Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Stressed Turf

From our USGA Turf Advisory Service Report this year the following was reported:

The golf course is irrigated with water that is high in sodium and bicarbonates and has moderately elevated levels of total salts. None of these are at dangerous levels, but they are certainly high enough to cause additional turf stress during droughty conditions and in areas where appropriate drainage is not provided. There are no economical solutions to reduce salinity or sodium issues in the irrigation water. At these levels, the best management practices are to provide good drainage so that salts and sodium can be leached through the profile. The most effective treatment option to improve water quality will be diluting the well water with a higher quality water source if necessary.

What does this mean for us right now? We have not had a measurable rain sine July 7th. For the month of July we were almost 2” behind normal precipitation, basically we are in a severe drought and we are dependent on the irrigation system.

I have spoken about this many times before but basically when you use the high sodium water, the turfgrass plant is up taking that sodium and salt dehydrates the plant causing wilt in hot weather. We are currently at 32 days over 90 degrees this year. Our only solution is to add more water to help hydrate the plant. In a perfect world if we had a great drainage system in all of our fairways, we could over apply the saline water and flush some of the salt down the drain. We don’t have this; we have good black soil that holds water and becomes wet and soft for the players. Unfortunately, there is not much we can do until we get a good soaking, flushing rain event. We have to keep the turf plant alive. 

The other part of the equation is the delivery of the water. We have an irrigation system that was designed back in the early 90’s. We did help the delivery of the water when we changed over the main line delivery of the water during the golf course renovations we did before the Solheim Cup. We have over 3,400 sprinkler heads on property. In a perfect world you would hope every one of those sprinkler heads would operate perfectly, I have news for you, they don’t. We look for dry spots, overly wet spots on a daily basis, we are constantly fixing sprinkler heads, adjusting heads to make sure they are working correctly. We even changed out all of the nozzles on the greens heads this spring because they were so worn. Ideally all heads would work properly, they would have the right pressure to the head, the water would not drift off site in the wind and you would perfect uniform coverage. It doesn’t work that way, look at your home irrigation systems, how many of you are watering the street or your sidewalks on a nightly basis? The same happens with us, we try to make adjustments and make sure it works as well as we can, but you are still going to get wet spots and dry spots. It just can’t be helped.We work very hard to minimize those areas.

In our world we would love to not have to operate sprinkler or hoses during the day while you are golfing. We would love to not have wet spots, dry spots, stressed spots or salty turf. What I want you to know is that we have a very talented staff that is working very hard to maintain the turf during a very stressful time of year. We are sorry that some of you don’t like the playing conditions that they are currently experiencing. Please know that we are trying our best with the tools that we have.

Hopefully we experience some rain soon, cooler weather soon and we can provide you with a firm and fast golf course. 

Thursday, July 21, 2022

The Open Championship 2022


Many of you know that I was fortunate to attend the 2022 Open Championship at St. Andrews this past July 13-18. I was chosen to be a part of the BIGGA Open Support Team. BIGGA is the British and International Golf and Greenkeeper Association.  Members, which I am, can apply to be on the Open Support Team.  The Open Support Team was created to let the caddies focus on the players and not worry about raking bunkers. By doing this, the team can present a perfect bunker every time someone exits a bunker. You are assigned a Game each day and you walk inside the ropes with the players, raking the bunker if need be.

I applied at the end of 2021 for the 2022 150th Open Championship in St. Andrews. In February I found out that I was one of two international members chosen from the United States. The other was Sean Tully from the Meadowbrook Club in California. There were over 175 applicants for the coveted fifty spots. I was thrilled to learn I had made the team but now what? I did not know anyone across the pond, and I had no idea what I had gotten myself into.

Tracey from BIGGA set up a What’s App group for all of us to communicate and stay connected.  One day I shared my travel plans. I said I was headed over early to vacation/sightsee with my wife before we had to report for the Open Championship. Immediately, a fellow greenskeeper, Ronnie Myles, reached out to me and asked for a detailed itinerary of our travel plans. We had a few trips organized but also had a few open days. Ronnie immediately jumped in and said that if we liked, he and his wife, Kay, would be our tour guide and show us around.  Not very often in life does something like this happen and this guy is a total stranger, but we accepted his offer. I cannot tell you how happy I am that we did. Ronnie and Kay were unbelievable showing us around Scotland, directing us in some of our mass transit travels and helping me to get from the hotel to the meeting place for the Support Team.

On Wednesday, the day before the tournament started, we were required to be at St. Andrews at an appointed time to receive our uniforms and directions on how to rake a bunker. We were also told how to dress and how not to act! White shirts and dark smart trousers or smart shorts. What is a smart short? It is their way of saying a very nice pair of shorts, we might say “smartly dressed”. I learned a lot of different ways to say things in Scotland! Gordon McKie, the head greenskeeper of St. Andrews gave the bunker demonstration and off we go to our accommodation. This was a college dormitory in Dundee, Scotland. Spartan conditions, no air conditioning, and a poor mattress. Not a big deal, it was the same for us all. BIGGA provided the accommodation, and they gave us £35 a day for food and drink. They also provided buses to and from St. Andrews each day. I only had to pay for my transportation to and from St. Andrews from the States, the rest was taken care of. We received two shirts, a hat, a raincoat, and a rucksack to carry items in. We had to provide black smart trousers or shorts. If you had visible tattoos they also had to be covered. They are very prim and proper.


On Wednesday night we received notification of our assignments for the first two games. On day 1, I was assigned to a great group of Justin Thomas, Sean Lowery and Viktor Hovland.  I was so nervous that I did not get much sleep the night before. I was texting back and forth with Zach Johnson, and he sent the group a nice video wishing everyone luck and telling them they were appreciated. Nice touch.

First tee at the 150th Open Championship at St. Andrews and I am walking inside the ropes with a great threesome. Also, walking with us was a rules official, a scoreboard carrier and a person doing electronic scoring of each shot. We were a team. We were instructed where to walk, when to talk and to not get in front of any cameras. We went six holes and oh no, a ball goes into a bunker!  Now it is my turn to work!  Not sure how well I did…. I was so nervous. Day 1 I raked five bunkers, subsequent days I raked 4, 4, 3. Twice I had to rake the Road Hole bunker on 17. Not easy for a guy with two artificial knees but I got it done. As a team we raked 191, 205, 120, 121 bunkers for the week. BIGGA has a contest for the crew to see who can guess the number of bunkers raked each day.

I had great assignments all week.  It was very exciting to be inside the ropes, walking with great players, listening to their strategies, then watch them execute some great golf shots. Day 1 I had Justin Thomas, Sean Lowery, Viktor Hovland. Day 2 I was with David Carey, John Catlin, and Jamie Rutherford. On Saturday, the cut was made and then it was twosomes. Saturday’s game was with Bryson Dechambeau and Hideki Matsuyama. Sunday, I had Will Zalatoris and Nicolai Hojgaard. 

I want to first thank Matt Ruehling and the members of Des Moines Golf and Country Club for allowing me to experience such a great event and supporting me. A big thank you to BIGGA for allowing me to be part of such a great experience. If anyone ever gets an opportunity to do something like this, I encourage to pursue your dream. It was awesome.

Saturday, June 18, 2022

 June 18, 2022

New projects are always fun to be a part of. They are a lot of work and for the past 18 months we have been involved in helping complete the new golf shop and sports bar project. Hard to believe it has taken so long to do, however it was a great project to be a part of and I am really proud how well it turned out. Rather than talking about it I thought I would share some photos of it and how it looks today. 

June of 2021

 June 2022

Sunday, June 12, 2022

 June 12, 2022

I apologize for not keeping up with our blog page. I missed a week of work due to Covid and it set me back a little. 

Hard to believe we are almost at a half way point in June. It has been a very busy time for us in the golf course maintenance department. It is all of the behind the scenes things that we do that are never noticed or appreciated unless you don't do them. I am talking about things like treating the entire rough, tees and fairways areas for white grub control, treating 150 ash trees for Emerald Ash Borer, treating 45 Linden trees for Japanese Beetle control, treating all of the roughs and fairways for crabgrass and goose grass control and lastly treating the arborvitae hedges for bag worms. The golfer might see the treatment going on while they are out here in the normal course of a day but many do not realize what is taking place. If we didn't do a lot of these annual treatments we would have major weed infestations or we might see major turf damage from insects or other pests. 

June is also a neat time to see the cool season grasses start to show off their seed heads. I am talking about some of the no mow areas and what they look like now. Depending on where you are looking you might see different fescues, bluegrass and some warm season grasses developing into their full maturity. Here are some examples:

This is #8 North, it is a combination of some fescue grasses.

One of my favorites is the no mow area on #9 South. Again a different blend of fescue grasses making quite a show of their seed heads. 

This area is between the #1's of both golf courses, while it does not look like much right now it is because a warm season grass. These grasses develop much later in the year and will put on quite a show come late August or September. Stay tuned this is beautiful in the fall.

We are into all of our programming and mowing on the golf courses. Our staff often hears me say that nothing is tougher to do than spring projects because you are so busy on the golf courses that you don't really have time for projects. However, there are always spring projects to do and we try to fit them in as best we can. This week we replaced an area of concrete along the clock green. The construction traffic from the last year broke up the concrete. We had it all removed and poured back in the same day. 4 concrete trucks of concrete and it is done. 

We are almost ready for sod on a rather big project. The area around the new fire pits has a lot of new irrigation pipes and heads installed and almost ready for use. We have about 1 1/2 days left to do some more irrigation install and some grading, then it will all be ready for sodding. Here is a look at that area this morning, almost done!

It has been a very good spring with timely rains. We really have not operated any irrigation to date. Normally we would have been using the irrigation system and well water. I feel very fortunate that we have not needed to use the saline water from our well. We have not seen the localized dry spots or the wilt that is associated with using the bad water. Unfortunately we are going to have to use it very soon. The upcoming week looks like a week of very high temperatures and no rain in sight. You can expect to see some sprinklers in operation, along with that will be the use of our well. 

Always if you have questions or comments please let us know, we are happy to answer them always.