Friday, July 28, 2017

Apologies at the outset but this may be a short post as I am having computer issues with the full stop button not working!!  Makes it very hard to punctuate, search and enter website names!!

Another glorious week of weather and the courses are looking a treat for this time of year

Started to liquid fertlise the fairways so there are some out there showing a little bit of color and this will continue for the next few weeks

The new TifEagle greens were solid tine aerated as per the video below

The tree trimming around the courses continued with 3R opened up to allow full use of the teeing ground and get some sun on the teeing ground as well and a start made on 16R which will be finished next week

3R before

3R after

Friday, July 21, 2017

Continuation of the tree trimming program this past week with a large amount of material removed from the courses.  The pile below at the tree dump adjacent to 6R is 60 metres long and nearly 3 metres high and has been stacked tight with a front end loader tractor.  Still some more to go in the coming weeks but only the surface gets scratched this year in this never ending task.

Large pile of cuttings

We trialed a new model bunker raking machine that has a number of advantages over our current units that are due for replacement this financial year.  To rake the bunkers on one course properly takes 2 men about 4 hours depending on just how much repair work is required on the faces.  Given that members comps start at 6.30 am, with 2 tee starts on Wednesday and Saturdays, the bunkers are rarely raked "properly".  It is normally quite a rushed job to get done in front of the play and generally only one person starts the job and is then joined by other crew as they finish their other allocated tasks through the morning.  Prior to budget cuts over the past 5 years or so, bunkers were regularly raked up to six times a week but that is now down to two or three times maximum now.

Bunkers are probably the most contentious issue on a golf course and I doubt any golf club has got it "right" with their bunkers.  Whatever "right" is of course.  When we were raking six times a week more money was being allocated to bunker maintenance than putting green maintenance which is astounding when you consider that they are after all a hazard!!  More money being spent on bunkers than greens is a fairly common occurrence among other Course Supers that I speak with and bunkers are universally the most criticised aspect of golf courses.  There is not enough room here to espouse all the theories relating to bunker construction and maintenance so I might organise a course information session which hasn't been held for a few years now and where the topic of bunkers is always raised. 

The video below shows the trial unit in action.


Obviously this player didn't want to leave the surface as good as he found it although at least he picked the rake up to start with.  The photo was taken just an hour after the bunker was raked!! 
Please try and leave the course as you find it!!  

Perhaps the great Peter Thomson is right when he suggests that bunkers shouldn't be raked at all and if he had it his way "bunkers would be real hazards, a holy terror to get caught in and a frightening experience to get out of"!!  

And speaking of "five times" the video below is from his triumph at Royal Birkdale in 1954, the scene of this weeks Open Championship.  The first time I saw it I didn't have the volume on and was astounded to learn that his six inch back handed putt was to actually WIN!!!

Friday, July 14, 2017

The temporary greens on the front nine West were sown down this week with a mixture of Bentgrass and Poa Trivialis which is the variety of grass that is used to oversow Couchgrass greens during winter, a practice carried out by a few clubs in SE Queensland.

Planting 4W temp.

A start was made this week on some tree trimming around the courses.  Dead, diseased, dangerous and low branches have been trimmed and some branches that were interfering with lines of play were also removed.  There will be several more days of this work over the coming weeks.  The material is left stockpiled and is then picked up as soon as possible and relief can be taken if your ball lands in the piles.  A program of removing dead trees will also take place in the next month or so as will some more tree root pruning which was a great success last year.  

A comment was made on the Blog last week regarding the firmness of the new TifEagle greens.  As with all new greens they are firmer and this firmness will ease as the greens mature and a thatch layer builds up.  Care however needs to be taken to not allow too much thatch to build up as this is detrimental to the health of the turf and the resultant playing surface.  As an explanation thatch is basically the layer of living and dead plant matter that can exist between the soil surface and the leaf blades of the turf.  Too much thatch on a putting green is most undesirable and we employ a machine that has "de-thatching" heads fitted to prevent and reduce thatch build up.  It is probably the most common cultural practice carried out on Couchgrass putting greens.

There is not too much thatch on the new West greens at the moment which is because the greens were stolonised.  By comparison the River greens, which are now nearly 20 years old, were solid turfed and this introduced a one inch deep thatch layer from the day they were turfed and they have been much softer since due to this layer that is all but impossible to fully remove without actually taking the surface off.

As Bentgrass greens the West were heavily watered due to our climatic conditions and a lot of the surrounds of the greens were very soft due to the excessive (and necessary) irrigation levels.  As part of the greens replacement program several of the front approaches to the greens were excavated and replaced with a better draining material to allow for a firmer surface for more "bump and run" type shots to be played with the expectation that the greens would be much firmer.

17 West green is now 2.5 years old and is now quite a bit softer than it was in its first 12 months which is a result of the thatch building up as the green now holds significantly more moisture.  With putting greens there are three actual measurements that can be taken of the playing surface in addition to soil nutrient and leaf tissue testing.  Firstly green speed is measured using a device called a Stimpmeter.  The primary intention of the Stimpmeter was to help Superintendents to achieve a consistent speed across their greens which was a difficult thing to achieve when Edward Stimpson developed the instrument back in the 1930's.  The Stimpmeter wasn't really widely used until the 1970's when the USGA deemed that a fast putting green was 9 feet for normal member play!!  Unfortunately it has now become a chest beating exercise to see who has the fastest greens.

Another measurement that can be taken is surface firmness.  The instrument for this is used specifically at tournament courses in an attempt to have all the greens the same firmness.  It is a very time consuming process and one that is not practiced on a regular basis on golf courses due to the time taken.

The last measurement available is soil moisture content which has a direct influence on the putting surface firmness and trueness.  I have mentioned on the Blog before that we have such a sensor and it is used regularly.  During the first 12 months of 17 West green's life it was sitting at about 10 - 15% soil moisture content which is on the dry side of the ledger.  This was despite quite high irrigation levels, particularly through its first summer of 2015 / 16.  This past summer the green has had moisture content readings of between 25 and 35% quite consistently.  As a point of reference if a reading of 20% or less was taken on one of the Bentgrass greens at lunchtime in summer the green would not make it through the day.

So back to the question of greens firmness, yes the greens will become more receptive to properly executed golf shots.  I included the above discussion to demonstrate that there is not really many ways to quantify golf greens which makes it difficult to assess them.  A lot of the time it is left to the subjective view of the player.

Friday, July 7, 2017

A disappointing end weather wise to my first week back after some glorious winter weather earlier in the week although it was nice to return to some cooler temperatures.  I was expecting Florida to be hot on my trip to the USA but the north eastern States caught me by surprise.  As we flew in to land in Washington I sighted a golf course obviously set up for a PGA tournament and that course turned out to be the site of last week's PGA Tour event - TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm.  I did some research and found that the course had been completely remodeled and the entire golf course, apart from roughs, was Bentgrass.  The 3 days spent in Washington consisted of 35+ degree days with extreme humidity and that continued up to and during the event.  Not the sort of recipe you want for a tournament with wall to wall Bentgrass, but the course stood up well and although the greens looked a little baked they putted great.  A great effort by the crew under trying conditions to produce great turf.

One of my contacts in the USA was volunteering for this week Greenbrier Classic on the PGA Tour and I had forgotten about last years washout at the same venue.  A similar weather event to our April clash with ex Cyclone Debbie occurred and the golf course was nearly washed away just two weeks out from the tournament in 2016.  That tournament was duly cancelled and what has occurred in 12 months since is simply amazing and a credit to all those involved and it was great to see the course maintenance staff acknowledged during the tournament.    

Greenbrier 2016

Greenbrier 2016

No 14 in May 2017

No 14 just before tourney week

Staff recognition

Preparations at CTH for the front 9 West greens conversion to TifEagle have commenced in earnest with orders being placed for irrigation components, sand and amendments and turf.  The temporary greens will be sown down next week and there will be a little more Couchgrass left in them this year as we may need to occasionally use them once the new greens are in play.  Being the front 9 doesn't give us the chance to carry out some of the necessary maintenance practices in front of play that are required when the greens are developing so there may be times the temporaries are still used.  

The trip to Florida to see some courses with TifEagle was certainly an eye opener but also confirmed a lot of what is already being done here at Cool Tweed.  All the courses were under renovation which was just what I wanted to see but they have the luxury of closing for 2 weeks to renovate.  Yes that's right - 2 weeks!!  That is in addition to being closed every Monday year round and then closing periodically throughout the summer as well.  So they are able to go a lot harder with their renovation and the player numbers drop considerably through summer allowing for a lot more work to be done.

I visited 8 courses all up with TifEagle greens ranging from 12 months to 18 years old with one club replacing their old greens with TifEagle utilising a very similar method to that employed at Cool tweed as shown in the photo below.

Green being rebuilt in same method as CTH
Encroachment of foreign grasses in to the greens is a major issue and is a battle that can't be won as it will eventually get in to the greens according to every Super I spoke to.  Most clubs were edging continuously and virtually all were replacing the contaminated collars at least every two years which is a lot easier to do when the course is closed to play and there are few if any golfers throughout summer.  Indeed one course lifts all mowing heights up across the course except for the greens because no one plays the course in summer.  The greens are still fully maintained but all else is let go.

This course controls encroachment by doing this every year.