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.