Friday, December 27, 2019

20mm of rain in the gauge on Christmas morning was a very welcome Christmas present and the follow up showers have been a bonus and don't seem to have affected play too much.  The grass has already started to jump and as always the short working weeks and volume of play at this time of year make it tough to keep up with all the work that needs to get done.  I have noticed it before prior to rainfall and will keep an eye out in future but on Christmas eve morning a flock of seagulls was gathered on the dam at 4 / 9 West preening themselves and then spent most of the day there and sure enough in came the rain.  They were also there again this morning so with no rain in the forecast it will be interesting to watch.  It's always hard to tell with so many people having their own signs of rain to come.  A couple of other local ones I have heard of are the arrival of the black cockatoos who were actually very active this morning and the swallows flying about low to the ground feeding which I have seen a few times myself but no rain had followed.  Let's just hope we get enough rain across the country to break this dryspell.

The seagulls are in?

With no more significant rainfall, 2019 will figure in the four driest years on record for Tweed Heads with 961mm so far this year.  There have only been three years when less than 1000mm has been recorded and that was in 1902 - 689mm, 1915 - 858mm and 1986 with 962mm.  The average yearly rainfall for Tweed Heads since 1888 is 1665mm so yes it's been a dry one. 

Friday, December 20, 2019

Well the rain last week didn't last long but it certainly had a good effect with the courses greening up considerably over the past days.  We are now back into a dry spell and with our predominantly sand base it is amazing just how fast it dries out.  The West greens are a bit slower to recover than they were last year and that is due to the high sodium levels in the growing profile and also in the irrigation water.  Last year we had some very good rain following the renovation in December which helped "flush" the greens and last weeks falls weren't enough to achieve the same effect.  Hopefully we don't endure another dry summer like last year.
A quiet day on the courses on Thursday and then the West course being closed after the Vets shotgun allowed us to get all the fairways sprayed with growth regulator which is an essential application at this time of year for obvious reasons.  That is normally a task that takes three to four mornings over a week to complete around play so the closure was once again very beneficial.  Apart from slowing the growth down the growth regulator can also help root growth.  A few years ago I was doing a trial on the nursery green with the growth regulator and couldn't really see much difference on the surface.  However when I took  a couple of plugs to look at the roots it was an amazing difference as seen in the photo below.  The other photo below shows an area that was missed during the application on 14W fairway one time and the difference is distinct.

Growth regulator applied to top plug.

A miss on 14W fairway.

The winds this week have finally just about stripped all the bark off the Gum trees so the roughs will look a little tidier from now on.  This is an annual event for the trees and the wind just helps speed up the process.

Bark be gone...

And with the Aus PGA on this week who could forget the presence of Jeff the Dinosaur at the 2012 version of the tournament at Coolum!!!

Jeff the dinosaur!!!

Friday, December 13, 2019

Apologies to the players who started out today but wasn't that rain magnificent.  A bit more than 30mm and not too much run off except for a very heavy shower in the middle of the day.  It was certainly very welcome and hopefully is the start of more to come.
A very welcome sight in the compound today!!

The West renovations went well and a lot of material was removed.   This material is what is known as thatch which is defined as a layer of living and dead stems, roots and other organic matter that is between the soil surface and the leaf blades.  At renovation time we can go deeper and remove way more thatch than we can with our regular de-thatching program.  The photo below shows the surface after we have finished the de-thatching process and prior to aeration which was done with just a solid tine this year.  As I have said before it's not something we particularly enjoy doing, especially in the heat we had on Monday and Tuesday but it is so vital for the health of the turf.

Lots of material removed.

And hats off to the crew at Royal Melbourne ably led by Richard Forsyth on the presentation of the course for the Presidents Cup.  It's a bit sad to see what the massive galleries do to the incredibly valuable native roughs which will take years to recover but the course is a delight to watch golf on.  45 volunteers from around the world have joined the normal crew of 45 to present the courses to this level with many saying it is some of the best turfgrass they have ever seen.  Interesting to note that in 1988 I was across the road at Victoria GC and went over to help out the preps for the Bicentennial Classic at RM, which at the time was the biggest tournament ever held in Australia.  My presence lifted the crew number to fifteen for the week!!  At that stage the club only owned one fairway mower that after mowing as much of the tournament course as it could in the morning would then head out on the other "paddocks" as they call them and keep on mowing!!
The crew!!

Friday, December 6, 2019

And just for a change there were only light breezes accompanying the high temperatures of the past few days which was a bit different from the howling winds we have been having.  It was also nice late this week to actually get the main playing surfaces pretty much free of tree debris which makes such a difference to the aesthetics and playability of the courses.

11W fairway covered in debris has been a constant.
 I had an eagle eyed member who trawled through the weather records for Tweed Heads, particularly the rainfall or lack thereof.  He found that the winter / spring period of June thru November 2019 was the second driest on record with just 220mm.  The driest was exactly 100 years ago in 1919 when just 209mm was recorded!!

A productive week just gone with the tees and collars on the West course being scarified which helps reduce the workload next week as we move on to the greens.  The greens will be heavily scarified and de-thatched and then only 7mm solid tines will be used instead of hollow tines.  The soil tests from the West greens were taken before last week ends rain and came back with similar sodium levels as the River greens.  The rain certainly helped the River greens which are now back down to normal mowing height and not rolling too badly considering it is just two weeks since their renovation.


Friday, November 29, 2019

The River greens are recovering well from their renovation and have had a couple of mowings already this past week.  Another top up of sand has a very nice level surface waiting for some more mowing next week to get the height back down to normal.  It is always a difficult time as the sand and reelmowers don't mix very well so it is very hard to get a quality cut in the early days following the renovation.

The West renovation will get under way next week with either the tees or greens collars being scarified.  The main part of the greens works will commence the following week and at this stage the greens won't be hollow tined but rather a 7mm solid tine will be used.  The weather (rainfall) will play a major part in this decision.  The greens will be heavily scarified and de-thatched with amendments added and finally sanded.  See November 15's post for some more detail on these activities.

The dry continues and some of the trenchlines around the courses are showing up including one of the most vital for the course.  That would be the trench that contains the pipe from the treatment plant that conducts the water to our dam for re-use.  It literally is liquid gold at the moment!!  As mentioned before and easy to see on the courses at the moment we don't get enough water to satisfy the entire property but we are in a much better position than others with many clubs operating on nearly dry dams or exceptionally salty water.  The arrow below indicates the line of the pipe which runs through the RHS green bunker on 15W.

Liquid gold under there.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Wind, wind and more wind.  It is a windy time of year but it would be nice if it blew some rain in!!??

The River greens renovation occupied the week and started last Sunday when there was a shower of rain that barely wet the ground but as I mentioned last week was enough to clog up the rollers on the machines.  Then the storm that hit on Sunday night came along and gave us lots of other work to do to put the courses back together again as well as renovate the greens.  Two and a half great days work by the crew saw the greens finished on time and a good result achieved.  It is a painful process but a very necessary one.

And speaking of the storm, the photo below shows the radar and the course is right under the arrowed black section that provided hail as well as 20mm of rain in about fifteen minutes.  A lot of it ran off unfortunately as it was too heavy but we got some benefit from it.  It caused a lot of clipping wash as can be seen in the other photo at the front of 4R tee which mostly requires time consuming manual removal.

Came from nowhere.

Debris at 4R tee.

Friday, November 15, 2019

A weird sort of week with the smoke haze blowing in one day and out the other with gusty southerly winds followed by equally gusty northerlies.  At least Thursday gave us some easterlies which sometimes brings some rain and Friday changed it up a bit with a gusty north easterly.  Which all adds up to lots of leaf debris.  We did manage to get the River course tees scarified and cleaned up but no aeration as it is too hot and dry.
Monday mornings sun @ 6.30 am with smoke haze.
Everything is set for the greens renovation on the River course that will commence on late Sunday afternoon.  We have had some light rain the last couple of years just to annoy us and also impact on the tidiness of the tasks performed.  And lo and behold there is rain forecast for Sunday!!  But we will certainly take anything we can as far as rainfall is concerned in the current conditions.
At this stage it is planned to scarify the greens in at least four directions up and back on the same line so at least eight passes over the green @ 5mm depth.  That will then be followed up with the de-thatchers set @ 3mm depth in two directions up and back.  The scarifiers and de-thatchers we use are mounted on the greensmowers and are pictured below.

The top photo is the scarifiers and you can see brushes in between the blades that help throw the material in to the grass catchers.  Golfers often refer to scarifying as ""tramlines"".  The de-thatchers below are what is used on a regular basis on the greens but in this instance will be set at 3mm depth whereas for routine operations they are set to ground level height with the weight of the unit allowing the unit to contact the surface.

Scarifying heads with brushes evident.

De-thatching heads with a narrower spacing.

After that operation the greens will be hollow tyne aerated using tungsten tipped tynes to a depth of 50 - 75mm.  The photo below shows the tynes which are classified as 9.7mm or 3/8 inch which isn't quite right when you look at how the taper of the carbide tip reduces the opening.  Following the hollow tyne the greens will have some amendments / fertiliser added and then finally sanded.  Due to the high sodium levels and therefore stressed growing conditions recovery may be a little slower however given the soil test results the greens are in fairly good health.

Even though the renovation is on Monday it isn't until you get a start that you can figure out exactly what will be done as the weather and soil conditions dictate just what can be done.  A light shower of rain can cause havoc with dirt sticking to rollers and clogging up the mower heads. Sometimes depending on the soil conditions it is hard to pull a plug out, especially with the carbide tips which last a lot longer but tend to lose their sharpness and therefore clean penetration through the surface.  So despite the best laid plans you sometimes have to fly by the seat of your pants as the saying goes.

Tynes mounted and ready to go.

Taper very evident.



Friday, November 8, 2019

It was hard to believe we were on the same planet in the calm conditions on Wednesday afternoon after what happened on Tuesday.  I can't remember being on course in such high winds as we got on Tuesday and fortunately not much tree debris hit the ground.  Except of course leaves!!  A few times the leaves looked like a tidal wave as they swirled around and basically rendered the course unplayable.  In such conditions the bunkers virtually become leaf collectors and the amount of debris in them required hand raking out which is a very time consuming task.  The greens had a lot of debris on them too so much so that it took four staff two hours each to get them clear for mowing on Wednesday morning whereas most normal windy days takes 2 staff 1 hour each.  Then along comes Friday with a howling northerly so at least the debris is coming from a different direction.

2R green - good luck putting through that!

15R leaf collector!

The need for rain gathers momentum every day now especially with the increasing temperatures.  The turf is under a lot more stress as the heat exacerbates the drying out of the rootzone.  The pond on the dogleg of 5W has dried up again which is the third time in eighteen months and I think it has only happened on three other occasions since I have been here.

Another leaf collector.

The River greens soil tests came back pretty much as expected after such a prolonged dry period and subsequent high usage of the treated water.  Salt levels are in the extreme range on all greens so the renovation and hopefully some rainfall will do them wonders.  Most other elements are within the expected parameters.  We will kickstart the renovation period with the tees to be scarified next week and they may also be aerated but that depends a lot on the rainfall outlook as the aeration really dries them out.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Well at least it tried to rain today!!  Hopefully this might start a trend with the cloud cover and we start to get some decent falls in the coming weeks.  On course and it was a routine maintenance kind of week with the River greens being de-thatched and sanded and all fairways having some growth regulator applied.

I might have spoken too soon last week about niggly problems occurring on machinery once they get to 2000 hours with a hydraulic oil leak happening on the oldest greens mower on Monday morning on 5R green.  The hydraulic hoses are the most likely to fail on the machine and it is almost impossible to avoid and / or predict.  A lot of the time the leak is hard to see on the greend at first which is hard to believe when you see the photo below but at least the operator caught it before he started the next pass.  To his credit the mowing line is nice and straight though!!  It's never what you want to see but if it has to happen then just prior to renovation is the best time for it so we get a good chance for some re-growth.

The mow line was straight!!

The root pruner that has been used down the sides of fairways is really showing some benefits now.  In the photo below the cool season wintergrass is still hanging around on the RHS of the photo where it can still get some moisture out of the soil.  The fairways have never been this good in such a prolonged dry spell as the irrigation water actually gets used up by the turf itself instead of the tree roots.  Now to try and find something to stop the overnight wind?

Arrow indicating cool season grass still going.

The Corellas have started digging on the greens again which happens at this time of year for some reason.  They only attack 5 and 7W greens as a rule and normally don't if the flag has been removed.  We are fortunate though as our local Corellas only nest here and feed elsewhere during the day whereas at many clubs they attack greens continually all day.  There have been a number of ideas floated to try and prevent them by using fake snakes and birds of prey for example but a couple of clubs have used a wire cut out that looks a bit like a person.  So meet our new staff member below who has been stationed at the rear of 5W green in a bid to deter the pests!!  Night one went without any damage after five consecutive nights so here's hoping.

En garde!