Friday, May 19, 2017

You certainly couldn't say we weren't warned about the rain to finish the week off.  After a run of superb windless autumn days it was a reality check to get such a miserable Friday.  The best part of 50mm has so far fallen on the courses and they are very wet despite the lightish nature of the rain.

Conditions such as these really highlight the softness of the Bentgrass greens in comparison to the TifEagle in particular.  The pitch marks are still terrible on the Bents and the lack of respect by the players is disappointing but it is certainly nothing new.  I mentioned last week with a photo of a very poorly filled divot that players should "leave the course as you would like to find it".  With golf shoes like the ones below that would be pretty hard to do on soft greens.  They look more like a weapon!! 

You could cause some serious damage with these!!

The windless conditions this week presented the perfect opportunity for us to follow up the trimming of tree bases with an application of weedkiller around the trees to stop regrowth.  It's amazing how much tidier it makes the courses look with the trees trimmed.  As I mentioned the other week it is a huge undertaking and is difficult to get done when the grass is still growing.

As mentioned the casual employees hours have been reduced and we will be having a BBQ breakfast to finish the season off on Tuesday morning.

And just to finish off someone might be in trouble with this tee sign at last weeks Portugal Open!!
Which one is right!!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Not very much to report this week as things are really starting to slow down around the courses.  A major irrigation break on a 150mm pipeline at the rear of 1 west green was probably the biggest thing to happen for the week.  Fortunately our mini excavator operator Gus dropped everything to come in and dig the hole for us which was quite large and helped expedite the repair.

As I mentioned last week the greens at Sawgrass this week for the Players Championship are TifEagle and are one year old and from the look of the first round were putting great.  Here at Cool Tweed the new TifEagle's have really slowed down and have lost a lot of their colour which is normal for this time of year and is the same as 17 West two years ago.  Yes it's two and a half years since 17 was done!!  Most grasses respond colour wise to an application of iron sulphate but not so much with the TifEagle so don't get to concerned with the lighter colour of the greens.

And on the topic of Sawgrass and the famous par 3 17th, I played it in 1988 with then Superintendent Fred Klauk and couldn't hit the green and was cursing designer Pete Dye all the way to 18 tee.  Funnily enough Pete Dye is probably best remembered for the island green and  it has stuck ever since with this quote from Pete himself;  "People have the idea I’m in love with island greens. Well, I’ve designed two in 50 years. Once you’re stereotyped, it’s almost impossible to lose it"!!

The American Superintendents Association are conducting a campaign at the moment to "Thank a Super" which has already been mentioned on the Players telecast.  I particularly can relate to the following summary of the start of a day at the course;
Open the office: Tick
Quick check of course: Tick
Put schedule together: Tick
Sprinklers on: Tick
Greens mowed: Tick     
Eat breakfast: Tick 

And as things slow down on the courses it is more important than ever to leave the course as you would like to find it.  That refers to sanding divots, repairing pitchmarks and raking bunkers.  Divots on fairways take a lot longer to recover at this time of year so filling them with sand and smoothing them is most important.  Unlike the attempt below although at least an attempt was made! 

Not the best thing for the fairway mowers.

Friday, May 5, 2017

A fairly quiet week on the courses but certainly not play wise.  As always the Queensland public holiday on Monday saw both courses absolutely jam packed all day and then the rain on Thursday only put off a few ladies with a couple of big social groups out there.  The week was finally capped off by the Men of League annual golf day.  

There has been quite a bit of reporting in the media lately about mental health and its effects on former sportsmen in particular which is one of the areas that the Men of League organisation do a lot of great work.  I attended a workshop last week that was conducted by the Australian Superintendents Association in conjunction with the PGA on mental health in the workplace and it was very informative and alarming.  Member expectations of their course and pro shop never seem to diminish and yet there always seems to be less resources to get the job done.  April / May is a tough time as well with golfers wanting to know why their course and club can't be like Augusta National.  A simple answer is 100 volunteers on top of the existing 55 staff working on the course and an unlimited budget which were a couple of the reasons I posted a few weeks back.  Mental health problems are becoming more and more prevalent in the course maintenance area with Superintendents trying to match the members expectations by doing "more with less".  A brutal summer along the east coast of Australia and particularly in Sydney has had Superintendents stress levels at an all time high this past year and unfortunately a number of long term Supers gave the game away to be able to live and work a "normal" life.

Back to the course and this week we were able to get a few jobs done that are normally way down the priority list with the available staffing resources.  One of these jobs is trimming around the tree bases which with the number of trees we have is a huge undertaking from the staff and time point of view and we were able to make a start with casual employee crew still employed at this stage and the grass growth slowing quite dramatically.  The casuals hours are reduced over the winter months and our staff numbers drop right back.  I well remember my first day in June 1999 when there were 19 crew available to work on my first day in the middle of winter and the club didn't actually own fairway or rough mowers as that was contracted out at the time.  My average crew over this past summer was 14 and it's a testament to their attitude and work ethic that they can achieve what they do particularly with the grow in of the new greens added to the workload.

The new TifEagle West greens continue to improve and settle in.  Next week's Players Championship on the US PGA Tour will be played at TPC Sawgrass where the greens were changed over to TifEagle immediately following last years tournament.  In fact it will be the 5th time this year a US PGA Tour tournament has been played on TifEagle greens.  Weather permitting preparation of the temporary greens will commence next week in readiness for the conversion of the front nine west greens that is due to start on October 3.

Friday, April 28, 2017

It seems incredible that we can nearly say "it's June next month"!!  I can't believe how fast the year has gone and these recent short weeks haven't helped either although luckily the grass has all but stopped growing across the courses.  
I have had lot's of people ask how we fared through the flood and after hearing the stories from other course's my response now is we had no damage.  Stories of Bobcats pushing sludge off greens and 36 man hours required to push the sludge off just one green at another course and several still not playing 18 holes yet.  One course had a bridge wash out and they haven't been able to access two greens yet which is a total disaster for them.  We thankfully fared quite well in comparison.
The front nine West greens conversion to TifEagle is also looming large on the horizon and preparations are well advanced.  I couldn't imagine we will have as good a run with the weather this year particularly on this side of the course that gets and stays wetter than the back nine, particularly in the areas that the heavy trucks need to access.  There are no proposals for major changes on the greens but greens 2, 3, and front of 8 will have the slope softened and the LHS bunker on 9 will come out and the green extended to the left.  The greens are generally much bigger than the back nine so the project may be a little slower coming together.  The works are planned to start on the first Tuesday in October following the long week end as per last year.
And a couple of stunning sunset and sunrise photos below to finish the week.

Sunset over 4R last Sunday.

Sunrise over 4W on Wednesday

Friday, April 21, 2017

A very busy Easter week end of golf with the Australian Kiwi Golf Club national tournament held over Sunday and Monday.  Unfortunately it didn't allow the course staff any time off over Easter but fortunately the players care of the course was excellent with barely an unrepaired pitchmark evident on the greens and the bunkers raked quite well considering the number of shots played out of them over the two days.  A lot better than the way the front bunker on 11W was left after todays Members comp!!  The bunkers were raked in amongst play and only players in the comp had gone through when I saw this.  It was a left hander which might narrow the field down!!

Why do we bother raking them?

Food for thought?

The photo below is from the 1992 LA Open where Tiger played his first PGA Tour event as an amateur and he finished as the low amateur.  Standing next to then 32 year old Fred Couples who won the tournament and who has himself had massive troubles with back injury but was well enough to still finish in the top 20 at last weeks US Masters.  Sad news today with Tiger undergoing another back operation.

25 years ago!!

And even sadder news was that of the sudden passing just before Easter of Marcus Price who was the Course Super at Royal Queensland GC where he spent his entire working life.  Marcus passed away at age 47 and was one of the finest turf craftsmen I know which was evidenced by the superb playing surfaces at RQ.  The Queensland golfing community came together to farewell him yesterday.  Vale Marcus.

Friday, April 14, 2017

The courses are just about back to normal after the flooding and are now actually heading towards their winter dormancy with the growth rate on greens and fairways slowing noticeably.  It would have been nice to get another weeks growth to aid the recovery on the fairways that were inundated and suffered a burn from the salt water but as I said last week we are very fortunate with the lack of damage in comparison to a lot of other SE Queensland and Northern Rivers courses. 

The River greens probably received their last sanding for the year as the weather cools.  The sand used is blended with some Humate and also some Gypsum to help counter the effects of the salts in the irrigation water. 

With the Masters completed for another year it may be timely to look at a few of the facts about the course that set it aside from all other courses around the world.  
  • Apart from the greens the entire property is oversown with a Rye grass and that is one of the features that so many people comment on is that it is all one colour and so consistent.
  • The regular course staff numbers around 55 and that is supplemented by 100 volunteers from around the world come tournament week.  The logistics of managing a crew that size alone is a feat in itself.  And the extra staff aren't just some "dads army", they are some of the most senior staff from some of the worlds best courses that volunteer for the week.  
  • The incumbent Super has been there 30 years and has been in charge for 20 but as the club forbids its employees to speak publicly unfortunately you don't get to hear anything from him.  
  • At Augusta, the rough is called the first cut (because Augusta had no rough when it opened and still doesn’t) and the huge galleries of spectators are called “patrons.”
  • Augusta's design has been tinkered with over the years and have had an array of architects including Perry Maxwell, Robert Trent Jones, George W. Cobb, George Fazio, Byron Nelson, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Fazio.
  • Hole 13 is called Azalea which is understandable considering there are over 1500 bushes planted there that due to the strange weather that was experienced this year didn't bloom.
  • Members only play the course for 7 months of the year and there are no carts.
  • The greens were converted from Couchgrass to Bentgrass in 1980 which is the opposite of the program at Cool Tweed.  Augusta though closes for the summer so that the greens are not put under any undue heat stress.  They also have the ability to cool and even heat up the soil profile of the greens.
  • The course is exceedingly more challenging and difficult than it appears on TV and it is suggested that a true 15 handicapper would not be able to break 100 when in tournament condition. 
  • And this year is 20 years since Tiger became the youngest winner ever of the Masters.
Back to Australian golf and tour professionals Todd Sinnott and Ryan Ruffels had a game in a recent competition at Metropolitan GC in Melbourne where Todd had 39 points and Ryan 37.  Pretty unremarkable until you consider that Todd was playing off +7 and Ryan +5 so there was some hot golf played that day with the DSR at 72!!  A few weeks earlier Ryan reportedly had 42 points at Victoria which off converts to a 61 off the stick!!

Friday, April 7, 2017

Wow what a week it's been.  Last Friday seems a world away and it feels like we have been to hell and back but when you hear the stories from other golf clubs and the damage they have sustained we had very "minor" damage at Cool Tweed.  And obviously the human suffering that has occurred over the past week makes our golf course problems seem rather insignificant and I trust that members and their families survived unscathed.

To get both courses back in to a playable condition so fast is an absolute credit to the course staff.  I have said it before but members don't really know how lucky they are to have this group working for them looking after the courses.  We were three men down with one on annual leave and two on sick leave so the reduced numbers stepped up and did a fantastic job.  A special thanks to the volunteers that came in and "stick picked" the West course on Tuesday which expedited the entire operation.

When you hear stories of Bobcats being required to push 6 inches of mud off greens and one course possibly taking three months to get 18 holes operational again, we really were fortunate.

With the West course closed on Wednesday we took the opportunity to give the West Bentgrass greens a solid tine aerate which is the first time that the greens have been "opened" since October to allow for some desperately needed air exchange.  If this process was carried out over summer the greens would dry out far too quickly to the point of dying.  The video below shows what we did.

And the Blog certainly proved popular over the past week with 2,155 page views since last Friday.  It normally gets about 80 views a day with a peak up to around 150 on Fridays.  Glad to have been able to keep you informed.