Friday, December 28, 2012

We have had quite a run of quite major irrigation problems of late and today was no exception with a big repair required on 1 River fairway right in the drive zone.  We knew it was going to be a dangerous spot and unfortunately our Irrigation Tech was struck in the head but fortunately no damage was sustained.  It never ceases to amaze me though when the next two players came through and were laughing about it.  We accept that the job is one where being hit by a golf ball is always a possibility but I can assure you that it is no laughing matter.  We rigged up a temporary fence and parked a tractor in front of the boys working on the repair to protect them and they finished the job in somewhat safer conditions.

Temporary protection for the staff

Due to the prolonged wet conditions earlier this year the irrigation system was not in use for probably the longest period since the new control and pump system was installed over ten years ago.  We have then gone into a sustained irrigation period of some four months and I suppose that the aging system just can't cope with the continued use.  One of the most important aspects after a repair is to re-pressurise the sysytem very slowly to prevent further pipe damage from water hammer and air locks.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Well another year is coming to a close and the warm summer weather is certainly upon us with the heat and humidity on the rise.  The worst part of the holiday period for me is the short weeks at a time when the grass is growing its hardest and there is a lot of play which means it is difficult to keep up with the mowing.  So apologies in advance for the lack of mowing and in particular the roughs.

Not a lot has been happening on the courses of late apart from routine maintenance but we did get the tree debris pile adjacent to 6 River mulched recently.  Some of the mulch has been relocated to the area at the rear of the buggy shed and is available free of charge to members.  So please help yourself.  The video below gives an idea of just what the tub grinder can achieve and the mulch is quite high quality. 

I also was lucky enough to get a game in the Pro am at Coolum for the Australian PGA a couple of weeks ago.  Obviously the changes to the resort amongst all the other shenanigans going on up there took most of the press but behind the scenes of the tournament is a well oiled PGA machine that runs the day to day mechanics of what is a very big undertaking.  In my last post I mentioned Scott Gardiner and this time I take my hat off to former CTH Trainee Pro Broc Greenhalgh who is currently the Executive Officer for the Queensland division of the PGA.  I have reason to deal with Broc in a number of areas within Queensland Golf and you couldn't find a more professional person and the way he conducts himself across the board is an absolute credit to him.  And I don't just say that because he got me a spot in the Pro am ahead of his old boss Russ Davis!!

But back to the golf course at Coolum and I also salute host Super Dean Henderson and his crew for the job they did in presenting the courses in what could only be described as less than ideal circumstances which I won't delve in to here.  Every Superintendent I have spoken to has, to a man, been amazed at the quality of the turf presented by Dean under the restrictions he was placed under.

So back to the shenanigans and the video below shows Jeff the dinosaur roaring which from all reports was turned down considerably from the noise level he can emit.  There are also a couple of shots of some of the controversial on course signage as well.

"JFK" sign on the 9 tee

USA flag tribute on 9 fairway
 And at the other end of the tournament spectrum is the news that Merion GC, the host of  the 2013 US Open has instigated the use of mats to play from 8 months out from the tournament to protect the fairways.  They are only in use on fairways where balls collect in a landing area but it does seem a bit of overkill especially when the course is closed from early December to April for winter  It is not a new idea as many courses in Great Britain use mats during winter to reduce damage to their fairways.  Whereas at The Lakes for the Australian Open this year the club held their normal Monthly Medal on the Saturday prior and a large Corporate day for Volvo on the Sunday.  Adam Scott asked one of the groundstaff why there were so many divots and when did you close for the tournament.  He couldn't believe it when he was told "last night" and then commented how good the course was considering!   And lastly on the mats there is the famous story of an elderly lady member who was given a mat to protect the course at the start of her round and when she arrived at her ball in the middle of the fairway she promptly dropped the mat on the ground, stood on it and hit her ball!! 

Well I think that's enough for 2012 and I would like to wish all of my Blog followers a safe and enjoyable festive season and New Year and good golfing.

Friday, December 7, 2012

A very unexpected but overwhelmingly welcome 50mm of rain this morning that will do the courses the world of good after another prolonged dry spell.  The fairways in particular were in desperate need of the rain as once again the fairway irrigation system couldn’t compete with the wind over the past couple of weeks and with the main priority being the greens the water supply levels were starting to be stretched.

I was lucky enough to be at The Lakes GC yesterday and caught up with Cool Tweeds own Scott Gardiner.  I have known a lot of touring pros over the years and none could be as down to earth and courteous as Scott.  I watched him until the 11th and must have been some sort of curse as his game improved on the back nine to card a 76 which he followed with a 71 today.  The Lakes itself has had many major revamps over the years but the latest is no doubt the most severe and one that has polarised opinion amongst the players.  I will sit on the fence for this one and offer the following course information courtesy of Australian Superintendents Association journalist Brett Robinson;

THE SUPERINTENDENT  Anthony Mills aged 35.
THE CREW Assistant superintendent: Stephen Mallyon (recently joined The Lakes from Roseville GC).  Normal staff numbers (non-tournament): 17. Tournament staff numbers: 51 total (average of 40 per shift). 
Configuration: 18 holes, 6290m par 72 (playing approx 150m shorter).
Maintained fine turf area: 32 hectares (greens total 2ha).
Bunkers: 81 + significant sandy waste areas.
Irrigation system: Toro 850 Series sprinklers controlled by a Toro SitePro Decoder system.
Greens: Penn A4 creeping bentgrass (3mm height of cut, double cut mornings)
Projected tournament stimpmeter readings: 10’5”-11’ (10’8” before second round)
Surrounds: Kikuyu and fescue (10mm, morning cut)
Tees: Santa ana couchgrass (10mm, morning cut)
Fairways: Kikuyu (10mm, morning cut)
Roughs: Kikuyu and Fescue (100mm)

Scott honing his putting just prior to the first round.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Well summer has certainly arrived with the temperatures rising and the courses drying out faster than the last few weeks.  At least the past couple of weeks have been relatively calm at night to allow for some effective irrigation on the fairways in particular.

Players will start to notice some discolouration from some weed control measures that have been carried out recently.  The foreign couchgrass in the West greens has been treated with greens 3, 9 and 12 having an alternative method used following some successful trials over the past 3 years.  It does cause some more discolouring but does seem to be more successful.  And the surrounds of the West greens have received their first treatment for the eradication of summer weeds, particularly Kikuyu which left un checked can take over very quickly providing a spongy surface to play off and to.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Finally some rainfall with in excess of 60mm falling over the past 36 hours and most of it has been the nice soaking variety which is just what I ordered!!  I was finally able to turn off the transfer pump at the treatment works yesterday for only the second time in 86 days meaning that the 15h.p. pump has operated 24 / 7 for 84 out of the last 86 days.  This got me thinking about where we would be without this water source.  I don't know for sure but from what I can gather we were the first golf club in Australia to start using recycled water as an irrigation source and as I mentioned a few posts ago, whilst the quality isn't perfect it is a life source for the courses and no doubt over the years the grasses have adapted to the deficiencies of the water 
We have a contract with the council to pump up to 2 million litres per day and the pump delivers about 1.3 million each 24 hour period.  The water is delivered to the courses via a six inch PVC pipeline that runs under the Harvey Norman complex in Machinery Drive.  When the pipe was installed in the 80's there was never a thought that anyone would ever build on those swamp lands!  However that is where the pipe runs and I am very mindful not to try and pump too much and put the pipe under strain and possibly cause a break because without it we have no irrigation water.  You can imagine the cost involved in laying a new pipe the full length of Machinery Drive across the highway and down Soorley Street.


With the club's less than ideal trading performance over the past 12 months due to the rainfall we experienced earlier this year and the general economic downturn, I have been asked to try and reign in costs where possible.  To achieve this there are a number of small projects around the courses that have been put on hold and almost all capital expenditure on machinery has been delayed.  The proposed West greens conversion has also been postponed. This obviously got me thinking about ways to reduce expenditure and basically for me it is about "bums on seats".  The more staff you have the more resources are used across the board which has made such reductions fairly easy over the past couple of months when there has been little growth and I have been able to operate relatively comfortably with a much reduced crew.  With the rain and summer heat on the way this becomes much more difficult with the surge in grass growth and added workload so there will be some areas of the courses that will start to show the effects of these reductions and this will mainly be in the rough and bunker maintenance areas.
We have three out-front rough cutters that have to mow approximately 40 hectares of grass in an operation that never stops once the warm weather arrives.  These mowers are also used to blow leaves off fairways and tees which on a windy site such as ours is also a huge workload.  It is not uncommon for all 3 to be blowing leaves off until 9.30 am and then mowing rough for the next 5 hours.  These machines are all approaching 3,000 hours usage which is well past their prime (they are generally traded at 2,400 hours) and I am expecting a lot of downtime this coming season so apologies in advance for the long rough that we will be experiencing.
We also have 166 bunkers across the courses that cover an area of 2.8 hectares (the greens cover only 2.2 hectares) and they take up a lot of maintenance time, particularly when you look at the way players treat them.  The edging, raking, sand relocation and leaf removal in the bunkers is a massive workload and once again this is an area where maintenance has and will continue to be reduced to lower costs.  But then again they are a hazard after all.


Whist doing my fuel usage figures for October I got to thinking about some of the costs we incur that are absolutely necessary and are probably never thought of by players.  For the month of October our main machines used the following diesel fuel;
v     Greens mowers – 436 litres
v     Fairway mowers – 448 litres
v     Rough mowers – 1080 litres
At an average cost of $1.50 per litre that equates to a monthly fuel bill of nearly $3,000 for these machines in a low growth and usage time so you can imagine the fuel bill in the peak of summer.


I have mentioned before about tournament preparations and the lengths that some courses go to in preparing their course for a week of golf including huge amounts of machinery and an influx of volunteer labour, but this week I think I found something that tops the lot and makes me quite envious.  At Sentosa GC in Singapore the greens “rolling crew” for the Barclays Singapore Open numbered more than the total number of staff on our 36 holes last Friday!!  And with the size of those rollers no wonder the greens were running at over 12 feet on the stimpmeter!!

Sentosa's greens rolling crew!!

Monday, November 5, 2012

A busy time with a lot achieved on the courses this past week and a number of contractors were used to achieve a variety of tasks.  The week didn't start well though when a golf cart ran over a pipe on 14 River causing an impressive water spout 15 metres in the air but that was dwarfed by the 40 metre one in Melbourne the following day.  Monday had our tree contractors onsite and trees at the rear of 13, 14 and 15 West tees were removed.  This operation will allow a lot more sunlight on to these tees and allow for more air movement resulting in improved growth conditions for the turf and therefore a much better playing surface.

Water spout on 14 River!!

Monday also saw 80 tonne of bunker sand added to selected River course bunkers to top them up.  It really is amazing just how much sand is removed from the bunkers by the constant play and wind.  Virtually every time a shot is played out of a bunker a hand full of sand is moved and with 200+ players a day and many taking 3 or 4 attempts to extract themselves you can imagine just how much is moved.  The front right bunker on 12 River is a classic example of sand removal and over the years the amount of sand thrown up on to the green has made the front portion of the green very droughty.  Add to this the tree roots, shade and traffic and it is easy to see why the grass won't grow there.  This was the next task as we removed some sand, added some blended sand and readied the area for re-turfing.

The rest of the week had the following activity;
v     Oversown tees lifted in preparation for re-turfing and the material was then spread over tree roots on the right side driving area on 2 West.
v     The drain at the front of 1 River green that is subject to tidal inundation was turfed with a salt water resistant grass.
v     Surface tree roots in fairways removed.
v     Several dead trees removed and tree stumps ground out.
v     The small rockwall at 3 West tee was removed to allow space for our machinery to turn at the rear of the tee and allow the grass to grow on the back tee.
v     A couple of buggy path entries and exits have been prepared for turfing and will also have some of the plastic grids installed that have proven quite successful recently.

Rotting tree removed from rear 3 West tee.

And all this in amongst trying to keep the courses clear in the extremely windy conditions.  The wind has also caused problems with the irrigation as the sprinklers are virtually rendered useless in these conditions.  Early morning players would have seen us putting as much water out as possible on to the fairways in the calmer morning weather to try and keep them going and most greens require supplementary hand water.  It's times like this when I wish I had more staff to try and keep up with all we have to do.  When I started here in 1999 I had 19 bodies in the lunchroom available for work in the middle of winter.  Over the coming 3 weeks I will drop as low as 9 staff on some days and a high of 13 so I trust players will realise that we can't get everything done.

The River greens have recovered very well from their renovation and are back down to their normal mowing height already which is nearly record time.  15 River green is still struggling from the effects of winter shade and as yet the temperatures haven't really got high enough for the turf to bounce back.

Friday, October 26, 2012

A fairly hectic couple of weeks with the River green renovations a priority.  The wind has also presented its challenges and has again severely affected irrigation and spraying applications.  80 kmh gusts last Tuesday were about the strongest I have experienced on the courses, especially when it blew like that all day.  The crew have done a great job in cleaning up the debris and if the northerly hadn't blown today the courses would have been picture perfect.

The renovations went well with the same method used as last year with a smaller tine being used meaning less disruption as less sand needs to be applied.  The biggest problem at the moment is the quality of water that is being applied as sodium levels in the water are about 300 parts per million being applied to turf that you want to grow which isn't the ideal scenario.  Following a light scarify at minus 3mm the greens were hollow tine aerated with 6mm tines and then the cores were rubbed back into the green and the remaining "chaff" blown off the surface.  Amendments and fertiliser were then spread and a light dressing of sand applied.  At renovation time there always seems to be something go wrong and this year it was the top dressers turn.  It was working perfectly in testing the Friday before then had a number of issues arise on the Monday without a grain of sand being spread.

The topdresser in pieces.

A busy couple of weeks ahead starting Monday morning with the following works planned;
  • Tree removal at West tees 13, 14 and 15 to allow more sunlight to reach the teeing surface.
  • Surface tree root removal on fairways.  There is a local rule governing relief from the subsequent damage.
  • Remaining tree stumps will be mulched.
  • Select bunkers, generally on the River course will have 80 cubic metres of sand added to them where required. 
  • The oversown tees will be lifted next Friday in readiness for turfing on the following Monday.

There is a lot of planning and co ordination that goes into the organisation of these works but for once I won't mind at all if they are disrupted by some rain.  The dryness has continued and the level in the lakes has dropped dramatically, so much so that the pump that is used to circulate water in the trio of dams at 7 / 8 West had to be pulled up as it was in danger of sucking mud.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The wind has returned and the chill on it had quite a few of my staff reaching for their long pants and the rain yesterday had them looking for their wet weather gear which has been in hibernation for quite some time now.

Red sky in the morning means get the fert out!!
Thursday's "red sky in the morning" was just the sign to get some fertiliser out on to the fairways and I was lucky enough to get 4 tonne out on to 15 of the weaker fairways before the rain hit.  It was certainly quite a front that went through with some very adjacent thunder and lightning.  12 mm of rain came down in 10 minutes then another 7mm drizzled down over the next few hours which was just what the fertiliser wanted, not to mention the rest of the course and our home gardens.  The photo above of "the red sky" shows 4 River fairway after it was fertilised.  The white dots are blobs of foam that are dropped so that the operator can see where his last run was to ensure an even application.

The front about to hit on Thursday

Observant members may notice a few holes in a select number of greens and these are made to extract some soil to a depth of 100mm for a nutrient test to be carried out.  I have been using the same company for quite a few years now and they have an on line library of my previous results against which I can compare.  The same greens are sampled each time to be able to track any changes that may be occurring in the soil profile.  The results also give me a good insight as to what soil amendments will be needed at renovation time.  The local rule allowing relief from "aeration holes" could be used if your ball happens to land in one.

Soil sample hole.

Monday, October 8, 2012

At last the wind has dropped away and we were able to get the courses cleaned up today and actually see some grass on the fairways for a change instead of leaves.  It wasn't all plain sailing as there were only 10 of us on deck this morning, which for 36 holes is very thin.  Priorities come to the fore and the greens and tees are cleared of debris first followed by the fairways and then bunkers.  This mornings runsheet looked like this;
Change holes - 2 men
Mow River greens - 2 men
Spray West greens - 1 man
Blow leaves off greens - 3 men
Blow leaves off tees - 2 men.
That got us through to 9.30am and then we had
Blow off fairways - 4 men
Blow out bunkers - 4 men
Machine maintenance - 1 man
Home sick - 1 man.

When you think that we have nearly 36 hectares of fairways of which about 20 required clearing and 166 bunkers which virtually all needed blowing out it is a tough call to get it all done and not annoy players while we are at it.  The first group in the comp on the West course finishing in 2 hours 45 minutes, whilst excellent for speed of play, only makes it tougher to get the work done.  I use the outfront rough mowers to blow the debris from the fairways and tees and water at high pressure to clear the greens.  Back pack blowers are used in the bunkers and on the cart paths.  With the small crew it is impossible to get the bunkers blown and raked at the same time so apologies for the footmarks in the bunkers today.   

"Leaf collectors"
Blown and playable but a few footmarks

18 River fairway before

18 River fairway nearly clean
As usual at this time of year there is a lot of seedhead on the couchgrass in the fairways.  This is normally controlled by applications of growth regulator at the lower end of the recommended rate which has been applied but has had a patchy result.  No matter how sharp the mowers are they can't keep the seedhead cut so another application will be required. 

Seedhead evident on 11 River fairway.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Another week of dry sunny weather and the wind is really starting to stretch the irrigation system to the limit.  It has been nice to see some improvement in some of the areas where the root pruner was used and no more so than on 18 River tee as seen in the photo below.  If you look closely at the photo you can see the 2 lines from the root pruning machine.  Although the result elsewhere isn't as dramatic as this it is obviously working very well.

RHS 18 River tee
I had another qualified Greenkeeper leave this week to work in the mines and that is the second one I have lost in 6 months.  The lure of high wages is too great especially when compared to the wages for Greenkeepers which must be the lowest of any Trade qualified personnel and it's the same scene across Australia and it is difficult to even recruit young people for apprenticeships.  At least the grass isn't really growing just yet so I have some time to source a replacement.

I had the opportunity to play in the Pro am at Indooroopilly GC on Monday and our Pro said they were the hardest and fastest greens he had seen in a long while.  One under was the best score in the morning then we only got to play 8 holes before the thunderstorm rolled through causing play to be suspended then eventually cancelled in the afternoon.  Indro has had 2mm of rain in the last 10 weeks and only got 2 more courtesy of the storm which couldn't have come at a worse time.  It is virtually impossible to imagine the amount of water that was on the course just 18 months ago in the Brisbane floods and the damage that it caused to the golf course.  Host Super Charles Giffard and his crew have plenty to be proud of with the restoration works.

A major blow for turf research in Australia with the news that the research facility at Redlands is to completely close following Queensland Government cuts.  We participated in the greens grass trials with them and this research project was the catalyst for many courses, Cool Tweed included, to change their greens grass.  A number of projects are currently underway and will be cancelled.  Considering that golf injects over $573 million into the Queensland economy and provides enjoyment for over 200,000 golfers you might have thought that the research station might have survived.  Not to mention the work that the facility conducts for sporting venues.  How long since you have seen a game of high level League or Aussie Rules played on a muddy ground?  That's directly attributable to the research bodies around Australia.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The River greens have finally started to grow again following the fertiliser early this week.  The weather is still not really warm enough for them to really recover from the winter as the soil temperatures need to get up for that to happen so at the moment the growth is induced if you like.  The shaded greens, in particular 4, 5, 12, 13, and 15 are still well behind the other greens and the maintenance of the River greens is pretty much governed by these greens.  If it was possible these greens would be mown at a different height to allow them a chance to grow but that is logistically impossible.  A good indicator of when the really warm growing weather has arrived is when the oversown tees start to dry out which generally doesn’t happen until late October.

Water is a major issue at the moment especially with just 17mm of rain in the past two months.  The irrigation water is sourced from the Banora Point sewerage treatment facility and I am able to pump about 1.4 megalitres in a 24 hour period from the plant.  I could pump more but the pipeline is over 30 years old and I don't want to put it under any great strain as without it we have nothing.  At the moment due to the lower overnight temperatures the course doesn't dry as fast as it does in summer so I am regularly changing the fairways that are being irrigated as they do tend to wet up quickly and a single row of sprinklers cannot really imitate rainfall.  Wind is also a major factor as the sprinklers can’t achieve even coverage in the wind and as we don’t really have a prevailing wind direction, it is hard to cater for.  Generally when it is windy I normally don’t irrigate fairways to conserve water and power.  At the moment I am pumping about 1.3 megalitres of water each night in an irrigation cycle that starts at 9.45pm and finishes at 4.45am.  The fairways receive about 1.1 million litres each night, the tees 140,000, the River greens 65,000 and the West greens 80,000.

I mentioned earlier in the week about the PGA Tour event this week at East Lake GC in Atlanta.  When I was in Atlanta in 1988 the area of East Lake was a no-go zone with a very high crime rate.  Indeed I read the following quote recently – “Though a few hardcore purists remained as members, those who braved a round at the course were as concerned about stray bullets as they were about stray tee shots”.  And from their website – “Located in Atlanta, Georgia, East Lake Golf Club is the home course of legendary golfer Bobby Jones and is the oldest golf course in the city of Atlanta. The Club is not only historic, but philanthropic as well. Proceeds from operations - more than $20 million to date – support the East Lake Foundation, which has helped transform one of the nation’s worst public housing projects into a thriving community”.

Back to the golf course and greens in the Atlanta area were predominantly couch (as Augusta National was) and in the early 1960’s East Lake was one of the first clubs to convert to bentgrass.  In 2008 they were one of the first clubs to convert to an ultradwarf couch variety known as Mini Verde and thus became one of the first courses on the PGA Tour outside of Florida to play a tournament on couch greens.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

15mm of most welcome rain fell on the course on Monday night which was just what the 2 tonne of fertiliser the tees received earlier in the day needed, not to mention the fertiliser that was also applied to the River greens.  It was also nice to get a break from the constant wind of the past two weeks and made a pleasant change to be able to tour the courses and actually see some grass on fairways and not piles of leaves.  Despite the recent nice weather the couch is still not really growing just yet and the fertiliser is an attempt to get some reaction and the rain will help even more.  The River greens were sanded today to try and true up the surface and the fertiliser should get the grass through the sand.  The West greens have really recovered well following the renovation and are due for a sanding to finish off the re-levelling of the surface.

The US PGA Tour heads to Atlanta this week where the Tour Championship will be contested at East Lake GC which is another course in the States that has converted from bentgrass to the dwarf couch variety "Mini Verde" which was one of the grasses trialed in our nursery a few years ago.  The East Lake club has a fascinating history that I will report on later this week.

Monday, September 10, 2012

As mentioned a couple of posts ago there is a lot of work planned on the courses in the coming weeks.  This week will see the continuation of the Palm tree removal program that has been running over the past few years.  Our aim is to eventually remove all the Palms from the courses to eliminate the expensive ongoing annual pruning costs of these unpopular plants.  With the Ladies event on the River course this week we will concentrate on the West course on Tuesday with the stumps being removed on Thursday.

Another 2 Yagi type antennas on the irrigation controllers are to be installed this week as well.  The prolific growth and thickening of the tree canopy  has got to the stage that it is interfering with the radio signal from the main computer.  The controllers located at the rear of 13 West green and at the front of 18 River tee will have the antennas installed.

Yagi antenna at 18 River green

Our main irrigation pump station has barely missed a beat since it was installed in 2000 which was a very nice change from the previous pump station that required me to be present at the start of every irrigation cycle to ensure that it would start.  But all good runs must come to an end and one of the 30 hp pumps requires replacing.  The system was designed by Gold Coast local David Hanby who has been involved in the pumping and distribution of water on golf courses around the world for more than 30 years.  As David is a local we are fortunate to be able to have him service the pumps as well which is of great benefit.  His expertise is highly sought after and he is the preferred irrigation designer for several major golf course architects.  The pumps have served very well and my flow meter that was installed with the irrigation control system in 2002 tells me that 1,691,315,789 litres of water have been pumped on to the courses!  Just out of interest the pump station consists of six Grundfos pumps - 2 x 20 hp and 4 x 30 hp and has a variable frequency drive which essentially operates the pumps according to demand so if 20 litres a second flow is required to meet demand only one pump might be used and then more pumps are cycled in to maintain a set pressure point as demand increases.  This has a very positive effect in reducing power consumption and delivers the water in a much "softer" manner to our piping system which in some cases must be over 40 years old.  The pump station has a maximum flow of 95 litres per second.
New pump ready for installation.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The West greens have recovered remarkably well from their renovation and mowing heights have returned to pre renovation heights.  One of the difficulties in the weeks following the renovation is mowing in the dew in the mornings as the mowers pick up a lot of sand that cake the rollers and affect the cut and as anyone who has a mechanical bone in their body will know that sand and bearings don't like each other, let alone sand with bedknives and cutting reels.  The mowers lose their quality of cut very quickly while the sand is present which explains some of the stripy marks on some greens.

A busy week with spring type temperatures saw some tree root pruning carried out as well as some root removal from fairways.  We also investigated why a 300mm drain is blocked on the LHS of 4 West and have discovered a blockage right under the parking bay at the rear of the green.  That's right - under 100mm of concrete!!

The root pruning was an interesting project and I had a trial of this machine last year with some good results so have trialed it in several different locations, particularly around tees and greens.  One of the difficulties for us is the myriad of pipes and tubes running under the courses that the blades, although only cutting 230mm deep may come in contact with.  A run was made down the RHS of 18 River tee (see below for a video) and this will be a very prominent area to see just how effective the operation is.  I would expect to see significant improvement on this tee over the coming months.  Another prominent place to look out for is the rear of 10 River green.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The West greens renovations went well and I am probably the only person happy with them at the moment given the length of the grass but then again there were two scores of 42 points in the Saturday competition so at least two other people are happy!  The aeration is really like a breath of fresh air for the greens and the fertiliser and soil amendments get them set up for the oncoming summer months.  As I have mentioned before the greens need to be dry for the first couple of mowings so the first will take place on Sunday afternoon which is only five days after the last of the sand was applied.

The greens were aerated with ⅝ inch hollow tynes then granular fertiliser and calcium based soil amendments were applied followed by sand.  The weather was probably the best I have had for a West renovation so I took the opportunity to also aerate the West course tees.  The cores on the tees are rubbed back in to the surface and then the stubble is blown off.  This has the effect of top dressing the surface and also brings some nutrient to the surface as well. 

The aeration commences on 2 west

Applying the fertiliser and soil amendments

After fertiliser

Applying sand with a threatening cloud in the background
that fortunately moved away

Tees areation cores rubbed back in

The information meeting for members regarding the proposed West greens replacement went well last Wednesday with no negative comments forthcoming.  Most comments were related to the type of grass, length of times the greens will be affected and course playability during the process as was the desire for there to be "no buried elephants under the surface"!!  One aspect that I explained was that the decision needs to be made in the short term as the turf supplier, machinery contractors and sand supplier all need to be booked twelve months in advance, particularly the turf supply.  The Board will be discussing the matter at their meeting this week and members will be informed in due course.

There are some busy times on the courses in the coming months with a number of works planned commencing with some treatment of tree roots this week.  A root pruning machine will be in operation on Tuesday which is the machine that was trialed last year on 4 River fairway.  Tree roots that are growing into the fairways and surfacing will also be removed where possible.  Any areas affected by the removal of the roots can be treated as GUR under the local rule concerning these works.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Don't forget the Member information night next Wednesday August 22nd in the Member's bar following the Wednesday comp presentations at around 6pm.  I will be explaining the reasoning behind the Board considering changing the grass in the greens on the West course and will be available to answer any questions Members may have.

If you get a chance this week end to watch some of the Wyndham Championship US PGA Tour event at Sedgefield CC in North Carolina, you will be watching the Pro's play greens surfaces that were bentgrass for last years tournament and are now couchgrass.  The greens were changed for the very reasons we are considering in that they were exceptionally difficult to maintain through the summer and have had a reputation for being very soft for the tournament. The couch variety "Champion" was chosen for this course which in our trial work proved to be very similar to TifEagle.  The amazing detail about this grass changeover was that the project started on May 14 this year.....that's right, meaning it has had only a 13 week grow in time leading in to a Tour event....incredible!  Reports on the greens are that they are running superbly although with a few minor blemishes which is quite understandable.  I am not too sure what method they used to re-surface, but as their greens were only rebuilt in 2007 the actual sub surface may not have been touched.  I might wait till after the tournament to contact the Super to find out as I guess he's got a bit on his plate at the moment!!  But I will certainly be watching with great interest, particularly the scoring as when the greens were bentgrass and soft due to the heat, 20+ under par was the number required so it will be very interesting to see what happens on the couchgrass.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tree trimming opening up the play line on 3W
Its good to see the nice weather bringing out the golfers again and the forecast looks good.  We have been busy this week doing some tree trimming using a travel tower.  We only had the truck on site for two days so really haven't even scratched the surface of what could be done but numerous dangerous limbs have been removed as well as a few play lines opened up.  Nothing yet around the bunkers though as just some trimming will really achieve little.  It is a difficult operation on a number of fronts with the safety of the contractors paramount which means we need to try and avoid play as much as possible but with the number of players out there that is nigh on impossible.  I also like to get as much done as possible while the machine is on site so that's why there is a lot of tree limbs still down on the ground.  The branches qualify as "piled for removal" so relief is available if your ball is amongst them.

The West greens are due for their renovation next week and already you can hear the cry of "they are putting great - why touch them?" however the renovation is critical for the green's health.  If we go any later in the year it is too hot and the risk of losing turf is too great as the greens dry very quickly when they have been opened up.  Speaking of dry and I don't think I have seen the West greens as firm as they have been over the past few weeks which is great for speed and surface but no good for the aerating machine next week.  I actually had to give them a solid tyne aerate to open them up to let some water penetrate so that we can operate the aerator successfully next week or "pull a plug" as they say in the trade.  That basically means that the hollow tyne aerating machine can actually extract a core from the green.  Irrigation on the greens will be increased over the week end to ensure that we can indeed pull a plug.

West greens solid tyned this week

Saturday, August 11, 2012


There is nothing like "bunkers" to get a topic rolling along and thank you very much for the replies both here and via email to the earlier post about trees affecting play lines.  Opinion is very much divided with all sorts of options offered as you can read in the comments section of the post.  At this stage I doubt anything will be done as far as full removal is concerned but there may be some "rigorous" pruning take place. 

A few comments suggested filling some bunkers in and the Board have already identified 3 bunkers that will be filled in and grassed this year which are ones already mentioned amongst the replies.  The RHS fairway bunker on 14R, the LHS fairway bunker on 5R and the RHS fairway bunker on 2W will be grassed.  There are others to be done in the future as budget allows.
Other works on bunkers this season will be the removal of stone contaminated sand and the installation of a lining product and new sand as per the work carried out on the greenside bunkers on 4W earlier this year.  The bunkers to be done are;  front RHS 15R, front RHS 12R, rear RHS 5R and 16R and the rear bunkers on 2R, 3R and 17R greens.  The drainage in these bunkers does not require replacing so the drainage lines will be flushed out which means it is not as major job as was carried out on 4W.  There are other bunkers with stone contamination but once again these are considered the worst and others will be done in the future.
There will also be sand added to many of the bunkers on both courses as a routine maintenance operation in the coming months as well.
There have been a few comments about the actual rakes we have for members use on the courses.  There are two distinct types and each allows the head to be turned upside down to allow for smoothing as well as using the tines for raking.  The River course rakes are a little heavier to help get through the "fluffier" sand and the West course rakes quite lightweight in comparison. 
There have been suggestions of other types of rakes that we could use but with the variable weather and resultant condition of the sand I feel these two types are best suited to our normal prevailing conditions.  That is if people used them and more importantly used them correctly.  It is not possible to rake a bunker successfully one handed and I rarely see any players use both hands before tossing the rake wherever, generally in a temperamental state.  At least the rakes we use are nearly indestructible.  And speaking of how players treat bunkers - there are those that don't rake at all such as the one below on 4 River. 

Lucky the player didn't trip on the rake and get hurt!!

Then again you could have the above scenario which happened at Metropolitan GC in Melbourne in a Saturday comp earlier this year.  But my all time favorite is the one below which is when a golf cart tried to drive out of the bunker on RHS 13 River.

Friday, August 3, 2012

West Course Greens

The Board has agreed in principle that the grass type on the West greens requires changing and I trust the following information goes some way to answering Member’s questions.  This may seem an unusual time to be discussing such a proposal with the West greens in perfect playing condition at the moment but this issue was raised in March this year at the end of an extremely wet and difficult summer for the greens.  At the outset may I say that the bentgrass greens at CTHGC have always been difficult to maintain throughout the summer months, and particularly January and February due to the sub tropical climate we experience.  A check of Greens / Course Committee minutes and reports over the years dating back to 1980, document that the greens grass type has been discussed on nearly an annual basis.  So it is not a recent problem and is one that has probably been discussed by every Board of Directors since the bentgrass greens were planted.  Indeed in 1980 a recommendation was put to the Board to convert all greens to couchgrass. 

So for at least thirty two years there has been debate on the most suitable greens grass at CTHGC and throughout that time there have been many issues with greens that often led to temporary greens being in play and players suffering the consequences.  Thankfully in my thirteen years I have only had one major problem requiring a temporary green with the bentgrass greens and that is with my nemesis, 17 West. There are many reasons to consider for changing grasses but in my opinion there are now the following most pressing arguments;

Ø     Our climate.  The summers experienced at CTHGC are too severe to make bentgrass a viable option without huge labour and plant protectant product usage.  It is fact that bentgrass roots start stressing and dying off in soil temperatures above 24ºC.  In the months of November through March our soil temperatures rarely fall below 23ºC and the irrigation water that is applied is normally a minimum of 26ºC.  I have in fact recorded soil temperatures above 35ºC on many occasions and the water has been 30ºC on many occasions.  The combination of these factors are a recipe for disaster.
Ø     The age of the greens. Some of the existing West greens are more than 30 years old, albeit with constant patching and re-sowing prior to my arrival.  Several of the greens, eg. 2, 3, 4, 10, 13 &15 have passed their use by date and are causing problems year round.
Ø     Foreign grass invasion. Particularly couchgrass which has been controlled as far as possible with the available products.  All I am able to do now is reduce the spread of the couchgrass.  Greens 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 15 and 18 are the worst for contamination.  This problem is most noticeable during the summer months when the bent is at its weakest and the invading couch at its strongest.  The most difficult aspect of controlling the existing couchgrass is that to totally remove it from the surface it has to be sprayed out and then have at least 300mm of the growing medium removed and replaced.  In the past fumigation could be used which provided a fast result and meant the surface could be re-seeded as was done on many occasions previously.  Fumigation is now no longer available.
Ø     Staffing.  The maintenance of bentgrass greens in this climate, particularly through the period of October thru April, requires a huge commitment from the Superintendent to continually monitor the greens.  One of the aspects that amazed me when I arrived here is just how much the greens can dry out overnight in comparison to greens in the southern States.  Similarly the change in the greens from 2.30pm in the afternoon when the staff leave and 6.30pm when the sun stops beating down is substantial.  This means the greens need to be monitored continually throughout the day, seven days a week and decisions on irrigation requirements assessed on a daily basis.  This didn’t happen prior to my arrival with obvious results.  Having bentgrass greens in this climate is like having a 2 week old baby that is in need of constant attention. Such constant attention requires a time commitment from the staff and the generation of workers coming through is not interested in working such hours and that trend seems to be worsening.  The days of people working 70 plus hours a week as I do are numbered.

So what is the solution?  In my mind the time has come for the greens grass on the West Course to be changed.  Following is a discussion on possibilities.

In 2007 the Club undertook trials of six new improved “ultradwarf” varieties of couchgrass with a view to their suitability as a putting green grass at CTHGC.  All of the varieties, proved to have a much finer leaf than “328” couchgrass (which we have on the River greens) and therefore provided a better putting surface.  In the USA golf clubs in similar climatic conditions as we are across the States of Texas, Georgia, the Carolinas and Florida for example, are changing their greens from bentgrass to these new varieties at a startling rate.  Unfortunately the grasses are still not commercially available in Australia so can’t be considered. 

However, the couchgrass variety TifEagle was part of that trial and is available in Australia. Northlakes, Dent Island and Sanctuary Cove Palms are three courses who have used the variety over their entire course.  Brisbane GC and the new course at Horton Park GC on the Sunshine Coast will be installing TifEagle in their greens in the next few years as will Arundel CC on the Gold Coast.

TifEagle is a much finer bladed couchgrass which translates to a smoother, faster putting surface.  To achieve this it does have high input requirements such as frequent sanding and grooming.  At most of the courses that have trialed or installed TifEagle in Australia there have been problems with disease in its early life.  In the trials at CTHGC however, it was the grass with the least disease at establishment.  (see photo)  I have trialed it in a nursery green and the rate that it thatches up means it will require the constant work previously mentioned.  It provides an excellent putting surface as the greens at Sanctuary Cove Palms and Northlakes demonstrate. It is also used extensively in the USA, particularly in Florida where the climate is similar to ours, with great results. 

Disease infestation comparisons in 2007 trials

Tifdwarf is another variety but has lost favour in Australia as most commercially available sources are not true to type and there are also ongoing disease issues with it.

Tifgreen or 328 is virtually the only other option and is in use on the River course at present.  Its advantage is that we know it will grow here and survive the huge player numbers we experience but is an inferior surface to TifEagle.  The Board is keen to still have two distinct grasses on the courses which is an idea with which I fully concur.

The following is the procedure that is recommended;

Ø     Greens to have herbicide applied to eradicate foreign couchgrass.  Two applications would be required.  Greens would remain in play during this phase and temporary greens would be prepared at this time.
Ø     300mm of the growing profile to be removed out to the existing greens collar and further in some cases and down to the existing drainage.  This would increase the putting surface area by a minimum of 120m² and the excavated material would then be spread in roughs to cover tree root areas to help solve another on course issue.
Ø      Irrigation to be replaced.
Ø     Growing medium to be replaced and contoured back to existing levels with minor alterations to allow for pin placement and water movement off the green. 
Ø     Some contouring works would be required on green surrounds to ensure drainage / water movement off the putting surface.
Ø     Greens to be planted with stolons.  Surrounds to be turfed.

The process as described above is not a full re-construction but rather a greens rejuvenation.  Any greenside bunkers that require works such as drainage could be attended to at the same time.  The greens would be stolonised rather than solid turfed as turfing immediately introduces a thatch layer which is the main problem you want to prevent against.  There is also not enough turf available for purchase in SE Qld to solid turf.

The proposed timing of such a project is a start date of 2013 and the schedule of works would be; 
Ø     September 2 – Herbicide application and temporary green preparation.
Ø     October 14 – Start excavation.  Two greens could be excavated and replaced each week and grass planted the following Tuesday.
Ø     All greens to be planted by November 19.
Ø     A 12 week grow in time would see the first greens back in play January 14 and all greens in play February 11.  This would allow for an adequate level of maturity for the turf going in to winter.
Ø      A contingency plan would be needed to allow for weather interruption, both financially and time.
Ø     Vehicle access tracks would be repaired after the last green is planted.
Ø     10 greens to be planted in 2013, including the practice green and 9 greens at the same time in 2014.

An information meeting for all members will be held in the Clubhouse on Wednesday August 22nd immediately following presentations at approximately 6.00pm. In the meantime if you would like a question answered please put it in the "comments" section and I will respond.