Wednesday, January 10, 2018

What’s wrong with golf / what’s right with golf

I have taken a fairly large break from my blog, I've missed it and I'm ashamed to say that I was hiding.
I was afraid. Afraid to change my blog from what I knew and what was familiar, to what was new and unfamiliar. I have spent more time this past year visiting courses, learning products, looking at turf (good and not-so-good), and keeping my mouth shut. I was afraid that blogging would turn people off, afraid that now people would think I'm a know-it-all. While I will be the first to admit that I don't know it all, I can tell you this......I have spent more time FOCUSED on talking turf and seeing first hand what works and what doesn't.
I can also say that my passion for this great game has grown, as has the passion for making sure that the facilities that provide us area for this great game succeed.
I still believe that blogging needs to be short, so I will attempt to make longer blogs into shorter series of blogs.
Although I deal in turf products, I wanted my first blog back to talk about the great sport.
What is working in golf.....
PGA junior leagues!
Whoever came up with this concept should have a bronze statue of themselves somewhere prominent soon. This is so cool, I think I'll see if I can't blog an interview with the dude. For me to do it would not do the concept justice. If your facility isn't engaged, see if it could be a fit for you. I can't imagine any mid-level club that wouldn't benefit from this. If you don't know if you are a mid-level club, I'm gonna guess that you are.


Topdressing works....set a target and do it. There are only three things that happen to thatch and organic matter.
1) you dilute it
2) you manage it
3) you increase it

Option 2 is only if you have an acceptable level of thatch /mat

Option 3 is only acceptable if you are brand new.

Want quality surfaces? Topdress!

In all my travels, the things that separate great surfaces from ok surfaces is the commitment to regular topdressing. Topdressing is like anything else, should have a targeted amount that is based upon the growth habit of the turf, growth rates, and soil type...basically is specific to your facility.
Don't have time to topdress? Take out all the ballwashers and use that labor (see what's not working in golf below).

Long range planning

Long range planning is prevalent at all clubs that are doing well. Who you are and where you are going is a characteristic of every successful facility. Don't forget the funding component of long range planning.

Natural areas

Establishment of natural areas in out of play areas have helped facilitate cost savings. These areas are not maintenance free. Natural areas take some management, especially if they are to remain playable.  Nevertheless, natural areas can help a facility save money...Bonus: its good for the environment.

What's not working in golf...

Ballwashers, elaborate flower plantings, trees, and any other golf course amenities that take away from basic programs like.......drum roll please.........TOPDRESSING

If you can't afford the sand to hit your target topdressing amount, remove every single thing that doesn't directly contribute to the golf experience immediately. Don't form a committee to discuss, recommend, or research. And cancel your order for $20,000 in tee signs.

Then buy sand.

Outside services

The best facilities have established clear realistic expectations of the experience that they can provide with the given resources. They have done this with the input of the staff that is on site. Chances are, you have some pretty passionate individuals that are performing as competent department heads at your facility. All of the answers are right in front of you. I bet that they would be happy to share in the success of your facility.

2018 is going to be great for golf!

A vast majority of the facilities I visit have demographics of women and children prowling all over the grounds. Golf is growing and is not dying, it is simply too great of a game and contains too many life lessons. It is providing a healthy recreational outlet that can be enjoyed throughout ones lifetime. It's good to be back....

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Why does my Golf Course Superintendent ruin the greens!?!?

I know that many may think that the answer is because he is evil and hates golf, but nothing could be further from the truth.  We are obviously referring to the practice of aerification. The surfaces on a golf course are intensely managed playing fields and the reality is that they require a great deal of attention and labor.  Aerification is one of the most labor intensive practices on a golf course and believe me, it is no fun for your golf course superintendent.
One of the most common practices for golfers is to compare the process of aerification at their course with that of their best friend, or better yet their course that they play in a different part of the country.  It was common to hear from a member what the course in Florida would do, interesting as it was, it was apples and oranges.  Soils are very different across numerous types of delineation boundaries.
Dominant Soils of the U.S.
 Not only are soils different north to south, east to west, but even on the same property.
I managed a course that glaciation had carved out a great lake, Lake Michigan.  The old Lake Michigan shoreline cut right across the property.  Nine holes was beautiful sandy loam soil and the other 18 was a terrible grey clay.  Our aerification philosophy was different for different holes on the same property!

The photo below is of an Aerification tine known as a hollow tine.  The hollow tine has a cut out which allows the soil to enter up and through the tine and eject onto the surface of whatever is being aerifyed. The above photo is a result of aerifying with a hollow tine.  The core is the soil and turf that is ejected out of the tine and deposited on the soil.  When hollow tine core aerification is done, the cores need to be cleaned up, either disposed of, or chopped up and incorporated into the playing surface.
The type of soil will dictate how much work and what type of process will follow core aerification.

Solid tines come in a variety of configurations.  The type of solid tine that is used is chosen for whatever the goal is.  A cross tine may be used for venting if the goal is to maximize surface area of soil that is to be exposed to air and if playability allows.  Solid tines come in a variety of sizes and the size that is used will be chosen to balance playability with the goals.
Goals of aerification, aside from making you the most popular employee at the club for two weeks, can range from amending the soil, organic matter control, improving root zone drainage, compaction relief, soil venting, disruption and correction of layering, soil composition improvement, improving the soil chemistry, interseeding and more.
Brooming sand after hollow tine
You see, since there are so many different reasons to aerify, no two courses may be trying to achieve the same result in a given year.  These playing surface are dynamic and needs change from year to year and even month to month.  Understanding why your Golf Course Superintendent aerifys a certain way, takes understanding your soils, structure, and turfgrass system, and the goals of such cultural practices to achieve the best playing surfaces possible.
Labor intensive work = not fun for anyone

The health of a turfgrass plant begins in the soil, it is the part of the system that the avid golfer do not see.  It is easy to dismiss aerification as an unnecessary disruption, however it is critical to the success of providing a quality playing surface that can withstand the stresses that are thrown at these systems.  The harder and more frequent the stress that we inflict on these systems, the more frequent and intense our cultural practices need to be.
So, don't worry, soon the playing surfaces will be healed, and the disruption will pay dividends.
Life is good,

Friday, August 12, 2016

Expansion of the "World of Turf"

Today is the end of one stage for me and the beginning of another. I end a career as COO and Director of Golf Operations, and enter into the world of providing service to my colleagues.
There are a flood of emotions through me, including sadness, excitement, and a little fear. Change is difficult, the golf course is all I know. It has been great to have the support of everyone around me encouraging me and insisting that I will be successful.
One of the things I am looking forward to, is more time with this blog. This blog will really become the "World of Turf" as I blog about all kinds of turf and golf courses and not just Briar Ridge. It is my hope that my sales visits will result in some great stories, photos, and information. I just hope that my colleagues will trust me enough to let me use them as topics.
The guys surrounding me are the ones I owe my success to, Marco Huerta, Flavio Huerta, David Rodriquiz, and Polo Huerta. These guys have been with me the entire time and had my back every time. There were also two special assistants, Dave Miloshoff and Andrew Reynolds. These two guys made me shine like a superstar.
I owe my success as a Golf Course Superintendent to my staff and the Golf Professional Staffs that I have worked with. Jack Sudac was a big supporter of mine and I will be forever grateful.
I would have never made it to Briar Ridge without Joe Williamson and Joel Purpur, thanks guys.
I look forward to the next chapter, and I hope you do too. This is just the beginning as we open the door to the "World of Turf."
Thanks to everyone at Briar, you are the best and will be missed......just ask Ralph,

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Happy first day of President's Cup

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so check out the last photo, it explains the others. This is a tiny insight into some of the conversations we have at the club. The water had to be shut off to the bathrooms as the plumbing is behind the cinder-block wall. We will have to break out the wall to make the repair, so the bathrooms will be closed for a few days. We are very sorry for the inconvenience.
Good luck to all the Presidents Cup participants. Come check out the shootout Sunday afternoon around 2:30, it is a great event!
Vandalism makes Ralphie sad,

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Dedos to the rescue?

The Dedos machine, shown below has been one of my favorite machines at Briar. I use it for a variety of situations.
We are running it today to try and help with our dry spots. The small slices it is putting in the turf will be treated with wetting agents and then hand watered in. As the photos show, these areas are still dry. The rain has not infiltrated into the hydrophobic areas.
With the humid weather and storms forecasted, we don't want to risk overwatering, therefore treating these areas with hand watering is again necessary.
There are many of these areas on each fairway.
War has been declared,

Friday, June 24, 2016

Would you rather?............

Is a fun game to play, and today I find myself asking if I would rather deal with "hot and dry" or "damp and muggy."  Since these two conditions are typical of our Northern Summers, these are the choices I provided for this game.  I have to say, "hot and dry" by far!  Now, I must clarify.  Dry is only tolerable if your irrigation coverage and output capabilities are adequate, if not, dry is no fun.  Our coverage and output is less than stellar, and typically hand watering replaces mowing.  We have discussed in the last couple of posts localized dry spots and how they also create the need for labor intensive hand watering.
Hand watering can also be necessary because as you can see in the photo, if we run the sprinkler to water the mound on the left, you would be hitting from soup on the right.  Irrigation is scheduled for adequate moisture in the majority of the playing surface and NOT the least common denominator.
The first photo also shows that the area affected by the dryness is relatively small in comparison to the entire fairway.  In the second photo, we zoom in on the area circled in the first photo.  Yuck, looks like a big dead spot, right?  In the third photo, we zoom in on the area in the second photo and reveal that with a little bit of moisture, we have begun to recuperate.  
Recuperation of these areas that were affected by moisture stress takes some time.  I constantly remind the staff to be careful when watering these areas.  The tendency is to expect them to turn green as you water them and thus drowning them and creating soggy areas that die and turn to dirt.  Educating the staff that these areas will take time to heal and that it is important to maintain the playability of these areas while nursing them back to health is a delicate balance.  "You can play off of brown, you can't play off of muck," is a phrase they have heard over and over again.  Encouraging them to be comfortable with the process and not expecting immediate results is a challenge.
I will explain why damp and muggy is not my choice when I return from battle with the dollar spot fungus which exploded overnight.
I would insert a clever hashtag to sign off with since my photos were edited with a popular social media app, but I really don't like hashtags.
I hope you have a marvelous day!

Sent from Erwin's phone, please excuse grammar and punctuation.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Localized dry spot and water-fearing soil

Golf Course Superintendents speak some strange language.  For instance, hydrophobic soils; really?  Yes, it is true, the soil can begin to repel water. 
My series of photos show a contrast of two soil samples taken side by side.  These two areas receive irrigation from the same irrigation heads.
When we find this type of situation, obviously we must hand water, but we also turn to other tools to help out.  Marco is shown watering these areas with a device on the hose that can contain a "pellet" of wetting agents.  Certain wetting agents help remove the organic acid coating on the soil particles which contribute to the hydrophobicity.  The pellet is much like a soap, helping water get into the soil by breaking water tension.  Some wetting agents are designed to help hold water in certain situations.  The array of products have become difficult to dissect, so the USGA and Michigan State University helped out with this research
With all of the science and experience supporting us, there is still no magic bullet.  Since each course has a unique soil structure and water chemistry, each Golf Course Superintendent is on his/her own to determine what works for the property they steward.
Have a great day, they are now getting shorter,

Sent from Erwin's phone, please excuse grammar and punctuation.