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