Wednesday, November 30, 2016

What does a "Clean" course cost?

Some of the beauty of a golf course, especially BT@HB, is that you can get away from the hustle and bustle of metro areas and enjoy a peaceful day in nature.  Although the trees that frame shots and line fairways make golf courses beautiful and strategic, they also create a maintenance nightmare in the autumn months when the leaves begin to fall.  We, like most every other golf course I know, work very hard to keep up with blowing and mulching leaves as they fall so that golfers can find their golf balls and enjoy their round.  Personally I think our staff does an amazing job of keeping Harrison Bay clean, especially since every single hole is surrounded by old growth hardwoods and pines.

So what does it cost to keep a golf course "clean"?  One of my staff members ask me that question last week and it got me thinking, and the figures I came up with are striking.  Just looking at the month of November alone, we used 350 man-hours blowing leaves with our turbine blowers and/or tractor mounted blowers and 100 man-hours blowing leaves with backpack blowers.  If we average $8.00/hour for pay then we spent $3,600.00 on labor alone to blow leaves from the course.

The fuel needed to operate these blowers has to be calculated as well.  We used 117.2 gallons of gasoline in our turbine blowers during November.  At $1.85 per gallon that means we spent $216.82 on gas for the turbines.  Tractor blowers, front end blowers and mulching mowers that run on diesel consumed 45.9 gallons of diesel, which at $1.48 per gallon means we spent $67.93.  Mix gas for the backpack blowers consumed 40 gallons of mix gas during November.  Gasoline and two cycle mix oil combined cost $165.80.

Now I didn't bother to figure up costs for engine oil or batteries for the turbine remotes and I am extremely thankful that we have electric utility vehicles so we don't have the added fuel expense that they would use.

This also doesn't account for the cost of
equipment that is used to keep the course clean.  Turbine blowers like we have can run between $8,000-$9,000 each and tractor mounted blowers can run several thousands of dollars.  I consider myself lucky in that I have a forest surrounding my course and not homes because I always have somewhere to blow the leaves but some courses are not as fortunate and have to collect leaves and pile them in a selected location on the course.  Sweepers and vacuums can run between $20,000.00 to $40,000.00 depending on how big and what features you want out of your vacuum/sweeper.

So as you can see golf courses with beautiful, tree lined fairways that separate one hole from the others and give each hole its own look and feel, invest a ton of money and resources in keeping the playing surfaces clear of debris and playable.  We have, and will continue to, invest the time, manpower, and resources needed to keep the course clean and enjoyable for all.

What does a "Clean" course cost?  A LOT!!!

Monday, November 21, 2016

First Frost and What to Expect at Harrison Bay This Winter

This morning we experienced our first full frost of the season as the temperatures at the course dipped to 25 degrees.  It was quite a shock to the system since we were at 79 degrees at the end of last week.  As this will not be our last frost, and in turn frost delay, this year I wanted to try and pass along some information about why we need to keep foot traffic, cart traffic, and maintenance equipment off of frosted grass in order to keep it alive and healthy.

Again the United States Golf Association can explain better than I can what happens to grass when it is under the grips of cold weather and frost.

We all hate to have our round delayed but we have worked too hard to get our golf course back in shape this year to allow anything to risk damaging it now.  So please be patient as we allow the frost to burn off and realize that we are doing it for the betterment of the golf course, not to keep you from your round.

Good Lord willing you will not see any heavy equipment tearing up the golf course this winter like last year with The Renovation of #3 Green and Installation of Drainage in #10 Fairway.  We will be continuing to make improvement to the golf course however with smaller projects.  Projects for this winter will include limbing up of trees to provide clearer shots for you the golfer and more sunlight for the turf.  We will also be installing more cross tie curbing along the cart paths in needed areas and will be renovating the main sign at the front entrance.  Lots of work but all intended to make your course better.

As I said before we are going to make every decision this winter with the health and survival of the turfgrass in mind.  So we may not be mowing the greens first thing in the morning or changing cups right before play goes out or other practices that are routinely done before play during the summer.  These practices will be done later in the day when we are positive that the greens surface and the surrounds are free of frost and are not frozen.

We will be foregoing our normal painting of the greens this year in an effort to eliminate any foreign substances covering the leaf blades and blocking any issues that we need to be seeing during the dormant season that might be harming the greens.  Hopefully there will be enough distinction between the putting surface and the greens surrounds and if needed we will apply a dose of our normal green dye that we use when applying our routine foliar fertilizer and plant protectants.

I can also tell you to expect a greater probability of the greens being covered this winter compared to past years.  In the past I have pushed the envelope on whether or not to cover the greens during questionably and potentially damaging weather to try and keep the golf course open for play.  However I realize that I may have been putting the health of the turfgrass at a greater risk than what the reward was worth.  Like all other decisions, when and if we cover will be done with the greens health and survivability in mind.

As you can tell from the tone of this post there is a different mindset at Harrison Bay going forward.  We have recovered from a trying and hard summer and our course is in the best condition that it has been in many, many years.  We will do what ever it takes to keep it that way and we hope you understand and agree with our decisions.