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.