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.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Greens renovation

Yes that time is upon us again with the West greens scheduled for Monday August 22.  In the lead up to the renovation the greens need to be softened a little bit to allow the coring machine to penetrate to the required depth and some fertiliser applied to ensure that the greens are healthy and will grow through the sanding quickly.

In the lead up to the renovation I do some soil testing to see just how the greens have fared over the past 12 months and also to see if any extra amendments to the soil profile are required. 

You may have noticed some small holes on West greens 5,13 and 17 over the past few weeks as shown in the photo below.  Around 25 such plugs are taken from the all over the green to a depth of 100mm and sent to a laboratory for analysis.  In total the sample weighs about 500 grams which is only a small representative sample of the green given that on a 500 square metre green there is around 45 tonne of sand in the top 100 mm.   The same three greens are sampled each year and I now have a long term record for these greens for comparison.  The greens were selected as the 5th is representative of the newer greens, the 13th because it represents the older greens and 17 because it is the bogey green!

Soil test hole

The results this year were quite pleasing in that the samples are all very similar and there is no need for anything extra to be added to the greens.  The actual report for 5 and 17 West is below and you can see that most nutrients are in the "desired" level and that all the key elements are within the ideal range.  It is particularly pleasing as the samples were collected on August 2nd which means that there had been no rainfall for some time and the only irrigation the greens had received was from our normal water source.  This means that the greens were about as "bad" as they could be as rainfall has a flushing effect that "cleans" the soil profile of contaminants.

Soil test result 5 West green

Soil test result 17th West 
The greens will be hollow tine aerated using 16mm tines, then have fertiliser and a soil amendment added prior to being sanded.  We will sneak in a start on the Sunday afternoon and then most of the work should be completed on the Monday given fine weather with the course closed to play again on the Tuesday following the ladies to allow us do the final touch ups.  Please bear with us through this necessary operation.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

2011 PGA

This week sees the USPGA Championship get played at Atlanta Athletic Club (AAC) in Atlanta, Georgia.  The tournament will certainly be remembered fo many reasons and the weather could be a big talking point to start with.  I have a friend at Peachtree GC in Atlanta, with whom I played AAC with way back in 1988, and he tells me that the daytime temperature has not dropped below 90 degF since April although they are predicting high 80's for the week end.  Hot and humid will be the conditions and this is one of the reasons that very few Majors have ever been played in the south of the US during summer.  The weather has always been one of the reasons but the turf was the other.  There was an old rule of thumb that Majors had to be played on Bentgrass greens (although Augusta had Couch greens up until the early 1980's) and Bentgrass in the south of the US is a bit like Bentgrass at Coolie Tweed....dam hard to keep alive in summer!!  Almost all Clubs in Atlanta with Bentgrass greens employ fans to assist in cooling the greens and creating air movement as we do on the 17th West.  Most greens in the Atlanta area are Bentgrass but at AAC they will be putting on "Champion" which is one of the ultradwarf varieties we trialled in the nursery green a few years back.  Two very hot, humid summers in succession has seen a number of Clubs move away from Bentgrass to Couch greens and the success of the greens at AAC will only encourage more to move.  I am not too sure how the Champion handles the winter conditions because when I played there in February 1988 the course was closed till 10 am  while we waited for the frost to thaw!

But on to the course itself and the Club is a strictly Members only course with 36 holes and a 9 hole par 3 course and a staff of 65 with 50 volunteers coming in for tournament week.  In addition to the Champion turf on the greens which will be mown at 2.6mm (CTH West greens are currently 3mm) the fairways are a variety of Zoysia and will be mown at 9mm which is very tight (CTH 15mm) and the Couchgrass roughs will be at about 60mm.  Just out of interest, a variety of Zoysia was planted in the rough at the Glades GC when it was first grassed.  The course will play at 7,467 yards (6,827 m) and includes two par 4's over 460 metres and the par 3 17th at 190 metres with a full water carry. 

Friday, August 5, 2011


I have referred to the need for keeping the mowing height on the greens a little higher in times of stress and that particularly applies to the River greens at the moment.  The photo below is an excellent demonstration of the result of a higher height of cut, albeit quite small.  The photo is of the 12th River green and the green line that is evident is where the coring machine overlapped a little during last years renovation.  This resulted in a slight depression in the green that is not noticeable when you putt but allows the grass to have a fraction more leaf resulting in the green line.
12 River green.
And another observation this week is on14 River fairway where the trenchline that was put in for some irrigation works has shown the benefit of root pruning.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words and the result below is chalk and cheese with the turf on the left of the line not having to compete with tree roots for nutrition and water.  The root pruning machine I highlighted here a few weeks ago has all of a sudden taken a leap up the capital expenditure wish list!

14 River fairway