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.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

I will take "real rain" for $100 Alex....

The overnight and morning rain, sounded nice. It made the birds chirp louder, knocked down some of the dust off the patio furniture, but it didn't do a whole bunch to deficit of soil moisture.
The photo of the plug taken out of the ground shows very little moisture in the top portion of the plug. This time of year the roots are low and we want to punch the water down. The subsequent photos show just how dry that plug is, the soil crumbles into a dry powder. Superintendents often talk about thatch and controlling excessive amounts of thatch. The thatch in our fairways acts like a sponge and prevents water from moving down to the roots. Warm dry days with low humidity and light wind (like we have had), will pull moisture from the upper layers of thatch readily. Even though we have been watering, we can't put enough water down to move through the spongy thatch. The moisture we add overnight is simply pulled into the atmosphere during the day.
To try and manage these situations, we also utilize products called wetting agents or penetrants to reduce the water tension, and help the water down. Some guys will even take to strange customs like drawing turtles in the western-most bunker, but that's another post someday.
So, if you see us out hand watering today, we haven't gone crazy..........yet.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Trees and golf

Golf Course Superintendents refer to the time of Memorial Day until Labor Day as The 100 Days. This is the stressful time to grow cool season turf. The sun will be at its highest point in the sky soon, UV radiation begins to damage the plant, respiration outpaces photosynthesis, irrigation systems become irritation systems, and so on.
Our 100 day stretch at Briar is marked by small fluffy white stuff falling from the sky. No, it's not snow, it is cottonwood seed. Shortly after the oaks finish making their mess on the property, it's the cottonwood's turn. I love trees, I really do, I just want them in the correct place, maintained, and not damaging assets.
Tree management in golf costs real dollars. Branches on playing surfaces must be removed prior to mowing, loose debris clogs up rollers and radiators, tree bases require hand trimming, and tree canopies need to be properly maintained. (We won't mention leaf removal until October 😀)
Trees directly impact the bottom line by the money that is spent maintaining them and indirectly by causing delays in work production. As we enter our 100 days, we like to be as efficient as possible, to free up labor for the important job of managing the cultural methods that are necessary to keep the cool season turf alive during the peak of stress. The jobs of slicing, spiking, hand watering, top dressing, brushing, and so on, need to be the priority in June, July, and August.
I hope you had a pleasant holiday.
See you on the slopes, I made first tracks!

Friday, May 20, 2016

We Are Golf

Wednesday, I met with Senators Joe Donnelly and Daniel Coats, and Congressman Peter Visclosky to discuss pending legislation and the impacts to the Golf Industry.  I was impressed at the attention and time we were given.  I was joined by Linda Rogers and Michelle Wittig, who represented the National Golf Course Owners Association.  
Before moving into the issues, we wanted to make sure congress understood the economic, charitable, environmental, and health and wellness aspects of golf.
Golf contributes $68.8 billion to the American economy.  One in 75 jobs is impacted by our industry.  Golf is bigger than spectator sports, performing arts, and the amusement and recreation industries.  In 2011, the National charitable impact of golf was $3.9 billion; which is more than MLB, NFL, NBA, and the NHL combined!
I have always been a fan of golf and the environment.  Golf is the only connection to nature for some.  Golf provides more than two million acres of green space to urban areas.
My favorite aspect of golf? The health benefits.  I love to walk nine holes.  As inactivity among Americans skyrockets, walking 18 holes is the equivalent of a 3.5 mile run or a 5 mile walk.
With all the wonderful things that golf provides, we are still a small business.  Regulations such as Overtime Pay Rule, and other issues such as H-2B Visa Delays, Waters of the United States rule, the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act, all impact our sustainability.  Thanks to all of our Allied Partners for showing up to support golf!
Visit, and see why people like Nancy Lopez feel compelled to join together on the Hill.
Special thanks to Briar Ridge for allowing me the time to promote our great sport!
Let's go golf,

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

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Keeping you comfortable

Monday's are always a busy day for the course. This Monday was a busy day for the clubhouse. We installed two new rooftop units for the Willows. These two units were over 15 years old and had served the club well.
The club continues to improve, in many ways, and in many areas that go unnoticed. HVAC units are not real "fun" improvements, but very necessary. This summer as you enjoy the view outside the wall of windows in the Willows, the club hopes you are comfortable.
Please join us for Casino Night this Saturday!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Stump removal

We have begun to remove some of the stumps on the golf course. As you know, there are several areas on the course, riddled with stumps. The removal process is relatively quick. The subsequent removal or material, backfilling, and final preparations take a significant amount of time. We are excited that we have begun the process, please be patient with us as we go through the remaining steps.
Please be careful, as some of the areas will be cleaned of mulch and the hole will remain. We will have areas marked, however please pay attention when driving a cart in the rough. These areas do not require white paint until the chips are removed as they are covered under the provisions for material piled for removal.
Yea Free drop!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Branches branches everywhere

Growing good turf is easier on soil than wood. It is important that before we subject the course to cart traffic, we get branches picked up. This time of year we are busy with plenty of preparations for the entire facility. We are working to open the red course for the weekend. Bunkers are still being repaired and now the turf is beginning to grow and we will be doing our second mowing on fairways and tees. There is a great deal of work still to get the course into mid-season form. When we remove cart path restrictions, please be mindful and avoid areas with branches.
Excited to see the sun again,

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

If you love a child, introduce them to golf

Talk to anyone with a child in youth sports and I guarantee you will hear a story of a coach screaming and 10-12 year old kids. The organized sport boom, resulted in well meaning, training lacking, adults in roles of coaching and influencing kids. Travel teams and the money involved in such endeavors or private lessons have left parents looking for an R.O.I. When the return is to be perfection and championships out of pre-pubescent humans, disappointment is likely. The pressure for youths to perform like professionals can be felt on any sidelines. We are accepting the treatment of youths in these sports that we would not tolerate elsewhere. We would never think to speak to an employee the way that coaches are speaking to our children. There is still one sport that has a professional coach at the
Here at the club, a sport is taught with such concepts as
1. Positive mental imagery
2. Humility
3. Visualization of success
4. Reacting indifferently to bad shots or failure.
5. Positive self esteem
6. Awareness of negativity and doubt
7. Feeding the positive voice
These are just a few of the concepts that are needed to play golf and to perform. These values are shared with nearly every golf professional I have ever met. If you wish for a positive sporting experience for your child, look no further than golf.
Negativity has no place on the course or practice facility. Golf just won't have it. So when you tire of the screaming and craziness of our typical youth sports, golf will be here, waiting, with open arms.
Looks like a great weekend,

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Silly Country Club Rules

I have been fortunate to be a guest at some of the finest Country Clubs in the United States.  Prior to arrival, I am usually briefed upon the "rules," that if broken would cause embarrassment to myself or my host.  Occasionally, I don't receive any such briefing.  Left to my own devices, I default into basic gentlemanly behavior.  This "default" mode proves to be effective, most of the time.  The last few blog posts have been about the great game of golf and what a Country Club contributes to ones life and experience.  With the crazy that surrounds us in society today, just look at the presidential nomination situation, our club stands as a pillar of what is right with society.
My daughter is getting older, soon she will be off to college.  I hope that she will spend the next few years "hanging" at the club.  The club is a college in itself, teaching respect, manners, and social skills.  The one thing that I love about our club is that we don't have many rules.  I was recently asked what the club rule regarding hats was.  I knew immediately where this was going, the member wanted to know what to do with their hat in the clubhouse.   My answer was simple, we don't have a rule, but if you would like to discuss what gentleman do with their hats, well we can discuss that.  The member agreed and told me how he wanted to do the right thing and thought Briar Ridge should have a rule about hats.  We had a great discussion and in the end, we agreed that not having a written rule made Briar Ridge a special place, it was up to the individual to determine his or her standard.  Now, here is the really cool part.  95% of the membership take their hats off in the clubhouse.  At lunchtime, hats will be on a seat or the floor, not on the table.  We don't have a rule, we have a group of excellent gentleman members who understand and appreciate etiquette.  This is the type of club that I want to be in.
Not sure what to do with a headdress indoors.
As the golf season is coming soon, I thought I would include a piece on hat etiquette.

Hats can be left on…
       At athletic events (indoors or out)
       On public transportation
       In public buildings such as post offices, airports,  and hotel or office lobbies
       On elevators

Take hats off, including baseball caps …
  • In the presence of women

       In someone’s home
       At mealtimes, at the table
       While being introduced, indoors or out (unless it’s frigid!)
       In a house of worship, unless a hat or head covering is required
       Indoors at work, especially in an office (unless required for the job)
       In public buildings such as a school, library, courthouse, or town hall
       In restaurants and coffee shops
       At a movie or any indoor performance
       When the national anthem is played
       When the flag of the United States passes by, as in a parade

Donning my hat,


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Golf Is Not Dead!!!

I apologize for the long post, but I am passionate about some things.  I Love my little girl, although she is getting bigger and stronger, she is still my little girl.  As a parent, I want the best for my child.  For years, I have planted little seeds.  It was my hope that some day those seeds would germinate and sprout into an inspiration for her to act.  I tried to expose her to as much good that life has to offer.  For instance, I wanted her to take away from her childhood the following:
   A sense of community
   A healthy competitive hunger
   Appreciation of nature and beauty
   Strong social skills
   The virtue of honesty 
   Long lasting moral character
   Physical fitness
   Athletic coordination
   Focus of the mind

The tendency for me to become "lecturey"  to my daughter was pointed out (by her) from time to time.  If I recognized a "teaching moment" I was on it, fast and furious.  I knew that there was an easy way to instill all the above qualities in one simple act......Golf.

Golf is indeed the greatest game ever played.  There has been much talk about golf dying in the past decade, we allowed people to talk about the time commitment, frustration, and expense.  Golf simply allowed itself to be beat up by naysayers. Well, I have had enough.  Golf is not dying.  Golf will not go away.  We don't need to change the rules or make it more fun. We need the golfer that loves this game, that understands the true essence of the game, to get back to the roots of the game, and introduce someone to "true golf."

It makes me sad, but Golf was abused.  Property developers looking to cash in, built courses to produce home values without considering the demand for golf.  Without the demand, these courses had no chance.  These developments were reckless and irresponsible.  They hurt a game I love.  The resulting perception was that golf must be dying, and we allowed people to shout it from the rooftops.  The incoming generation heard these alarms, is it surprising that they didn't want to take up the sport?  NO!  Who wants to participate in something that is perceived as dying?

I got bad news for all the Golf Is Dead proclaimers.........Golf is Alive and Kicking, and it is a little miffed.  Yet, we continue to keep silent.  Take this years Phoenix Open.  A record crowd of 201,003 was announced for the third round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which is 30,000 more than the Kentucky Derby posted in May. An estimated 1,000 people were lined up outside when the gates opened at 7 a.m., most of whom made a mad dash for a coveted spot at the 16th hole.

We also allowed some of the biggest advocates to of golf to do the greatest damage.  The PGA Tour commentators love to tell you how far these players hit it.  They tried to make it a game of power, tee to green, down the middle, two putts, =  BORING.

The PGA Tour has 209 players, 34 have driving average over 300 yards.  We must also consider that the conditions these players play these courses under, is not the same as the average amateur.  We play a different game.  I don't want to take anything away form these players, but the emphasis should not be on distance.  True golf, understands that golf is about art and creativity.  Players can make the ball do all kinds of things off the club face.  Shots can be hit high, low, spinning left, drifting right, low and climbing, low runners, and the list goes on and on.  The perfect shot is the one that you see in your head at the given time.  True golf knows this.  

Parents are looking for alternatives.  Cell phones are impacting social skills.  Children are encouraged to get outside and be active.  We want something safe and long lasting........Golf duh!

Concussion conversations are happening, here are some stats (note these are suspected to be underrated):
   50% of "second impact syndrome" incidents - brain injury caused from a premature return to activity after suffering initial injury (concussion) - result in death.  
    Female high school soccer athletes suffer almost 40% more concussions than males (29,000 annually)
    Female high school basketball players suffer 240% more concussions than males (13,000).
    400,000 brain injuries (concussions) occurred in high school athletics during the 2008-09 school year.
    Emergency department visits for concussions sustained during organized team sports doubled among 8-13 year olds between 1997 and 2007 and nearly tripled among older youth.  
    Concussion rates more than doubled among students age 8-19 participating in sports like basketball, soccer and football between 1997-2007, even as participation in those sports declined.   
    More than 248,000 children visited hospital emergency departments in 2009 for concussions and other traumatic brain injuries related to sports and recreation.

Golf is healthy, Golf is good, Golf is exactly what we are all looking for as an escape from this chaotic world.  We all know someone who is saying right now, "I've been thinking about playing this year" or "I do really want to learn."  Now is the time, golf is not intimidating, we are a welcoming group.  Golf is so much more than it appears, it is a lesson for a lifetime.  I hope you share this, if you share my passion.  Lets get the word out.....Golf is alive, healthy, and fun.

Tee it high (thanks Kwak),