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Fall Season

I cannot believe it has been almost a month since the last post. September has flown by or maybe blown by as the latest storm is upon us as I write this. We have had our share of massive storms this season luckily down south and not up here but our thoughts and prayers should be for those affected. The Caribbean has been devastated and parts of this country have had their issues as well. We are no stranger to wind, rain, and tide damage on MV but hopefully these big storms do not add up to much more than the typical Nor Easters we get.

I went through my phone camera for some of the highlights of the last month:

(image)4th tee before thunderstorm shut us down(image)almost finished

The trees had started to creep in on both sides of the 4th tees. From the back tee it was becoming a shoot only a PGA Tour player could get through without clipping a branch. Our tree company was going to be at a neighbor's house so we scheduled to sneak them in with the lift to open this area back up.

Every year the trees grow taller and wider. We need to keep in mind that the playability of the course should be our priority. If allowed, the forest would close in and take over. Trees need to be pruned and even removed to keep the course design and integrity intact. This includes shrubs planted as distance markers that now have become full size trees and may be a hindrance to play. They certainly have no distance function anymore as everyone has some electronic device to tell them distance, wind speed, elevation, temperature of the water coming out of the fountains etc.

(image)Fun with fescue mowing
I started to mow some tall grass areas in preparation of the Bass Ackwards. Chris Morse was playing and mouthed to me "can't you leave some?" as he walked by. I too like the definition the tall grass areas give the course but as I posted here mid-summer, this year it is so thick it is unplayable. I started mowing a labyrinth pattern and probably should have left it for a couple of weeks. I found an irrigation leak on the hill so became distracted and decided to mow it all before we fixed the leak. 
(image)Tall grass leak, Bert supervising Murph's glue job.(image)break at the test head. no thrust block on original. Bag of cement this time
(image)Rotted nipple on 3 and end of a wire spool
The bad luck of irrigation breaks came in 3's with the last being on the 3rd hole. Luckily we caught this one before it was a major blow out. It certainly was ready. We discovered a massive amount of extra wire in the ground. Our guess was they were at the end of the spool so simply hooked it up and buried it. This is never a good idea since while digging up the head it is hard enough to avoid hitting the regular amount of wires in the ground. We cut it out when making the repair. Every hole is an adventure. 
Lastly, I had the pleasure of playing golf with the President of GCSAA Bill Maynard, CGCS. He was invited to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of Cape Cod. We were originally slated to host the Sept meeting but it became the perfect month to have this celebration and New Seabury volunteered. We do not have the facilities and as luck would have it I heard they were the first location 50 years ago. It was a perfect day and the current board did a great job with lots of memorabilia, a slide show of historic pictures, 50th pin presentations and great gifts. The foursome pictured is Bill, Brian Smoot, President GCSACC, Paul Doherty, Past Pres. GCSACC, and me Way past president GCSACC.
(image) turns 50

Aeration Update

Irma stayed away long enough for us to complete most of our work.  Monday and Tuesday were great for aerating and topdressing.  Wednesday was supposed to be a big clean up day where we did more brushing, sweeping, and blowing.   However, rain and clouds held us back until 2:30 when the sun finally popped out.  The sand won't move if it's wet so we lost about 5 hours of greens clean up time waiting on the sun.  Thanks to Tim, Ryan, and Richard for hanging around to help us get the front nine brushed and blown.  Today, if the clouds disappear, we will wrap up the back nine clean up and get everything rolled.  We are open for play today, but the greens are not where we'd hoped they'd be. With a little luck we should be able to put the finishing touches on them today and get the recovery process in full swing.  Here are pictures of the process that has been underway since Monday at 6:00 AM.  The guys have worked extremely hard to get this done and I am very proud of the results.  You have a great team!

                                                  (image)                                                            1...Light Verticut


                                                  (image)                                                              3...Shovel up plugs

(image)After steps 1,2,3.

Steps 4 and 5 are topdressing and brushing

                                              (image)                                                      6...Blowing off excess sand

(image)What they look like after the first 6 steps
Irma Clean-up

Our hearts and prayers are for all the people who have been affected by hurricanes Harvey and Irma. While we have received some significant damage to the golf course, nobody was hurt and our damage will be relatively easy to clean-up.  We spent the better part of Tuesday, helping the HOA remove trees on the roads in Highlands Falls while also clearing paths on many member's driveways so that they could get in and out of their homes.

(image)Falls Drive West along #19.
(image)Falls Drive West.
(image)Outside the maintenance building.All of the damage to the golf course was caused by high winds from hurricane Irma.  While the eye did not pass near us, we still received gusts of 50 mph for over an 18 hour period.  This caused a significant amount of limbs and other debris to cover the course, all of which will need to be picked up by hand.  Additionally, a large number of trees have fallen throughout the course, but mainly on the front nine.
(image)Along #1 fairway.
(image)Along #8 fairway.
(image)Potential catastrophe.  This tree knocked the 1000 gal propane tank over at the maintenance facility.The clean-up will take some time but we will get the course open as soon as possible.  Please be aware that we will be leaving many of the stumps from the fallen trees in place for now.  We will remove these during the off-season.  Piles of limbs and debris will be stationed on several holes in the rough to be chipped into the woods.
(image)Another tree on #8.
(image)Along #5.
6&7 Bunker Prep
The team was hard at work Preparing course for possible hurricane Irma and continued bunker improvement on 6 & 7 greensides.  Sod will come tomorrow and drainage was added to these bunkers. We started preparing turf for heavy rain by spraying a growth regulator and preemergent herbicide to combat any down time caused by Irma. […](image)
Peak to Peak

Have you ever run a marathon?  If you're like the vast majority of people, the answer is a definite, "No!".  However, for both the maintenance staff and the turf, the past two weeks have felt like back to back marathons.

The first push started as we prepared for one of the Club's premier events, the fall Member-Member.  We always coordinate our late summer aerification with the timing of this event in an effort to have the course in great condition.  With the wet weather of August delaying the completion of aerifiying, we knew having things completely healed would be close.  Based on comments from members who participated in the event, we got a nice thumbs up.

We had no time to pat ourselves on the back after the Member-Member, as Laurel Creek hosted the Philadelphia PGA Professional Championship last week, beginning with a Pro-Am on Monday, and concluding on Thursday.  Over 140 of the area's pros were competing for the title, and from beginning to end, this was a positive experience for all involved.

For starters, the communication with the PGA Section Staff was outstanding.  We had met to discuss course setup well ahead of time, and their were no last minute requests or surprises.  To the contrary, the PGA officials asked repeatedly if everything was good on our end, or if we needed anything.

It was also unusual, and refreshing that not one single time during this four day event were we asked the green speed.  To repeat, the number of times we were asked the speed was:  Zero.  That truly is something to take a step back and consider.  Pin placements were chosen by putting to a potential location, not by a number.

That being said, we did hear adjectives describing the putting surfaces, such as "fast," "slick" and "really fast."

Another thing the staff appreciated was how the players went  out of their way to thank them for the hard work they do.  We even had a player swing into the maintenance facility between #17 green and #18 tee to thank us.

While we saw some low scores posted the first two days, with the tees pulled back on the final day of competition, there were few red numbers to be found:
(image)Terry Hertzog's -2 was one better than Dave Quinn.
Despite two straight weeks of abuse, both the turf and staff held up extremely well!  The guys will be very happy to back off double-mowing for a few days.  However, it's now on to the next challenge, as we have July-like temperatures to deal with for a bit...
How Perception Affects Reality
We all know that first impressions are important.  These initial impressions set the tone for how something or someone will be perceived during future interactions.  How does this perception, be it negative or positive, affect the reality?  Perception is a way of interpreting, or gaining a mental impression of something. If we begin our interactions …(image)
18 holes open
All 18 holes will open for play Saturday morning. Bunkers should be treated as ground under repair.  The team persevered through 90 degree temperatures and high humidity to get course playable in less than 4 days.  Prime Time Players!!! Hole 4 Monday morning  Hole 4 Friday evening sunset ready for golf!(image)
Project Time

Although we are just a week removed from Labor Day, we are already starting on some project work that will improve the golf course in the future.  This fall we will be renovating one acre of Fescue, between #7 and 13.

This past week, we started by cutting the area down.  Some might say that playability has already improved here!

Over the next several weeks we will be making herbicide applications to this area.  If you see it roped off, or "Keep Out" signs, please do not enter--we don't want the herbicide tracked onto the primary rough or fairways.  As we did during the renovation work last year, ball retrievers will be placed outside the area for you to use.
Irma Recovery
It’s been over a week post Irma and the course is starting to come back to normal.  We opened all 18 holes on Saturday only 4 days after the destruction.  Again, this was a total team effort and quite remarkable.  This week we are putting the bunkers back in shape.  They have been flooded and […](image)
An very exciting end to the member-member tournament.   
(image)Lots of interested spectators watching flight champions competing for over all winner.  
(image)Half the field went down 10 the other half went down 1.  
(image)Mr. Joe Ascolese  in the final group coming down 18. Hitting his approach shot.  
(image)Partner, Mr. Al Johansmeyer next to play.   

(image)Pressure is on, Mr. Tim Lehey  hits approach while partner Mr. Rockford Chun  Looks on.  

(image)Putt on 18 to go into extra holes.    
(image)Great shot from right rough on first extra hole.  
(image)Strategy, strategy, strategy.  
(image)Chance to put the pressure on.  
(image)Great final put to win the match on first extra hole.  
(image)Congratulations to Mr. Joe Ascolese and Mr. Al Johnnsmeyer this years Member-Member overall winners.
Congratulation to Mr. Tim Lehey and Mr. Rockford Chun for finishing in second place.
and Congratulation to all the flight winners.   
Training Day

One of the great joys of my job is taking the time to train a staff member on a new task and operate a new piece of equipment.  This weekend I was fortunate to train not just one staff member but two on two different pieces of equipment and they were all smiles!

On Saturday, Dima Litvinov from the Ukraine, got his first taste of triplex mowing greens.  I sometimes take it for granted the detail needed to operate a mower on a green since I've done it for over 30 years.  However, Dima did an excellent job for his first time out and will only get better with time.

On Sunday, I spent part of the morning training Dedek Suprianto from Indonesia, on the proper technique of mowing the rough on a Jacobsen AR-522.  I was amazed at how quickly he learned how to operate the machine.

By cross training our staff we accomplish two goals.  The first is obvious in that we have more trained staff to perform the necessary tasks on the course.  If someone gets sick, there is someone already trained to fill their shoes.  The second is that we satisfy each employee's need for personal fulfillment by continually expanding their knowledge and giving them opportunities to succeed.

Fall is near!

Like any other summer the Grounds team continues to press forward with a very full fall agenda ahead which includes:

  • Ladies fall invitational
  • Construction of the whiffle ball field for Labor Day celebrations
  • Founders Cup
  • Fall Aerification 9/11-9/12
  • Various small course enhancements

As all of you know there are big changes coming to the pool and surrounding common areas. As part of The Legacy Plan, the Grounds staff is currently involved with relocation of irrigation, construction of temporary parking lots and various other minor details to help with this significant undertaking. Over the next few weeks Bryan Miller (Horticulturalist) and Natalie Selker (Landscape Architect) are collaborating to develop landscape plans for the pool area. Thus far, it has been exciting for me to observe these professionals brainstorm to come up with a plan that will make these areas shine! We all know it has been well overdue!

Due to the proximity of the pool and the scope of the construction golf cart traffic and playability near the 16th green will be impacted, please observe signage and we will send updates out as the project progresses.

(image)Rough Sketches of Pool Landscape

Of recent, there have been many great questions raised about the smoothness of the Zoysia grass fairways. The fairways were aerified in late July. One of the challenges with Zoysia grass is that is a slow growing Turfgrass, thus the healing process has taken slightly longer with the cooler temperatures. The aeration holes are completely grown over, but the Turfgrass plant is not as upright and greener where the hole was made compared to the non-aerified turf. This is typical in the recovery process, however these turf conditions have not been seen in almost 5 years since the last Aerification occurred. Most Zoysia golf courses core cultivate annually, I have chosen not to because; organic levels have been low, it is expensive and most importantly it slow to recover in the Northern part of the transition zone. However, this season the fairways seemed softer thus it was time to aerify.


(image)Close up of Zoysia(image)Wide shot of the 18th

I don't anticipate to aerify the fairways next year, however in the future we employ a couple different strategies

  • Smaller aeration hole to help with recovery
  • Spot aeration of areas that have higher levels of organic matter
  • Solid tine aeration
  • Slightly higher nitrogen levels following the process

Thanks again for the questions and feedback on the course!

Pat O'Brien

Grounds Superintendent


(image)Posted with Blogsy
On a Roll

The new greens roller we acquired this year has been a great addition to our equipment inventory.  In particular, following aerification, we can do a much better job of smoothing the greens with this roller than with the triplex roller we have used for years.

One of the reasons we had been hesitant to purchase a "sidewinder" roller in the past, was that most of these machines are transported from green to green on a trailer, and/or pulled by a utility vehicle.

The additional time required to load and unload the roller onto a trailer would have meant that we needed two rollers to get the job completed ahead of play.  Besides the two rollers, we would also need two utility vehicles to pull them, as well as two of our best equipment operators to use the machines.

In contrast to this, the roller we purchased needs no trailer or utility vehicle to pull it from hole to hole.  With the push of a button, the wheels lower, and the machine zips from green to green.  Below is the roller leaving #9 green:
(image)Wheels down for transport.

Finding the self-transporting machine finally sold us on a sidewinder that would fit into our maintenance program.  We can now get all of the greens rolled in just slightly more time than our old triplex roller, without needing any additional personnel, or tying up any additional equipment.
(image)Wheels are raised when rolling.
Bentgrass Removal Trial
Last week we sprayed out some of the bentgrass that is in the fairways of Lake 5, Mountain 4, 5, 8 and Canyon 2 approach.  We are trying two different rates and two different products.  In the meantime, the bentgrass will have a bleached appearance. After the second application on the 20th we will verticut multiple times, shave the areas down with a low height of cut mower, seed and topdress.  I hope to have the process dialed in for 2018 and we can remove the bentgrass that has contaminated the fairways on a much larger scale.

Why would I want to remove the bentgrass?  Bentgrass thatch accumulation is very fast and that thatch holds onto water like a sponge.  For the player, this leads to a plugged ball.  For the maintenance department, we can't get water past the top inch and some products we apply need to get into the soil to work.

Roundup on the left with the crabgrass still green on the right.


We have been busy prepping the course for the Member - Member.   Daily, Double cutting and rolling have started.   Working on getting all the rough mowed and detail work done.  Looking forward to a great tournament.   Cool mornings mean a lot of dew forms.  Nice pin,  don't be short!!!

Here is Jay applying a foliar Fertilizer.   Trying to get the grass to grow to fill in the holes but also want to maintain green speeds.  A tough combination.

They say a watched pot never boils.  Well, I can tell you that watched aerification holes never heal. At least it seems to take a long time.   Luckily of course the water boils and yes the holes do heal. Greens are getting better and better every day and we are only a couple of days away from putting this years aerification behind us.  

Greens are in good shape just need a little more time to heal over.

Some areas are almost completely healed.

Other areas need just a few more days.

Ball roll is not that bad.

A Little Seed in the Rough
During the past couple of weeks our staff has been overseeding the rough with improved varieties of turfgrass. Overseeding is the planting of grass seed directly into existing turf, without tearing up the turf or the soil. It's an effective way to fill in bare spots, improve the density of turf, and establish improved grass varieties.

Overseeding newer turfgrass varieties into the rough can help it better withstand insects, disease, drought, shady conditions, and heavy traffic. The investment in overseeding pays off by reducing the amount of fertilizer, water, and pesticides required. Additionally, the new varieties of turfgrass offer better playability along with improved aesthetics and plant health. 

(image)Seeding with the Turfco TriWaveThe method that we use to overseed is 'slit-seeding' with a mechanical seeder. This is the best method for overseeding established turf. Slit-seeders have verticutting blades that cut through the thatch layer and open up a slit or miniature furrow. While there is some disturbance to the existing turf, it is minimal and the benefits far out weigh the alternative of doing nothing at all. The seeder drops seed into the slit to ensure the seed gets into the soil where it can germinate. More seed-to-soil contact means a higher germination rate and a better stand of new grass.

In the Highlands area, late summer through early fall is the best time to overseed, as soil and atmospheric temperatures are most favorable for optimum seed germination and growth. With adequate moisture, fertilizer and sunlight, the new seedlings will be well established before the cooler fall weather sets in. 

(image)Germination after 1.5 weeks(image)Germination after 2.5 weeks(image)Germination after 3 weeksWe appreciate your patience while we work to improve the course and as always, thank you for your continued support. 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, median tenure for wage and salary employees is less than 5 years.  Think about that and now consider that August 2017 marked Kelly McGee's 30th year with the Tacoma Country and Golf Club.
(image)Kelly McGee

As it says in the dictionary, one does not receive tenure just by holding a position for some length of time.  One receives tenure also because he or she has the right to keep a job permanently.  Well let me tell you that Kelly McGee has most certainly earned that right. I should know.  I've known Kelly for 24 years and worked with him for 22.  I first met him when I took the Assistant Superintendent position at Tacoma in 1993 and he is still now as he was then.....dedicated and consistent.  He tries hard at every task he's given.  He's never late to work.  He'll come in on a day off when we're short handed, and there isn't a single thing we do on the golf course that he isn't good at.  People like Kelly don't come around very often.  He is truly an asset to this fine golf club and I look forward to working with him for many more years.  He's super healthy, able, and willing so I don't see him retiring any time soon.  How did we celebrate Kelly's anniversary?  We got him a nice gift to commemorate his tenure, bought donuts for the staff, and I sent him home for the day with pay.  We also gave him some gift cards to the cinema and some restaurants with instructions to take his wife and spend a day on the town.  In addition to his tenure at Tacoma Country and Golf Club, Kelly served with the Army reserves so with all sincerity I say to Mr. Kelly McGee ........"THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE".  

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