Monday, October 25th, 2010

Course Conditions
Last weekend brought our first good storm of the fall season. Not only did we receive close to two inches of rain we received quite a bit of wind as well. Once the sun comes up I will get my first good look at the course to see how it weathered. Adam sent me this picture of the pump house. It looks like the roof took a shot through the eve. A loose branch was hiding up in the firs and decided to come down with the wind. A little bit further and the meter could have been damaged. This is a good example of why our ongoing tree program is so vital. This grove has been neglected since it was not in play. You can count on it getting some attention this winter.

With the recent rain and the wet forecast this week chances are that we will be restricting the carts to the paths. We managed to complete all the fall cultural chores last week and are now focusing on hitting the details. We are still mowing quite a bit. We had one good frost early last week but that wasn't enough to completely put the breaks on the growth. The bunkers have all been trimmed but now appears that we could go back and hit the ones on four and seven again.

Sunday afternoon I was picking up Adam from work and noticed this cart that came in late in the day. Obviously it was out in the conditions and it didn't look to good. It appears the wind is blowing the side curtains so hard that it is blowing them clean off the mounts. Miles said he found three carts in this condition in the two hours that he had been working when I spoke to him. Adam said one came in earlier. We may need to make some adjustments so this doesn't continue to happen.

Jason and Rick are moving right along on the  fifteen cart path project. If the weather cooperates today they are hoping to pour the second phase of the concrete walls. If we can get it done there is a good chance we could make the final pour on Wednesday, which is the only good day in the forecast this week. I really like how the new path is going to look. I don't think we will be having any more mishaps after this is done.

Oregon's Golf Economy
Last Wednesdays Oregon's Golf Economy Media Day, which was held at Stone Creek, was a great event. It is good to know that Oregon's golf economy is estimated at $1.2 billion and contributes more than 27,000 jobs and has a total impact of over $2.5 billion annually.
Dr. Peter Ryan of the Stanford Research Institute International provided the details of the study. He said "The importance of golf in Oregon extends beyond the golf facilities themselves. With $1.2 billion of of direct economic activity in 2008, the sheer size of the game of golf makes it a major industry in its own right and a significant contributor to Oregon's economy."

Greg Lyman, GCSAA 

Greg Lyman, Environmental Programs Director from GCSAA was present at the meeting and focused on the stewardship of the environment. He also pointed out that Oregon, per capita, has on of the highest percentages of Audubon Certified golf courses. If you read the news release that is about all you are going to see. What they didn't print was the discussion that talked about the growing pressures that superintendents are feeling from regulatory agencies. The fact is there are groups out there that are trying to take away all of the tools that we use to manage the courses in the wonderful condition that the golfers have grown to expect. What they don't know is that most golf courses only apply pesticides regularly on putting greens which only make up 2% of the property on a typical golf course. Here at Stone Creek we have been testing our surface water regularly and have never seen these compounds enter the water. My point is, it is important to understand what our economic impact is as an industry but we must also be aware of what is making this industry tick. Course conditions! Course conditions are what separate a good golf course from a successful golf course, and typically what is behind that successful golf course is a talented superintendent that has been educated at a first class university such as Oregon State.

Superintendents associations across the country have been supporting their perspective turfgrass programs through donations from superintendents themselves and much of it comes from the allied industry such as Toro, Jacobsen and John Deere. This is no different in Oregon. We happen to live in the grass seed capital of the world and are in position to grow the turf program at OSU to where it will become the leading program on the west coast. We just recently hired Dr. Rob Golembieski to take Tom Cooks position following his retirement. Rob has spring boarded the program from what Tom had built and is poised to take the program further than before. All the program needs is financial support. The Oregon State Turf Program is headed in a direction that will only make our golf courses better by providing pertinent research that superintendents can utilize to save money and help make their properties operate in a more sustainable manner. At the same time Rob will continue the fine tradition of  educating qualified future superintendents.

With the economy the way it is, it is getting harder to find that financial help to to sustain turf programs. I wish there could be a way to find dollars outside of the typical giving circle. Can another parts of our industry help provide support? There is a direct connection between the success of our industry and the level of support that Oregon State can receive. Tom Cook started the turf program back in the late 70's. Since then, look how far golf course conditions have improved, it is by no means an accident.

Click here to read the Oregon Golf Economy Summary Report.

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

Course Conditions
We are still holding on to the nice weather and the forecast is still looking great. If anyone has had thoughts about playing before winter now is the time to do so. The course is in magnificent shape, it is not every fall in which we get this kind of weather past the middle of October. Today should be in the high 70's.
 Jason and Rick have begun the bridge project. Stay tuned for photo updates

I just returned from the Inland Empire Golf Course Superintendents Association's annual meeting in Coeur 'd Alene Idaho yesterday. Lori Russell, their Executive Director always puts together a great program and this year was too good to pass up. I heard Bill Griffith from Walla Walla Community College speak on knowing your image as a superintendent and how to be aware of how others are perceiving you. Bill always does such a great job with his presentations and this one was no different.

I also heard Greg Lyman, Environmental Programs Director from GCSAA. Greg made two great presentations, one on environmental trends and solutions and the other on an environmental  assessment  of your operation. I have known Greg for years and his enthusiasm never wavers. He always provide so much information and is great in engaging the audience.

Finally, the key note speaker was Ron Calhoun, Ph.D from Michigan State University. I have never heard Ron speak in person and have always wanted to take one of his seminars at conference. The title of his presentation was Plant Growth Regulators: Physiology and Application in Cool-Season Turfgrass. A couple years ago I decided to go pretty much go off plant growth regulators due to some unexpected consequences that occurred. Ron's presentation helped me understand what happened and gave me a good understanding of the mode of action of the different classes of PGR's. This won't mean that I am going to start a new PGR program at Stone Creek but I will certainly consider some options and will weigh the benefits of some limited use. I do believe there are good uses that will help us maintain consistent speeds throughout the day and will also enhance our turf quality. I certainly hope the Oregon GCSA can find a time to have Ron come out to present to our association. He has done much research on growth regulators and herbicides and is a great speaker to listen to.

Ortho Images of the Golf Course
We have been concerned for the heath of some of our large fir trees around the course and the county decided to employ some of the technology that they have used for evaluating their forest land. They hired a company called Eagle Digital which flew over the golf course and took a number of orthographic images. These photos were taken August 2nd. They are able to use different filters which will enhance areas of interest. Here are two, one which is the golf course as seen with our eyes and the other is an enhanced infrared which highlights areas of lush growth. This one is my favorite in that it highlights the tress that are healthy showing the darker red. But what stands out is the turfgrass. What impresses me is the fairways. It is showing a uniform light pink all over. This is telling me that our irrigation system is functioning correctly and most of all we are not over watering and over fertilizing. Compare the color to the homeowners lawns along the bottom of the photo. I think the color speaks for itself.

I think this technology will be very useful in evaluating the effectiveness of our irrigation system as well as the health of our turf and trees. As a tool we can have the same picture taken next year at the same time and compare it to evaluate the effectiveness of our plant health programs. The best part of this is that it only cost $500. Click this link to see more images. Ortho Sideshow

We will also be able to use this photo to overlay our irrigation map and have our heads located within the photo.

Today Stone Creek is hosting the Oregon Golf Alliance Media Day. They are going to present the Economic Impact of Golf in Oregon study  which was done by the Stanford Research Institute. I will have more on this in my next week's report.

October 11th, 2010

Course Conditions
"It's ridiculous how good of shape this course is in." Said Steve Dodds of the Men's Club Saturday morning. I must agree with his assessment, This place has really taken shape. I owe it all to my staff who treats this place as if it is their own backyard.
We had another great week. The weather has really cooperated this fall. We just hope that it can hold on a couple more weeks as we finish up a few more projects. Last week we were successful in completing the fairway topdressing and this week we will be aerating the tee boxes Tuesday and Wednesday. We will probably be reversing the 9's on Wednesday.

The greens are going to get a bite to eat on Monday and we are finally going to fertilize the fairways on Thursday. We are not sure how much nitrogen we are going to give the greens yet but as of today they have not received any in 34 days. That is pretty good given that they normally get a tenth of a pound every two weeks. I attribute this to our greens fertility program which is from Redox. This program focuses on building the soil so that it can function on its own with fewer inputs. It promotes microbial growth which will in turn start manufacturing it's own nitrogen.  Once the microbial action slows down with the cooler temperatures we will then reintroduce nitrogen to promote growth once again. This is our second year on the program and this is the same situation we were in last year. If we were to feed them any nitrogen then we would be over feeding them. The best part of this program is that it fits nicely within our philosophy of reduced inputs. We not only reduce our nitrogen and phosphorus inputs but we have saved half the cost of one of the more popular greens fertility programs out there.
This year we sprayed the Redox product called H-85 on our fairways in combination with our Primo application. H-85 is a chelating and complexing material for fertilizer which is made from 85% organic acids. Our first fertilizer application of the season was in June in which we applied a pound of nitrogen with methylene urea and this product was to prolong the nitrogen release. We never saw an instant green up but what we did see was a steady release of nitrogen through out the season to the point where we still don't think we need to use very much going into this fall. We are in a learning curve situation at this point but eventually I would like to only have to apply fertilizer on the fairways only once a year instead of twice. I really think we may soon be able to do that as we work out the timing.

Our next big project will be the cart path relocation on the fifteenth tee. Since we have had a rash of unexplained cart accidents where customers have driven off the path and into a deep hole, we have decided to abandon the sharp turn in the path and construct a bridge which will cut the corner. Specialized Construction will once again be assisting us on this project. Construction will begin this Tuesday and we should be close to completion by the end of the week. I have contacted Portland Road and they will be able to tie the asphalt in without a problem. The only glitch is we will need to order a larger amount so the load will retain heat. So with the extra we figure we will pave the cross over between the paths on 11 and 3.

I purchased a new rake the other day and put it in the small bunker next to the 18th green. I would like everyone to take it for a spin and let me know what you think. It is a 24" rake head and really does a nice job. I think it would be a nice addition to the course. Perhaps we could get more players to rake their tracks! Then again....

One of the best jobs on the course which I am sure many of my peers would agree is walk mowing greens in the morning. Last week I happened to have my camera with me and saw this shot. I absolutely love mowing when it's dark and a good dew is on the grass. This shot pretty much just sums it up.

Gordon Update
Gordy played well at the Senior PGA National Championship but unfortunately he missed the cut on Friday by just a few strokes. I have a funny feeling that he is going to be back again next year. Good job Gordy! BTW Happy Birthday today!

A Blast from the Past

Way back when I worked at the Oregon Golf Club, first for John Anderson then for Russell Vandehey, I got my first experience with Audubon International and environmental issues as they pertain to golf. John Anderson was very instrumental in my early career in helping me learn the many alternatives to traditional golf course maintenance. John certified The Oregon Golf Club as the second Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary in the State of Oregon. After John moved on, Russell continued the environmental programs and since then has won several Environmental Leaders in Golf Awards by GCSAA!
I found this old broadcast of  Oregon Public Radio's Oregon Field Guide when I was searching through Google the other day and thought it would be fun to share. Russell and I did this way back in 1999. It first aired in 2000. The rest is history!

Monday, October 4th, 2010

Course Conditions
The weeks seem to fly by and now here it is the first week of October. Perhaps it is the great weather we have been having which make it still feel like summer. That inch of rain we had a couple weeks ago sure made a difference in the course conditions. The grass seemed to gulp it up and put it to good use. Nothing seems to beat a good rain storm versus irrigation; you can't get any better coverage than that. With all the new green growth on the course comes a lot of mowing and the rough has been a test to keep up with. We could easily mow it twice a week but once is about all we can do right now. The fairways have really responded as well. We have not irrigated them in weeks and yet they were never soggy and we haven't seen any dry spots show up either. I think much of this is due to a product we have been using now for almost two years.

Throughout the summer we had been injecting a wetting agent called Dispatch once a week through our irrigation system. We used less than ten gallons over the entire course per application. Dispatch aids in making the water become wetter by breaking down the surface tension which allows the soil to become uniformly moist. This in turn helps us conserve water by not over watering the turf. I believe it has also enabled the recent rainfall to penetrate the soil  which aided the grass to recover quickly from the summer drought conditions. Normally by the end of the season we will have drained the irrigation pond down at least 12 to 18 inches below the outfall. This season we managed the water right to the top with out dropping below 6 inches. As I summed up our water use report for the water year of 2009-2010 I confirmed this. We used significantly less water from Beaver Creek and our deep well than from any other year. You have got to love technology when it helps you save resources AND money.

We had a small change in plans regarding fertilizing the fairways. We had originally planned on fertilizing the fairways first then topdress them. As I discussed earlier the grass is growing pretty well so we decided to take advantage of the nice weather and begin topdressing the fairways first. We figure with the nice growing conditions the turf should grow through the sand more rapidly plus the drier conditions are much safer to operate the large topdresser. We will finish the fertilizer after we wrap up the sanding.

Williams Gas Pipeline Repair  

I left last weeks post with a picture of a track hoe heading out to the fourth fairway. We had hoped for a quick repair and a very small hole in the ground but as they uncovered the 16" gas pipeline it was evident that its condition was deteriorating and much more pipe needed to be replaced. Almost 90 feet to be exact. What can we do, we are pretty much at their mercy and it is all in the name of safety. You have all heard of gas pipeline accidents, one as recently as the tragedy in California where seven people were killed. That pipe allegedly broke because there was a weak spot and it failed. This is exactly what Williams is avoiding so what ever they need to do I am 100% behind them. This is the fourth dig on our property since the course has been built and each time I have worked with Williams contractor Pat Beggs. He and his crew are the best at what they do and they are extremely sensitive of the nature and business of golf. They had the pipe excavated and cut out and replaced in three days. We were hoping to be sodding the hole on Friday but instead were able to get it done by Thursday. My staff was awesome and stayed an hour late to finish the job. As expected it is a little bumpy. We will be keeping it "Ground Under Repair" until it heals and roots it. I really don't foresee it taking long at all.

Local News
I would like to congratulate our own Gordon Tolbert for qualifying for the Senior PGA Professional National Championship which is to be held at Toscana Country Club at Indian Wells and Rancho La Quinta Country Club in La Quinta, both in California. Gordon will be leaving this week and will be back on the 11th. Best wishes to Gordon and good luck!
Sad new to report, Harold Plough The Duck Fan has migrated south for the winter.  We will miss you Harold until you come back in February! Keep wearing your green and yellow, I'm sure you will find more of your kind to hang out with in the desert.

Good Information to Learn
I know we have already finished aerating our greens but as I was reading some of the other superintendents blogs I ran across a short video posted by Sean McCue from the Country Club at Castle Pines in Denver Colorado. This video does a great job describing the benefits of aeration so I would just like to share it with those who wonder why we destroy such great putting conditions every spring and fall. Enjoy!

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