Friday, November 22, 2013

'Tis the Season

   As you all left your homes this morning, you noticed a small layer of snow and ice covering the ground. Unfortunately, the time of year has arrived to prepare the golf course for winter.

   In the past couple of weeks, we completed part of our winterization procedures. We began by taking down the nets that outline our driving range. Fortunately, this process is much less time consuming than the spring net installation and typically only takes a day to complete.

   A few days later, we began to drain our irrigation system in preparation for winterization. Once the irrigation lines have thoroughly been drained throughout the entire golf course, we bring in a giant air compressor to blow air into the system and push out the remaining water. It is vital that our air pressure is not set too high so we do not damage any irrigation lines or heads.

   In the past few days, we began removing most of the course equipment from the golf course; this includes: tee markers, fairway and tee plaques, trash cans, benches, and ball washers. All of this equipment is stored in our maintenance facility and it will be refinished and looking like new before the next golf season.

   Yesterday, we installed green's covers to all the practice greens and back-nine. Before a cover can be installed, each green receives a heavy topdressing which helps protect the surface during the extreme winter months. The green's covers are then pulled tight across each green and stapled every two-to-three feet around the perimeter. Hundreds of staples are used for each green, but this is important to prevent any of the covers from being blown off in high winds of winter.

   At this point, the front nine is still open for play; blue and red tee markers are still present and the greens are uncovered. Weather depending, the front nine will remain open for play until after Thanksgiving. We hope you've all enjoyed the 2013 season as much as we have! 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

#12 Forward Tee

We've been hard at work on #12 this month.  If you've been wondering what we're up to, the structure is going to be a new forward tee.  The old tee is very small and gives players a very poor angle to the fairway due to the growth of trees located along the player's right. 

Old tee showing limited shot options.
The new tee will give a much better angle to the fairway and will open the hole for multiple shot options for all players.  This tee is also much larger.  The idea is to be able to place multiple sets of tee markers, allowing this hole to be played as a driveable par 4 from the blue tees.  We feel this wrinkle will add some fun and excitement from time to time, but we do not intend to place the tees forward very often for pace of play concerns.

Building the base to elevate the new tee.
Thoroughly drained.

Sand capped

Sod and seed.
 It is late to establish turf via seed, but plants established from seed usually always fair better over time.  We did not want to harvest sod from our bentgrass nursery for two reasons.  First, the tees are a different variety of turf than the fairways and we want the new tee to match perfectly.  Second, the differing soil properties would not be compatible and would require us to "wash" the sod (removing the soil from the roots) which is incredibly painstaking.  We will be utilizing a grow cover to give the seed a better chance.  Purchasing washed bentgrass sod is a more expensive option we could go to in the spring should Mother Nature not cooperate this fall. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Managing Water in Drought Conditions

Water management for golf course turf varies when you consider what soil and turf type is present in each area.  At Wakonda Club, my two assistants (Jim and Shawn) and I are constantly monitoring weather patterns, soil types, and turf needs to apply water when needed.

Below you will find some interesting facts on how we create a beautiful golf course, even when mother nature is not cooperating.

  •  Greens - Our new A1/A4 greens are very heat and moisture tolerant, meaning they hold up exceptionally well in dry/hot weather.
  • Tees - Our tees are built on a sand base so they drain really well; therefore, requiring more water than the fairways and greens.
  • Fairways - We have a nice stand of Penn Eagle II/Penn Links II bentgrass with some Poa annua mixed in. "Poa" is a shallow rooted plant that cannot withstand high temperatures and no rain. So, to keep this plant alive during hot, dry conditions, we water more frequently, resulting in softer fairways at times - especially in the valleys.
  • This season we are monitoring turf moisture with the help of the TDR 300 moisture meter - this device gives us a volumetric moisture reading in the soil. We use this data to set up the irrigation system each night.
  • The irrigation system is run by a series of computer programs that control over 800 irrigation heads on the golf course. Each head is set to run different, for example, the hills receive more water than the valleys. This system is very sophisticated, but not perfect.
  • This year we have implemented the use of soil wetting agents on tees and fairways. This product helps the soil absorb moisture more evenly and has helped us produce better playing conditions.
  • To date, we are using 60,000 gallons less water/day compared to last year under similar environmental conditions. 
#1 Fairway 2012

#1 Fairway 2013

Friday, July 26, 2013

Tree Work

We recently had a few trees removed for various reasons and I thought I would give a summary of what's happening for those who might be interested.

We lost a tree on the left side of #14 in early July.  This tree was hollow inside and simply split in half under it's own weight.

# 14
You can see the hollow cavity extending down to the base of the tree which is facing the camera.
 Below are pictures from the left side of #1.  This tree was in serious decline for the past several years and it did not produce a single leaf this spring/ summer.  This tree had such a prominent location on the first hole so we had an arborist inspect it before cutting it down.  We discovered some uniquely shaped concrete blocks lodged in the tree when we attempted to remove the stump.  The blocks are stacked together and we think they were some sort of post (possibly a property marker) at one point?  The tree likely started growing or was planted near the post and probably enveloped it as it grew.

You can see the concrete post in this view.  This was certainly not beneficial to the health of the tree and was devastating to our chain saws.
We had to carve the stump apart around the posts.  We ruined several saw chains and broke two saws in the endeavor.
A picture of the concrete post at #1.
To the left of #18 fairway we had a large oak that was struck by lightning.  It was splintered and split in dramatic fashion.  Again, we found some strange objects in this stump.  It took several hours of carving with a saw and swinging a sledgehammer to dislodge the foreign objects in preparation for stump removal.
This photo shows the treasures we found in the tree left of #18.  Eight bolts and a very large chunk of concrete were found in this stump.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Irrigation Repairs

I've never made irrigation repairs in the snow.... there's a first time for everything.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

17th Hole Progress

   During the past couple of days, we experienced a nice break in the cold and rainy weather pattern that we've been stuck in, which allowed us to finally focus our efforts on preparing the 17th hole approach for bentgrass sod. Many hours were spent hand-raking and perfecting the soil sub-grade before the new sod could be laid out. Once we were satisfied with the soil preparations, we began to cut all of the necessary sod from our large bentgrass nursery, which you may have seen on the driving range.

Carefully laying out the new bentgrass sod.
The finished product.

   We are extremely happy with how the approach turned out. In the coming weeks, we will be fertilizing and frequently topdressing the approach so it can be ready to withstand excessive play. Also, we will be installing bluegrass sod around the approach and bunker to finish up the area.

   Also, we were able to finish our green's aerification on the golf course, yesterday. To date, aerification has been completed on the greens, tees and fairways. We still plan to aerify all the collars and approaches once the weather clears again.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

2013 Golf- Finally!

We are pleased to announce that the golf course is now open!  Old Man Winter just did not want to relinquish his snowy grip on the golf course throughout March.  We were hoping for an early spring much like 2012 to get a jump on projects and preparations for the Principal Charity Classic.  We did not get the weather we wanted and now, with our backs to the wall, we will be working long hours to finish projects and prep the course for the Champions Tour.

I see this as a good opportunity to outline our preparations and to let our members know what they can expect to see on the golf course this spring.  We still have some heavy lifting to do and not much time to do it.  We will try and keep updates on the blog, but we will be very busy. 

The rock wall on 17 was finished last fall, but we have yet to sod the approach.  Preparations for sod were underway before winter.  The irrigation has been repaired, the bunker was repaired, and the area has been rough graded.  We were fortunate to have waited through winter before finishing as we experienced some settling behind the wall.  Criteria for finishing this project are dry soil conditions and warmer temperatures to break turf dormancy.  We will finish this project as soon as possible and have 17 back in play once the sod has rooted down.  We also have to sod the construction trail through the rough at 5 tee.

Bunker renovations continue on holes 6, 7, 8, 9, old 9, and the chipping green.  There are 9 bunkers in total.

We will also continue with some tree work throughout the property.  You will see where we removed several trees this winter.  The majority of these removals were due to death, decay, and damage- trees which were aesthetically compromised or posed a safety issue to our golfing members and spectators.  We will also be renting an aerial lift to prune damaged branches and to open a few lanes for the tour.  The PGA Rules officials have already visited the property and have confirmed that the course will "play from the tips" and have requested we trim up a few trees to accommodate the abilities of the tour players.

The event management team will begin constructing tents, grandstands, and offices the week of April 15.  The course will resemble a construction zone for six weeks, but the people performing this work are a great group of professionals who are very experienced.

All this is going to occur amidst our regular spring activities such as: putting up the range net, raking sticks, blowing leaves, mowing, raking bunkers, etc.

You will also notice a couple other minor changes.  For example, we will not be painting hazards until after the tournament has ended.  The tour will simply mark the course differently for the Pros than we do for our members. We want to avoid the situation where there is any residual paint causing confusion in rules enforcement.  Also, you will see us mowing "dew strips" or "walk paths" from the tee to the fairway on most holes.  These walk paths are temporary and we will simply allow them to return to regular rough following the tournament.

 Finally, we are currently expanding the practice tee to the southeast.  The event promotion team has determined that the tour players will be able to hit drivers diagonally from the southeast to the northwest if the tee is extended.  Once the tour has left our members will be able to use this area for drivers!  There will be some logistics to work out for safety's sake but we know this will be a huge improvement for Wakonda.

You are probably beginning to wonder how we are going to pull it off and how is this going to affect the golf course.  We are confident that we will achieve our goals and provide a fantastic venue through hard work and LONG hours.  We do need your patience and understanding this spring.  With all the projects going on we will likely have to sacrifice some routine maintenance.  For example, we may not rake bunkers as often or change the hole locations every day. 

Once the tour has departed there will be a three week period where the course will undergo some repairs.  Bleachers, spectators, and corporate tents will all damage some of the rough and seeding and sodding will be used to repair these areas.

The challenge may seem overwhelming and can be a bit stressful.  But, with hard work, your patience & support, and (hopefully) fair weather we will achieve success one day at a time.  We try to focus on the end goal: once the tour has come and gone we will have made a number of huge improvements to this golf course for you, our members.  We will have state of the art bunkers with the best sand in the state of Iowa.  We will have remedied the failing rock wall on 17.  We will have a range tee capable of drivers.  The resources, publicity, and scrutiny this event will bring to the golf course will ultimately heighten the Wakonda Experience!  We hope you will enjoy this exciting time with us!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Waiting Game

 We're all tired of snow and are looking forward to warmer weather.  If  hard work and determination could usher in Spring, we would be basking in warm sunlight today.  We were able to pull off the green covers last week despite heavy snow and ice accumulations on several of the covers.  We were glad to get this task accomplished with more snow arriving this weekend.  Having the covers off doesn't mean that the golf course will be open when the snow melts.  It may have; however, brought us a day closer to opening once the golf course thaws out and drys up.  At this point, it will likely be some time in April before the course opens.

Crews shoveled ice and snow all day on Friday.  #11 had the heaviest accumulation.  (This is the east side of 11 green.)

Layers of packed snow and ice made shoveling difficult.

#7 had some of the deepest snow on the cover in the bunker.

Ice picks and sledge hammers were used to break the ice on #8.

The final push on the west side of #11.  Everyone got in on the shoveling to get the final cover off before the weekend.

Friday, March 8, 2013

2013 - The Beginning

We're fresh off the first green committee meeting for 2013 and are being asked the age- old question: "When will the golf course be open?"  Rather than bore you with agronomic jargon, I feel compelled to assure our members that we are just as anxious as you are to get out there.  Your enthusiasm for the game and excitement for the 2013 season is contagious.  With several inches of snow still on the ground and the Principal Charity Classic just 84 days away, we are absolutely itching to get outside. 

Simply put, the course will be opened when it is ready.  We've obviously have to get rid of the snow and allow the ground to thaw and firm up.  When conditions are right, it will not take us long to open. 

For us, this is the calm before the storm.  Once we crack the seal on the 2013 season, we will likely be working long hours in preparation for the tournament.  We will keep you updated on opening day, ongoing projects, and progress made throughout this spring.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Maintenance Facility Tours

   Yesterday afternoon, many local golf course superintendents, assistants, and ground's teams came together to tour our maintenance facility and nearby Echo Valley Country Club's facility. This was a great opportunity for all of us to see how other facilities operate and organize their shops. Every golf course's maintenance facility is unique, so it's good for us to take some of these great ideas and implement them in our own facility.

   As always, a discussion about new products and equipment took place. We're excited to hear how the newly purchased equipment does at other local golf courses. In the coming weeks, we will be touring a couple other facilities and we look forward to gaining more ideas and bettering our department for the future!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Seminar Season

We recently attended both the Iowa Turfgrass Conference and Trade Show and the Golf Course Superintendent's Association of America (GCSAA) Education Conference and Golf Industry Show.  The Iowa conference is held here in Des Moines and is a great opportunity to network with superintendents from throughout the state as well as local university researchers.  The conference consists of classes, roundtable discussions, a trade show featuring local distributors, and a pesticide re-certification course.

This year, the GCSAA show was held in San Diego, CaliforniaThe national show includes in- depth seminars given by researchers from throughout the country.  The trade show also gives us the opportunity to browse the latest golf course maintenance technology, equipment, and supplies offered by manufactures from throughout the world.  We also have the opportunity to catch- up with old colleagues.  We had the privilege to attend a motivational speech presented by Major Dan Rooney- an Air Force fighter pilot and P.G.A. Golf Professional.  Mr. Rooney is the founder of the Folds of Honor Foundation and Patriot Golf Day (in which Wakonda participates on Labor Day.)

This year, for example, we purchased two FieldScout TDR 300 Soil Moisture Meters.  This technology has the potential to pay for itself very quickly by allowing us to sample soil moisture much more accurately and efficiently which will give us a more accurate picture of soil moisture conditions.  We will undoubtedly be watering more efficiently once we master the use of this tool.
TDR main
FieldScout TDR 300
Both shows help to get our minds to turn to the approaching golf season with new ideas for Wakonda and a renewed sense of optimism and excitement.

We received a broad spectrum of training in courses described below:

Iowa Turfgrass Conference & Trade Show:  January 29- 31. Des Moines, Iowa

  • Golf Course Renovations

  • Quality Customer Service

  • Weather Modeling for Insects & Diseases of Turfgrass

  • Weed Control- Latest in Poa annua Control Products

  • Turfgrass Pathology- Diagnosis and New Research

  • Confronting Challenges & Seizing Opportunities

  • Golf Course Marking- Defining and Marking O.B. and Hazards

  • Developing Internship Opportunities and Training Interns

  • Pesticide Applicator Training and Continuing Education

GCSAA Education Conference and Golf Industry Show: February 4-6. San Diego, CA.

  • Event Management and Tournament Preparation

  • Team Motivation

  • Nonverbal Communication

  • Water Availability, Reductions, and Efficiency in the Golf Industry

  • Biostimulants- hormones & the effectiveness of naturally derived “turf enhancers”

  • Golf Course Photography

  • Business Communications

  • Media & Public Relations

  • Turfgrass Diseases

  • Data Collection and Utilization for the Golf Course

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Back In The Saddle

   Another holiday season is in the books and our entire full-time staff is once again back inside the ground's shop. So far this winter, all of our small engines, such as: string-trimmers, blowers, chainsaws, etc. have been serviced and winterized. Jaret Vasey has begun to break down all the green's mower units and will begin grinding reels later this week.

Disassembled green's mower.
   We recently received our new Toro 200 gallon sprayer. During the majority of the season, this vehicle is used to spray greens, tees, and sometimes assists our larger sprayer on the fairways; however, this vehicle serves multiple purposes. This machine is also used to topdress our greens with sand. Therefore, John Phillips has mounted four brackets to the side of the sprayer so it can be easily removed and our topdresser can be installed. These leg-stands save us a tremendous amount of time when swapping our equipment back-and-forth during the season.

Leg-stands for our new sprayer.
   A large portion of our winter season is dedicated to refinishing all of the wooden equipment you see on the golf course, this includes: tee markers, benches, trash cans, bag stands,and flower pots. All of these things must be cleaned, sanded, and primed before they can be refinished. Beto Ramirez handles most of this work on his own and his attention-to-detail is a great asset to our team.

Refinishing tee markers.
   In the coming weeks, we will be venturing outside to begin our annual tree pruning. Also, we will be planning for the upcoming Principal Charity Classic. We look forward to continuing to organize and plan as this exciting event quickly approaches.