2017 Year In Review/ start to 2018

I guess it’s better late then never when it comes to doing this blog.  As I start this 2017 year in review I realize that its March 20, 2018 and last year this time we were pressuring up the irrigation system!!  Never seems to amaze how two years can be so different.  It does look like this will be the 2nd time in 12 seasons that we won’t be opening in the month of March.

Lets go back to February 2017.  I remember sitting in Calgary on family day weekend when I get a phone call that the golf course had cows on it.  Now this isn’t your ordinary phone call, and I wasn’t sure how to go about it.  Apparently one of the neighbor farms had a hole in the fence and a few cows got onto the golf course. It wasn’t just a few cows actually, I believe someone counted close to 75 cattle on the golf course. Not knowing who to call I had to make a call to the County office, which I was directed to call the RCMP.  It’s a funny conversation with a police officer when you have to tell them that there is cows all over your property!

Eventually the RCMP got in contact with the farmer and the cattle were all rounded up and returned to their property.  We did have a lot of cow shit to clean up and a lot of hoove damage to fix on our 1st and 9th fairways.

Over our winter months we built a large 20ft aiming pole for the 6th hole.  This pole was put in to force golfers away from aiming down the left side of the fairway where the new residential is being developed. We also decided that it would be a great opportunity to build some yardage poles for the driving range.   As with most golf course supplies when we can, we built these poles all in house for a fraction of the cost.  We went to the local irrigation shop, picked up 6″ pipe and caps, sanded the pipe and painted them with PVC paint from home depot.  The end products can be seen in these following pics.

We did these poles on top of repainting our tee blocks and vinyl guarding a few bunker rakes and staining garbage’s.

Over the winter the Desert Blume management team thought it would be a great idea to introduce JR/Beginner tee’s to the golf club!!  These tee’s were a big hit with the few Jr’s we have at the club, but is a great way to introduce new people to the game of golf!! Our theory is kids aren’t kids forever!!

Next it came time to remove the tarps and start preparing the golf course for the season. The following pics show a picture of the 17 green (non tarped) vs the 13th green (tarped).  The greens wintered perfect again and we were ready to get things rolling, Literally!!

The ownership bought us a new roller this winter!!  This is a great investment for the amount we roll and unfortunately our other rollers couldn’t make it 18 holes!!

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So we got the tarps off and the greens brushed and cut and we used our watering device that we invented in fall 2016 (see previous blog).  However the weather was quite warm and we welt confident that we could pressure up the irrigation. So as stated above we decided to turn the irrigation system on March 20, and everything pressured up perfectly with zero breaks!!  That doesn’t happen very often.

It was pretty cool to have a full irrigation schedule running and being at the golf course visually seeing everything work. As most people know we water overnight so the chance of getting to visually see your system work is pretty rare.

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It sure was a great feeling to have everything up and running and the golf course open on MARCH 24th. This allowed us to start focusing on getting the fairways and rough groomed and cut. Our practice usually involves verticutting/dethatching the fairways and rough followed by a cut.  Being that we don’t have the opportunity to spray our fairways and rough with a winter fungicide, these cuts allow us to remove any diseased/damaged turf and to promote vertical growth.  It sure does help promote spring greenup!!

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Once we got our fairways and roughs cut and cleaned up, we did notice that our tee’s were still behind.   We decided on April 6 to take the procore aerator the tees with a solid .5″ tine.  We figured this would allow the tees to breath and get warmer day time temperatures into the soil.  Another reason for doing this was to help move water into the profile!!  We believe that a downside to staying open late into the fall is that compaction is increased, which causes the playing surfaces to sometimes seal off.  This is a main reason why we are always cart path only in the fall and early spring.

We followed this aeration with 30-0-0 melted urea spray which helped the tees break dormancy.

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Here is a picture of the golf course on April 6, 2017.

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The dreaded drainage project on 11.

So in late 2016 we discovered that a spring had started on our 11th approach. With all the rain we received in 2015 and 2016 it only makes sense that we would start to have springs show on our property. This is largely due to the golf course being built on a property with a high water table.  The one thing I’ve learned about ground water over all the years from working at Desert Blume is water will find the easiest path. Being that there is residential property’s on the right side of the 11th and 12th holes with insufficient drainage to capture runoff, these properties drain onto the golf course during heavy rains, evening home owner lawn water, etc.

Coming up with a solution to the problem.

First things first was to try and figure out where the water was coming in from and try to intercept it away from the problem.  So we decided that the majority of the spring water was coming from the right side of the 12th hole (between tees and house).   We decided the rent a mini back hoe and dig a trench along the cart path from the large cement catch basin hallway up the 11th hole..  The trench was 2 feet deep and 200 yards long.  The amount of spring water flowing in the trench was unbelievable, one would think there was an irrigation break!!

We then decided to add and redo the drainage on the 11th approach to help dry out the landing area. This included putting a catch basin at the end of the 11th cart path to catch any water flowing down the cart path.  It took us approximately a week to get the 11th hole drainage installed and cleaned up.  This is mainly because we would focus on doing golf course maintenance jobs in the morning, and in the afternoon work on this project. We were luckily able to make the 11th hole par 5 play as a par 4 as golfers hit to flag placed at the 150 yard marker.

One of the tools we built to help fill up the trenches with pea gravel was a wood attachment placed in the back of a pro gator.  This helped speed up the back filling process and saved our backs and shoulders.  See following video of attachment working.

 

11th approach all sodded

 

Considering we had the Mini excavator for a week rental, we figured we would make good use of it and fix some other drainage problems on the golf course.  These areas were the spring behind the 14th green, 17 greenside bunker and standing water between the 2 and 3 tan tee boxes.

We also decided to remove all the dead trees and brush surround the 14th green.  This truly opened up the hole completely!

 

Golf course on May 1, 2017

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On May 9th we had the Golf Board rep stop by the golf course and we got to play 9 holes with these things.  It was actually super fun and a different way to golf!

 

In June we got to demo the new Toro Greensmaster Triplex.  Here is a point of view video of me cutting with the machine

 

One of the things that was brought to our attention by the membership is that a select few wanted a walking path from the cart path to the fairway.  The start of 2017 the golf club decided to allow the option for walking traffic, so some golfers were having an issue pulling their pull cart through the rough.  We decided to add a few trails on some of the holes to accommodate them

 

In the middle of July we had the opportunity to aerate our fairways again for a second straight year.  Both times we have done it, its amazing how beneficial it is to the turf and how there is a immediate positive response when it comes to the plant being healthy and growing.  This is something we plan to hopefully continue annually.

Mid Summer we noticed that the driving range tee was taking a beating from increased use and improper divot etiquette.  I found this sign on google and had it made and placed by the entrance to the range tee.  We noticed an almost immediate improvement to the range tee

One of our favorite practices to do at Desert Blume is a light topdress of the greens followed by a roll.

September rolled around and it was finally time to work on the project of 15/16.  This area had been a eye sore since the golf club opened and was suppose to be the future road way for the final phase of residential development.  This area was full of rocks and weeds.  We discovered that 25% of golfers missed the fairway on 15 and 16 and ended up in this mess of an area.  It was always a question if the area should be marked hazard or ground under repair for any major tournaments that we held.  The members decided that they want this area fixed and decided to pay for the equipment and materials to fix this eye sore.  The golf club agreed to use labor to do the project in house.

Step 1 was to bring top soil to the area.  With all the drainage projects we did in the spring and aeration cores we collected over the season, we decided to dump everything into this area to help with fill. Luckily we had the newest phase of residential happening on the left side of the 6th hole so we were able to get topsoil dumped close to this area.

It took us almost 2 full days to haul fill to this area with our dump trailer and pro gators.  Next we rented a soil conditioner attachment for the bobcat for help prep the area.  This attachment is highly recommended for anyone prepping an area!!

Once we got the area all prepped it was time to have to irrigation installed by grass roots landscaping.  The irrigation heads were installed and we did 2 final hand rakes through the area to remove any rocks on the surface.  30,000 sq feet of sod arrived on Sept 13 and we had it fully sodded in 8 hours.

During the month of September we discovered that we had a beaver issue on our 18th hole.   There was a family of beavers had moved in and started building a dam on the creek along the 18th hole. We did get a permit for the destruction of the beavers and dams as we do have worry of potential flooding upstream.

As per usual we got an early dump of snow in October closing us down for a week.

We did reopen  eventually losing a few days of golf mid month to extreme wind conditions.  It was actually very scary as the wind damaged parts of the golf course including clubhouse roof, patio railings and it actually blew out 6 sand traps completely of sand. The golf course eventually closed on Sunday Oct 22nd. That week we blew out the irrigation system and started to put the golf course to bed for the year.

In the late October/early November there were a few good days that we were able to get some projects done.  We did a heavy topdressing and mat of the cactus tees to fill the divots and we did some irrigation fixes.

Last fall, we started the transformation of replacing greens tarps.  Step 1 is to tarp the remaining greens that weren’t tarped previous years.  Over the next few years we will continue to replace 3-5 tarps a year until all 19 greens are covered with new tarps.  The plan after that will be to take some of the old tarps and cover some tee surfaces that are highly exposed to wind over the winter months.

Late November rolled around and the golf course was completely bare. In fact the weather was better at the end of November then the whole month of October. I approached our director of golf and said I think our Black Friday deal should be a 9 hole round of golf for $20. Temp greens, one set of tees and foot traffic only. Boom done we were back open for a few days and it was great to see some people smiling getting their last round of golf in.

All in all 2017 was a great golf season in the forgotten corner of the province. The spring started off slow as the evening temperatures through the month of April and May were hovering around freezing which cause for super slow growth.  We had a stretch of almost 10 weeks without a single rainfall and temperatures of close to 30 degrees and above.

Nothing gets done without having a great crew. Thanks to these people for making 2017 a great one!

The calendar turned to 2018 and it has been a long winter then usual for us. Luckily for us we were able to get away and recharge our batteries in preparation for another busy season. I was able to get away to Las Vegas for Superbowl weekend with some buddies and the Los Cabos with the girlfriend. My assistant welcomed his second child in early January and my mechanic was able to travel Ecuador for a month.

A few things we have been working on is putting together a bunker rating schedule. The bunkers were rated on a scale of 1-5 with 1 being very poor to 5 being perfect (if there is such a thing). The plan for this upcoming season is to fix and restore the worst 5 bunkers on the course. This will more then likely be an annual plan moving forward.

With the minimum wage increasing last October and this coming October, my assistant and I have been working hard on coming up ways to not sacrifice golf course conditions and maximizing labor.

We have also been working on improving our cart traffic system. More info will come as the season starts.

My goal this season is to put together interactive/informative video to our members from a perspective of the turfcare department.

Another goal this summer is to get involved with the Jr’s and teach them golf course maintenance etiquette.

A few projects we have lined up include removal of the following sand traps

4 right side

5 left side

10 back left

We will be bringing in 2 trucks of bunker sand to top of the worst of the bunkers. This sand will also be used for the few bunker projects we do.

We are also going to plan on having member volunteer days to help with various activities to help improve their golf course.

This year the golf club will be hosting the CCAA golf tournament in October.  We really hope we can pull this one off!!

As there is still more snow then usual on the golf course at this time of the year, we have been going around plotting our cart paths so that we can have full access.

Looking under the tarps the greens look like they have wintered really well again.

The coming week is going to involve getting lots of pumping done to low lying areas to help dry out the course and get it ready to open in the next few weeks.  We really do need mother nature to help us out on that one.

As mentioned at the start of the blog it is really odd for us not to open up in March, however the golf course looks like it will be in great shape come opening day!  Those of you who are members and read this blog, I hope to see you on the golf course really soon!

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2016 year in Review

    As I start writing this, it’s the final day of the golf season for 2016. WOW it’s November 12!!!! In the 10 years I’ve been an employee of Desert Blume this is the longest we have been able to keep the golf course open.  The weather was absolutely stunning averaging 17 degrees for day time highs with over night lows of 5 degrees.  I guess this makes up for the terrible weather we had this season.

    So what has happened since my last post.

    One thing we discovered over the winter of 2015 was we used up our dyed (green) topdressing sand on divots on tee boxes in late fall 2015.  What we discovered in the spring was a lush green playing surface in the spring.  I’m not sure if there has been a study with dyed topdressing sand vs fungicides but I would be most definitely curious .


    Since the lack of snow this past winter, we were able to get onto the golf course and start cutting turf earlier then we usually do.  The turf was growing and greening up every day and we were on pace to be weeks ahead of schedule.  This picture was taken on the morning of April 17.


    As a team we were extremely happy with the golf course in the spring, especially since we only spray Greens and Tees.

    One of the practices we did this spring was a Verti-Thatch of the Rough and Surrounds.


    This is what the golf course looked like a week later.


    By May 1st we were already in mid season condition.



    Unfortunately as the golf course was just peaking for the 2016 season, we had a extremely bad hydraulic leak on our 12th green on May 2.  Luckily our operator noticed it after only 1 pass!!.  This was the first time in 10 years we had experienced any kind of hydraulic leak on the putting surfaces!! This is why I’m a firm believer if you can walk your greens, USE A WALKER!!   The next step was to decide how we were going to fix this.  We decided as a team we were going to do everything within our power to get this turf back to normal without sodding.  We set a timetable of 8 weeks which would be our threshold whether to sod or not.  Here is a brief 9 min YouTube video that Carmon put together on our program.

    We had the green fully recovered by July 3, so we did achieve our goal.

    One of our goals we setout at the start of this season was the bring our tee boxes back to regular design.  After 9 years of mowing the tee boxes seemed to get bigger and bigger from Operators doing poor cleanup passes.


    A common trend that the superintendents in Medicine Hat have noticed over the last few years are the inability of golfers to fill divots on tee boxes or fairways.  I know this is probably a problem on most public or semi private golf courses.  Unfortunately we spend 5-10 hours a week filling divots on tee decks.  I wish we could spend half the time on replacing divots, so we could devote that time to other practices that will improve the quality and consistency of the golf courses.


    On May 27 we had our first Big tournament of the year, the Medicine Hat Home Builders.  This is what the golf course looked like in the morning.


    As the golfers were all getting ready to tee off at 1pm for their shotgun, we looked at the Radar and noticed a severe thunderstorm coming right at us.  We decided to hold all the golfers off for a few minutes until the storm would pass so it would be safe for everyone to golf.  THEN THIS HAPPENED, We had almost 2″ of rain and 1″of hail in about a 30 min window.  The golf course was absolutely destroyed and unplayable, and it was the first time in the history of the golf club that we had to close the golf course. See the pictures below.


    The golf course reopened the next afternoon after all the areas had dried up. The bunkers were all ground under repair for a few days as they were completely washed out.    When it came time to fix all the washouts from the storm, we started to experience with how was raked the edges of bunkers.   We started to put a smooth bunker face on our traps, and it seemed most people enjoyed the look and how they played.  We continued to put a smooth bunker face in our traps for the remainder or the season


    This year I kind of had something come over me and I decided to start and build some flower beds on spots throughout the golf course.  It was a fun few days and the ladies all loved it.


    In the beginning of July we did something we hadn’t ever done at Desert Blume.  We core aerated our fairways.  We did this project in house over 3 days without any closure to the golf course.  The fairways exploded with growth instantly after aeration.   We did this for a multiple of reasons, 1 to help with compaction from golf carts and mowers, and 2 remove the over 1″ thatch layer that has accumulated over the past 10 seasons.   The process included using a tractor mount John Deere aerator followed by a Toro Core Processor.  The processor mulched the cores creating a topdressing leaving only the thatch remaining.  Next we blew the fairways clean to the sides with a buffalo blower. Next we did passes with pull behind sweeper to collect all the thatch.  This was an amazing practice we did and will hopefully continue to do year after year.

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    We once again had our annual Team Championship tournament in late July.  The crew had the golf course playing to the high standard we had set for ourselves at the beginning of the year.  Then it happened again, we got hit with another major storm leaving close to 3″ of rain over a 24 hour period.  Again the golf course was once again unplayable for a few days and all bunkers were completely washed out.  Also the residential development happening on the left side of the 6th fairway had washed down onto our fairway for the 4th time this year.


    We get everything cleaned up and playing the way it should be in time for Club Championship weekend.  The golf course was playing great and the greens were rolling as fast and true as they ever have.  Then it came time to dreaded GREENS AERATION.  We started on Sunday August 21 at 3pm and were done all 18 greens by 10 am on Monday morning.  People kept asking why we have to aerate our greens.  My answer is always if you want firm fast and true greens, this is THE ONE practice we have to do.  A main reason we decided to pull a core this year was to try and remove an organic mat layer that started to build up on some greens.   This layer is developing because we went away over the last few years from 2 core aerations a year down to 1 aeration.  Also we use to topdress our greens almost weekly during the growing season, to once or twice a month the last few season.  At the moment the issue isn’t something to be too concerned about, but we are going to be proactive moving forward and get a control of this before we start to see some serious issues.  See the picture attached for an example of the mat layer developing.


    Late summer we were approached by the membership about improving an area of the golf course that was causing a pace of play issue.  The landing area between 15 and 16 fairways is a rocky native area that has been left natural for future residential development.  This area was slated to be a access road to one of the final residential phases.  The ownership group decided that it could be developed for golf course, and the membership has jumped on board for paying for us to improve this areas.  We started to haul topsoil to this area, and in the spring 2017 we will turn this area into 1 acre of manicured bluegrass rough.


    The calendar year hit October and the weather turned sour. Mother Nature was being very cruel and we were having day time highs of 4 degree, and she decided to dump 6″ of snow on us Thanksgiving Monday.  We knew the end was near and that we were probably going to have a short fall ahead of us.


    We blew out our irrigation on October 24 and 25.  Days before blowing out the irrigation system we had a mainline break off a feed to one of the residential parks.  This had to be fixed prior to blowing on the system.  Thanks to MJB for coming in last minute and getting this break fixed for us.  Now that we had our irrigation system blown out we figured we would one final weekend of golf ahead, especially with November around the corner.

    We reopened the golf course on Wednesday October 26 for what we thought would be the final 5 days of the season.  Boy were we wrong.  The weather turned and we were experiencing the best weather we had since early September.  With the Golf Course being the only one open in the area, it was PACKED.  I mean we had a waiting list and people waiting around the golf shop just to try and get a round of golf in.

    The turfcare team loved seeing so many new people golfing our golf course.  However we were concerned with the amount of traffic on the greens with minimal growth. We were approved to purchase another foliar application as well as bring our interns in to help us keep the golf course playing the way it should be.  We changed pins daily and rolled greens daily.  Our final cut of the greens was on Thursday November 10.  We were also tank watering every day but we just couldn’t keep up with the watering as the golf course was so packed.

    So my assistant Matt and I came up with this mechanism, and lets just say it was a game changer!!


    As mentioned earlier, the golf course finally closed on Saturday November 12. On Sunday morning we started put the golf course to bed and by Wednesday afternoon we had everything done and ready for winter.

     Picture from last day of golf 


     As I finally finish this blog post it is now December 8th and the temperature has been a steady -26 plus windchill for the past week!! Luckily the golf course has about a 2″ blanket of snow on it.

    This season we had many guests on the golf course!


    Our 2017 staff for our Annual Staff photo.  Thanks to this great team for another great season!


     

    That’s all for now. I wish everyone a Happy and Safe holidays.

     

     

     

    Start to the 2016

    This is my first ever blog post.  It was requested by the membership for information on what we are doing and why.  So here is my first ever attempt at blogging

    Once we closed the golf course last season in early November, we got right at planning again for the 2016 season.  My assistant Matt and I sat down everyday talking about the past season in regards to what we thought went well, what we can improve on and any projects that we might want to do in 2016.

    This goes hand in hand with our budget planning that we do with the director of golf and the ownership.  Where we feel the need to allocate more money too and maybe where we can save some money.

    After discussions, we concluded that we did a great job on improving our bunkers last season.  It’s amazing how a truck of sand can improve the playability of bunkers.  We were extremely pleased with how the golf course looked and played during the Canadian Men’s Sr’s.  Unfortunately the weather was the worst we had all season, but at the end of the day we can control Mother Nature.


    It’s also crazy to think that I got bit by a poisonous spider during the tournament. To this day today I still feel the affects of the spider bite as my immune system was completely thrown out of wack.


    What we thought we needed improvement on was the firmness of the golf course and quality of our irrigation water.   We found that our greens were a little softer last season from previous seasons.  We discovered that we were building up an organic layer about 1 inch below the playing surface.  This layer in essence would slow down the infileration rate through the soil as the top few inches were always way wetter then the lower profile.


    We discovered last year that our irrigation water quality was getting worse everyday because of the dry warmer season we had.  The water was becoming very sludgy and we were contiounsly flushing leaky irrigation heads on a daily basis.

    This spring, the ownership purchased us a pond diffuser so that we can increase the oxygen levels in our irrigation pond.  We are hoping this is a step in the right direction of improving quality.

    What else do we do over the winter:

    We spend the winter usually removing snow from the parking lot for functions in the clubhouse.  Luckily for us we only had to plow snow a half dozen times.  This is a huge savings in fuel and wear and tear on the bobcat.

    We also spend the winter inputting records on file for practices from the previous season.  This winter I wanted to put together a water usage vs. weather comparison for the past 2 seasons.  weather vs watering.  It completely makes sense to why we watered more last year  then 2014. Warmer, windier and less rain!!

    We also spend the winter going through machinery and set them up for the coming season.

    Another project that we work on is painting and staining of golf course furnishings.  We ordered new flags this spring, and they should be out at the beginning of May.
     (matt and dennis repairing some rotten garbage cans before staining)

    Spring 2016.

    Well we didn’t exactly have a winter with much moisture.  The golf course was pretty bare for the majority of the time.  Luckily we weren’t as windy or cold this winter compared to previous years.  The desiccation and frost levels were very minimal. Another thing we noticed was the vole damage was virtually  nothing as they didn’t have the snow to nest under this winter.   We only had to hand water greens once this winter which was at the beginning of March.

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    (root depths on an untarped green)
    We pulled the tarps back on Sunday March 20th.   In the 10 years I’ve been at Desert Blume Golf Club, this was the best the greens looked coming out of winter.

     (Matt watering an untarped green)
    Irrigation was fired up on Wednesday March 23.  We had zero line breaks which was a bonus.  The system was pressured up in less then 4 hours.

    (Carmon putting the first cut of the season on greens) Hole 11

    Something new this year is the addition of the pin placement sheets.  The golf carts will have the pin placement sheets located in the above holder.  On the information board, our course service person will switch the number to what day the pin placement is for the day.

    As for our staff, we are pleased to announce that we have all returning staff this season, which should be easy to get high standards early this season.  We are also excited to have Carmon Dewald and Brett Cameron return this season as turfcare interns.

    You will notice the fairway mowing pattern is different right now.  This is a test comparison vs striping the fairways.


    Ball marks have been awful this spring so far.  Look at this person. Almost a hole in one on hole 4 and still fix their ball mark

    That’s all I have for now. I hope to get more interactive with videos and more pictures on why we do practices