Friday, October 21, 2016

Yet another hectic week as the West greens Tifeagle conversion continues.  This week we were able to plant both 16 and 11 and have 14 nearly finished.  The pace we are moving at is involving long hard hours for all involved but will mean the greens will be back in play faster.

Whilst excavating 14 the drainage in the two greenside bunkers was upgraded as well as the front soft approach having new growing medium installed and drainage cleared which should result in a much drier and more playable approach and bunkers.

14 green was the first one where the sand in the green was suitable for re-use as top dressing material for fairways and it has been stockpiled next to 15W tee for future use.  The advantage of this is the speed at which the green can be excavated because the haul distance is short and it will then be of great benefit to the fairways that are done.  Here's hoping there is some more good material in the rest of the greens.

One of my greenkeepers came up in a rush earlier this week with the news that the Tifeagle PPG had some disease starting to show.  Sure enough there was some discoloration but a few hours later it appeared as "Aerogard burn" as the overspray of a player spraying their legs had gone on the green!!

A few more shots from this week;
16W planted
Some more very poorly placed amendments in 14W

A final trim and a roll on 11W
A dose of Aerogard patch disease!!


Friday, October 14, 2016

Another rather hectic week on the West greens Tifeagle conversion with 13 being planted, 16 having the new growing medium installed and 11 being excavated and irrigation installation commenced.  Once again some surprises with 11 having some very distinct layering throughout the growing medium and some rather unsuitable soil about 150mm under the surface with even more unsuitable material below that.  The green had the same gravel layer as 13 but at a much greater depth.  There was minimal drainage in the green and it wasn't functioning although I doubt any water had ever made it down to the pipes that were about a metre deep.  There was also some novel plumbing ideas as per the photo below.  The drainage issue took most of today to solve and is the first real "hiccup" in the program to date.  

13 green was planted on Wednesday which was lucky as the high winds of Thursday would have made it near impossible to get the cover down.  The cover acts as a greenhouse and increases soil temperature whilst still letting moisture through.  The stolons need to be kept moist for the first ten days in particular after which they should have taken root and become reasonably self sufficient.

I was hoping that up to 50% of the material removed from the existing greens may have been able to be used to topdress some fairways but unfortunately this has not been the case.  To help expedite the excavation some of the material has been used to form some mounds at the rear of 11W towards 10W and 3W green.  These areas will be turfed on Monday.

Next weeks plan is for 11 to be filled and prepared for planting the following week most likely and 14 started subject to suitable weather conditions.  16 will be planted on next Tuesday.

A few photos below of this weeks activities.  

First load of sand in to 16W

Planting 13W

Starting to excavate 11W

Another strange soil profile.

A rather novel way of capping a drainage pipe!!

Friday, October 7, 2016

WOW!!  You here that a lot from the US commentators on the PGA Tour and it's a bit irritating  but it's about the only word to describe the combined efforts of staff and contractors this week.  The West greens Tifeagle conversion has started and in a 4 day week 13W green has been completed with only grassing to come and a significant start has been made on 16W.  This included the replacement of a 50 metre long irrigation main to the LHS of 13.
As expected the excavation unveiled some surprises as have the other 3 greens I have previously excavated in my time here.  None of the soil profiles or construction methods have been the same on any of the greens and some of the soil amendments that have been added have not been done very well and has certainly not made the task of growing Bentgrass here any easier.  Although our climate is the biggest factor against the Bentgrass.
13W was completely excavated out to an average depth of 450mm on Tuesday with irrigation going in on Wednesday then 450 tonne of sand was placed and shaped to the desired contours which are the same as the existing green with an extension to the left, right and rear which has enlarged the green considerably.  A "gravel layer" which is an option when building to USGA specifications was encountered and it was much deeper than would normally be found and the drainage was below this which is normal.  On 16W there was no gravel layer but a reasonably extensive and functional drainage system was found but at quite a shallow depth.
So the project continues next week when 16W will be completed and the next green will be selected subject to weather conditions.  11W is going to need very dry conditions as the trucks need to travel up the RHS of 11W fairway from the half way West.

 It was interesting to observe that we received 10mm of rain on Monday night and I also irrigated the West greens as the water was going to be off for up to 48 hours while the mainline at 13W was replaced.  On Thursday afternoon after two quite pleasant days there was significant stress on 11, 12 and 14 West greens.  It was also interesting that the recently renovated front nine West greens had only a small patch of stress at the back of 9W which demonstrates the benefits of greens renovation.  It was also interesting that the rainy Monday this week was enough to trigger an outbreak of disease on the West greens which is something that I certainly won't miss.
Dry patch stress at the front of 12W after 48 hours of no water.

Sod cutter starts on 13W. 

Bobcat ready to strip the turf off.

The "pinky" strip is not well placed amendments in 13W.

A happy face means this spot level is correct!!

First load of new sand in to 13W just after sunrise.
Starting 16W.

Disease outbreak on 13W just before the excavator arrived.


Friday, September 30, 2016

Well the countdown for the West greens Tifeagle conversion is now down to next week!!  The temporaries got a sanding this week to finish them off.  13 will be the first green that we do as there is an irrigation main that needs replacing through the old bunker on the left hand side where we will also make some adjustments.  14 green will need a new irrigation feed and that will be bought in across 12W fairway which is why there is a trench across the fairway.  This work will also be completed on Monday whilst the irrigation mainline is empty.
As the temporary greens are bought in to play we will mark some distances on the fairways to the middle of the greens to assist players without a measuring device. 

Final sanding

The winds of spring have returned and have left the courses looking pretty messy going in to the week end.  Although it isn't just Mother Nature who makes a mess of things on the course with this inconsiderate left hander with size 10's leaving a freshly raked bunker on 5W in a fine mess for his following players.  Really gets frustrating when you see this sort of treatment of the staff's hard work.

And as you watch the Ryder Cup this week end it may be worth pondering how a staff of 185 can be controlled which is 10 people per hole which is nearly as many as I had on 36 today!!  The course has been shut to member play since the start of September and there barely looks to be a blade of grass out of place.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The journey to Tifeagle.

I thought I would give some background to the decision to change the West greens from Bentgrass to Tifeagle, so settle in for a read!!

CTHGC has had Bentgrass greens since the 1970’s and they have regularly provided a substandard putting surface during summer over the years often resulting in temporary greens being in play.  Bentgrass is classified as a “cool season grass” and will struggle in the sub-tropical climate that exists at CTHGC and that fact, coupled with the amount of play the courses receive, makes maintaining Bentgrass a difficult option.

March 6, 1980 was the first time that it was documented that a change to the greens was recommended to the Board from the Match and Greens Committee and there have been several more discussions, recommendations and consultant reports over the ensuing years.

It has always been an emotive topic and has resulted in much robust discussion at Board level and amongst the membership.  In 1998 the Board of the day passed a motion to change the back 9 greens on the River course to the Couchgrass variety Tifgreen 328 and the program was put in place.  All the greens were done at once to a design by course architect Peter Williams and the project commenced in October 1998 with plans put in place for the front 9 greens to be done the following year.  The back 9 greens were constructed and strictly followed the USGA specifications for greens construction and were solid turfed.

I arrived at the Club in June 1999 to greens on the back 9 River that had very high thatch levels but generally in good condition.  Budget limitations dictated that only three greens – 1, 2 & 6 – would be re-constructed in 1999.  On my advice all the front nine greens were re-turfed with Tifgreen 328 with 1, 2 & 6 being totally re-constructed.  The other six greens simply had the existing Bentgrass surface stripped off and turf laid which is why there is considerable encroachment by common Couch in some of these greens.

The West greens were also to be converted in the grand plan but once again budgetary limitations intervened and the fact that I was able to keep the greens in reasonable health during summer, the West conversion was shelved.  In 2005 17 West green was re- grassed using a recently developed strain of Bentgrass known as “Penn G2” which had been successfully trialed in our turf nursery adjacent to 17 River but the grass struggled to maintain a satisfactory year round putting surface on 17 West.  This was put down to the location of the green and wear from golfers as the grass thrived on the nursery.  A back up plan was devised of replacing the green with Couchgrass should it completely fail again.

In 2007 the Board of the day approved the Club’s participation in a Queensland Department of Primary Industries trial of the new “ultradwarf” Couchgrasses that had become available.  The Board also approved the construction of a nursery green for the trials and it was built with the same growing medium as would be used in future greens constructions.  We trialed six of the new improved “ultradwarf” varieties of Couchgrass with a view to their suitability as a putting green grass at CTHGC.  All of the varieties, proved to have a much finer leaf than “328” Couchgrass (which we have on the River greens) and therefore provided a better putting surface.  The variety Tifeagle was part of that trial and had been available in Australia previously with Northlakes GC planting the grass on their greens in the early 2000’s. Tifeagle was the stand out grass in our trials and provided an excellent putting surface with little susceptibility to disease outbreak.  It was therefore earmarked as the grass that would be used on 17 West.  

Some of the other issues faced by Bentgrass greens at CTHGC include;

Our climate.  The summers experienced at CTHGC are too severe to make bentgrass a viable option without huge labour and plant protectant product usage.  It is fact that bentgrass roots start stressing and dying off in soil temperatures above 24ºC.  In the months of November through March our soil temperatures rarely fall below 23ºC and the irrigation water that is applied is normally a minimum of 26ºC with a high sodium content.  I have in fact recorded soil temperatures above 35ºC on many occasions and the water has been 30ºC on many occasions.  The combination of these factors is a recipe for disaster.
The age of the greens. Some of the existing West greens are more than 30 years old, albeit with constant patching and re-sowing prior to my arrival.  Several of the greens, eg. 2, 3, 4, 10, 13 &15 have passed their use by date and are causing problems year round.
Foreign grass invasion. Particularly Couchgrass which has been controlled as far as possible with the available products.  All I am able to do now is reduce the spread of the Couchgrass.  Greens 4, 6, 8,10,12,14,15 and 18 are the worst for contamination.  This problem is most noticeable during the summer months when the Bent is at its weakest and the invading Couch at its strongest.  The most difficult aspect of controlling the existing Couchgrass is that to totally remove it from the surface it can only be sprayed out and then have at least 300mm of the growing medium removed and replaced.  In the past fumigation could be used which provided a fast result and meant the surface could be re-seeded as was done on many occasions previously.  Fumigation is now no longer available.
Staffing.  The maintenance of Bentgrass greens in this climate, particularly through the period of October thru April, requires a huge commitment from the Superintendent to continually monitor the greens.  One of the aspects that amazed me when I arrived here is just how much the greens can dry out overnight in comparison to greens in the southern States.  Similarly the change in the greens from 2.30pm in the afternoon when staff leaves and 6.30pm when the sun stops beating down is substantial.  This means the greens need to be monitored continually throughout the day, seven days a week and decisions on irrigation requirements assessed on a daily basis.  This didn’t happen prior to my arrival with obvious results.  Having Bentgrass greens in this climate is like having a 2 week old baby that is in need of constant attention. Such constant attention requires a commitment from the staff and the generation of workers coming through is not interested in working such hours and that trend seems to be getting worse.  The days of people working 70 plus hours a week as I do are numbered.

Unfortunately the backup plan for 17 West needed to be implemented in January 2015 when the green all but died from the combined stresses of disease and insect attack and Tifeagle was duly planted.  The other West greens were not far behind 17 in what was one of the most brutal summer’s I have experienced up here.  The biggest test for Tifeagle on 17 West was not how it would grow in summer but more so how it would survive the low growth time of winter which it has done exceptionally well over the past two winters. 

So the moment is nearly upon us with the conversion of the remaining back 9 West greens commencing on Tuesday October 4.  There will be weekly updates on this Blog for the information of members.

And just a photo to finish off this week with a shot of the nursery green in 2009 with 328 on the left and Tifeagle on the right.  The photo shows the disease pressure (small yellow discolored spots) on the two grasses with the bottom section of the photo having had plant protectant products applied and the top having nothing applied.  The Tifeagle on the right is almost disease free as it has been on 17 West.

Tifeagle on the right nearly disease free!!

Friday, September 16, 2016

The front nine West greens are back down to normal mowing height although there is still a fair amount of recovery required to get the surface back to normal.  The back 9 greens on the West are putting very well although they only have a few weeks left in their current dimensions!!  The temporaries had another sanding this week and are nearly at the height of the other West greens and should provide a very good putting surface.  They will be a little on the soft side due to the level of thatch that they were sown in to so pitch mark repair is still required.

I have been asked several times lately about what will happen with the material that is removed from the greens.  Apart from the grass most of the material is extremely useful although I don't expect good quality material to come out of 10W in particular.  Some of the grass will be trucked away whilst any suitable material will be carted a short distance and spread over tree root areas in among tree lines to help solve another problem we have.  Some material will be used as fill for some of the soft soggy areas at the front of greens such as 13 and 16.  Some of the material should be free of roots and other contaminants and it is planned to use this to topdress fairways and some tees if it is deemed good enough and there will also be some set aside for access repairs.  Considering that somewhere between 15 and 20 truckloads of fill material will be placed in each green there will certainly be some repair works necessary.  So hopefully very little will go to waste.

The weather continues and I don't think I have seen the tees in such good condition at this time of year before which is quite handy due to the play they are getting.  The back men's tees on the River had last weeks Medal followed by today's back marker challenge and now have four days of play in a week for the Club Champs.  Couple this with the disappointing number of players who persist playing from the back tees and it's a wonder there is any grass at all.  

Next week will see the removal of the tree stumps dotted around the courses and some preparatory work for the irrigation on the back 9 West greens.

 Good luck to all competitors in the Club Championships.

Friday, September 9, 2016

This week has all been about the renovations on the West course and although we only had to do 9 greens it seemed we were getting nowhere on Monday night.  A couple of staff are on annual leave which normally wouldn't happen for such a busy time but with only 9 greens being done I thought it would be manageable.  That was until a virtual sea greeted us on Monday morning with a major pipe failure between 13 and 14 West fairways just next to one that occurred in March this year.  The water level in the irrigation dam was low and with no way of getting to the repair on Monday due to the sheer volume of water I actually contemplated not doing the renovation as Bentgrass greens under renovation in this climate need water.  But we pressed ahead and the repair was finally finished late on Tuesday and the renovations were also completed.  I'm certainly glad we didn't have to try and do 18 though!!

New hazard on 13W!

The West course tees were also aerated with the cores rubbed back in to the surface which acts as both a fertiliser application and a top dressing.  The West fairways were aerated with a rather agricultural type of unit but nonetheless effective and mown back down with a local rule in place regarding relief from the aeration holes.