Friday, October 29, 2010

Week ending October 29

Well whilst just about everything went to plan, we were certainly still disrupted with the weather over the past week.  A huge amount of work has been achieved although the rain has resulted in us making a mess in a few areas. All the turf on the oversown tees and other areas is now down and has taken root to make it self sufficient.  Two questions that came out of the week from Members was why do we have to turf some of the tees each year and why were we watering when we have had so much rain?  (We were also asked why we were grassing the 17th River bunker so obviously not everyone reads the Blog yet!)

Firstly the tees on West 7,13,18 and River 4, 6, 16 and 18 are so badly shaded and affected by the adjacent trees that we need to oversow them with a cool season and shade tolerant grass species over the winter, to allow us to maintain a cover of grass.  Without the oversow, the tees would basically finish up as dirt.  There is still an amount of Couchgrass present in the tees and it would recover eventually.  The problem is that the oversown species will die very quickly(basically the first hot day) and the Couch would take up to 12 weeks to re-establish meaning that the teeing surface would be sub standard during this period.  By re-turfing we will have the tees fully grassed with Couchgrass and playable within two weeks.

In answer to the second question, we need to continually water the turf after it is laid because until it takes root, the grass survives only on the moisture in the leaf and stems of the plant.  As of today the turf is now virtually self sufficient and will be mown down next week and available for play for the November Monthly Medal.

The other major task completed this week was the installation of the power for the 17th West green fan.  Trenching through a couple of the wettest areas on the course on the 13th and 17th West fairways and surrounds following significant rainfall was always going to result in a mess and we certainly achieved that!  Unfortunately the contractors were only available for those days and if they hadn't finished, the installation would have been delayed until late November and I would like to have the fan fully operational by the end of the second week of November in time for the warmth.

The River greens are looking for some warmth to help them recover from their renovation and as with the West greens renovation the sand plays havoc with the mowers for the first couple of weeks.  Our Head Mechanic Craig Plowman does a great job keeping the mowers cutting during this very trying time for him.

Next week sees a return to a bit of normality on the courses maintenance wise, although if the weather is suitable (read fine and dry) the tees on both courses will be scarified.  As part of this operation the thatch that is removed from the tees is left on the surface to dry out to allow it to be swept up and / or  blown off.  We will therefore be moving some of the tee markers around or leaving just a small raked area for play to continue from.  Please bear with us over the week.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

To Be or not to Be

In this case "B" stands for buggies and whether or not they are on the courses following a rain event.  There have been several occasions over the past month when motorised buggy access to the courses has been restricted, and in particular this week when a rainfall total of as little as 36mm followed by a fall of 22mm, was enough to keep buggies off both courses on consecutive days.  A Member wrote in feeling that the banning of buggies on the River last Monday seemed an overreaction, and that other options like the 90 degree rule of keeping the buggies off some or all faiways and players walking to the ball could be tried, as well as insisting buggies stay strictly on the paths where available.  Not to mention the impact on Club revenue and Members being denied a game.  The following is the reply that I penned and felt that it was information that would be informative for other Members and followers of my Blog.

"Thanks for your comments,

Cancelling motorised buggies is probably the most difficult decision I make and it is entirely my call.  I fully realise the impact on Club revenue and Members enjoyment, but in my mind the current and future playing conditions on the course comes first.  There are a number of indicators I use when making the decision and they include but are not limited to;
  • Obviously the size of the rain event
  • The amount of casual water evident
  • The number of areas that are wet and sloppy but not showing water
  • Damaged areas from recent rains
  • General turf health and potential growing conditions
  • The latest forecast (now not issued until 5.45 am at the earliest)
  • The amount of play booked has some bearing. 
On last Monday I was awake through most of the evening storm and checked the Airport rainfall figures at 2 am and there had been 20mm.  I thought the course should handle that and was anxious myself as I had a huge day of work planned with several contractors due on site.  I arrived at work at 5 am and one of my first impressions on arriving was surprise at the amount of water standing adjacent to the shed.  A quick check of the gauge showed about 40 mm and I then toured the course in my usual sequence when considering the fate of motorised buggies.  The amount of water still standing on West holes 5, 16, 13, 12 and 2 made the West decision easy.  The amount of water standing on River holes 15, 4, 6, 9 and 1 led me to believe that the River course would be too wet for motorised buggies.  What I could see of the sky at that stage was still quite threatening and the forecast the night before had predicted showers, which only reinforced my decision at that time.  The decision was then relayed to the Pro Shop and relevant Club officials and posted on the Club website by 5.30 am before it was 100% daylight and before the days forecast was issued.  With the benefit of hindsight, it was dry until the deluge at around 4.00 pm but I stand by my decision in the circumstances.  It was also probably dry enough to get motorised buggies back on late in the morning but we have tried that twice before with confusion and angst the result as the morning players claimed they were disadvantaged.  It was also difficult to publicise and had a negligible result on player numbers on those two occasions.

The 90° rule you mention only works on courses with full length buggy paths and vigilant marshals.  Some of our wettest areas are down the sides of fairways and such a rule causes problems and confusion without full length paths.  Most people do use the paths we have as they are generally adjacent to greens and tees.  I have tried extensive signage before with virtually no result.

I can assure you that the decision to stop motorised buggies from being used on the courses is not taken lightly and is one that I spend a lot of sleepless hours considering."

I trust that the above gives buggy drivers a reasonable explanation of what is behind the decision and that it is most certainly not a decision that is rushed or taken for granted.  As a matter of interest with 4 rainfall days left, October 2010 will be the third wettest October on record for the Tweed Heads site, behind 1969 with 507mm and 1972 with 640mm.  So far this month we have only had 476mm!!  The fourth wettest October on record was 1984 with a paltry 346mm. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Time for a breath

Well what a week so far and still a day to go although the bulk of the hard stuff has been done.  Apologies to my followers for the break in writing but I just haven't had time this week.  I was actually contemplating titling this instalment "blessed" as we certainly were with the weather for the renovations on the River course on Monday and Tuesday, after the rain of the previous three weeks.  Even the couple of showers that came through on Wednesday would have been enough to seriously disrupt the works which all went to plan and the greens have come up terrifically well, from an agronomic viewpoint anyway.

Hollow tyning greens

The greens were hollow tyne aerated with 16mm (5/8 inch) tynes which removed about 1.5 cubic metres of material per green.  They were also de-thatched with 3 new sets of heads that removed thatch to a depth of 3.5mm over three passes and another 1.5 cubic metres of material per green.  The greens then had a slow release granular calcium product spread and a slow release granular complete fertiliser applied which were rubbed in to get the product down the aeration holes where it is needed most.  About three cubic metres of sand mixed with fowl manure was then applied to each green and worked into the surface until the majority of the holes were filled and the surface restored.  A bit more warmth would be nice to promote the growth required to get the grass back through the sand but after the luck we had on Monday and Tuesday with no rain, I can't complain.  At this stage the greens should be due to be mown for the first time next Tuesday.

De thatching greens in blue skies!
Today was by far the busiest day and I sometimes wonder why I program so much in the one day but I do like to get the most out of my contractors who are on site.  The preparation works for the grass face to be installed on the 17th River bunker commenced today.  I have scheduled this over two days so that the work is completed before players reach the hole and there is no need to take the hole out of play or use a temporary green.  The works should be finished tomorrow and the turf will be laid on Monday with the bunker being out of play for at least two weeks whilst the turf establishes.  This bunker was selected as the trial site as it is the easiest and cheapest bunker to do due to its shape, depth and location.

The oversown tees have been lifted in preparation for turfing on Monday and the turf lifted off these has been placed over some of the more severe tree root infested areas in the roughs.  I don't have the resources to be able to hand lift and place the turf so it is done by a Bobcat machine and although the areas are initially quite uneven, they soon settle and I figure it's a much better surface to play off than tree roots.  The rear of 3rd and 15th River tees have also had the trees removed and been prepared for turfing on Monday.

We had a spare half hour today (!) and I took the opportunity to lift the front right portion of the Chipping green on the short range.  This area of the green has always had trouble growing grass and so 300mm of the soil that was there was removed and replaced with sand from the nursery trial site at 17th River.  Turf from the trial site has been lifted and transported to the Chipping green and will be laid tomorrow.  Whilst excavating the green we found a large area of what looked like "brickies sand" (see photo) so hopefully with that removed and a good growing medium installed, the new turf should respond accordingly.  

Brickies sand under the Chipping green

The foreign Couch areas in the greens have now been removed and returfed.  The turfed area on the 7th green came up exceptionally well however the putting green is not as good.  On the 7th we used turf from our own Nursery green which is a slow labour intensive process.  Indeed it took 24 man hours to re turf the 10 square metre area.  I didn't have the resources (or suitable turf) available to be able to allocate that much time to the 150 squre metres on the Practice green, and so the turf was bought in which means we don't have to harvest and transport it which is a huge time saver.  Unfortunately the quality of the turf was poor and although it will knit in, it will take some time. 
Lifting turf off the Practice green
I mentioned the contractors that I use on the course earlier on and if any readers require the services of a Bobcat or small excavator you won't find any better than Trevor King on the Bobcat or his son Scott on the digger.  They are both first class operators.  And I must mention my staff who have all worked long hard hours on the renovations and then backed up on these various projects whilst still going about their normal duties.  For a 36 hole complex of this size they are only a small crew and do an exceptional job.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Best laid plans

As often happens not everything went to plan this week thanks to the rains provided by Mother Nature with a bit of a juggling act being performed on the allocation of tasks.  The staff have done a great job restoring the bunkers for the second time in as many weeks and generally tidying the courses up but this does mean that a lot of other tasks have to be re-scheduled or abandoned completely.  We were able to achieve most of what was planned for the week with the main exception being the turfing on the practice green which will happen next Tuesday.  Everything is now geared up for the renovation next week so hopefully the weather will co operate.  The replacement of the sprayed out foreign grasses in the River greens has been completed and they will hopefully blend in with the greens following renovation.

7th River green patches plugged and turfed out
As part of the works on the 3rd and 15th River tees next week, we will be lifting the turf trials on the Nursery green area and using the sand as fill.  The trials have now run their course and as I wasn't blogging while we were doing them I will provide a quick rundown.  The trials were of some new "ultradwarf type" Couchgrasses that are expected to be the putting greens grass for warmer climates in the future.  They were conducted in conjunction with the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and we were one of seven trial sites at various locations in addition to the main plots at Redlands Research Facility in Brisbane.  We had the following grasses; Tifgreen 328, Tifeagle, Champion, Mini Verde, Mini Supreme and Floradwarf in our plots.  The plots were subjected to various maintenance regimes on our site with assessments conducted for disease resistance, thatch accumulation, putting surface quality / green speed, dormancy, pesticide tolerance, recovery from damage, mowing heights and general maintenance requirements.  Monthly observations were recorded and quarterly site visits by the Redlands team for independent assessment took place over two years.

Our results were generally totally different to all other locations and the grasses all performed differently at various times of the year.  There was little between our plots in term of appearance and quality although their leaf is much finer than that of the 328.  There is no doubt that the new grasses do thatch up a lot more than 328 and will require a lot more thatch management which on a course as busy as CTH would be difficult. Mini Verde was probably the pick of them on our site, however without subjecting them to the rigours of play it is difficult to recommend a stand out.

I have mentioned previously that the USA endured one of the hottest summers on record in most States and there were a large number of golf courses in climates such as ours whose Bentgrass greens melted out and were replaced with the ultradwarfs.  The ultradwarfs have been used in the States for quite a few years with regular Tour stop East Lake GC in Atlanta, host of the Tour Championship and Sawgrass GC, host of the Players Championship, both using Mini Verde.  I am fairly certain that the 2011 USPGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club will be the first Golfing Major to be played on Couchgrass greens since the 1987 PGA in Florida and it will certainly be the first on an ultradwarf which will be the Champion variety.

The predicted rain sounds like it is starting in earnest as I write this so here's hoping that there is not enough to disrupt tomorrows golf.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Will it ever stop?

210mm of rain since Saturday on top of the 190mm last week end certainly has us wet.  With the rain that fell upstream making its way down today we were lucky to get a lot of water off the courses before the high tide around midday.  That has now stopped and the flow of water off the courses has certainly slowed with the huge volume of water coming down the Tweed River.  The river went awfully close to breaking its banks at high tide but we thankfully avoided that.  The ground is absolutely saturated as can be seen in the photo of the 1st west fairway still holding water late this afternoon which is very rare.

1st West fairway still wet
Remarkably in the wind we lost only one tree and a few limbs but quite a lot of small leaf debris is evident on both courses.  I would like to think that the lack of limbs down is a testament to the tree pruning and removal program that we operate. 

There will be no motorised buggies tomorrow and the West course will remain closed in the morning.  At this stage motorised buggies are a chance on the River course for Wednesday but highly doubtful for the West.  The Club website is normally updated by 5.30am NSW time if there are to be motorised buggy restrictions so it pays to check before you come down to play.  It is very rare for the call on buggies to be made the day before because the course drains so quickly but there are still at least 7 fairways with a significant amount of water pooled on them late this afternoon such as the 4th River fairway pictured below.

4th River fairway 5.00pm Monday

Friday, October 8, 2010

And still it rains

Well so much for the boys efforts restoring the bunkers!!  Another 35mm until 4 pm today and we are not quite back to where we started with the bunker damage but once again it re-enforces how good the re-constructed River bunkers are again when it rains heavily.  Given the week end forecast of a “few” showers the River bunkers will again be fully playable whereas the West bunkers will be a mess.  Still it could be worse with Colonial GC expecting to go under water completely today and Royal Pines trying to renovate their greens this week. 

Hopefully the weather pattern will settle for a couple of weeks for the following works planned on CTH;
  • Plugging out the foreign Couch areas in the River greens has started and will continue next week.  A couple of the larger areas on the practice and 7th green will be turfed out next Tuesday.
  • Preparations for the River greens renovation will start next week with the greens collars being scarified on the most suitable day.  This is a time consuming operation and one that we don’t have time to do on Monday the 18th when the course is closed.  It also requires dry conditions.   Greens scarifying and hollow tyning will start on Sunday week and will continue through Monday with the bulk of the greens sanding taking place on the Tuesday.  Soil amendments based on recent soil tests will also be added.  Greens renovations are not a pleasant time for the grounds staff with the long hard hours required nor golfers with the disruption but please bear with us over these necessary works.
  • The 3rd and 15th River men’s tees will have some trees removed at the back of them and the teeing ground extended.  This extension is not to gain any length but to level out the back teeing area which is almost non existent on either tee and to improve overall turf quality.
  • The front bunker on the 17th River green is to have a grass face installed as a trial to overcome balls plugging in the sand face and to observe playability.  Over the years we have trialed every option known to prevent the ball plugging with little or no success and this is a last resort.  It’s not just as easy as throwing some turf on the sand with the bunker being re shaped by an excavator to achieve a shape that is conducive to mowing and playability.  Obviously balls will no longer plug in the sand as there won’t be any but some other courses have found the grass to be harder to play out of and maintain.  Time will tell.
  • The fan at the 17th West should also be installed in about 2 weeks.  The installation of the power will take the longest time with 315 metres of trenching required.  The first 50 metres will be done by hand as the feed comes from the pump shed and there is a litany of underground services in that area that we can’t afford to damage.
  • The oversown shaded tees will also be re-turfed following the greens renovation as well as a few other worn out areas.
  • Ohh, and all the above takes place whilst the staff will be restoring rain damaged bunkers and preparing the courses for the Junior Classic, Inter district teams event, Ladies Medal events and the regular 220 golfers we have turn up every other day on each course!!  Not to mention the roughs growing wild with the moisture and warmth!!  Let’s hope for some drier weather conditions so the works proceed to plan and some golf can be played.

Monday, October 4, 2010

And then it rained

180 mm of rain has fallen on the courses in the last 36 hours and that follows rain being recorded on 11 of the previous 13 days.  Suffice to say that we are wet!   The rain on Monday morning was mainly confined to the coast as the picture shows blue skies a tantalizing kilometre away.

As with all climatic events there is some good to come out of it with the West greens getting a break from play and therefore no new pitchmarks and they are looking great.  On the downside, disease pressure on all the greens is high with the moisture and humidity but at this stage they are disease free.  The River greens have weakened as a result of the poor light intensity of the past couple of weeks and certainly since Friday.  They will be fertilized this week to help them recover.

Blue skies only a kilometre away inland

A rain event such as this also brings bunkers to the fore and the re-constructed River bunkers come in to their own.  As can be seen from the selection of photos, all re-constructed greenside bunkers on the River course were bone dry and fully playable at 6 am on Monday morning.  This is in stark contrast to the West bunkers that will require at least 200+ man hours to get them back to a state where they will be able to be raked this week, with several probably needing to be taken out of play for the week.  The photo of the 18th River below demonstrates that even with such a high face there is no wash in this bunker compared with the 18th west in the background that has severe wash.  This is why proper construction is so important with bunkers and that in our environment, the drainage properties of the bunker sand is the most critical factor in selecting the sand.  Unfortunately this drainage characteristic does lead to a sand that does cause ball plugging.  Fortunately there was no extra works planned this week and all efforts for the week will be directed to restoring playing conditions.

10th River bunker dry and no wash


5th West greenside washout
18th River no wash