Preventative measures and behind the scenes

It’s hot out, really hot out! Not exactly a revelation or groundbreaking statement to say the least. We have had an extended stretch of hot/humid weather over the last few weeks, with a few breaks in the middle as well. While runs of this hot/humid weather are not unusual for us. After last summers cooler overall trend, this weather seems much hotter.

Below is the last 3 years weather data for June and July. With 3-4 more days expected to hit 90F (32C humidex included) this week. We will be on par with the weather we incurred during 2013.

Year Historical Monthly Average Actual Rainfall Days over 90F (32C) humidity included
Jun-2015 148.6mm 1
Jun-2014 72.8mm 63.44mm 3
Jun-2013 96.8mm 6
Jul-2015 38.8mm 10
Jul-2014 82.0mm 72.6 3
Jul-2013 132.7 14

For those of you who remember 2013 presented some major issues for us with heat scald on some greens. The biggest difference is with rainfall. Unless we incur a major deluge of rain in the next 5 days we will be well below the historical average rainfall. So not only is it hot, but, it’s dry as well.

Within the parameters of our water taking permit we are applying close to 600,000 gallons of water/night. Our predominantly sandy soils need a lot of water and will need some rainfall to catch-up;

077Warm weather usually starts to show some gaps in our irrigation system;

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.The weepers for our septic system are even stressed;

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While water is not a huge issue for us here. We do have a water permit, and do have to abide by the guidelines of the permit. So the thought that we can water as much as we want isn’t necessarily true. Also, the facts are that turf doesn’t lose a lot of water in hot/humid weather. We just need to water smarter right now.

Hand watering to cool the turf surface (not adding water, quite simply think of how good you feel for the half hour after you get out of a pool);

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Wetting agent on greens to provide uniform soil moisture;

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We also took some preventative measures with our putting surfaces to ensure they were not going to be exposed to the extreme heat. Our height of cut was raised from .120″ to .145″ two weeks ago. We spiked greens;

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Topdressed;

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And deep tined greens with bayonets;

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We also spoon fed the greens with fertilizer, and added a healthy dose of fungicide to protect the plant (yes even the environmental nutcase likes a little insurance). All this was done in the last two weeks to ensure our greens would withstand the heat and look good heading into August;

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While some “green speed” was lost in this process. After next week’s solid tine aeration, we should be able to return cutting heights back to where they were and push the greens a little harder in the cooler (and much shorter) days of August. All of this in time to start raising them again in late September for winter preparation.

Stay cool in the heat and keep yourself hydrated.

Andrew Hardy

Superintendent

 

Midlands 5 bunker reno

Ironically enough 2 weeks after my post about minimizing bunker inputs. We just completed a renovation of the green side bunker in front of the green at Midlands 5. The main issue was the ornamental grass that had spread beyond where it needed to be over the last 2 seasons.

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We had aggressively cut this grass down last summer and treated it with Roundup. But it just seemed to thrive in this environment. The easiest solution was to remove all the plant material and the root contaminated soil and have a steep pitched face/larger bunker as the finished product.

Removing the plant and subsoil;

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While we were in the midst of the project it was decided that we would reclaim the original shape of the trap. The area closest to the approach had overgrown with turf by close to 4 feet.

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Once all the material was removed, the remaining sand inside the trap was pushed into the face and packed in to create a sandier subsurface.

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Today we spent most of the day adding sand to the trap. We used our USGA topdressing sand as that is what is in the rest of the bunkers on the property.

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While we don’t have the desire to make these drastic changes on a lot of our sandy hazards. Sometimes the easiest remedy for an ugly site is fixing it properly. I’m quite sure that this new and improved bunker will see lots of action. Troy and the crew did a great job on this bunker and should be proud of the finished product they have produced.

Andrew Hardy

Superintendent

 

Forever tweaking…Or at Least that’s how it seems

The last 439 days has created some tunnel vision focus on one area of the golf course. Since it was decided in May of last year to re-build and change Uplands #2 green much of my focus has been on 1-getting the green playable 2-ensuring there were no more catastrophic events to the green and lastly bringing the rest of the playing surface around the green up to standard.

I’ll admit when Dr. Frank Rossi, David Kuypers (Syngenta Canada), club President Craig Evans and myself toured this site in March, it was looking bleak. But a good aggressive aeration and our continual cultural practices (topdressing, spiking and foliar nutrition) has the putting surface looking pretty good.

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The green was seeded to Luminary Bentgrass, has been overseeded with T1 bentgrass and some plugging to weak areas was done with T1 Bent plugs off of our greens nursery.

In a post last fall I documented some of the issues we were having getting the approach to fill in. My patience was done, so over the last 2 weeks (when we aren’t pushing up washed out bunkers) we have been sodding the approach.

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Why the issues with the approach? This is why;

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The original washouts from last June were still haunting us in growing in the approach. The new green was raised and a natural swale was taken around the green to avoid water off the hill sitting on the green surface, like the old green did year-after-year like this;

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This week we also took the time to remove the small garden that blocked access to the cart path. We are trying something a little different with the entry/exit point on this path as a bit of a pilot project. We removed the garden and all the plant material, flattened the area out and added bark mulch to the entry point. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a grass guy. But I am growing tired of re-sodding cart path ends ad nauseam.

104I’m unsure what I think of it at this time. But the few golfers I spoke to today don’t hate it, and that I’ll take as something worthwhile. So enjoy the new hole and just remember that new greens do take time to “soften”. So it will seem firm for likely most of this season. Having played the hole myself twice now, I love the 2 traps gone as I always felt they added nothing to the hole. And the false front (steeper pitch at the front of the green towards the approach) can be pretty tricky with a front pin (like today’s placement).

Andrew Hardy

Superintendent

I’m Back!! Let’s Talk Hazardous Waste…

First of all, I’m back. I guess it really just took finding something bothersome for me to find the writing bug again. We have had some crazy weather extremes so far this season. From a super dry, droughty April and May to a very wet June. The wet weather tends to wreak havoc on many of the maintenance practices on the course. This is particularly true with our bunkers.

The last 2 Sunday’s we have received 1.75″ (45mm) of rain. The effect of this much rain can be seen throughout most of the golf course. The heavier soil greens (Uplands 6,8,9 and Highlands 7 &8), many of the fairways and most of the sand bunkers will have their playability directly affected. As yes, rain is the greatest contributor to green speed changes.

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So what goes into the fixing the bunker mess? The easiest answer is money, labor and hard work. As a company, we took the stance a few years ago to reduce the inputs we pour into bunker maintenance. It’s a huge issue with me that we are pouring more money into hazards (its right there in the rules of golf) then we were into our greens. Yet the effort that still goes into these hazards still dwarfs many other maintenance practices that take place on the course.

As a precursor to our bunker repair regime, we DO NOT pump water out of bunkers. This is right in line with pretty much every public golf facility in our area. Many of the bunkers here do have drainage, but, it has likely been compromised (roots, collapsed etc..) over time. I would assume that once the landscape of the overall golf business improves, projects like bunker drainage may again become viable. Not crying the blues here, just writing the facts.

Last week I took the time to figure out what we spent to repair the bunkers. While most of the water filled bunkers were initially skipped, there was a lot of pushing up and moving sand back in place that took place. There was sand movement on essentially every trap (74 in total), packing the sand back into the faces and adding sand (where applicable).

We used 3 staff for 4 days pushing sand and packing bunker faces, and, 2 staff for 3 days adding sand. It was decided early in the week that all green side traps would get fresh sand as they were contaminated beyond repair (there are still some needing sand). With these 2 groups working non-stop through this process the labor and truckload of sand cost $2,590. It was also decided on Friday that the bunker in front of Highlands 5 green was so bad that we removed the old material and added all new sand. This was pushed forward after a hydraulic hose broke inside the bunker ($300 repair). This job was completed in 4 hours by 3 staff at a total cost of $355. In total we dedicated 147 man hours to bunker repair alone last week.

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As you can see we need to sell a lot of green fees to cover these expenses. As a comparison to provide the current greens conditions we used only 80 hours of labor!! The greens were cut and rolled everyday and were sprayed with fertilizer once as well within this timeframe. While last weeks rain and the consequences of that rain are “the costs of doing business”. I just wanted to paint a picture of where our resources are used (or misused dependent on who you ask) during these weather events. The question we all have to ask ourselves is whether the labor is better spent on turf or hazards?

Andrew Hardy

Superintendent

 

Racking my Brain

It was a little over 4 years ago that I started this blog, but, it appears that I have hit a roadblock. I had posted earlier this year that I was hoping to re-dedicate myself to this medium. But, the fact is family, workload and other interests have taken on a greater interest to me at this time.

I have let all of you into my world. There have been loses, victories and everything in between posted on here. But the fact is there are only so many posts about what we do on the golf course that can be done in repetition that will garner even a little new or interesting information. 

I would be remiss if I didn’t give this blog it’s due. I have built great relationships because of the posts on here both within the club and outside of the club. I was awarded a “Best Blog” award by Golf Course Industry Magazine a few years ago and I really loved being the first Canadian to win one of these prestigious industry awards. 

So I’m not really saying goodbye. Should something great and interesting come along I will post it. But, to be honest the regular update has been gone for 2 years and there’s really no sense in forcing posts. Truth be told I do enjoy writing for trade magazines and will continue to do so (as long as they’ll have me). 

Thank you to all of my loyal followers over the years. I did all of this for you and the members of Pheasant Run. Let’s have a great golf season and who knows, maybe the writing bug will hit me again soon.

Andrew Hardy

Superintendent 

Time capsule and looking forward to 2015

Some of you may (or may not) be aware that this golf season marks the 35th Anniversary of Pheasant Run. While not steeped in the long history of some of Ontario’s oldest golf facilities, 35 years is certainly worth celebrating. I am using this post to recap some of the history that exists and/or has taken place here over those 35 years;

  • The original 300 acres was purchased for around $300,000. In today’s monetary value that number would be in the $860,000 neighborhood using the purchasing power calculator.
  • While current value of the property isn’t known. Development of the land is highly unlikely as all 300 acres lie on a protected tract known as “The Green Belt”.
  • The original 18 holes included Highlands 1 connected with Uplands 2-9, and Midlands 1-5 connected with Highlands 6-9.
  • The original 18 opened for play in 1980. The additional 9 holes construction began in 1989
  • For those of you who have met (or worked for him) the owner Gord Evans. He was always full of surprises, this included showing up with a trunk load of chain saws and proclaiming “we are building 9 more holes”.
  • The designing architect was Rene Muyleart for all 27 holes. Though a dispute between Rene and owner Gord Evans resulted in Rene walking away before the last few holes were completed on the third 9 holes.
  • Of the 30 greens (27 holes plus 3 practice greens) 7 are made up from a pure sand mixture and the remaining 23 are “push up greens” from material cultivated from the property.
  • In the 35 years of existence, I am only the second Superintendent
  • The property was originally permitted for a “cottage”. When the township found out what was really taking place, the penalty to the club was to pave part of Warden Avenue (main road into the course)
  • During construction, the only phone (a party line in the pre cell phone days) on the property was nailed to a tree at the end of the driveway.
  • The driveway was only paved to the parking lot originally. Once the dust from the screenings on the drive back/from the turf facility bothered Mrs. Evans was the rest of the driveway paved.
  • The drive from the gate to the shop is just over 2kms (1.25mi)
  • There are close to 5kms (most paths are also 6ft wide) of interlocking brick pavers used for the cartpaths and clubhouse areas. They are a great/unique looking part of the course, but, they are also a lot of work to upkeep.

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  • The golf scene for the movie Fever Pitch (2005 Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore) was shot on Highlands 8 tee here at Pheasant Run.
  • The golf scenes for the movie Welcome to Mooseport (2004 Ray Romano and Gene Hackman) were shot here as well. Midlands 2,8 and 9 were used for the scenes.
  • The golf scene for the HBO short series The Company (2007 Chris O’Donnell and Alfred Molina) was shot at our driving range.
  • The equipment that comes with these movies would encompass our entire maintenance facility. As a small perk our crew were able to get free meals from their catering trucks!!

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  • Though we have hosted numerous provincial qualifying tournaments. The only provincial championship hosted here was the 1994 Ontario Juvenile Boys Better Ball.
  • We also played host to the 2013 PGA of Ontario Playing Ability Test. Only 6 players that day were able to score 161 or better in 36 holes of golf.

There are a lot more stories I’m sure and many of these will makeup this season on the blog. We are slowly ramping up our preparations for the 2015 golf season. There’s just one problem right now, the weather!!

Here is Midlands 8 on Friday;

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While the snow is mostly gone on Highlands 4, the cart path to get there is a skating rink;

036The excitement of 35 years has also spilled back to us in the turf department. We will be placing these new anniversary flags out for this season and are quite happy how they came out;

040Turf conditions are so far, so good on all accounts. And we are looking forward to a very busy spring, especially with our 35th anniversary opening rate of $35 (cart and taxes extra). Fingers crossed for some warmer weather, and hopefully it won’t be long before we can get the new golf season rolling.

Andrew Hardy

Superintendent

The argument for being social…

Blogs like this one are abound in the golf industry. Some are good (I’d never say bad) and some are a little too technical to be considered “members blogs”. Here’s a great link to those who use blogs around the world http://gcmbloggingworld.blogspot.ca/. The common ground among all of those using blogs is communication. The turf grass blogging world, in my opinion, has given more substance to member communication than the monthly newsletter. To spread the word and communicate even more, many golf courses use other social media outlets like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

I was quizzed by a few fellow Superintendents last week on why I had taken a step back with my online presence (blogging, twitter etc). It really was a great question, one that was hard to quantify immediately. I just made the choice to be online less because I had started to feel that the “information” aspect of what I was doing was in a way being turned against me. And to be quite honest, I think I had really lost my passion to provide information. To me, Twitter and this blog (sorry I’m not a Facebook guy and I don’t get what LinkedIn really is) were the easiest way to communicate the good and the bad.

I believe my purpose for using this blog and social media as a whole really took a hit 2 summers ago. I have allowed all of you into not only my job, but, my life. I have written with huge pride what my two oldest sons have developed into and become. But somebody decided to tell me on the course 2 summers ago that “nobody cares about your kids, just make the golf course better”. Fair enough I thought at the time, and that statement has carried forward to present day.

Last week I had the privilege to attend the Golf Industry Show in San Antonio, Texas. My time at this show has evolved greatly since the first show I attended many years ago. I can remember spending most of my time alone and not really getting to meet or know any new people. Fast forward to this year and I believe that between this blog, my club account (@PRTurfUpdates) and my personal account (@andrewhardyturf) on Twitter that many avenues have opened up and allowed me to meet and get to know a lot of people in this industry. So when your peers ask you where you’ve gone and why you aren’t using your communication outlets anymore. Their kind words and encouragement really struck a chord with me. Heck who doesn’t feel good when a high-profile, top 100 club Superintendent tells you he loves your posts and honesty. Or a complete stranger telling you that he follows you on Twitter and “loves your posts”.

“Writer’s block” is a phrase for real writers. I don’t consider my self a “real writer” and I view this as a hobby that’s not an absolute part of my job. And to be honest, I can’t make greens aeration sound cool or interesting writing about it for the 5th straight year. So with a new fire burning to “communicate” I am dedicating myself back to this blog. While I may not be the one doing all the writing this year. I will be including the thoughts of members of my turf crew, club members (yes I’m looking at you Michael Gardner), a freelance writer and though she isn’t aware of it yet…my wife. I want to go back to basics and give everyone different views of what my passion (and the passion of others who work in golf as well) is for this career path, this property and ultimately the game of golf.

Andrew Hardy

Superintendent