Saturday, December 24, 2011

River greens

There have been a lot of complimentary comments about the River greens lately which is a nice way to go in to Christmas.  There are a number of factors involved but probably most importantly was the effort put in for the Greg Norman Foundation junior tournament in early December, particularly during the tournament.  Time for preparation was available during tournament week due to a 5.30 am start for the staff and a 6.40 am 2 tee start for the players (who were also very slow) which gave us an hours break on the play.  I invested 6 staff per morning on the River greens alone which when you consider I only had 13 staff that week was a large investment and one that I normally couldn't afford.  It allowed me to get the greens double cut and double rolled each morning before play and the results were obvious as there is no doubt that the greens played as well as they have ever done for the tournament. 
The preparation time is the critical factor as not only were the greens double cut but they were "slow" double cut.  By this I mean that the machine travels at snails pace across the green which increases the clip rate and therefore quality of cut.  Essentially the slower you mow the more times the blades strike the grass resulting in a finer and more even cut.  This takes time and manpower and on a course as busy as ours can't always be done.  We generally have to race to beat the play and the next few weeks are a perfect example with 6.00 am starts the norm with both courses heavily booked and the first groups generally playing in less than 3 hours.  An old adage on bowling greens is the best greens have the greenkeepers heel marks in them as he digs in to try and slow the speed of the mower down to improve the cut.
The different renovation technique used this year was also a factor as the damage to the greens at the renovation was much less than normal which resulted in a faster recovery.  Keeping the greens where they are at the moment, which is on the edge, is not sustainable on a year round basis as we need to have healthy grass cover to deal with our shade and player number issues.

The new fairway mowers arrived last week and have already got the fairways in great shape.  There will be some initial scalping in some areas as the heads are slightly smaller than our old ones and therefore tend to dig in a bit in some of the uneven areas on the fairways.  The new fairway shapes are starting to become well and truly evident and we now have a distinguishable fairway and the place looks like a golf course.

The burn heap has been mulched and some of the mulch has been transported up to the grassed area at the rear of the buggy shed where Members are free to help themselves.  It was interesting as I re-read this that I referred to the tree pile as the burn heap.  Its funny how names of things stick on golf courses.  At Cool Tweed we have the burn heap that hasn't had anything burned (legally) for over 10 years.  We also have the "junior putter" which is the grassed area out the front of the "old Pro Shop" that hasn't been used as a putting green for over 15 years that I know of and the old Pro Shop has been a buggy storage shed now for how long? 

On behalf of my staff I take this opportunity to wish all Members and readers a Merry Christmas and a safe New Year.  And a special thanks to those members who sent cards and Christmas goodies to my's great for staff morale.  Thank you.

Friday, December 16, 2011


I mentioned a couple of posts ago that the fairway shapes would be sprayed out to indicate the mowing lines and slightly altered and the West course was done this week with a slightly stronger line appearing that has caused some comment.  The actual shapes have not been formulated with any great strategy in mind but rather practicality.  They have been bought in around drainage grates, tree roots and areas under trees where leaves and sticks are always falling which can damage the blades of our mowers and with the new fairway mowers arriving on Monday, I want to protect them as much as possible.  They have also been reduced in some areas to allow for less mowing time.  The actual reduction is really very minimal and will not really have an impact on the total area of the fairways to any great degree.  Out of interest we have about 34 hectares of fairway area which is quite large when you consider that most 18 hole courses have about 14 hectares of mown fairway area.

Shaped around a messy tree on 1 West

Shaped around a drainage grate on 17 River

I could have made them this narrow!! 
This is at a pro tourny in Korea a few years ago.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Weekly roundup

The new Intermediate Mower has arrived and has been put to work with impressive initial results.  The photo below shows it in action mowing around the 1st West tee and it has handled any mounds we have thrown at it with ease.  There will be a period of settling in for some areas as the mower previously used on these areas was a "reel" type mower and the new one is a "rotary" type which will result in some minor scalping in a few areas.  Also notice in the photo the tee board at the 1st tee with the days sponsors displayed for all to see.  Just some more value for our valued sponsors.

New Toro 4700 in action

The new sand has been added to selected bunkers and we have had some positive feedback from a few players this week.  The real test for the sand will be when it installed on the face of the bunkers and its ability to withstand ball impact.  We used a backhoe to spread and compact the sand and also wheel rolled it with the bunker rake machines.  The recent heavy rain will also help firm the sand up.   It is interesting to see the amount of the sand that is splashed up on to the face of the bunkers with every shot played which is quite easy due to the different color. 

Backhoe in RHS 9 West

Whilst on the rain we finished up with 140mm in 24 hours from lunchtime Wednesday, much of which was good soaking rain which is just what we needed rather than the 25mm that fell in 20 minutes the previous Thursday and rendered the course temporarily unplayable as the photo of 10 west green shows.  The only worrying trend over the past 4 to 6 weeks is that the weather bureau has been spot on with their predictions!  They forecast that heavy rain last week almost to the minute and were the same with the timing of this weeks.  Unfortunately they are predicting rainfall for the next 3 days with a 95% chance on Saturday for up to 10mm then a 100% chance for Sunday with up to 25mm and a 95% chance for Monday with up to 25mm.  Let's hope they have gotten it wrong.

10 West flooded

The West greens are showing good recovery and with some plugging out this week should be back to a full cover shortly.  I mentioned a couple of posts back that a combination of events had caused significant stress and some turf loss.  As things have settled it is apparent that the greens with the variety of Bentgrass "1019 / 1020" (greens 2,5,6,7,8,9,10,18 and the practice) were worst affected  which has everyone scratching their heads as to why.  The one positive is that we have certainly killed the Poa (wintergrass) which is good as due to its shallow root system it is very quick to die out under summer heat stress.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

New Mowers

Over the past few months I have been trialing a few different types of fairway mowers to replace our existing units and the decision has been made and they are now ordered.  I have selected the Toro 7000 series machines and am looking forward to them arriving in the next week or so.  The 7000 is a new series of fairway mower and we will be the first to get them in Australia.  They are still quite a heavy mower compared with other units that are currently available as we need the extra strength to cope with the amount of tree debris that we get on the fairways.  Most courses these days are going for what are known as "mid" or "lightweight" mowers that have much finer reels and blades.  You will notice that the River course fairways have had new outlines marked on them and it is hoped that we can get some real de-lineation between the intermediate rough and fairway.  The West course should be marked out next week.

At the same time as the fairway mowers we will also take delivery of a new intermediate rough mower.  This mower is a rotary type and will be totally different from our existing unit which is a reel mower.  One of the main advantages of the rotary type is its ability to mow seed head and mulch leaves.  The new intermediate mower will also help with the fairway de-lineation.

Our existing fairway mowers have served us well for nearly 3,000 hours operation time and the intermediate mower with 3,700 hours but are now having frequent minor issues.  In the world of golf course mowers, 2,000 hours is considered to be the equivalent of 100,000 klms on a car which is often when little things start going wrong so considering their hours they have performed very well.

And just on machine hours, our roughcutters have all now passed the 2,000 hour mark.  The mowers are scheduled for replacement this time next year and will probably have at least 3,000 hours on the clock by then.  This means that we will probably start to have some issues with them in the coming months as the wear and tear they suffer on a daily basis takes its toll.  This is not the greatest situation when we are heading into the main growth season but I am sure we will get through.  With regards to rough mowing, we never actually “finish” cutting rough, especially in the growth season.  It takes about six days for the three machines to mow all the rough areas on the courses with no time lost.  The new intermediate mower should help by also being used to mow some rough areas although it will have a canopy fitted to ensure it isn’t taken under trees which is where severe damage can result to the cutting heads.

Last Thursdays rainfall whilst most welcome on the golf courses meant the postponement of the tree trimming over the practice nets which has now been re-scheduled for Thursday December 1st.  These works will require the nets to be closed to all play to ensure both player and contractor safety.  There will also be some buggy detours in place around the clubhouse.

I have had some comments about the number of leaves on fairways and in bunkers recently.  Unfortunately this is the time of year for the courses to be messy, especially with the constant winds which have now been blowing from the north consistently virtually 24/7 for the past six weeks.  The wind coupled with the dry conditions we have been experiencing causes the trees to shed their bark and the trees also shed their weaker leaves.  Many of the bunkers on the courses are virtually “leaf collectors” and are full of leaves within an hour of being blown clean.  We do have a dedicated “mulching” mower which operates virtually non stop in periods such as these and we also have a sweeper as well but it is very slow and needs constant emptying.  I did a trial with it a few years ago and found that it took nearly 2½ hours to sweep the 4th River fairway when it was covered with leaf litter.  The mulcher on the other hand can clean the same fairway in less than 20 minutes.   The rough areas are also full of leaves which makes finding balls difficult but we just can’t keep up with mowing / mulching them at this time of year.

On Thursday December 1st we will be topping up the sand in a few bunkers on the courses.  This sand has been used with apparent success at a number of south east Queensland clubs so it will be interesting to see it perform under our conditions.  The sand is a different colour but will eventually bleach out to become whiter.

 The fan at the 17th West green will also be re-installed on December 1st....A busy day with only 13 crew onsite!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Summer is nearly here

Well the official start to summer anyway.  The rain last week has really got the grass moving and just shows how inadequate our irrigation system really is.  There is just no substitute for good soaking rainfall.

It was a bit disappointing to hear that bunkers were raised at the AGM last week only six weeks after the bunker symposium at which the numerous issues confronting us with bunkers were fully discussed.  I am fully aware of the playability issues that players are faced with the bunkers but I obviously have a leaning towards maintenance.  We will be trialling yet another sand in some of the bunkers in the coming weeks that is being used at several clubs in SE Queensland with some success.

And while we are talking about bunkers, I was lucky enough to spend a couple of days at the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne and was amazed at the amount of work that was put into the bunkers and the difference from when I was on the sandbelt many years ago.  Royal has a crew of about 36 I think and there were 35 volunteers who came in for the week prior to and the week of the tournament.  The way the bunkers were presented would have taken a crew of at least 15 on each day I would suggest.  Whilst they did look absolutely perfect such presentation is just not sustainable for the average Cool Tweed with a total staff in the peak of summer of 18.  Below is a shot of the bunker I was standing next to on the 12th hole just before an errant shot from Bubba Watson shaved my head.  It really does look superb and there is another shot of some of the crew preparing the bunkers.

LHS green bunker RM 12th

RM crew brushing the bunker faces
Further on bunkers and I am often reminded how good the bunkers in the sandbelt are and why our bunkers can't be like that.  Well below is a photo of a bunker at RM and the effect 40mm of rain has on them.  40mm of rain on Cool Tweed River bunkers would not see any washout or evidence of water pooling.  In RM's defence, it is unusual for them to get that volume of rain whereas for us it is a common occurrence.  Just a reminder of how well the River bunkers take excessive rainfall is the photo below taken in October 2010 of the greenside bunker on 10 following 180mm of rain in 36 hours.  Horses (or bunkers) for courses as the saying goes. 

RM bunker washout

No wash at Cool Tweed River 10 after 180mm of rain

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Manna from heaven!!

35 mm of the best rain I have seen for a long time over the past 6 hours and more to come!!

Hopefully it will hold off for the Australian PGA at Coolum which is from all reports in the best condition ever.  Well done to Dean Henderson and his crew up there, and the volunteers who have helped out as well.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A chain of events

A combination of events has transpired to put the West greens under some pressure.  The product that was applied to control the Poa annua in the greens which was highlighted in a photo a couple of posts ago has certainly been successful with an excellent result evident.  However the constant north winds that have been blowing virtually 24 / 7 for the past three weeks has meant that the irrigation overnight is virtually a waste of time as the water loss from evaporation and windspray means little is actually making it to the ground.  There has been a lot of hand watering happening to try and supplement the irrigation in addition to using water to blow the leaf debris off the greens.  I had an "irrigation suitability test" done on the irrigation water recently and the result was "not desirable to be used for irrigation of turf"! The water has high concentrations of salts and chloride and is not conducive to promoting turf growth.  However when that is the only water source you have, there is no choice.  Soil temperatures in the greens is already hovering around 27 degrees and the water in the irrigation dam is sitting on 24 degrees which doesn't result in too much cooling. We also now have an algal bloom happening at the treatment works where the irrigation water is sourced and that is severely impacting the quantity of water available, dropping our supply to less than 30%.  This combination of events means that the Bentgrass is struggling to recover where the Poa annua has been removed and with the weakened plant disease has been able to affect the turf sward.  The irrigation water has never been of high enough quality for irrigation of turf but the only time it becomes an issue is in times of low rainfall as we are experiencing at the moment.

The fairways will also start to stress in some areas now as there is not enough water available for them to be irrigated in the short term, although the amount we can put on them is not enough to keep them healthy enough to combat the wear and tear of the motorised buggies at any time.  Once again this is a result of the low rainfall and sandy soils. The recently turfed areas are yet to be mown down as that would put undue pressure on them so they will stay a lot longer than normal until the water situation changes or we get some rain. (The forecast for later this week sounds promising).

One of the other impacts the wind has is preventing us from spraying, especially weeds, so there is an abundance of weeds germinating around the courses, particularly in the bunkers.  Although the way the bunkers act as "leaf collectors" its hard to see any sand let alone weeds!!

This coming Thursday, November 24th, we will be using a travel tower to do some pruning to the trees overhanging the practice nets adjacent to the putting greens.  This will necessitate the closing of all the practice nets on Thursday.  Access from the Pro Shop to the first tees will also be affected so I apologise in advance for any disruption that may be encountered in the immediate area.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Well at present we have two type of pests on the golf courses - a species of Corella that is nesting adjacent to 7 West fairway that make so much noise in the morning as they fly off for the days foraging.  When they return in the afternoon they have taken to attacking the greens.  It is quite amazing actually as they generally only attack the green when the flagstick is in the hole.  They take a nibble at the flag then slide down the pole and feed on the hole itself.  One theory is that they are sharpening their beak on the hard surface of the hole cup.  We are lucky in one way that they only attack one green as their are many courses throughout Australia where multiple greens are nearly rotary hoed by these pests.  The other type of pest we have is a species of golfer who has no respect for the golf course or those playing behind them.  Pitch marks and divots out of greens are starting to re-appear and is very frustrating to say the least.

Unrepaired pitch mark

A divot out of 13 West green

Repaired Corella damage on 7 West green

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Best laid plans

Well not everything finishes up the way you want it to and this week was an example of that.  The turf arrived for the tees on Monday but some of it had "cooked" on the way down here from Caboolture and had to be replaced.  This puts us a couple of days behind which although not sounding much delays the first mowing for the turf and therefore opening for play.  The photo of the 11th River tee shows the affected turf removed from the tee surface but with some of the "cooked" turf still in place on the rear bank of the tee.  These cooked areas sometimes recover but can take weeks which is a timeframe we can't afford on the playing surface.

The River greens are still in their recovery mode from their renovation and the method of hollow tining used this year has caused some severe wheelmarking on the greens that whilst unsightly, doesn't affect ball roll.  The greens are growing very fast and that has an obvious effect on the playing surface with the broader longer leaf evident.  The greens will have another sanding at some stage next week depending on the play and weather.  They are still at least two to three weeks away from settling back down again.  At the recent course information session I was asked about the speed of the greens and explained that due to the extensive shade issues, and severe movement in the greens that we can't afford to mow to low otherwise we will lose grass cover.  Everyone, myself included, likes fast greens but I would rather be putting on grass than dirt.

On the positive side you will notice a number of patches of yellow grass on the West greens which is where a new product for the control of Poa annua or wintergrass has been applied with quite outstanding results.  If you look closely you can see the bentgrass emerging through the patches.  The six to eight week conversion process is slow enough for the surface to not be affected which would normally happen with most other control products.  There is not enough time available to go in to the merits or otherwise of Poa annua in greens but most certainly in our situation the shallow rooted Poa is the last thing we want in the greens leading in to summer as it's the first grass type to die in the warmer weather.

11 River tee turf

16 River green wheel marking

Poa annua dying in 5 West green

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The week that was

Well the week kicked off last Sunday following the Men's Foursomes Championships with the River greens renovations starting with the greens scarifying.  8 greens were finished on Sunday afternoon which was a great effort.  On Monday we started hollow tyning the greens and this time used a "mini tyne" which was 7mm in diameter compared to the normal 16mm tyne.  This meant a smaller hole but more of them as can be seen in the video.  The material was left on the green then rubbed in to the surface which left the "stubble" to be blown off.  Fertiliser and amendments were then added and only a handful of greens required sanding to fill the aeration holes.  It is hoped that this method which is quicker than the normal method will allow for a much faster recovery time.  If the weather had stayed fine on Friday the greens would have received their first mowing then as they need to be dry to mow the first time.  The weather also has to be on our side when doing the renovation this way as you need fine sunny and windy conditions to dry the cores out enough to allow them to be rubbed in.

Cores being rubbed in to the greens surface

"Stubble" left on green
Blowing stubble off the green

We were able to then take advantage of the weather conditions to get the tees on the River course hollow tyne aerated and rubbed back in using a similar method to the greens but with the 16mm tynes.  A hint of some rain on the way on Tuesday allowed 6 tonne of fertiliser to be applied to all the River course fairways which wasn't actually planned but if rainfall is on the way then you take advantage of it. 

Next on the agenda was some work on the 8th River fairway drain.  The 900mm pipe that connects the dam and the river has had several areas of subsidence over the years.  About ten years ago we excavated and exposed the pipe and placed some material on it to prevent the subsidence which worked quite well until the material disintegrated after contacting the salt water and needless to say this material is no longer recommended for this purpose.  The pipe was exposed and two causes of the subsidence emerged which was the separation of the pipes and the exposure of the pipe lifting hole, which both allowed sand to enter the pipe and erode the surface.  The pipe was fully excavated and a geotextile fabric was wrapped around it then crushed rock placed over the top of this.  Another fabric was then placed over the rock and the hole back filled ready for re-turfing.  By blocking off the escape points for the sand it is hoped that the surface will hold.  If it doesn't then the pipe will need to be replaced at a great expense.

Excavation begins

Pipe separation

Lifting hole exposed

Cloth covering holes with crushed rock on top

Fabric in place over crushed rock and sand over the top

The rocks at the headwall of the dam at 6 River were then also replaced with much larger rocks and a far more suitable construction method to deal with the tidal movement of the water.  Concrete was poured behind the rocks for added strength and smaller rocks embedded in to the concrete that over time will color up the same as the rocks so as to blend in.

Headwall reconstruction

Large rocks in place.  Note the tidal water flowing in.
Small rocks embedded in concrete

Then it was over to the 11th River tee to excavate the rear portion of the tee where tree roots had appeared on the surface.  The picture below was the first load removed from the middle of the surface of the men's back tee blocks.

Tree roots from 11 River tee

On Friday the oversown tees were lifted in readiness for turfing on Monday.  It takes a day to prep these areas and the reason they are prepared on Friday is to allow the turf to be laid on Monday which means that by the following week end the turf will have taken root and not require any supplementary watering which saves on labour costs.  The tees will be back in full play within 3 weeks.  The material lifted from the tees has been used to cover exposed tree root in rough areas and although the finished surface is initially quite rough it does settle down and is far better than playing from amongst tree roots.

So that was my week in conjunction with maintaining and preparing the playing surfaces elsewhere on the course in the high winds and rainfall that occurred later in the week.  Just another seven days in the life of a Golf Course Superintendent !!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Interesting finish

Well it wasn't quite the finish to Friday that I was looking for when I had to help escort 2 fire trucks out of the dead end they found themselves in near 8 River fairway and then back around and out of the course!!  They were apparently chasing a fire in the Ukerebagh Nature Reserve alongside the course and were told to get there through the golf course.  I don't think any of them had any idea what a green, tee or fairway was so I think it was fortunate I was still here!!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Busy times

The winds have been very cold the last few days but things are hotting up on the courses with quite a bit of work planned.  Following is a bit of a summary and as usual it is all subject to agreeable weather.

  • The short practice fairway will be cored on Thursday October 20 which might cause some minor disruption to play.  We apologise in advance.
  • River greens renovation will take place in earnest on Monday October 24 but we will be out on Sunday following the Mens Foursomes Championships to get a head start.  Works will include, scarifying, coring, fertlising and sanding.  The greens collars on the River course will be scarified tomorrow as there is not enough time to complete this next week.
  • Fairway aeration was going to continue as I wanted to cover the fairways twice but the fairway aerating unit virtually fell apart on the last fairway yesterday.  The unit was purchased in 1975 so it has certainly done its time.
  • Tees aeration / coring on both courses will take place shortly.  The cores that are removed will be rubbed back in to the surface which has two main benefits.  Firstly they will act as a top dressing and the soil is quite rich in nutrients so there will be a fertiliser effect as well.  There may be a few temporary tees or tees playing a bit different to normal as we need to let the cores dry out before rubbing them back in and not have players walking over them.
  • Works on 8 River fairway drainage pipe and 6 River dam rockwall to take place commencing Monday October 24.  The 900mm pipe that links from 6 River dam to the Tweed River across 8 River fairway has a number of quite obvious sinkholes affecting it.  It is proposed to expose a small section of pipe to determine whether or not it can be successfully repaired in - situ.  The headwall at 6 River dam will have some remedial works done to repair damage from tidal movement in conjunction.
  •  Oversown tees are to be lifted Friday October 28 and re turfed Monday October 31.  This is an annual task and the tees are back in play within two weeks rather than waiting for the oversown grasses to die out and the couchgrass recover.  This year we will include the rear half of 11 River tee in order to remove tree roots followed by backfilling and re-turfing.
  • 17 West  green fan to be re-installed in early November.
  • Tree debris pile adjacent to 6 River fairway to be mulched next week.


Bunker Symposium

Firstly thank you to those Members who came along to the Bunker Symposium last Monday. The name "symposium" was given to the meeting and I checked the dictionary to check the correct meaning which I am glad to say was correct, being:  "a formal meeting held for the discussion of a subject, during which individual speakers may make presentations".  I actually might have preferred another meaning being:  "a drinking party in ancient Greece, usually with music and philosophical conversation".  Well I don't know if there was much philosophy spoken but after talking for an hour and a half I certainly needed a drink!

I trust I was able to explain some of the issues that we face with the bunkering on the golf courses.  One of the reasons I have the Course information sessions is to be able to cover the topics in detail as what I said on Monday night would take pages to explain in writing which I doubt many people would read.  The following is a response to a member who was unable to attend the session but emailed some of his concerns to me. 

In a nutshell the River bunkers are much more functional than the West bunkers due to their ability to handle excessive rainfall.  One example I used on Monday, was last Saturday morning when we received 20mm of rain in the morning and no one played.  As soon as the rain cleared there was a full field out on both courses.  The River course bunkers would have been fully playable whereas the large majority of the west course bunkers would have been full of water.  The hard packed fairway bunkers on the West course would have virtually all been full and bordering unplayable.  This after just 20mm of rain.

I mentioned at the meeting that the number one criteria for bunkers in a climate such as ours is drainage.  The volume and regularity of rain that we receive dictates this.  Other courses on the Gold Coast / Brisbane simply just take their bunkers out of play, sometimes for weeks at a time after a serious rainfall event.  We have had numerous golfing events virtually every year on the River course that have been able to go ahead following excessive rainfall with bunkers fully in play whereas the West course bunkers would have been unplayable.

The West bunkers do have sand added to the play areas on a regular basis but when the faces are washed out by rainfall the soil and silt (read rubbish) that is washed to the floor of the bunker then mixes with the sand to give the firmer type of surface.  Unfortunately this surface is then not able to drain and the bunker fills with water. 

Anything up to 100 man hours are often required to re-instate the West bunkers following a rainfall event that washes them out.  The River course bunkers on the other hand are able to be raked as per normal immediately following the same rainfall event. 

I haven’t actually done a spread sheet /analysis on the matter but looking at labour input and the cost of sand, we would spend just as much on bunker maintenance as we do on greens maintenance on the West course alone.  I shudder to think what the ratio would be if the bunkers on both courses were as dysfunctional (from a maintenance point if view) as the West course bunkers are now.

The seemingly most unpopular bunkers are the fairway bunkers on 6 River and 7 West.  These bunkers actually have the same type and depth of sand as most of the greenside bunkers on the River course but as they have less irrigation landing in them they are always drier than the greensides.

There were a number of issues raised at the meeting on Monday night and they will be considered by the Golf Management Committee.  Grass faces and potentially removing some bunkers was canvassed for example.  The pros and cons of either of these options were also raised.  It is not an issue that we don’t care about, indeed bunkers are constantly discussed and different trials using sand and other potential solutions are assessed continually.

I realise that the explanation above doesn’t make the bunkers any more playable for you, but as I said, in our climate drainage must come first if you want to have numerous high faced large bunkers.  I trust that this very short summary of what was talked about on Monday night helps explain some of the aspects that affect bunker presentation on the courses. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fairway aerating

"Tracaire" aerator in operation
The fairway aerating has commenced for this season.  This operation helps to reduce some of the compaction caused by the huge numbers of golf carts that use the courses on a daily basis.  It is quite an old machine that we use and whilst not perfect it does a reasonable job fairly quickly and penetrates up to 150mm.  If weather, play and manpower permits the fairways will be covered twice in the coming weeks.  The River course has nearly been completed for the first time already.  The damage to the fairway surface from the machine doesn't interfere with play too much and is repaired by the fairway mower going over the fairway.  This will result in some scalping of some areas and can only be done once the surface is dry to prevent the build up of dirt on the rollers.  The local rule concerning relief from "aeration holes" should be used to if your lie is affected.

Aeration hole close up

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


I once worked with a groundsman whose sole job at that course was bunker maintenance and on a course with over 100 bunkers on 18 holes he had his work cut out.  At the end of every day he would come into the lunchroom and say "I'm bonkers about bunkers" and whilst that was a long time ago, the same expression is probably used with some much more colorful language these days by golfers.  Bunkers are one of the most controversial subjects at almost all golf clubs these days and in many cases cause more angst and argument than any other area of the golf course, including the putting greens themselves.  Too hard, too soft, too deep, too shallow, too wet, too dry and too many!! 

So with this in mind the next Course Information Session will take the form of a “Bunker Symposium”.  This is your opportunity to come along and ask me any questions you would like regarding the bunkers at Coolangatta Tweed and hear about some of the strategies and trials that have been undertaken on our bunkers over the past several years.  You may be surprised to know that we spend nearly as much on maintaining the bunkers on the courses as we do the greens and all this for a hazard as far as the rules of golf are concerned.

And of course if you have any burning questions regarding the maintenance of other areas of our courses I will be happy to answer them at the meeting.

The Bunker Symposium will be held at the Course Maintenance Shed in Davey Street Tweed Heads South at 4.00pm DST on Monday October 17th
All members are welcome to attend.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

De Thatching greens

The warmer weather has started the River greens growing and they received a de-thatching this morning.  The units we use attach to our existing greens mowers and are adjustable in their depth to about minus 5 mm.  At this time of year our units are set at level with the green surface which means the weight of the unit penetrates the surface just enough to remove a lot of dead material and cuts some of the stolons to encourage some new growth.  Three machines are needed to stay in front of the play and the greens are double covered "up and back" in the same line.  The greens are then mown to pick up the clippings that are left on the surface leaving a very good surface behind.  This is an operation that we will be doing at least fortnightly throughout the growing season and we will also sand the greens in conjunction with this operation on some occasions.  The other benefit of this operation is the smoothing out of the greens surface by reducing the leaf coverage and therefore the friction between the ball and the leaves which results in a smoother faster surface.

Close up of de-thatching unit

Units in action on 16 River green

Close up of green surface after de-thatching

And the warm weather brings out some of our wild life as well.  This rather sleepy carpet snake was enjoying the sun on 11 River fairway yesterday.  It provides golfers with a timely reminder to be aware of snakes on the courses although they generally don't want contact with humans so they are rarely seen.

Carpet snake out enjoying the warmth

Monday, September 12, 2011

Seeing the light

Anyone who has been on the Golf Management Committee at Cool Tweed would have heard me talk about the need for light for grass to grow.  The USGA Green Section have a saying that "If your grass isn't getting 8 hours sunlight a day....then why isn't it?".  The 9th West green is already showing marked improvement since the removal of the trees at the rear of the green and has now highlighted the next two greens that are badly affected by shade being 3 and 5 on the West course.  On the River course on the other hand, it is interesting to note the improvement on the 12th River green which is probably one of the most shaded greens I have ever seen.  But as the sun climbs higher in to the sky the green is gradually getting more and more sun, especially in the morning which helps lift the soil temperature and dry the surface.  The top photo below shows the 12th River at 8 am in early July in the depth of winter and the one underneath shows the green at 8am this morning with considerable sunlight across the back of the green.  If you look at the health of the green at the moment, the area in full sun at 8am is recovering very well.  It is almost a line of 8am sunlight area being healthy and non sunlight area still struggling.
12 River green early July

12 River green mid September

The West greens have recovered a little slower than expected from their renovation although given the weather we experienced during and immediately after, it is to be expected.  The greens are at the stage now of needing a final sanding to help level and smooth the surface out.  Weather permitting this should happen tomorrow morning.  It is timely to remember that although the greens are not at their best the need for pitchmarks to be repaired still remains and players assistance in this matter will be most appreciated.  At the end of the day you are really only helping yourself by improving the surface and allowing my staff to work on other areas of the course instead of repairing pitchmarks before mowing in the mornings. 

It is encouraging to see the 7 day forecast of mid teen lows and highs in the mid 20's which will really get the grass moving.  Not far from fertliser time and aeration for the fairways methinks.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The things we do

It's all in a days work for us but it is sometimes interesting the jobs we have to do.  Removing a Carpet Snake from the 14th River tee last week and another one sunning itself in front of the 11th River tee today in the glorious spring weather.  Then the call came out for us to remove a pigeon that had found its way into the Kids Club in the clubhouse and had resisted all previous removal attempts.  But alas it is back to some normality with the grass starting to move about the place with the warmth and the mowers are starting to crank up.

You may have noticed the numerous tree stumps that have been cut down and flagged in readiness for removal tomorrow.  It is a long hard day for the operator and we use a bobcat to remove the woodchips and replace them with a sand/grass mix that has the resultant holes covered over in no time.

Tree stump flagged and ready.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Pumps service

Our irrigation pumps received their major annual service earlier this week which might be just in time for the warm weather as we also had our first sighting of a carpet snake out soaking up some rays on the course as well!!  Last nights summer like thunderstorm may also be a pointer to a change in the weather.
The existing pump station located adjacent to the mens 17th River tee was installed in November 2000 and has barely missed a beat since.  The pump station is a Grundfos unit and is made up of 2 x 32kw pumps and 4 x 64 kw pumps.  They are controlled by a "variable frequency drive" unit which allows the motors to only run at a level that supplies water flow at a pre determined pressure meaning less power usage and less water hammer in the pipelines.  The pumps react to the flow demand and cut in and out depending on that demand.  The two smaller pumps that do the bulk of the work maintaining pressure have just over 18,000 hours usage and the four larger pumps have around 5,000 hours each.  The pumps are capable of producing 95 litres per second but I normally run them at about 70 litres a second.  A normal irrigation cycle where all irrigated areas are covered in summer uses about 1.5 million litres of water and the flow meter on the pump station has recorded 1,521,867,098 litres of flow since installation!!   Year to date 2011 the pumps have delvered a meagre 65 million litres of water to the courses.

Inside the pump shed

When you take into account the amount of rainfall we receive on the courses there is a lot of water passing through the place and last nights thunderstorm added another 68 mm to the total.  That brings our August 2011 total to 277mm which makes it the second wettest August behind 1908 with the bulk of the rain recorded in the past 11 days.  The only other years when more than 200mm of rain was recorded were 1899, 1958 and 2007 with the August average being 68mm.

The West greens will get their first cut this afternoon while it is dry and player numbers are down.  The River greens will get a light de-thatching tomorrow to help remove some dead plant material and a light sanding to fill in the pitch marks and level out the surface, now that they have started growing again. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

It's over

Yes the much maligned West greens renovations have now been completed.  It is always a difficult task to complete the greens in the day and a half we normally have but 6 inches of rain made it impossible.  Fortunately Thursday cleared and with the co-operation of the Vets in allowing a medley comp to take place on the River course we were able to complete the works which is virtually impossible if you have any amount of play.  So thankfully a frustrating week for the course staff and golfers alike comes to an end.  At this stage the greens should receive their first mowing on this coming Thursday afternoon.  The greens have to be dry to allow the mowing otherwise a huge amount of sand gets picked up and affects the quality of cut.
I have often said to people that August is reliably the driest month of the year here with September a close second but this year certainly disproved that theory.  A check of the rainfall figures sees August 2011 the wettest since since 1958 and you need to go back to 1908 before that so hopefully it will be a long time until we experience those conditions again.
Interesting to note that one of the long range weather forecasters works on cycles of the moon and 18.5 years is one cycle so 2 is naturally 37 and 2011 is 37 years after 1974 for the floods in Brisbane.  Hopefully we are done with the flood events for 2011! 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

West course greens renovations

How quickly the weather can change and cause havoc with the best laid plans.  The scud rain showers that started on Saturday afternoon that blew away the wedding I was attending on the 10 River ladies tee also developed and blew in 50kmh average winds and at last count 152 mm of rain or a touch over 6 inches in the old terms.  The effect on the greens renovations has been disastrous with about the only positive being the excellent performance of our new aerating machines. 
Removing the cores from the greens and then fertilising and sanding requires dry conditions, particularly the sanding as it needs to be smoothed into the surface.  I didn't even attempt to sand any greens on Monday, and on Tuesday I tried but the rain was so torrential at times that the sand was literally washed off the surface.  Wednesday cleared slightly although there were still just light showers that still delayed the smoothing process although it cleared long enough for the process to occur.  The greens still need more sand applied as the goal is to fill all the core holes with the fresh sand and fertiliser mix.  One of the main problems we will experience in the coming weeks is the tyre marking that will show up in the greens due to the soft ground conditions but this will gradually disappear over time.
Apologies for the course not being available as scheduled although the past few days have not been very pleasant or conducive to golf and the forecast is equally unpleasant.

And just so you can see one of our new aerators in action I shot a short video of it in action on the 9th West green, whilst it was still sunny!!

Friday, August 19, 2011

West greens

The West greens renovation got off to a trial run today with the 16th West green having a strip done as a test.  This year we have a new aerating / coring machine in use and we needed to try it out on a green to make sure it did exactly what we require and not find out on Sunday afternoon that we need to make some adjustments.  The machine worked exceptionally well and will reduce our time coring which allows more time for the other required works.  The new machine signals an end to an era of coring on Coolie Tweed as we have employed a contractor to assist us for the last 25 years and have used an Australian developed machine known as a "Coremaster".  Brett Micklewright was the contractor and as a former CTH greenkeeper Brett was an outstanding person to have assisting us through the hectic time of renovation.  Brett has wound back his business and that was one of the reasons we purchased a new machine  Here's hoping the weather is nice and fine for us on Monday and Tuesday.

And just on another topic and on the other side of the world, I follow the blog of Gordon McKie, the Course Manager at The Old Course at St Andrews, with whom I toured around the USA a few years ago.  This week Gordon reported; "Over the last week we have seen pretty bad conditions here in St Andrews with excessive rainfall which has caused some major flooding on the course. We have had in excess of 60mm of rain since the weekend and as you will see from my picture the Swilcan Burn is nearing overflowing. High tides are predicted for this afternoon and the possibility of the burn bursting its banks is a worry, so we have started to sand bag the front of the 1st green to protect that area."   That's right just 60mm of rain to cause major flooding!  It just goes to show how different golf courses are in different parts of the world and that it is nigh on impossible to compare golf courses across the globe with any reliability.