Saturday, August 31, 2013

Growing and Patching Greens

The change in the weather over the past week has done amazing things for our golf course.  We have been able to get the entire golf course mowed and we are off the paths on all holes for one of the first times this year.  The greens have responded great to the sunshine and are in the best condition they have been in some time.  Being able to get the course back in shape has allowed us to work on a few of the fine detail work this week, all in an effort to make the golf course even better.

We have a few weak areas on a couple of greens, mostly near the cleanup laps, which have failed to recover this summer due to the poor growing weather.  This week Willie and Jonathen spent a couple of days working on fixing these areas with some sod we received from Champion Turf Farms.  This area on #15 green is on the hump near the back bunker.

Willie cut out the bad area taking care to use the boards to turn on as to not damage any more of the green than necessary.

All the bad sod in the area is removed from the patch area.  Any usable sod for the corners was used in plug work on smaller areas.

After the area was packed and smoothed out the new sod pieces are carefully put in place and tamped down to insure good sod to soil contact.

After being trimmed and cleaned up the area was rolled and heavily watered. 

These patch areas are an unfortunate necessity but turned out extremely nice due to the care and concern of Willie and Jonathen.  It will take a couple of weeks for these areas to root in so we can begin mowing them down so in the meantime just consider them Ground Under Repair areas and take care to walk around these areas. 

Hopefully we will continue to have great weather for the rest of the season and we can play some golf.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Low Mowing Heights Require Precision Setup

As Adam Garr said in his video in my last post, "Fast greens don't just happen".  It takes a lot of work and dedication on a lot of fronts to keep the greens performing properly.  In addition to the verticutting and topdressing that we do to the greens on a regular basis, Steve Bloom, our trusty equipment mechanic, has to keep the reels cutting at an extremely high level in order for us to maintain the greens at the proper height.  Our new Jacobsen Eclipse 322 with their 15 blade cutting reels provide a superior cut and with daily backlapping and adjusting, our mowers are always ready to go.

In order to insure our greens are maintained at their highest potential Steve daily backlaps the mowers and checks their contact and height of cut before they are sent out the next day to mow.  

   From time to time the reels can no longer be backlapped to get that high quality of cut and they have to be ground to sharpen the blades and true up the cutting edge of the reel.  Since it was pouring rain all day on Monday Steve and Willie took the lead and ground the reels on all three greensmower triplexes. 

Here Steve is grinding one of the greensmower reels on our bench grinder.  The process takes off just a little bit of the reel with each pass of the grinding stone leaving the reel sharp and true across the entire surface of all 15 blades.

Also during the process of grinding the reels Willie replaced the bedknife with a brand new one.  The reel and the bedknife work just like household scissors and cut the grass as they come into contact with one another.  As with dull scissors or a dull razor, dull blades or bedknives don't cut grass very well and can lead to weakened plants making them vulnerable to insect and disease invasion.

Video of How a Reel Cuts Grass

Freshly ground reel and shiny new bedknife ready to go.  Makes me happy!!!

Once the reel is done in the grinding room it is remounted on the mower and a light contact is set getting it ready for backlapping.

Although the reel has been freshly ground and the bedknife is fresh out of the box the two need to be matched or "married" together through a process known as backlapping.  In the backlapping process the reel is spun in the opposite direction of its normal mowing operation.  Backlapping compound is applied to the reel to fine tune the contact and the sharpness of the reel.  Backlapping compound is really like "liquid sandpaper" and puts that finishing touch on the sharpening process.

After the reels have been backlapped, they are washed off to remove all the excess backlapping compound and then the mower is set up on the Golf Lift so the reels can be adjusted.  Here Steve is using an AccuGuage to set the height of cut, which is currently set at 0.130".  He will also adjust/check the height of the groomers, which are currently set at 0.115" and check to make sure we have 0.002" of clearance between the reel and the bedknife as recommended by Jacobsen.

 Once the reels are set the mower is ready to go mow some grass.  It takes a lot of effort and dedication to keep the mowers cutting at the high level that we demand and I am grateful to have a dedicated and committed staff.

Great Work Steve and Willie!!!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

"Throwing Sand"--Explaining Why We Topdress Greens

Once the wet weather subsides we will return to our normal maintenance schedule on the greens which will include our 7 to 10 day vertical mowing and topdressing routine.  Of all the maintenance activities we perform on the golf course on a routine basis, topdressing of the greens has to be the one that I get the most questions and comments about.  I have been thinking about a way of describing or explaining what our process is and luckily found someone who has already done it, and has done an excellent  job.

Adam Garr, Golf Course Superintendent at Plum Hollow Country Club in Southfield, Michigan has put together, in my opinion, one of the best detailed, descriptive videos on the process of topdressing greens that I have seen.  If you take the few minutes to view his video below you will know why we topdress the greens on such a routine basis and will hopefully appreciate all the hard work and effort our staff puts in to having firm, fast greens.

It is great when you can find valuable information and techniques on other golf course superintendents blogs.  Thanks to Adam and his staff for allowing us to post this to our blog.  I hope you find the information useful.

Saturday, August 10, 2013


Today marks our 50th day of Zero Emissions maintenance at The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay.  What a great feeling that is to say.  Except for the fuel used in our backpack blowers ALL golf course maintenance activities are carried out using battery powered electric equipment which produce ZERO point source carbon emissions, use ZERO drops of gasoline, produce ZERO gallons of used motor and/or hydraulic oil, and produce nearly ZERO noise pollution. 

In March of this year we replaced the vast majority of our gasoline powered golf course maintenance equipment with battery powered electric models.  Through the Clean Tennessee Energy Grant funded by the Tennessee Valley Authority through the Office of Sustainable Practices of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation we purchased three Jacobsen Eclipse 322 triplex greensmowers, four Jacobsen Eclipse 322 triplex tee and approach mowers, two Tru-Turf R52 greens rollers, two Smithco Super Star bunker rakes, five Toro Workman MDEs and two Club Car Carry All Turf IIs.  These units make up the bulk of our golf course maintenance fleet and on days like today are the only units used on the golf course. 

When we began looking into the possibility of converting our gasoline powered equipment to electric many questions and concerns came up.  How much fuel usage
can we eliminate?  How much CO2 emissions can we eliminate?  How much will our electricity bill go up?  Can a battery powered mower really cut as well as a gasoline powered mower and can it make it around the golf course without loosing power?  All of these questions were very good ones and we did our best to research the correct answer.  The biggest question though was would the electric equipment perform as we needed it to and would it truly benefit the golf course and the environment.

After five months of using the electric equipment I can say without hesitation that using electric equipment on a golf course is a very, very viable option to gasoline powered equipment.  The equipment has performed well beyond our expectations and to answer a few of the questions above, in the first four months of operation when compared to usage during the same months in 2012 we have eliminated the use of 700.2 gallons of gasoline and eliminated the production of 14,004 point source pounds of CO2.  Our fuel savings for this time frame has been $2,332.73 while our electricity costs are only $1,175.31.  While we have not been able to eliminate all use of gasoline or CO2 emissions on the golf course this is a great start.

The equipment has been a huge hit with the golf course maintenance staff and the golfers.  The quietness of the equipment allows us to carry out our maintenance practices without disturbing the golfers as much as we have in the past with our loud gasoline engine powered units.  We have had many golfers comment about how nice it is not to have to hear the equipment and we get some really strange, but great, looks when we go by them and all you can hear is the sound of the tires on the asphalt.

But the ones who really benefit from the elimination of carbon emissions, the reduction in noise pollution, and the elimination of a possible fuel or oil spill are the ones who call the golf course home.  We don't disturb the wildlife as we travel around the golf course anymore and many times the deer don't even move when we drive by.  At Harrison Bay we know that the golf course is their home and we are only visiting, so if they are happy, then I am happy.

Our Electric Equipment Initiative is just beginning and we hope that others will consider the benefits and the rewards of using alternative energy sources to operate their golf course equipment in the future. 

On to the next 50 days!!!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Lack of Sun=Lack of Turfgrass Growth

It has often been said "What a difference a year makes" and oh how that is true this year.  Our weather this summer, especially the amount of sunlight our turfgrass has received, has been so different from last year.  Last year's growing season began in early February with a quick green up of the greens and did not stop until after Thanksgiving.  It was great for the health of the turfgrass and the amount of golfers to visit the golf course.  This summer we have experienced more rain than I can remember during the summer months but more than that we have had more days of limited or blocked sunlight which has resulted in greens which have been slower to recover from maintenance practices than I am used to and has forced us to use higher heights of cut than we would like to eliminate the possibility of scalping.

July of 2012 had an average temperature of 83 degrees, with a high of 107 and a low of 77.  This past July saw our average temperature of only 78 degrees with a high of 94 and a record low of 62.  Rainfall in 2012 was recorded to be 6.87 inches for the month while 2013 saw a total of 8.33 inches total for the month of July.  Although the rain was an issue this year, the biggest issue to the turfgrass was the amount of cloud cover that we encountered this year.  We experienced 25 days out of 31 which were considered to be substantially cloudy.  Lack of sunlight for our Champion greens is more detrimental during the summer months than the lack of high temperatures.  The limited sunlight has restricted many of our weak areas from healing in completely and has caused the greens to begin elongating as the greens think it is already September and they are getting ready for their long winter nap.

The chipping green is coming along nicely but it has also suffered from the lack of great growing weather and is lagging behind a bit more than I would like for it to be.  We have began daily maintenance on it and it is spreading and filling in okay.  I think this will be a great addition to the golf course as the increased size of the putting surface will allow golfers practicing bunker shots to have a big enough surface to stop their ball on, which was our biggest complaint about the old chipping green.  One little improvement at a time.