Friday, June 24, 2011

New Shed

Works have continued on the new additions to our course maintenance area.  The main compound has been concreted this week which required our machinery to be stored adjacent to the 9th West fairway for the past week.  The concrete itself will be a huge improvement replacing the potholed jigsaw puzzle of bitumen that was there previously.  To be honest it is a miracle that someone has not had a nasty fall in one of the numerous potholes that regularly appeared.  Walking on the new concrete is akin to the feeling you get with a new set of tyres on your car.  The drainage of the main compound has also been improved and a sediment pond has been installed adjacent to the 9th West fairway.  The footings for the new shed have also been poured.  Expenditure on maintenance areas is always a tough one for golf clubs as the players don't physically see anything for their money but in my opinion (obviously biased) the maintenance area is critical as it is the engine room for the golf course.  By this I mean it is where the groundstaff start and finish their days and if it is not conducive to inspiring them to enjoy their workplace then the course can only suffer.

Concrete pump in action

Main compound area concreted
Further to our pitchmark problem and today following the Men of League golf day I had my staff repair pitchmarks.  On the 4th West green they repaired 6 totally untouched marks.  I inspected the green again less than 2 hours later after members had gone through on their Friday afternoon practice and repaired 16 totally untouched pitchmarks.  So tomorrow the West course bunkers won't be raked rather that staff member will be repairing pitchmarks.

Thank you to Roy Gamma for making a comment on the last blog item.  Unfortunately for some reason I can't add a response so I will work on that over the week end.

Monday, June 20, 2011


Pitchmarks are a problem that just won't go away.  This morning I had 3 staff hand repair pitchmarks on the West greens for 3 hours.....that's 9 man hours!!  The problem seems to be getting worse at the moment and to ensure we can get the best putting surface possible this hand repair by the groundstaff will be an ongoing procedure.  The photo below shows 450 totally or poorly repaired pitchmarks on the front portion of the 8th West green alone.
8th West greens pitchmarks

To assist in levelling the greens back up I will be taking advantage of the beautiful weather we are having at the moment and sanding the West greens on Tuesday.  Disruption to play will be minimal.  I will also get some fertiliser on the tees to try and get some last minute growth before winter really sets in and River course Men's tees 5, 6 and 16 will also be oversown to get a grass cover for the rest of the winter.

The ground has dried out enough now and the Palm trees will be trimmed up this coming Thursday.  As mentioned previously there will be some selective removal of some of the Palms to assist in reducing the continually rising cost of their maintenance.

I attended the 27th Australain Turfgrass Conference last week in Adelaide and thought that some of our cool mornings would have me prepared.  How wrong could I be!  Our Championships were played on the Monday morning with an 8 am shotgun and I kept all the warm clothes on for the entire round.  We were fortunate enough to play Kooyonga and the course was in fantastic condition.  I will write some more about the US Open golf and the conditions later but suffice to say Kooyonga's greens were rock hard and running at at least 12 feet on a stimpmeter and looked great in comparison to the dis-coloured / pushed to the limit greens at Congressional.
The Conference was a great success and I was scheduled to deliver 2 presentations which meant for a nerve wracking build up in anticipation of presenting in front of my peers.  This turned to complete horror when the ash cloud prevented another speaker from Sydney making the trip and he kindly suggested that I could take his place which I did and therefore spoke 4 times.  A great experience all the same.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Maintenance shed

Over the coming weeks you may see and hear some construction activity at our maintenance shed next to 9 West fairway.  We are building an additional shed that will allow for much needed extra machine storage area and will include a parts rinse bay.  We will also be installing a new fuel storage and dispensing system as our current one is an underground tank that has been in the ground for 25 years and was 20 years old when it was installed.  Underground storage tanks are coming under increased government regulation to the point that it will soon be extremely difficult to retain them.  Not to mention the potential impact on the environment from leaks.  The new tank is a "Convault" brand and is an above ground configuration that is fully self contained and has a 4 hour fire rating.  The Convault system is the safest method of storing flammable and combustible liquids above ground available.  The unit is also Australian made and will store 3,000 litres of unleaded fuel and 5,000 litres of diesel. . 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

111th US Open

The upcoming US Open Championship is to be played at Congressional Country Club which is situated in Bethesda, Maryland just out of Washington DC. It will be played on the Blue course which was closed in 2009 for a rebuilding program of the greens.  The Blue course is a 7,278 yard par 72 for Members with a slope rating of 142!!  For the Open it will be played as a 7,574 yard par 71.  The summer in the USA last year was so severe that the Blue course was closed to play for 2 weeks in order to preserve the greens.  Following are some interesting facts about the course preparation with Coolie Tweed details in brackets.
Grass Type: Greens were rebuilt in 2009 to USGA Guidelines for Putting Green Construction (as were the re-constructed River greens) and established with a blend of Penn A-1 and A-4 creeping bentgrass.  (We have Penn G2 in the 17th West green and some Penn A1 in the greens nursery.)
Mowing Height: 2.5 mm  (We mow at about 3mm at the lowest.)
Mowing Height for collars and approaches: 8 mm  (We mow at 11mm)
Target Stimpmeter Reading: 14-14.5 feet  (Our greens would be unplayable at that speed!!)

Irrigation Practices: Only hand-watering on the greens. The goal is to achieve firmness without compromising the health of the grass. Soil moisture levels are constantly monitored with hand-held testers and in-ground sensors. Fairways and tees are irrigated on an as-needed basis. Wetting agents have been applied due to sand topdressing of both fairways and tees. The goal is to achieve even wetting when irrigation is applied.
Grass Type: Penncross creeping bentgrass
Mowing Height: 9 mm  (We mow at 11mm.)
Width: Ranges from 16 to 32 metres, averaging 23 metres wide in the primary landing zones.
Grass Type: Predominantly Penncross creeping bentgrass along with other varieties interseeded over the years.
Mowing Height: 9 mm  (We mow at 15mm.)
Grass Type:
intermediate rough – primarily perennial ryegrass
primary rough – predominantly turf-type tall fescue.
On each side of the fairway, a 1.8 metre wide swath of intermediate rough running the length of each hole will be mown at 22 mm. The same mowing height is used for the bunker tie-ins.
On greens with a primary rough, the mowing height is 75 mm.  (A golf ball has a diameter of 42.67 mm.)
For the sixth consecutive year, the USGA will use graduated primary rough. This setup creates a tougher and more challenging recovery shot for those who hit their drives farther off-line.
The first cut of primary rough is 5 metres wide and mowed between 70 – 80 mm,
depending on the length of the hole.
The second cut of rough is mowed to 100 mm, depending on the turf growth rate. This height extends to and beyond the gallery rope lines.
Maintenance: New sand has been added to all bunkers. All 96 bunkers are hand-raked.
Congressional C.C. crew size: 55 for 36 holes.  (We have a maximum in peak summer of 18.)Number of mechanics on staff during the Open: 3
Number of volunteers: 120. (We have Dads Army on Tuesday mornings.)Most  volunteers are experienced golf course superintendents and assistant superintendents who volunteer their time for the week.
Where the volunteers are housed: Nearby in housing at American University.
How the maintenance crew and volunteers are fed: Breakfast, lunch and dinner is prepared by the Congressional C.C. chef for the entire maintenance staff and volunteers.
Typical hours worked during the championship: Morning shift 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. Afternoon shift 4:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Staff is on the property throughout the day in case of rain.
Miscellaneous Maintenance Points:
Amount of extra equipment on hand: Six walking greens mowers, four walking collar mowers, eight turf rollers, four walking tee mowers, 19 five-gang fairway mowers, (we have two five gang mowers)  three rotary rough units with 9-foot cutting width, two rotary rough units with 6-foot cutting width, one reel rough unit with 6-foot cutting width, two mechanical bunker rakes, 22 maintenance carts and 36 squeegees.
Typical mowing schedule during the championship: All principal in-play areas will be mown every day. Greens, tees and fairways are mown twice a day.
Soil moisture: Monitored by in-ground soil sensors and hand-held soil moisture meters. The greens are also equipped with an underground water evacuation system, meaning they drain well.
Soil Firmness: The firmness of the greens will be measured each day (morning and evening) using the USGA TruFirm system to monitor soil firmness. A relative range has been pre-determined for each green to gauge the receptiveness of the green in holding an approach shot.

Congressional CC

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Tree works

The cooler winter months provide the opportunity for us to catch up on some tree maintenance and that program has started this week.  Over the next couple of months we will be trimming any dead, low and / or dangerous branches as well as removing a few dead trees around the courses.  A cherry picker will also be utilised and the palm trees will receive their annual trimming when the ground dries out enough for us to get larger machines around the courses.  The removal of the trees at the rear of the 9th West green is also still on the agenda and is also awaiting some drier weather conditions.

The fan is still in place at the 17th West green primarily because we need to use a forklift to move it and it is too wet at the moment to even attempt that.  The fan should only be required from early November through March for the green and I would prefer to have it stored under cover and out of the weather so that will take place as soon as possible.

Motorised buggy usage in the continuing wet conditions is causing some turf damage, particularly at the entry and exit points to the concrete paths, especially on those points that are shade affected.  To help alleviate this problem some fine "cracker dust" will be used to fill some of the potholes that have appeared.  This is a last resort as the chance for damage to the mowers is increased but obviously needs to be done.

Those of you who have driven the famed 17 Mile Drive at Monterey in California which affords some great views of both the ocean and famous golf courses will be dismayed to know that the 3 green course in the front yard of the house around the corner from Cypress Point has been demolished.  This followed a ruling by the coastal commission that the course was not in compliance with the original zoning.  This ruling came 18 years after the house and course had been built! 

And the pilot of the light plane that had an emergency landing at Woolongong GC yesterday obviously didn't check with the Pro Shop first.....motorised buggies were off due to the wet conditions!!