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.