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.