Thursday, December 30, 2010

Winter Work

Christmas has come and gone and a new year is soon to begin. Preparations for the 2011 golf season are in full swing. Though the weather outside is dreary, we are excited and working with anticipation for a successful year. People always ask us, "what do you do all winter?" Each day is a mix of equipment repair, washing, painting, sanding, tree pruning, and snow removal. Here are some of the things we have been working on in December:

Pictured above and below are flower planters from the tennis area. We are refinishing them so they will look good and last longer.

Below is a project that was completed earlier this month. The drywall on the east side of our employee break room was damaged by moisture so we replaced it. Our break room is now ready for the return of our staff in March and April.

Pictured above are our putting green cups. This year we decided to recondition cups, flags, and flag sticks rather than purchase new ones.

We have finally begun the process of pruning trees on the golf course. Winter is the best time to prune trees in Iowa. The cold weather inhibits the spread and development of tree diseases. Also, when the leaves are gone, it is much easier to see which branches need to be removed and where to make necessary cuts. All of our efforts are done from the ground using a pole saw. We can reach branches approximately 15 ft. from the ground.

When pruning trees we are looking for a few things to determine which branches need to come down. First, we are looking to remove any dead wood or grown- together branches. Second, we try to give the tree an aesthetically pleasing shape. Finally, we want to remove any low hanging limbs which inhibit a golfer's swing.

We will be leaving the limbs and branches lay throughout the course until our staff returns in the spring. Last year we were unable to do much pruning because of the near record snowfall- we have our work cut out for us this year and want to use the winter downtime to get the wood on the ground. Once our staff returns it will take just a few days to pick up all the branches and run them through our chipper between holes 12 and 13.

Monday, December 13, 2010


The first blizzard of the 2010/ 2011 winter season has come and gone leaving behind 4 to 5 inches of snow. This particular storm took more than 10 man- hours throughout the weekend and Monday to clean up. We plan to keep a walking path clear through the golf course from the clubhouse to the maintenance barn. The course can be a pleasant winter walk but be careful- we do not treat the icy cart paths with salt.

We would like to take the opportunity to mention a few precautionary statements regarding snow removal at Wakonda Club. Driving the plow can be unnerving- slick surfaces, poor visibility, and fatigue weigh on plow operators. Add a few pedestrians and motorists and we have a potentially dangerous situation. For this reason we do the best that we can to get the sidewalks and parking lots clear when nobody else is around. This requires that members of our staff arrive very early in the morning to get a start on removal. The holiday season is a very busy time for the club with parties, dinners, and activities. With so many events happening on a daily basis and the unpredictable winter weather it is sometimes difficult to perform the task while the clubhouse is closed.

Protect yourself and your car! Never assume that the plow operator sees you. Do not pass by within 50 feet unless the plow has stopped completely and the operator has signaled you. Walk carefully through the parking lot. We use salt to melt the ice in heavily trafficked areas but when temperatures are frigid these products take considerably more time to melt the ice.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sweet Dreams Wakonda...

The 'blankets' are down and Wakonda has officially been put to bed for winter. We made a strong push before Thanksgiving and our greens are now prepared for whatever this winter season has in store.
Pictured above you can see the covers on 16, 17, 1, 4, and 2 green. With the course closed we have already begun preparing for next season. On nice days we plan to continue to mulch leaves, prune trees, and cut down dead trees.

Today we have begun the process of refinishing yardage plaques.

The plaques to the left have had the brass polished while the plaque on the bottom, right has only been power- washed. The plaque on the top, right has been cleaned, polished, and masked and is ready for a fresh coat of paint.

The work is all done by hand and is very time consuming but well worth the effort to maintain the plaques which are very expensive. We will repeat this overall procedure on each piece of course equipment- hundreds of posts, plaques, and trash cans to be reconditioned.

Friday, November 19, 2010


Enjoy the golf course while you can! We will close the course for winter Sunday at dusk.

We're in a chess match with mother nature and she has us in check. Weather forecasts have a chance for snow and bitter cold temperatures around Thanksgiving. The challenge is to keep the course open as long as possible but to be ready for winter before the first snow storm/ deep freeze.

This week we applied fungicides to the tees and fairways to protect them from snow mold. We also placed the protective green covers throughout the course. The short holiday week next week will be extremely busy for us. We have to blow all the water out of the irrigation system on Monday. The greens need to be sprayed to protect them from snow mold. After that we will apply some organic fertilizer and topdress them with sand. The last step is to cover the greens with the protective tarps.

Friday, November 12, 2010

November Rain

It's a rainy day today- not good for golf but a chance to catch our breath. Our staff now consists of only 5 people. Maintianing our 140 acre property is a challenge with such a small staff. The task at Wakonda is especially time consuming because of the number of large trees which shed tons of leaves.

We have several important projects in the coming weeks in preparation for winter. The driving range net has been taken down and is the first step in our winter preparations. We also have to spray the greens, tees, and fairways with products to protect our turf from snow mold. The week before Thanksgiving we will have to blow all the water out of our irrigation pipes- this process is accomplished using a giant diesel powered air compressor. Finally, just before our first snow storm, we topdress the greens with sand and cover them with plastic tarps to protect them from the extreme winter cold.

This week we had a drainage consultant do a study of Wakonda Club's drainage needs. Drainage was a big topic of discussion with the USGA agronomist this summer. He highly recommended that we have a specialist do a study on our drainage situation.

Dennis Hurley of Turf Drainage Company of America spent two days walking the grounds with flags, paint, a voice recorder, and GPS. He will study our water flow issues and develop a comprehensive plan for the property.

Pictured above, the driving range net was taken down on Monday, November 8. Below two staff members are working to prepare our plow/ dump truck for the rigors of winter snow removal.

We were excited for the arrival of our new TORO equipment. Almost all of our equipment is on a 4- year revolving lease. Pictured above you see 2006 model year carts being loaded to leave the property. Below staff members are in the process of labeling new carts for our preventive maintenance program.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Blowing In the Wind

The weather is beginning to take a turn this week. Gone are the brilliant, sunny days we experienced earlier this month. The past few days have brought on clouds, rain, and blustery winds. Our staff is now reduced to 10 men, 5 of which will work their final day of the season this Friday. With the reduction in staff and air temperatures we have taken steps to reduce our on- course labor. We are now mowing the fairways, approaches, collars, and tees once per week. Greens are being mowed approximately once every 5 days and are occasionally being rolled. The biggest task is leaf and debris cleanup. When the wind dies down, you will see us out with blowers and mowers gathering the leaves into piles and mulching them up.

The cooler weather has also reduced the number of rounds being played. In response we have pulled some of our equipment such as: ball washers, trash cans, and water coolers from the course. When we have few people playing the course we will decrease the frequency of course setup. Subsequently, you may notice the hole locations in the same spot for a few days.

We have been able to make significant progress with some cart path extensions. This project will be a big improvement for years to come. Below is a picture of the concrete forms on #3. We have extended the path beyond the bottom of the hill and up the slope. During wet times we will be able to divert traffic to the path in an area that is not nearly as saturated. We buried a drain pipe underneath the forms so that drainage can be installed in the future without destruction of the path.

Here is a picture of the completed path on #6.

Below is the work done between 12 green and 13 tee. We have buried drainage beneath the path here as well. Once the area has been regraded and drainage has been installed we will no longer have to deal with the sloppy mess that occurs after heavy rains.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Turf Recovery

The season is winding down but we have been blessed with a beautiful weather pattern. Warm temperatures and abundant sunshine have been good for golf and turf alike. Our staff will be reduced starting October 15 so our focus will continue to shift from mowing and grooming to just trying to clean up leaves while finishing a few projects before winter.

With the season coming to a close, we thought we would share some photos of the progress we have made this fall. Below we have some pictures of the 3rd fairway and the 8th fairway. We are proud of the amount of turf we have been able to recover in just two months time.

Above are photos of the 3rd fairway taken August 15th and October 14th. In the first picture, the turf in the fairway and intercut are in a state of decline. In the second, you see the same area in a picture taken on October 14. This area has improved greatly through sod replacement, reseeding, favorable weather, and cart restriction.

Below are 'before and after' pictures of the 8th fairway

Friday, October 8, 2010

Autumn Rush

The arrival of the fall season signifies the beginning of many changes in Iowa. One might think that things are slowing down for us with the grounds department. This thought could not be further from the truth. We are working feverishly to complete projects throughout the course before our seasonal maintenance staff leave for the winter. We begin to reduce our numbers on October 15 and will be down to just 5 full- time employees by the end of the month. Below are examples of the type of work being accomplished this week.

Our fairway nursery has been reseeded in preparation for next year.

Above, you can see thousands of seedlings popping up in the rough on the right side of 8 fairway.

You have likely seen (and undoubtedly heard) our staff chipping the many branches and sticks that were shed or pruned from our trees this season.

Above, workers are installing drainage and fresh sod between the pond and 10 fairway.

Here is a picture of new sod being laid along the cart path near 6 approach.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Meet Norman

Say hello to the newest member of the grounds maintenance team. Norman was born on July 27th and came home with the Temme family on Sunday, September 19th. Norman's responsibilities will include goose control, guarding Temme's office, greeting members, and keeping up crew morale. Norm has been on the job since Wednesday.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Grass is Greener

Not much is new to report this week from the grounds staff. The weather continues to be very favorable for the growth & recovery of existing turf and for the establishment of new sod & seed. We continue to see great progress throughout the course. Fall aeration has been completed throughout all the greens, tees, collars, approaches, and fairways.

Above and below are photos of drainage progress. Above, the drain in the cart path near the 5th tee was repaired. Concrete was cut out and removed to allow the pipe to be replaced. This photo shows the area prepped for concrete to be re- poured. This should eliminate the standing water that remains in this area following heavy rains. Below, technician Jaret Vasey stands near a drain tile which is being installed on the hillside of the 5th fairway.

Above is a picture of the 3rd fairway and approach. We have put a significant amount of time and effort to replace sod and reseed this area. Our hard work and better weather are paying off. Below you will see the practice tee. It has been recovering very nicely the past two weeks. We will continue to mow the tee with lighter mowers and restrict use of the tee through the coming weeks to allow our new seedlings to mature.
Finally, pictured below, a technician is busy seeding bare areas of the primary cut of rough on the 8th hole.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Fall Aeration

The Green and Golf Committees had the opportunity to enjoy the comforts of the grounds maintenance building this week. The Green Committee meets once per month from March to November and discusses course conditions, policies, and strategies.

Fall aeration is well underway. The greens have been aerated & the plugs removed and filled with sand. This process is the biggest reason our greens survived this stressful season so well. Below is a video clip showing our aerifying and cleaning process.

Once the holes are filled with sand we blow off the excess sand and roll the green smooth to provide the best possible playing surface following aeration.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Marking Our Turf

This week we have taken steps to take the course back from Mother Nature.

Drainage work continues on the 1st and 4th holes.

On Wednesday we aerified, seeded, topdressed, and fertilized the practice tee. This should help the tee make a nice recovery from this season's abuse and rough weather.

We are also in the process of seeding blemishes in the fairways. The worst areas we will continue to sod while minor areas we will first attempt to improve through seeding.

This week we have performed some 'test runs' with our aerification equipment in preparation for next week's partial course closures. The chipping green and green nursery have been areated and topdressed.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Breath of Fresh Air

This week has brought favorable weather and a great deal of progress on the golf course. The overnight lows have been dipping into the 50's which is a welcome change for our staff and our turf. Monday was a day of great progress because we did not have an outing to prepare for. All mowing was put on hold while every crew member worked to make improvements throughout the course.

One of the more notable improvements is the replacement of dead turf on the 8th fairway. Our staff completed this task on Monday afternoon. We will keep carts off this area until the sod has matured- later this fall. There are several other locations where we will continue to replace sod but the area on the 8th was the largest. We have other spots in the fairways and rough which will recover naturally while some locations we will reclaim through seeding in the coming weeks.

Another project, which is currently being completed, is the drainage in the landing area on the 4th hole. This drain will extend through the 1st fairway and will improve conditions there as well. We feel this project will have a tremendous impact by improving the aesthetics and playability of these holes.

Above, drainage being installed to the landing area on #4. Below, a picture of the finished product.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

USGA Visit

USGA agronomist Ty McClellan made his annual visit on Tuesday, August 10th. Ty spent the afternoon touring the course with John Temme, Dave Schneider, Jeff Courter, and several members of the green committee. Mr. McClellan's visits are always educational and are enjoyed by the management team and members alike.

The comments we received were very encouraging. Ty stated that Wakonda's greens are as good (or better) than any others he has visited this season. He commended the membership for their willingness to take the necessary steps to create such fantastic putting surfaces. Ty claimed that our fairway and rough damage is typical of other courses he has visited but that Wakonda is doing much better than average. Collars are also performing better than average with stress evident in a few areas. Topics of concern that were discussed included bunkers and drainage- not surprising given this season's weather. Ty said to be patient for recovery of weak turf until optimal growing conditions return in Autumn. We expect Ty's full report, including his recommendations sometime in September.

A comparison of two greens. Old 9- with old bentgrass varieties and a lot of struggling poa is pictured above. Below is a shot of the turf on new 9 green- there truly is no comparison.
The weather has improved this week. With a break from thunderstorms and lower temperatures, the grounds crew has taken several steps forward in the recovery process. We have been replacing sod on the 8th fairway and in a few small locations on the collars. Fairways were fertilized on Wednesday. The added fertility will help ensure a flush of growth this fall which will help the turf return to top condition.

You may have also noticed man in a lift pruning trees. We rented the lift for two weeks during which time we are primarily removing dead, hanging branches left from this year's tumultuous weather.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Water Water Everywhere

"Same old song and dance." We are still locked in a battle with the elements. We've received over 8 inches of rain through the 9th of August. The torrential downpours could not come at a worse time for the golf course. The extreme heat and humidity cause disease pressure to skyrocket. When we receive excess water during times of extreme heat our turf declines at a rapid pace. Creeping bentgrass roots begin to recede when soil temperatures exceed 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Yesterday we observed afternoon soil temperatures exceeding 93 degrees. Wet soil gets hotter than dry soil and is much slower to cool overnight. Until the weather breaks, areas such as 8 fairway (pictured below) will keep getting worse. Attempts to repair these ares by seed or sod must wait until temperatures fall.

Pictured below is a view from the 11th fairway. Puddles of water, shallow and deep, can be found throughout the property.

Our heavy duty trash pumps have run non- stop all week but each night's rain seems to nullify the previous day's progress.
Course's throughout the country are feeling the pressure this year. You know it's getting bad when articles start appearing in The Wall Street Journal. Wakonda's greens are still very healthy despite the horrible weather conditions. Our success can be attributed to the new turf cultivars being grown in sandy soil with plenty of air movement & sunlight. The new turf still has roots approximately 8 inches deep while many other course's greens have less then 4 inches.

USGA agronomist Ty McClellan visited yesterday. He was impressed with conditions here at Wakonda and stated that we are in very good shape when compared to other courses he has visited recently. We will have more on Ty's visit in a future posting.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Fighting the Good Fight

It has been a challenging season for us here with the grounds department. With the rain falling down outside, we feel it is a good time to take a moment to reflect on the season, comment on our current circumstances, and outline our thoughts going forward.

We experienced a very productive spring characterized by dry, mild temperatures. The favorable weather allowed us to have a great beginning to summer. The course was in tremendous condition for Blazer Days in the beginning of June.

During Blazer Days the weather began to turn for the worse. The Saturday rounds were barely completed before heavy rains commenced. Once the rain started to fall, we received a continual cycle of severe weather which made a mess of the golf course. We received over 14 inches of rain in June and 5 inches in July.
During this time we witnessed a drastic decline in turf quality in some areas of the course which are still with us. Many low- lying areas in the fairways literally drowned in standing water. These areas can be witnessed on holes 1, 3, 8, 11, and 13.

The poor condition of some of the rough is a a different situation. Like the fairways, some of the rough declined due to excess water. However, there were other stresses in play in the rough which also contributed to turf decline. First, is cart traffic. During wet weather we try to find a delicate balance when restricting carts. Generally, when the course is wet, carts are kept off the fairways and the rough is subsequently abused. Finally, hot, humid, rainy weather is prime conditions for turf diseases to form. We are able to fight off these diseases using plant protectants on the greens, tees, and fairways. These products are extremely expensive so use in the rough is not an economically feasible option. Pictured below is an area on the 6th hole which we will likely seed in the coming weeks.
Wakonda is not the only course experiencing these losses. For further reading check out the iaTURF blog.

Work to repair these areas began weeks ago but our efforts keep getting hampered by storm cleanup. Going forward we will evaluate areas in the fairways and the rough. Some areas will recover on their own. These areas are what we refer to as 'dormant'- the turf is not dead but growth has ceased until the stresses subside. In areas which will not recover we will be sodding and seeding. The best time of year for these activities is approaching during the end of August. You will also see us correcting drainage issues and utilizing other methods such as aerification and fertilization to promote turf recovery. We are confident that with favorable weather and a lot of manpower we will have the course in good condition through the fall.
Before and after pictures of the 13th fairway. This area was sodded a couple weeks ago and is now barely noticeable.

This has been our most lengthy blog posting to date- a fitting tribute to a season which has stressed the grounds crew. In closing we would like to focus on the fact that the greens are performing extremely well. The weather and storm cleanup has interrupted our routine of green maintenance but we feel that our members can be very proud of the playability and turf quality on Wakonda's putting surfaces.