Monday, January 31st, 2011

Course Conditions
We ended last week on a nice note with some very nice weather. We managed to cut the fairways, topdress the greens and mow them twice! We even managed to get some rough cut. What a difference a few nice days can make. The forecast for this weeks weather shows we are in for some clear and dry days but we are also more than likely going to be in a frost situation. Morning temperatures will be in the mid 20's but the afternoons will be warming to the mid 40's.
The maintenance staff will be busy chipping brush and clearing invasive plants from the wetlands and pond buffers until the frost has melted. We are still cutting the greens once a week, mowing on Thursdays or Fridays. With the frosty weather pattern we will most likely be mowing the greens in the late afternoon to avoid holding up play in the morning. The greens are due of a shot of fertilize this week and we may have to spray in the afternoon as well.

Steve has had a busy week in the shop. He has been preparing our large Dakota 440 for the topdressing season. Wear and tear over the years has forced us to replace the spinners and the spinner shafts as well as the seal kit on one of the main hydraulic motors. The repairs are pretty expensive but extremely necessary for us to continue it's operation.

Our walking greens mowers have not been giving us the quality of cut that we demand from them. Lately we have notice some minor scalping from the edges of the bedknife. We depend on these machines mostly in the winter when the greens are soft so we can prevent scalping. They are now causing the problem. Steve has determined that the rear drums are the main culprit. Using his calipers he can see the difference across the drum in thousandths of inches. Any difference within 5 thousandths can be very noticeable.  Two of the three will need new reels while all three are in need of new rear drums and shafts. To replace just the two rear sections of the drum including bearings and shafts we are looking at $1,100 each, not what we were expecting. For now we will limp them along to the best we can until we can determine a proper course of action.

As our equipment ages, repairs are going to become a larger part of our maintenance budget until we can replace the equipment that has outlived it's usefulness. I am certainly grateful we have Steve as our equipment manger. He is one of the best I have seen!

Audubon Recertification at Stone Creek is Retained!

It is official, Stone Creek Golf Club has retained its designation as a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary through the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses (ACSP), an Audubon International program.  Stone Creek has been a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary since 2006. Since we have been in the program we have demonstrated and maintained a high degree of environmental quality in: Environmental Planning, Wildlife & Habitat Management, Outreach and Education, Chemical Use Reduction and Safety, Water Conservation, and Water Quality Management.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the ACSP. To prepare for the celebration, Audubon International released two surveys in which I would like to share some of the results with you.

Wildlife & Habitat Management
  • The average member has natural vegetation around 72% of their shorelines, compared to 33% before joining the program.
  • Prior to joining the program, 31% of the respondents had no naturalized shorelines and 11% had all naturalized shorlines. Now, 2% of the respondents have no naturalized shorelines and 31% have naturalized shorelines.
  • Since joining the program, 60% of  members have removed turfgrass at an average of 11 acres.
Water Quality Management
  • Where shorelines are in play, 89% of members raised mowing height along shorelines to slow and filter runoff.
  • 79% mow in-play shorelines at the recommended 3" or higher (compared to 27% before joining)
  • 88% mix and load chemicals over an impervious surface (compared to 57% before joining)
  • 91% have pesticide storage with secondary spill containment (compared to 55% before joining)
Water Conservation
  • Since joining the program, 50% of members have reduced irrigated turfgrass by an average of 8 acres.
  •   68% have replaced full circle irrigation heads with part circle heads.
  • On average, 15% of full circle irrigation heads were replaced with part circle irrigation heads.
Turfgrass Management
  • Since joining the program, 58% of the members have reduced the average numbers of acres to which pesticides are regularly applied by 16.5 acres.
  • 96% are transitioning to pesticides with a lower toxicity level (compared  to 46% before joining)
  • 70% are transitioning to biological pesticides (compared to 22% before joining)
  • Since joining the program, members have reduced the average number of acrew to which fertilizers are regularly applied by 15.5 acres.
Business Value 
Many golf courses are registered in the ACSP because it is considered "the right thing to do," but there is also a strong business case for voluntary environmental action. In these days of tightening budgets, many ACSP recommendations reduce costs while also allowing you to frame the reasons for the changes in a positive, environmental light.
  • 52% of members have reduced water costs.
  • 70% have reduced pesticide costs.
  • 66% have reduced fertilizer costs.
  • 44% have reduced fuel costs.
  • 46% have reduced electricity costs.
  • 51% have reduced wast management costs.
In addition, even during these times of decreasing rounds, 15% report that they have new golfers and/or members because of their involvement in the ACSP.

These findings demonstrate loud and clear the benefits of a good and sound environmental program.Thank you Audubon International for your first 20 years and all of your diligent efforts in helping the golf industry become keenly aware of its potential to become true stewards of the environment.

OSU study finds optimal treatment for fast, healthy putting greens | News & Research Communications | Oregon State University

OSU study finds optimal treatment for fast, healthy putting greens | News & Research Communications | Oregon State University

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Researchers at Oregon State University believe they've come up with a winning formula for making putting greens fast and healthy – and they have the numbers to prove it.
They examined different rolling and mowing techniques on annual bluegrass putting greens and found that golf balls rolled the farthest when the greens were mowed daily and rolled immediately afterward. The balls traveled an average of 11 feet when struck at a controlled speed, which was 15 inches farther than on grass that was only mowed daily, not rolled.
All rights reserved by Oregon State University
The next greatest distance, an average of 10 feet, was on plots that were rolled daily but mowed only four days a week.

The study is important because the grass was mowed at a higher-than-normal height, which kept the grass healthy and vibrant and proves that putting speed can still be fast on taller grass.
According to the United States Golf Association, the putting greens at most American golf courses have ball-roll distances of seven to 12 feet. The organization considers a ball roll distance of 8.5 feet "fast" for regular course play and 10.5 feet fast for championship events.

A 2010 online survey by the organization found that of 227 golfers who expressed a preference on green speeds, 218 preferred to play on greens where the ball rolled between 9 and 11 feet. Also in the survey, 451 course maintenance workers out of 476 who expressed a preference said that that same distance provided the best compromise between healthy turfgrass and golfer satisfaction.

The OSU study tested a variety of treatments on 60 turfgrass plots at OSU's Lewis-Brown Horticulture Research Farm near Corvallis. Other treatments in the study included mowing daily and rolling Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; rolling daily and mowing Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays; and alternating mowing and rolling.

Rolling greens smoothes the putting surface. Researchers in OSU's study rolled plots with a 1,140-pound electric roller and an 845-pound gas roller. While both provided about a 1-foot increase in ball roll distance compared to non-rolled plots, there was no difference in ball roll distance between the two rollers.

Researchers mowed all 60 grass plots at a height of 0.15 inches, well over typical golf course mowing heights of 0.10 to 0.125 inches, said OSU turf grass specialist Rob Golembiewski, the study’s author. The turf was cut at 8 a.m. with a walk-behind greens mower. Green speed was measured at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. each day. Distance measurements were taken using a Stimpmeter, an aluminum bar that applies a known velocity to a golf ball.

Mowing turf very short to increase ball roll distance has become standard practice, Golembiewski said, but that can potentially damage the grass. The study shows greens can be fast without being cut so short that the health of the grass is compromised, providing a happy medium between golfers' expectations and the interests of course supervisors, he said.

"Now we’re showing you can receive ample ball roll distance at a higher height of cut, which means less stress on the turf," said Golembiewski, who holds the N.B. and Jacqueline Giustina Professorship in Turf Management at OSU. “In the long run, that translates into a much healthier turfgrass stand.”
The findings mirror results from similar studies on creeping bentgrass, which is the most popular turfgrass used for U.S. putting greens. Annual bluegrass, the focus of OSU's research trial, is more common in the Pacific Northwest and has been relatively unstudied, Golembiewski said.

Monday, January 24th, 2011

The weatherman delivered nice weather as promised last week, (as in no rain) but had to drop a bombshell on Friday raining a half inch in twelve hours. We were caught by surprise. We normally plan on cutting the greens on Fridays and didn't expect that amount. When it rains that hard it is easy to cause damage to the turf when it is that wet. Looking at the forecast for next week it appears like we can perhaps mow early and again on Friday.

Over all the course is in fantastic shape for this time of year. Much credit goes to everyone driving four wheeled carts. I have to hand it to my staff for being extra careful and staying out of the soft areas. With the weather as wet as it has been this winter, we have limited the carts and handicap flags fairly often. I think this plays a large part in the condition as well. Big kudos to the range staff for the condition of the range this year. Every year we get the normal springs that pop up and many times the range picker finds it's way through the middle of them. With extra care an hand picking the turf has remained undamaged and looks fantastic.

Cart traffic is always an issue at many courses. The hardest part of controlling carts is keeping them on the path when they are around the tee box. Can somebody help me out with this and explain why people have to pull off to the side with two wheels off the path. Once it starts it seems to get worse because they want to avoid stepping in mud so they pull off even further. We picked up some more posts the other day and will continue to make more bollards to help prevent this. Please keep all four on the path and if a deli cart or a maintenance cart is coming from the opposite direction please allow them wait for you to move on.

Wednesday was the OGCSA's Annual Crew Seminar. Seven of our crew members attended this year. I really like what the Board has done by turning the meeting over to the assistant superintendents.  The assistants are now completely in charge of the entire meeting. They are now doing everything from lining up the speakers, moderating the meeting, and working with Linda Whitworth, our executive director, to putting together all the details with Tualatin Country Club. Our own Mike Turley was on the committee!

The speakers this year included:

Larry Gilhuly—USGA Agronomist
Me, David Phipps—Superintendent, Stone Creek GC
Erik Pronold—Assistant Superintendent, Black Butte Ranch
Bill Griffith—Walla Walla Community College
Bob Sylvester—Watertronics
Mike Gogle—John Fought Golf Course Design
Mike McCullough—Northern California Golf Association

My staff never told me who there favorite was, but they did talk a lot about Bill Griffith and his talk on "Getting Along and Getting Ahead". Bill is the instructor of the turf program at Walla Walla Community College and always puts on a great presentation. He is one of the industries best.

Since I had the day off on Saturday what else should I do but come back and take the poodles for a walk on the trail around the golf course. It was a beautiful morning and it was great to get out and see all the golfers on the course. If you have never taken the trail I strongly recommend it. It is almost 3 miles long. Clackamas County Parks has done a fantastic job maintaining the trail. They have installed distance markers along the way as well as interpretive signs describing the wildlife that can be seen along the way. Speaking of wildlife, I read the post that Scott Morrison posted on Turfhugger about coyotes and it explained how March is pupping season for coyotes and they can become very territorial. Dogs are seen as a threat to them especially if they are off the leash. Please be considerate to the fellow walkers and the wildlife and keep them leashed.

Wildlife in Focus: Coyote

Wildlife in Focus: Coyote
My last two posts have brought attention to coyotes in the golf world so Scott Morrison at Turfhugger contacted Janet Kessler of Coyote Yipps to make some comments on the subject. Read more on this subject and learn how people and wildlife can coexist in an urban setting.

Coyote Update

No sooner did I post my last report on coyotes, Jorge called me on the radio to report another burial in the bunker. It's like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to find!

Monday, January 17th, 2011

Course Conditions
It sounds like a broken record but what else can you say about the weather in the Northwest? It's raining again! This weekend was pretty much a wash. The course is saturated and is about as wet as it can get. Saturday we receive about 1.38" and we will probably get that and then some more through Sunday.
  The weather didn't keep the crew from being productive though. The rain held off long enough to mow the tees on Thursday and the greens on Friday. 

In addition to pruning the small firs around the course Steve has also been nurturing many of the volunteer Doug firs that you see in some of the out-of-the-way places. He has been transplanting many of these in areas around the course where they will grow and flourish. Steve also puts them in areas where we want to eliminate cart traffic like the hill between the 16th tee and the 13th tee and near areas where we have lost trees due to stress. Our goal is to be able to sustain our coniferous woods by reallocating these young trees that we have on site. Here is a small patch of young Dougs that are coming along nicely.(above)  

This week the guys worked on the shortcut between the 18th tee box and the 10th green. For years it has been a well used trail and it had finally become so well used that it was bare dirt and mud. We simply placed a thick layer of gravel which should make it a much nicer path and a little more pleasing to look at.

Monday we had an unexpected guest on the course. We don't normally get a chance to get so close, but it gave us a rare opportunity to see how pretty coyotes really are. We regularly see coyotes around the golf course and often see them mousing in the fields across the highway. This time he didn't make the crossing safely and was struck by a car. We called APHIS Wildlife control and they helped us with the situation. 

It is reported that coyote sightings have become an all to familiar event in the Oregon City area. Urban coyotes have developed streetwise ways. The wildlife manager from APHIS told me that coyote sightings are about 80 percent of his calls. When I called him he was just on a controlled hunt where they were attacking a local flock of sheep.  

Click here to view a great little slide show of urban coyotes on

A funny side note on coyotes: A few weeks ago Jorge found mound of sand in one of the bunkers on fifteen. He knew what it was from a previous encounter but wanted to show Travis what it was. He uncovered it for him and it was a chicken that had been stolen from a neighbor. A year or so earlier he saw a coyote running across Stoneridge Drive with two chickens in his mouth heading to the course. Later that morning he found the one that he didn't eat in a similar situation. You never know what you may run into out here, it's never a dull moment.

Once in a while I like to promote a good product that we have found to be successful in our operation. Geese are a common pest among many golf courses around the country and there are many products that are sold to discourage them form sticking around. We have tried many of them and so far there isn't one alone that will work by itself. In the past we have used life-sized  coyote silhouettes and decoys, string fencing around the pond edges, amphibious/airborne RC devices, spray on products and finally my standard poodles. All seem to be effective as long as you are consistently taking time to administer the deterrent.  

I think we have found a combination of products that takes very little of our time and has seemed to have an effect. The first is a flashing beacon that is solar charged and only works at night. The beacon disrupts the sleep cycle of the geese which makes it uncomfortable for them to roost at night. We have had them now for a couple years and have gradually seen the overnight population decrease to just a small flock once in awhile. The one I show here on the right was struck by a golf ball and we are replacing it. You can also see that the float has been eaten by the muskrats and had been reduced in size by one half. The good new is the company that manufactures these devices has already made the necessary changes on the new model (left) and seemed to have solved the problem. The beacon is from a company called Away With Geese and can be purchased from their website or through the local Par Aide distributor. They won't work over night but as far as what we have seen they have had a significant impact on our population this winter.
The other device is a green laser pointer which we use only when the geese are present. A simple wave of the laser over the flock and they are gone. Something about it simply freaks them out. The laser is easily kept in your pocket and can be given to any of your staff. I found ours on Amazon for less than $12 each!  And yes these are the ones that can cause damage to the eye so extreme caution is taken.

Scribble Maps

I just became familiar with this new tool a couple weeks ago through Scott Morrison at Turfhugger and have already found some pretty good uses for it. Below is the map of the golf course with little green paddles pointing to specific trees that are in need of pruning. I am going to use this map as a work order and to collaborate with my arborist on how I want the job handled. If you click on the small square in the top right corner the map it will expand to the size of your monitor. From there you can click and drag the map around to where ever you want. When you  click on a paddle, a photograph of the tree will pop up and you will be able to see first hand on what needs to be done. I hope by doing this it will save time and hopefully money by enabling my arborist to make cost estimates remotely.

This tool can also help us delineate areas of the property as well. If we need to determine the area of a certain feature like a fairway, green or even our lakes, we can draw a polygon around it and it will tell us the dimensions. There are all kinds of icons that are available to insert into the map. Scott is working with the developer and has already had some golf specific icons placed in the menu.

This program will be very useful in developing an environmental plan for a facility, especially if a course is working on their Audubon certification. By drawing lines you can locate your direction of drainage, show catch basins and drain pipe discharge locations. Some courses have hundreds of bird boxes and this can be used to catalog each one of them.

As far as a communication tool goes, this has unlimited possibilities. I simply made the map and copied the embedded code into the blog. You can also send by email directly from the site as well. Thank you Scott for bringing this tool to light, it will definitely be used frequently.  Give it a try, the price is's FREE!

Monday, January 10th, 2011

Course Conditions
Frost continues to throw the proverbial screwball at us and has made it difficult for us to keep things open. Luckily we had some warmer weather by Friday and were able to mow some fairways and cut the greens. I am very pleased at where the greens are right now except for the amount of Poa annual that we are seeing. It is certainly hard to get used to after managing mostly bent greens over the past 9 years. The putting quality will not change but we will have to be more diligent in disease control in that Poa annua is a host to many more diseases than bentgrass.

Friday we were unable to open fifteen due to the layer of frost that was still evident when we tried to change the cup. As the greens come out of the hard freeze it is critical that we watch how much moisture we receive and how fast the frost layer thaws. The frost is literally an impermeable layer which doesn't allow water to drain through the profile, thus creating a saturated layer at the surface. In the photo to the left you can observe the frost layer between the scratches. When we this occurs we run the risk of creating sever damage to the plant by literally turning the surface into a wet sponge that will turn to mush with excessive foot traffic.  We like to call it root shearing so please be patient during these times when the greens look thawed from the top and we still have them closed. From what I see from the weather forecast, this week we are due for another round of freezing and perhaps a couple days of snow.

In many parts of the country, mainly in the northern climates, golf courses shut down their irrigation systems and blow out there lines to prevent freezing. Here in the Willamette Valley a lot of courses don't since our frost layer generally doesn't go deep enough to cause concern. One of the advantages that we have found is that during these periods when the temperatures are below freezing for a few days it is easy to spot irrigation leaks or in this case a really bad spring. This photo (right) demonstrates what we will typically see when one or the other is observed.

This week we continued to prune the many small firs around the course. Steve Pearce has been doing an exceptional job shaping them up and staying busy even during the frosty periods. 

Stone Creek Trees
Friday Damon Schrosk of Treecology and Terry Flannigan of  Teragan & Associates, Inc. came out to take a look at our Douglas firs. Terry is a consulting arborist and is working with Damon and me in developing a management program for our large Douglas firs. Terry was encouraged by what he saw of the trees that we performed the air knife under. He feels that it would be well worth our while to invest in this to help save some of the failing trees. He is going to follow up his visit with a report that I will share with everyone in March. Below are a few of the photos that I took during our walk that demonstrates the thinning that we are starting to see and some of the dead ones that will need to be dealt with.

I have Treecology scheduled for our regular winter maintenance in January. This year we reduced our pruning budget and will not be able to get around to as many trees as we used to. Our priority will be safety, addressing a couple dead trees and removing widow makers and some dead tops.  

Lets keep our fingers crossed in that the snow they are predicting (or should I say guessing) doesn't materialize. Have a great week!

2010 Wrap Up from the West - Top 10 Diseases

2010 Wrap Up from the West - Top 10 Diseases

Frank Wong, PhD. from UC Davis gives the year end review in turf diseases. As I guessed Poa annua tops the list as the number one host.

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

Happy New Year!

Last week started where we left off, raining of course. Wednesday topped the rain gauge with over 2 inches for the day. The total for the week according to our weather station was 3.72 inches. We went from hard rain to the first really hard frost of the season on Friday. I was disappointed that we could not get the shotgun out on Friday. It's not every day in the middle of the winter when the parking lot is full and we have an opportunity to bolster the year end numbers.The frost was just too hard. We finally managed to open the front nine at 1:00pm.

Even though we had 2 inches of rain (above) on Wednesday it didn't stop our die hard Wednesday group (below) from getting in18 holes. These guys are a pretty special breed. I don't know how they do it.

 The heavy rain on Wednesday brought us our second round of flooding. The usual spots saw the high water including the 6th hole, Lake A,(below) and the bunkers. Zeferino and Jorge worked through the wet weather early in the week and finished draining the green side bunker on eleven. We are making it a goal to at least finish one bunker per week until we get through the worst ones. Our next project will be the green side on twelve.

Steve finished our cart path bollards last week and replaced the old and rotten ones. Such an overall improvement on the appearance of the golf course.

Each October I schedule Paul Garska from Hydrotronix to perform an annual preventative maintenance on our pump station. This year he wasn't able to do it until this last week due to his busy work load. I always look at this as putting money in the bank. Paul tells me that each year he has to perform emergency repairs to pump stations around the state that could have been avoided by simply scheduling a multi-point inspection and maintenance procedure. To date I cannot recall ever having to call Paul out for an emergency repair in the middle of the season. In this business you can't afford to have down time when the grass you maintain is kept on the edge of drought. This is one of our most discrete operations but yet is most vital to the success of an irrigation season.

Saturday morning while waiting for the frost to disappear, I bundled up with my trusty camera and dog Ryder and went for a nice long walk around the course. (Some may remember Ryder from the 2008 Golfdom Calendar.) Dogs absolutely love golf courses. Darren Davis of Olde Florida Golf Club does this every day and I can see why. It makes such a difference to leave the cart behind and walk, it gives me more time to stop and take into account of every aspect of the golf course. Of course Darren's weather is much more conducive to this, but none the less it was dry. Ryder enjoyed the time away from his little brother and partaking in the wonderful green tootsie rolls left behind by our local flock of geese. It was a peaceful morning watching the sun rise and taking some special shots. Here are a few pics I would like to share:

This final shot is the first picture I have taken of a bald eagle on the property. I believe it is a juvenile, it was pretty high in the tree and the zoom on my camera was maxed out. When it flew it appeared to be almost twice a big as a red tail. 

Finally, I made this video from a suggestion of Mark Johnson at GCSAA as a way to display some nice shots of the golf course. It was pretty simple with the Movie Maker program in Windows 7. It took just a few minutes and there it was. I have also placed it under my "Video Gallery" tab.

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