed 9 years and is still in excellent operating order.  However, there has always been intermittent communication problems between the base station located at the maintenance shed and the 25 controller locations throughout the courses.  The worst of these locations have always been the farthest away and those secluded by trees, of which we have many.  Over recent times lack of signal strength has worsened and it has become increasingly frustrating to try to send out irrigation programs.  Testing has established that the increase in the leaf canopy height and density is the main culprit and to overcome this a new type of antenna has been installed as a trial at the 18th River green.  Called a Yagi - Uda (commonly known as just "Yagi") the antenna is more directional than the whip antennas used on some of our locations at the moment which better suits the type of signal we are transmitting from the base station.  Unfortunately at the 18th River green the antenna needed to be mounted just above the controller enclosure and looks a bit out of place and certainly more visible than I would like.  The main thing for me is that it hasn't missed communicating since being installed which is very promising and will be trialled over the coming weeks.

Old whip antenna on box dwarfed by Yagi overhead.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Course information session

These sessions have proven successful in the past and another is to be held on Thursday December 2nd commencing at 4.30pm DST at the Course Maintenance Shed in Davey Street.  All interested Members are most welcome to attend. 

The intention of the session is to discuss, explain and enlighten members as to our maintenace practices and procedures.  Questions are most welcome which will also save me having to come up with some topics!!  This Blog is a useful communication tool but is limited by my typing speed so the information session will allow me to expand on matters of interest concerning the courses.  I hope to see you there.

Encroachment 3

Encroachment is a dirty word when it comes to golf greens and unless you have a large pool of resources at your disposal it is very hard to combat.  I am talking about foreign grasses invading the putting surface and pretty much the best way to successfully prevent it is constant monitoring and hand removal, which is very labour intensive.  Selective chemical controls are limited in Bentgrass greens and non-existent in Couch greens. 

There have been several barrier type products promoted over the years as a successful method but I am yet to see them be successful over the long term.  Other methods include running an edger blade around the perimeter which, whilst partially successful, also requires a large labour input and you finish up with a small groove that relief needs to be taken from and the line of play can be interfered with.  Painting Roundup on with a paint brush has been tried but you cant have players walk on it or else they will spread the chemical so on a course as busy as ours this is also not viable.

A couple of months ago we sprayed out some collars and areas on the River greens as reported in Blog posts on September 7 and 14.  The old turf was only removed to sod cutter depth following application of a herbicide and the concern with this is regrowth of the Couchgrass.  In the photo below you can see Couch re-shooting after 300mm of soil was removed at the nursery green, so I don't hold out a lot of hope on the River greens despite the application of herbicide.

Regrowth of Couch after 300mm of sand removed
The West greens have a similar problem with Couchgrass constantly encroaching.  There is a product registered for the control of Couchgrass in Bent greens but it is not effective on all types of Couch.  It is interesting with this product that in the USA the label warns not to apply it to putting greens!  I have used it since I arrived here and had good success against the susceptible varieties early on but now really only apply it to limit the invasion.  Over the past 3 summers I have been trialling a new product with some success although the downside is that there is some dis-colouration of the Bentgrass.  Trials are continuing this year and you will notice this dis-colouring over the next few weeks. As I don't believe it interferes with the putting surface I am happy to continue the trialling and hope we have the same success as  last season..

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The fan

The fan at the 17th West green has now been operational for a week and under going assessment for the best location and height, whilst on the back of our tipper.  At this stage I am confident that it is now in the optimum position to provide the required airflow across the green.  A more permanent mounting is the next phase of the installation and this will take place within the next two weeks. It has always been the intention that the fan will run 24/7 during the peak stress time, which will be November through till the end of March at the earliest.  A couple of days this week have been quite humid with a variable wind and this is where the fan can come into its own by ensuring that air movement is maintained across the green surface.  There will be days where the wind is blowing constantly and it seems that the fan isn't doing much, but it is critical that it is on to supplement the wind at any time that wind speed drops.  Obviously operating during the night time when the air is heavy and moist is also crucial  Actual running costs are difficult to determine but around $7 per 24 hour period or $50 per week is expected.

I mentioned in a previous post that fans are not a new phenomenon on golf courses and that they have been widely used on golf courses throughout the world.  This past summer in the USA has seen a huge increase in the use of fans on Bentgrass greens with air circulation problems, due to the severity of the heat and humidity.  In the south east States of Georgia, Alabama, The Carolina's and northern Florida, virtually all courses with Bentgrass greens now use fans.  The main objective of the fan is essentially to create a wind vortex across the surface of the green to replace  humid air with less humid air.  This drier air environment is critical in assisting the turf plant to resist invasion by disease.  Although the 17th West green doesn't appear to be in a "pocket" location like the 12th River green is, it definitely has major air circulation issues that cause ambient, surface and soil temperatures to be several degrees higher than elsewhere on the courses.  As golfers you are lucky as you only need to spend a few minutes on the green before heading to the 18th and then the Clubhouse for a cool refreshing drink.  The turf on the green however, has to endure these temperatures on a continuing basis and this is where the fan will assist most.  The following is a good quote from an article by Darin Bevard of the USGA Green Section;  "Good air movement is crucial for turfgrass maintenance. When possible, the best option for improving airflow around putting greens is to remove trees and underbrush to maximize natural airflow. When tree and underbrush removal are not possible, properly installed fans provide a good alternative to improve the growing environment. The worst thing to do is nothing. Poor growing environments do not improve without help." 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Blowing in the wind

The fan at the 17th West Green is now in place and is in its trial phase.  It is temporarily mounted on the back of our tip truck so we can conduct some assessments to determine the optimum operation height.  A sturdy stand will be required which will be concreted in so it is obviously vital to have the height and location in relation to the green exact.  It is currently operating at 80% of its capacity and air movement has been felt across the entire green and will be monitored over the next week or so particularly in the mornings before the normal coastal breezes start up.  Some wind speed figures will be recorded and published here at a later date.

17th West Green fan

Friday, October 29, 2010

Week ending October 29

Well whilst just about everything went to plan, we were certainly still disrupted with the weather over the past week.  A huge amount of work has been achieved although the rain has resulted in us making a mess in a few areas. All the turf on the oversown tees and other areas is now down and has taken root to make it self sufficient.  Two questions that came out of the week from Members was why do we have to turf some of the tees each year and why were we watering when we have had so much rain?  (We were also asked why we were grassing the 17th River bunker so obviously not everyone reads the Blog yet!)

Firstly the tees on West 7,13,18 and River 4, 6, 16 and 18 are so badly shaded and affected by the adjacent trees that we need to oversow them with a cool season and shade tolerant grass species over the winter, to allow us to maintain a cover of grass.  Without the oversow, the tees would basically finish up as dirt.  There is still an amount of Couchgrass present in the tees and it would recover eventually.  The problem is that the oversown species will die very quickly(basically the first hot day) and the Couch would take up to 12 weeks to re-establish meaning that the teeing surface would be sub standard during this period.  By re-turfing we will have the tees fully grassed with Couchgrass and playable within two weeks.

In answer to the second question, we need to continually water the turf after it is laid because until it takes root, the grass survives only on the moisture in the leaf and stems of the plant.  As of today the turf is now virtually self sufficient and will be mown down next week and available for play for the November Monthly Medal.

The other major task completed this week was the installation of the power for the 17th West green fan.  Trenching through a couple of the wettest areas on the course on the 13th and 17th West fairways and surrounds following significant rainfall was always going to result in a mess and we certainly achieved that!  Unfortunately the contractors were only available for those days and if they hadn't finished, the installation would have been delayed until late November and I would like to have the fan fully operational by the end of the second week of November in time for the warmth.

The River greens are looking for some warmth to help them recover from their renovation and as with the West greens renovation the sand plays havoc with the mowers for the first couple of weeks.  Our Head Mechanic Craig Plowman does a great job keeping the mowers cutting during this very trying time for him.

Next week sees a return to a bit of normality on the courses maintenance wise, although if the weather is suitable (read fine and dry) the tees on both courses will be scarified.  As part of this operation the thatch that is removed from the tees is left on the surface to dry out to allow it to be swept up and / or  blown off.  We will therefore be moving some of the tee markers around or leaving just a small raked area for play to continue from.  Please bear with us over the week.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

To Be or not to Be

In this case "B" stands for buggies and whether or not they are on the courses following a rain event.  There have been several occasions over the past month when motorised buggy access to the courses has been restricted, and in particular this week when a rainfall total of as little as 36mm followed by a fall of 22mm, was enough to keep buggies off both courses on consecutive days.  A Member wrote in feeling that the banning of buggies on the River last Monday seemed an overreaction, and that other options like the 90 degree rule of keeping the buggies off some or all faiways and players walking to the ball could be tried, as well as insisting buggies stay strictly on the paths where available.  Not to mention the impact on Club revenue and Members being denied a game.  The following is the reply that I penned and felt that it was information that would be informative for other Members and followers of my Blog.

"Thanks for your comments,

Cancelling motorised buggies is probably the most difficult decision I make and it is entirely my call.  I fully realise the impact on Club revenue and Members enjoyment, but in my mind the current and future playing conditions on the course comes first.  There are a number of indicators I use when making the decision and they include but are not limited to;
  • Obviously the size of the rain event
  • The amount of casual water evident
  • The number of areas that are wet and sloppy but not showing water
  • Damaged areas from recent rains
  • General turf health and potential growing conditions
  • The latest forecast (now not issued until 5.45 am at the earliest)
  • The amount of play booked has some bearing. 
On last Monday I was awake through most of the evening storm and checked the Airport rainfall figures at 2 am and there had been 20mm.  I thought the course should handle that and was anxious myself as I had a huge day of work planned with several contractors due on site.  I arrived at work at 5 am and one of my first impressions on arriving was surprise at the amount of water standing adjacent to the shed.  A quick check of the gauge showed about 40 mm and I then toured the course in my usual sequence when considering the fate of motorised buggies.  The amount of water still standing on West holes 5, 16, 13, 12 and 2 made the West decision easy.  The amount of water standing on River holes 15, 4, 6, 9 and 1 led me to believe that the River course would be too wet for motorised buggies.  What I could see of the sky at that stage was still quite threatening and the forecast the night before had predicted showers, which only reinforced my decision at that time.  The decision was then relayed to the Pro Shop and relevant Club officials and posted on the Club website by 5.30 am before it was 100% daylight and before the days forecast was issued.  With the benefit of hindsight, it was dry until the deluge at around 4.00 pm but I stand by my decision in the circumstances.  It was also probably dry enough to get motorised buggies back on late in the morning but we have tried that twice before with confusion and angst the result as the morning players claimed they were disadvantaged.  It was also difficult to publicise and had a negligible result on player numbers on those two occasions.

The 90° rule you mention only works on courses with full length buggy paths and vigilant marshals.  Some of our wettest areas are down the sides of fairways and such a rule causes problems and confusion without full length paths.  Most people do use the paths we have as they are generally adjacent to greens and tees.  I have tried extensive signage before with virtually no result.

I can assure you that the decision to stop motorised buggies from being used on the courses is not taken lightly and is one that I spend a lot of sleepless hours considering."

I trust that the above gives buggy drivers a reasonable explanation of what is behind the decision and that it is most certainly not a decision that is rushed or taken for granted.  As a matter of interest with 4 rainfall days left, October 2010 will be the third wettest October on record for the Tweed Heads site, behind 1969 with 507mm and 1972 with 640mm.  So far this month we have only had 476mm!!  The fourth wettest October on record was 1984 with a paltry 346mm. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Time for a breath

Well what a week so far and still a day to go although the bulk of the hard stuff has been done.  Apologies to my followers for the break in writing but I just haven't had time this week.  I was actually contemplating titling this instalment "blessed" as we certainly were with the weather for the renovations on the River course on Monday and Tuesday, after the rain of the previous three weeks.  Even the couple of showers that came through on Wednesday would have been enough to seriously disrupt the works which all went to plan and the greens have come up terrifically well, from an agronomic viewpoint anyway.

Hollow tyning greens

The greens were hollow tyne aerated with 16mm (5/8 inch) tynes which removed about 1.5 cubic metres of material per green.  They were also de-thatched with 3 new sets of heads that removed thatch to a depth of 3.5mm over three passes and another 1.5 cubic metres of material per green.  The greens then had a slow release granular calcium product spread and a slow release granular complete fertiliser applied which were rubbed in to get the product down the aeration holes where it is needed most.  About three cubic metres of sand mixed with fowl manure was then applied to each green and worked into the surface until the majority of the holes were filled and the surface restored.  A bit more warmth would be nice to promote the growth required to get the grass back through the sand but after the luck we had on Monday and Tuesday with no rain, I can't complain.  At this stage the greens should be due to be mown for the first time next Tuesday.

De thatching greens in blue skies!
Today was by far the busiest day and I sometimes wonder why I program so much in the one day but I do like to get the most out of my contractors who are on site.  The preparation works for the grass face to be installed on the 17th River bunker commenced today.  I have scheduled this over two days so that the work is completed before players reach the hole and there is no need to take the hole out of play or use a temporary green.  The works should be finished tomorrow and the turf will be laid on Monday with the bunker being out of play for at least two weeks whilst the turf establishes.  This bunker was selected as the trial site as it is the easiest and cheapest bunker to do due to its shape, depth and location.

The oversown tees have been lifted in preparation for turfing on Monday and the turf lifted off these has been placed over some of the more severe tree root infested areas in the roughs.  I don't have the resources to be able to hand lift and place the turf so it is done by a Bobcat machine and although the areas are initially quite uneven, they soon settle and I figure it's a much better surface to play off than tree roots.  The rear of 3rd and 15th River tees have also had the trees removed and been prepared for turfing on Monday.

We had a spare half hour today (!) and I took the opportunity to lift the front right portion of the Chipping green on the short range.  This area of the green has always had trouble growing grass and so 300mm of the soil that was there was removed and replaced with sand from the nursery trial site at 17th River.  Turf from the trial site has been lifted and transported to the Chipping green and will be laid tomorrow.  Whilst excavating the green we found a large area of what looked like "brickies sand" (see photo) so hopefully with that removed and a good growing medium installed, the new turf should respond accordingly.  

Brickies sand under the Chipping green

The foreign Couch areas in the greens have now been removed and returfed.  The turfed area on the 7th green came up exceptionally well however the putting green is not as good.  On the 7th we used turf from our own Nursery green which is a slow labour intensive process.  Indeed it took 24 man hours to re turf the 10 square metre area.  I didn't have the resources (or suitable turf) available to be able to allocate that much time to the 150 squre metres on the Practice green, and so the turf was bought in which means we don't have to harvest and transport it which is a huge time saver.  Unfortunately the quality of the turf was poor and although it will knit in, it will take some time. 
Lifting turf off the Practice green
I mentioned the contractors that I use on the course earlier on and if any readers require the services of a Bobcat or small excavator you won't find any better than Trevor King on the Bobcat or his son Scott on the digger.  They are both first class operators.  And I must mention my staff who have all worked long hard hours on the renovations and then backed up on these various projects whilst still going about their normal duties.  For a 36 hole complex of this size they are only a small crew and do an exceptional job.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Best laid plans

As often happens not everything went to plan this week thanks to the rains provided by Mother Nature with a bit of a juggling act being performed on the allocation of tasks.  The staff have done a great job restoring the bunkers for the second time in as many weeks and generally tidying the courses up but this does mean that a lot of other tasks have to be re-scheduled or abandoned completely.  We were able to achieve most of what was planned for the week with the main exception being the turfing on the practice green which will happen next Tuesday.  Everything is now geared up for the renovation next week so hopefully the weather will co operate.  The replacement of the sprayed out foreign grasses in the River greens has been completed and they will hopefully blend in with the greens following renovation.

7th River green patches plugged and turfed out
As part of the works on the 3rd and 15th River tees next week, we will be lifting the turf trials on the Nursery green area and using the sand as fill.  The trials have now run their course and as I wasn't blogging while we were doing them I will provide a quick rundown.  The trials were of some new "ultradwarf type" Couchgrasses that are expected to be the putting greens grass for warmer climates in the future.  They were conducted in conjunction with the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and we were one of seven trial sites at various locations in addition to the main plots at Redlands Research Facility in Brisbane.  We had the following grasses; Tifgreen 328, Tifeagle, Champion, Mini Verde, Mini Supreme and Floradwarf in our plots.  The plots were subjected to various maintenance regimes on our site with assessments conducted for disease resistance, thatch accumulation, putting surface quality / green speed, dormancy, pesticide tolerance, recovery from damage, mowing heights and general maintenance requirements.  Monthly observations were recorded and quarterly site visits by the Redlands team for independent assessment took place over two years.

Our results were generally totally different to all other locations and the grasses all performed differently at various times of the year.  There was little between our plots in term of appearance and quality although their leaf is much finer than that of the 328.  There is no doubt that the new grasses do thatch up a lot more than 328 and will require a lot more thatch management which on a course as busy as CTH would be difficult. Mini Verde was probably the pick of them on our site, however without subjecting them to the rigours of play it is difficult to recommend a stand out.

I have mentioned previously that the USA endured one of the hottest summers on record in most States and there were a large number of golf courses in climates such as ours whose Bentgrass greens melted out and were replaced with the ultradwarfs.  The ultradwarfs have been used in the States for quite a few years with regular Tour stop East Lake GC in Atlanta, host of the Tour Championship and Sawgrass GC, host of the Players Championship, both using Mini Verde.  I am fairly certain that the 2011 USPGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club will be the first Golfing Major to be played on Couchgrass greens since the 1987 PGA in Florida and it will certainly be the first on an ultradwarf which will be the Champion variety.

The predicted rain sounds like it is starting in earnest as I write this so here's hoping that there is not enough to disrupt tomorrows golf.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Will it ever stop?

210mm of rain since Saturday on top of the 190mm last week end certainly has us wet.  With the rain that fell upstream making its way down today we were lucky to get a lot of water off the courses before the high tide around midday.  That has now stopped and the flow of water off the courses has certainly slowed with the huge volume of water coming down the Tweed River.  The river went awfully close to breaking its banks at high tide but we thankfully avoided that.  The ground is absolutely saturated as can be seen in the photo of the 1st west fairway still holding water late this afternoon which is very rare.

1st West fairway still wet
Remarkably in the wind we lost only one tree and a few limbs but quite a lot of small leaf debris is evident on both courses.  I would like to think that the lack of limbs down is a testament to the tree pruning and removal program that we operate. 

There will be no motorised buggies tomorrow and the West course will remain closed in the morning.  At this stage motorised buggies are a chance on the River course for Wednesday but highly doubtful for the West.  The Club website is normally updated by 5.30am NSW time if there are to be motorised buggy restrictions so it pays to check before you come down to play.  It is very rare for the call on buggies to be made the day before because the course drains so quickly but there are still at least 7 fairways with a significant amount of water pooled on them late this afternoon such as the 4th River fairway pictured below.

4th River fairway 5.00pm Monday

Friday, October 8, 2010

And still it rains

Well so much for the boys efforts restoring the bunkers!!  Another 35mm until 4 pm today and we are not quite back to where we started with the bunker damage but once again it re-enforces how good the re-constructed River bunkers are again when it rains heavily.  Given the week end forecast of a “few” showers the River bunkers will again be fully playable whereas the West bunkers will be a mess.  Still it could be worse with Colonial GC expecting to go under water completely today and Royal Pines trying to renovate their greens this week. 

Hopefully the weather pattern will settle for a couple of weeks for the following works planned on CTH;
  • Plugging out the foreign Couch areas in the River greens has started and will continue next week.  A couple of the larger areas on the practice and 7th green will be turfed out next Tuesday.
  • Preparations for the River greens renovation will start next week with the greens collars being scarified on the most suitable day.  This is a time consuming operation and one that we don’t have time to do on Monday the 18th when the course is closed.  It also requires dry conditions.   Greens scarifying and hollow tyning will start on Sunday week and will continue through Monday with the bulk of the greens sanding taking place on the Tuesday.  Soil amendments based on recent soil tests will also be added.  Greens renovations are not a pleasant time for the grounds staff with the long hard hours required nor golfers with the disruption but please bear with us over these necessary works.
  • The 3rd and 15th River men’s tees will have some trees removed at the back of them and the teeing ground extended.  This extension is not to gain any length but to level out the back teeing area which is almost non existent on either tee and to improve overall turf quality.
  • The front bunker on the 17th River green is to have a grass face installed as a trial to overcome balls plugging in the sand face and to observe playability.  Over the years we have trialed every option known to prevent the ball plugging with little or no success and this is a last resort.  It’s not just as easy as throwing some turf on the sand with the bunker being re shaped by an excavator to achieve a shape that is conducive to mowing and playability.  Obviously balls will no longer plug in the sand as there won’t be any but some other courses have found the grass to be harder to play out of and maintain.  Time will tell.
  • The fan at the 17th West should also be installed in about 2 weeks.  The installation of the power will take the longest time with 315 metres of trenching required.  The first 50 metres will be done by hand as the feed comes from the pump shed and there is a litany of underground services in that area that we can’t afford to damage.
  • The oversown shaded tees will also be re-turfed following the greens renovation as well as a few other worn out areas.
  • Ohh, and all the above takes place whilst the staff will be restoring rain damaged bunkers and preparing the courses for the Junior Classic, Inter district teams event, Ladies Medal events and the regular 220 golfers we have turn up every other day on each course!!  Not to mention the roughs growing wild with the moisture and warmth!!  Let’s hope for some drier weather conditions so the works proceed to plan and some golf can be played.

Monday, October 4, 2010

And then it rained

180 mm of rain has fallen on the courses in the last 36 hours and that follows rain being recorded on 11 of the previous 13 days.  Suffice to say that we are wet!   The rain on Monday morning was mainly confined to the coast as the picture shows blue skies a tantalizing kilometre away.

As with all climatic events there is some good to come out of it with the West greens getting a break from play and therefore no new pitchmarks and they are looking great.  On the downside, disease pressure on all the greens is high with the moisture and humidity but at this stage they are disease free.  The River greens have weakened as a result of the poor light intensity of the past couple of weeks and certainly since Friday.  They will be fertilized this week to help them recover.

Blue skies only a kilometre away inland

A rain event such as this also brings bunkers to the fore and the re-constructed River bunkers come in to their own.  As can be seen from the selection of photos, all re-constructed greenside bunkers on the River course were bone dry and fully playable at 6 am on Monday morning.  This is in stark contrast to the West bunkers that will require at least 200+ man hours to get them back to a state where they will be able to be raked this week, with several probably needing to be taken out of play for the week.  The photo of the 18th River below demonstrates that even with such a high face there is no wash in this bunker compared with the 18th west in the background that has severe wash.  This is why proper construction is so important with bunkers and that in our environment, the drainage properties of the bunker sand is the most critical factor in selecting the sand.  Unfortunately this drainage characteristic does lead to a sand that does cause ball plugging.  Fortunately there was no extra works planned this week and all efforts for the week will be directed to restoring playing conditions.

10th River bunker dry and no wash


5th West greenside washout
18th River no wash

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Winds of change

As mentioned earlier this week the Board has approved the purchase of a fan that will be installed at the rear of the 17th West green.  Avondale GC in Sydney have used the fans over the past two summers with great success on greens that have little or no air movement around them.  This is certainly the case for the 17th West green where I have observed on many occasions the flag hanging limp from no air movement compared to the 13th and 16th green flags that are fluttering away.  This lack of air movement also results in increased ambient, surface and soil temperatures which have been consistently recorded at 17th West in comparison to other greens.  The temperature measurements at the 17th (and the Bent practice green) are regularly 3 – 6 degrees warmer than other greens.  I have recorded a soil temperature at 17 West of 36 degrees which when compared to the text book telling you that Bentgrass roots start dying at 25 degrees illustrates just how tough an environment it is in.

Side view

Fans aren’t a new phenomenon on golf courses and have been used in Australia before and particularly in the USA.  Colonial CC in Fort Worth Texas who host a PGA Tour event have up to 12 fans situated at each green and Augusta National have them at every green also.  Up until now almost all fans have been of the pedestal / blade type but they are noisy and don’t move the air as required. The fan we have specified has been engineered and purpose built to suit the requirements of a golf green and is designed and made in Australia. 

The air movement has been designed to “flow” across the surface and provide the cooling effect rather than become turbulent and mix the air.  It should have no noticeable effect on the playing of the game and will most likely be positioned adjacent to one of the Palm trees at the rear of the green mounted on a pole at a height of 1.2 metres to make it level with the turf surface.  The fan is expected to run 24/7 from November through March.   Three phase power is required and this will be trenched from the pump shed in the coming weeks.  It is anticipated to have the fan installed by November 1st.        

Front on view of fan

Monday, September 27, 2010

Week commencing September 27th

Well the grass is certainly growing now with the temperatures creeping up and the daylight hours lengthening at long last.  On mornings like this morning I sometimes wonder if we will ever catch up with the grass growth, required spraying programs and still maintain a playing surface.

This week our main task, apart from mowing, will be to upgrade the irrigation on the short range practice fairway by adding some sprinklers along the car park fence, replacing some irrigation control tube and replacing the feed to the drinking fountain at the 10th River tee.  There will be some major trenching involved with this operation as we need to trench from the irrigation control box at the rear of the 9th River green all the way along the short range and across the front of the car park.  Preparatory works will commence on Monday 27th with trenching taking place on Tuesday.  The job should be completed by Thursday. 

Friday, September 24, 2010

The week that was

Well it was a fairly quiet week on the golf course thanks to the weather although today certainly made up for it with a huge day of play on both courses.  Off the golf courses and it was an interesting week to say the least.

Firstly the news that a groundsman at a Gold Coast golf course was operating his rough mower on an embankment next to a dam late last week and the machine slid down the bank and into the water with him still on board.  The machine pinned him under water where he was unable to surface until two of his workmates dived in and freed him.  He was under water for about a minute and a half and needed to be revived on the bank.  Fortunately he is ok with some cracked ribs and "sore all over" but it is an unfortunate reminder of just what can happen whilst operating machines on sloping ground.

One of my Apprentices was involved in a car crash on the way to work on Wednesday morning and finished up in hospital and required surgery to an injured knee.  At this stage he appears to be on the way to making a full recovery.

And then to top the week off I attended my first Captain at Cool Tweed Brian Kingston's funeral today.  Brian was a great fellow and Captain of the Club as the various tributes illustrated.  Funerals are always a sad affair but I think everyone had a smile on their face at some stage as some of the typical "Kingo" stories were relayed.

On Tuesday this week I visited Avondale Golf Club in Sydney to look at some air circulating fans they have installed adjacent to five of their greens that suffer badly from heat stress and subsequent disease during summer.  Several Cool Tweed Board Members had already seen the fans in August when they were in Sydney and the Club has now decided to install one of these fans at the 17th West green prior to this summer.  I will dedicate a complete article including some photos and expected benefits of the fans next week.  Suffice to say that Avondale Superintendent David Warwick claims that without the fans his greens would not have made it through Sydney's brutal summer (for putting greens that is) last year.  It's perplexing when you look at the 17th West green now and how good it looks, that it can cause so much heartache in summer.

On a bit of a lighter note one of our former groundstaff now works for a sports construction company and he leaves for New Delhi on October lay the turf in the main stadium!!