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

New year, new ideas (I hope)

Originally posted on Pheasant Run GC Turf Department Maintenance Blog:

Another golf season has come and gone in Ontario. And preparations for next season are already in full flight. Along with old ideas or failed attempts or other plans that didn’t get executed, let’s hope that some of the buzzwords from 2014 go away as well.

Sustainability

Please, please let this word go in the golf course maintenance realm. Nothing about cutting grass at ridiculously low heights of cut is, nor will it ever be sustainable. Do any of my fellow Superintendents out there consider the carbon footprint of how they purchase anything for the golf course? Does the distance that jug of wetting agent (or loaf of bread) has to travel to get to you matter? Do we all have $2.5 million to renovate to the sustainable model like Pinehurst #2 did? The only thing sustainable that I’ve seen on a golf course are ants. They come back every…

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New year, new ideas (I hope)

Another golf season has come and gone in Ontario. And preparations for next season are already in full flight. Along with old ideas or failed attempts or other plans that didn’t get executed, let’s hope that some of the buzzwords from 2014 go away as well.

Sustainability

Please, please let this word go in the golf course maintenance realm. Nothing about cutting grass at ridiculously low heights of cut is, nor will it ever be sustainable. Do any of my fellow Superintendents out there consider the carbon footprint of how they purchase anything for the golf course? Does the distance that jug of wetting agent (or loaf of bread) has to travel to get to you matter? Do we all have $2.5 million to renovate to the sustainable model like Pinehurst #2 did? The only thing sustainable that I’ve seen on a golf course are ants. They come back every year as strong as the one before, that’s sustainable.

Bentgrass vs. Poa

Golfers want grass, period. Ice storms in Ontario last winter were once in every 50 years in their severity. Had that storm not occurred most clubs who did re-sod or rebuild greens likely wouldn’t have. Many of the clubs that did re-sod, did so at great cost to their memberships. Public golf courses, like Pheasant Run, aren’t re-sodding entire greens anytime soon. Heck we closed down and rebuilt a green this past season and gave complimentary passes to those who had to play that particular nine. There’s no making money giving out free golf. Nor is there extra money laying around to shutdown and rebuild greens or dare I say sand traps (that’s a whole other topic, one that I’m not touching).

“the game is ok”

Sorry but the game is not ok. Total play will be down again in 2014. Revenues at most of the clubs local to us will be down. I get that writers in the golf business need to write these stories. But come on folks, pick up a phone and call a few of the clubs outside the private club demographic. The industry is currently “adjusting” itself from inflated green fees and full golf courses. This had to happen. It’s not all sunshine and lollipops and owners are bathing in tubs full of cash, those days are a long distant memory.

Any phrase including “big cups” and/or “foot golf”

To our members, do you remember the big cup experiment in 2010 on Southern Uplands? We do, and it went over horribly. Kudos to the golf courses that have found a niche with foot golf. But you can’t charge “rack rate” for people to kick a soccer ball around your course. The traditions that have built golf may be the same things holding it back.

Membership renewals (sorry this is a very industry-centric topic)

Whether it’s the CGSA, GCSAA, OGSA, Turfnet, WCTA, IA and on and on and on. There are too many organizations within the turf community. I was posed the question “if you were paying out of your own pocket, would you continue all your industry affiliations?” Nope, I wouldn’t. So the time has come where my company’s money deserves the same thought process. One blanket organization will not work. The national association in Canada does not work (perhaps national associations as a whole don’t work?). What works for me will be 2 memberships based on “return on investment”. For example, the OGSA (Ontario Golf Superintendent Association) lobbies the provincial government for me on issues that directly affect me, my club, my owners and my job. Is that worth the $150? You better believe it.

Rant over!!

Let’s hope that 2015 allows a positive step forward for the golf industry as a whole. As my boss jokingly says ( though I think he means it deep down) “the strongest will be left standing at the end”.

Happy New Year to all of the followers of this blog, Pheasant Run members & staff, turf community people and those of you who ended up here via a Google search.

Andrew Hardy
Superintendent

Year in Review 2014

After a one-year hiatus, I have decided to resurrect the annual review of the season at Pheasant Run. While I won’t be diving into each and every detail of this past golf season. I will provide some highlights of the good and bad in 2014.

Some of the biggest challenges this season occurred early on, while others seemed to linger right through to the end of the year. A few of our greens incurred some ice damage coming out of the harsh winter.

Highlands 1 in early April;

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Highlands 4 in April as well;

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The ice damage came from a couple of different issues. The first being standing water for an extended period of time, and, traffic issues from snowmobiles that had driven over certain greens. Many greens were affected, though the levels of severity was different from green-to-green. Early on after a slow weather start we decided to sod the affected areas. While the look of the patched areas was not pretty after the repairs were completed. Our recovery time was much faster than going to temporary greens and trying to grow seed into the affected areas.

Highlands 1 before and after;

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The one green which had been a perpetual issue for us was Southern Uplands 2. This green tucked in behind our shop in a black hole of trees and on the drainage pattern for everything surrounding it again was damaged this spring with ice. The annual recovery to only have it die out in the summer due to airflow issues, poor drainage and a predominantly Poa annua stand had grown monotonous. It was decided quite early on in the season that it was time to fix this green and move forward. The project moved forward in mid-May with Ian Andrew hired on as the consulting architect.

Sod cutting begins;

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Pushing cut sod into piles for removal;

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A lot of material was scraped away;

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Once the area was stripped, grading began;

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Preparing the green for final raking and seeding;

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Irrigation install and grading for hydro seeding of green surround;

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Green seeded on June 2nd with Luminary Bentgrass and later over seeded with L97 Bentgrass;

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Green surrounds hydro seeded on June 3rd;

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Wash away of seed on the green #1 June 12th 35.2mm (1.4″);

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Wash away of seed on the green #2 June 18th 31mm (1.25″);

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Attempted tarps on 2 occasions to expedite germination on the green;

015We finally arrived at this in late November;

038The surround now provides a nice amphitheater setting as opposed to being suffocated;

Fotor1105112036 The biggest changes to the green and the green surround include; removal of the bunker at the front of the green, removal of the bunker at the back of the green, the green was built up about a foot and a half, a swale surrounds the green to divert water (worked really well as the pictures above can attest to) around the green rather than over it. While it will not open immediately in 2015 for play. It will be ready to go early in the season. This project will end up costing in the $20,000 range.

We were fortunate this season to have cooler weather and optimal growing conditions. We did receive more rainfall this summer 482.4mm (19″) vs. 2013 446.8mm (17.6″). There were also only 4 days recorded over 30 degrees Celsius vs. 12 from 2013. Due to the wetter/cooler season we also reduced our total irrigation output for the 4th year straight. We used just over 22 million gallons in 2014 vs. close to 34 million in 2013. All these numbers also equated to reductions in pesticide use as well. In 2013, we used 107.794kg of Active Ingredient vs. 98.355kg in Active Ingredient this year. In fact, we didn’t spray greens between August 12th and November 4th. That is unlikely to happen ever again. This weather also allowed us to push things a little harder, but, its hard to push when it seemed to rain almost everyday.

Among the unseen things that occur at a golf course for us this year was major work and repairs to our irrigation pumphouse (building on the left side of Uplands 6 pond). An issue with our wet well heaving out of the ground caused us to have to replace all 3 of our pumps in 2013. With a recommendation from Pumps Plus (Steve Wilkinson) we shortened the turbines, insulated the building and added a heater. Total cost for this project will reach $50,000. If you factor in the replacement of our control panel a few years ago ($67,000). We have put over $100,000 into that building in the last 5 years.

We were able to get all of the high maintenance areas (greens, tees and fairways) aerated this year. Greens were done August 11, 12 and 13th. Then again October 12, 13 and 14. Fairways were done in the fall and the tees were done in August. Factor in bunker edging, cart path edging and regular maintenance and we have had a very busy year.

Once again to my core crew Frank, Peter, Blenchard, Bob, Troy, Rob, Jonathan, Rosie, Alli, Olivia, “The Beibs”, Nik, Tom, Brent and Dave a huge thank you for your hard work and dedication in 2014. We had our most trying human resources year that I can remember and all of you held things together. To Craig and the Evans family, thank you for believing in me and my team. Difficult decisions have been made for 4 years now and hopefully we will start to reap the benefits of all this hard work.

While we hope that 2015 brings not only bigger and better things for us here at Pheasant Run. We will continue to strive for continual improvement in 2015, our 35th anniversary season. To all of you out there Happy Holidays and Happy New Year. Enjoy the offseason, and see you all in the spring.

Andrew Hardy

Superintendent

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s the Plan?

The title of this post comes straight from a question I was asked by a long-time member a couple of days ago. His interest was in what was “the plan” heading into this winter. Given the ice and snow mobile damage we incurred this spring I thought I would provide a short highlight as to what the next month to six weeks has in store from a maintenance standpoint.

While we have made great strides to past couple of seasons in increasing our bentgrass population on our greens. I am not that big of a fool to realize that the Poa is still there, and, on some greens is still the dominant turf species. We have made large strides this season with our practices (smooth rollers, regular light top-dressing, managing water, fertility and disease tolerance). We still need to protect the Poa going into the winter. Here is a great read via Michigan State University and their turfgrass department on winter preparations http://t.co/u7yGWHczGl.

Today was our first time mowing greens since Sunday. We raised the mowing height from our in-season height of .120″ to .140″. Increasing mowing height may not protect the turf from winter damage, but it may allow it to go into winter under less stress;

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The Tuesday after Thanksgiving (October 14th) we will be performing our 2nd aeration of 2014. This process will include a 1/2″ solid tine aeration with a walking aerator (3 inch depth), followed by a 2nd 1/2″ aeration with our deep tine aerator (8 inch depth) at a 37 degree angle (thanks to hard work in finding the best angle to do a second aeration by a former US Superintendent Jerry Kershasky) from the first. By doing 2 at once we will be able to add more sand to our profile without the disruption (see the August post on aeration http://wp.me/p1ufSX-sY) of a core aeration. Fresh sand channels produce new roots, and double the holes will provide some surface drainage over the winter. Here is a look at the deep tine work we did earlier this week in a few spots;

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We have tentatively scheduled our final greens spray to take place (weather permitting) Monday November 3rd. We will be using the same Premis/Insignia mix of products we used last year. Once this application is completed, a week later we will bury the greens in sand top-dressing. Why bury in sand you ask? Protection is the one and only reason;

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A couple of newer measures we are planning on this year include tarping of 3 greens and snow fence around 4-5 greens that have been regular snow mobile targets. While I detest tarps, there are some merits to them. Particularly Midlands 7 and 8 green and the new green at Southern Uplands 2 based on the fact these three greens are the last to melt off all the snow every year. We have three tarps and we incur no expense by using them. Below is a look at a tarpped green for winter protection purposes;

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The snow fence will be used on Highlands 4 – 5 and 6, Midlands 6 and possibly Uplands 9. Quite simply the fence will be a visible barrier against anything that attempts to make its way over these greens. Below is a picture from another golf course and their snow fence;

snow fence

Once again we will also be removing some selective trees around greens this fall. We have contracted out this process to M.C. Tree and they will be starting this process in a couple of weeks. Why more trees? While we have made amazing strides the last 3 winters (Uplands 1 green is the testament of this work!!), there are still shade issues that are affecting greens. This was taken last Saturday afternoon at 2pm;

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Above you can see that 3 trees are blocking afternoon fall/winter sunlight to this putting surface. To put it in simple terms, these trees “need to go” to promote healthy turf on this green.

Sadly, as much as many of you are likely sick of hearing this from me. The greatest issue we still face heading into the winter is Mother Nature and the unpredictability of the weather. It is such an unknown and as much as we have planned and tweaked the plan. Chances are we will face some challenges come April. Fingers are crossed that we won’t have issues (the realist in me has a hard time typing this cliché).

As much as we are winding down, in some respects we are really just getting started. Once you factor in this work with our regular maintenance (blowing leaves, once a week mowing, irrigation blowout and cart services). Our small crew has a full plate heading into this 6 week run to the finish line.

Andrew Hardy
Superintendent