With rain forecast for Wednesday evening we took the opportunity to top dress the greens before it arrived which should help wash the sand into the sward. Conditions were not ideal with the high winds causing a less than uniform coverage but with some events coming up and the course getting busier over the next few weeks it was important to get the greens smooth again after slitting them the previous two weeks.
I was fortunate enough to be selected by BIGGA to travel with 9 other greenkeepers to the GCSAA show in Orlando, Florida. Arriving on the evening of Saturday 5th Feb, we had another day to acclimatise and get to know our fellow delegates before the festivities began.
Monday 7th Feb consisted of two course visits, the first being to Orange County National, a 45 hole complex with possible the biggest driving range in the world (The Tiger commercial where he plays keepy uppy was filmed there) where we were given a tour of the maintenance facility as well as both courses, Panther Lake and Crooked Cat as well as the 9 hole short course. Chris Brocious the clubs equipment technician was our host who answered all our questions. A total of 90,000 rounds are played every year at OCN and is open 265 days a year. After lunch we visited Marriot Grande Pines and the Faldo Golf Institute where the superintendent Chris Flynn gave us a tour of his immaculate maintenance facility and golf course which has 18 staff a budget of $1.2 million and does 42,000 rounds per year. As a resort course this was especially interesting for me as there were many similarities to our course and hotel. Chris was very informative and honest about everything from nutrient programmes to environmental aspirations and overseeding cool season grasses. Following the tour of Grande Pines we were taken accross the road to the Faldo Golf Institute which Chris also takes care of. The facilty has a “fun” 9 hole course as well as numerous practice areas, driving range etc. A team of 10 staff with a budget of $750,000 take care of this impressive area.
Tuesday 8th Feb. We joined a group of around 200 superintendents and greenkeepers from around the world on a field trip to various courses in the Orlando Area. Split into 4 groups of 50 we were taken on a bus tour, our first stop was Shingle Creek followed by Bay Hill (where the Arnold Palmer Invitiational will be hosted later this month before ending the tour at The Ritz Carlton which was designed by Greg Norman. Our group were all in agreement that the Ritz Carlton was the most impressive course we had seen from a maintenance and presentation standpoint. With a budget of $1.4 million and a staff of 26 they deliver an impressive course as well as the landscape areas around the hotel with an excellent eye for detail. All tours were extremely professional with all superintendents being very open to questions and answering with confidence and honestly. It was interesting seeing the various different philosophies for overseeding and heights of cut that were used on the greens at all the courses, but with relatively high budgets and constant changes in grasses available for overseeding it is a real challenge for these courses to continually develop and improve, especially with the amount of rounds played on each course each year. Following the field trip our group were invited to an evening John Deere VIP reception in downtown Orlando for food, drink and networking with superintendents from around the world.
Wednesday 9th and Thursday 10th Feb. were the 2 days of “The Show” which is the largest golf maintenance exhibition in the world. Due to the financial climate it was apparently smaller than usual but it still took 2 days to manoeuvre around. Everything from machinery, fertiliser/chemicals, universities, irrigation to name but a few were represented in a truly massive area. On the Wednesday afternoon we were part of an hour Q&A session arranged by Bernhard and Co with Tim Heirs from Old Collier Golf Club in Naples Florida for an insight into his maintenance operation, ideas on communication and resource management. On the Wednesday evening we were invited to our trip sponsors Bernhard and Co’s drinks reception which was a gathering of all previous delegates on the BIGGA and GCSAA delegations which have travelled previously to The States as well as our American colleagues who have made the trip for the British version of the show in Harrogate. On Thursday evening I was able to meet up with all the superintendents from The Kohler courses in Wisconsin for dinner and a good catch up with the guys who I had not seen since the 2007 US Senior Open at Whistling Straits.
Friday 11th Feb. was our day for education where we attended a full day seminar hosted at the Orange County Convention Centre with the topic The Science of Physical Properties in the Real World, Beyond the Textbooks, presented by David Doherty of the International Sports Turf Research Centre. The day consisted of discussions on aeration practices, rootzones and growing mediums on how to maintain turf with advise on his many years of experience. On Friday evening we were invited to The Ramsomes Jacobsen drinks reception at Universal Studios where we met many familiar faces from the UK and had time to reflect on what was a thoroughly worthwhile and enjoyable week, before flying home the next day.
My thanks must go to BIGGA and the trip sponsors Bernhard and Co who have now taken 90 greenkeepers from the UK out to The States as well as bringing 20 the other way in the past 10 years or so. The organisation of our chaperones for the week Kim Furnell and Gina Putnam was first class and helped deliver what was a great experience and brought together 10 like-minded individuals for a memorable week.
Before the snow arrived on an overcast day, this shows the 7th hole from the tee where the bunker in the fairway had become completely obscured by the gorse bushes. There is a lot of this type of work to undertake this winter as a lot of the gorse on the course is becoming too big.
On Tuesday Smithco demonstrated some of their equipment for us. There were 2 sand pros with various attachments, a sprayer and a pretty impressive pump.
On Tuesday and Wednesday this week we had the HNC golf course management students from Elmwood College come for a course visit to talk about various drainage problems/solutions and installation techniques that we have here at The Dukes.
On the 19th and 20th of October we hosted the Sprint to St Andrews Final. The tournament was an inaugural event which saw 30 qualifiers from the Tartan tour compete over 36 holes for a prize fund of £10,000. The event was won by Scottish PGA Champion Chris Doak after a play off. With only 2 of the 30 players finishing under par it was a good test for the players.
We owe a huge thanks to Ian Butcher and Stuart Mackie from Elmwood College for providing some NC and HNC students as volunteers who helped us prepare for the tournament (Ian even raked some bunkers himself).
Day 1 went without any problems but day 2 was very cold and we had our first real frost of the year which only really affected us as we were unable mow anything and were only able to rake bunkers. Fortunately the start times did not need to be delayed as the tournament did not start till 10am.
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Various types of fungi on the course at the moment. Gold star to anyone who can identify them correctly!
We have needle tined, top dressed and fertilised the greens with a 12-0-44 fertilser this week.
The problems on the greens with the take all patch appear to be behind us with some really good germination of the seed in the affected patches. The 7th and 8th greens were the greens with most damage so these greens were fully spiked/seeded and top dressed, this has worked really well and it is now hard to see what all the concern was about!!.
The greens were needle tined (5mm) and top dressed, an operation that will be repeated in mid october.
The height of cut on the green is still 4mm and will be raised up to 5mm in mid October.
The approaches are currently being mown 3 times a week at 9.5mm and are looking good and were fertilised with a 23-2-10. We have changed the mowing on the approaches to be more consistent, we now mow one lap with the triple mower around each green. Previously all the greens were different with some of them having one lap and others maybe 2 or some all the way back down behind the greens. We hope that now the golfer will have a better idea of what shot awaits him/her if they miss the green as all the approaches are now more similar in their presentation. This was just one of the ideas that the guys had after returning from Whistling Straits.
The tees are being mown at 10mm and are due to be fertilised again in October with a high iron 7-0-14.
FAIRWAYS: The fairways received a granular 9-7-7 to see them through the remainder of the season, We tried a new method of application by using an agricultural spreader which got all 18 holes fertilised in under 4 hours with its 24 meter width of spread. Depending on if we get any missed bits or bad overlaps we may try this again next year.
The height of cut on the fairways has been raised up to 14mm
THE MONTH AHEAD
October as always will be a busy month with lots to do before the growth slows down. The greens will be needle tined, top dressed and fertilised again, the aim is to get them as healthy as possible leading into the winter. Last year we probably had them a little to lean going into what turned out to be a very harsh winter, so this year we will take no chances.
With The Dunhill Links in town as well as a Scottish PGA “Sprint to St Andrews” tournament, it should be an exciting month before we lose our seasonal staff at the end of the month.
On Monday we managed to get a much needed top-dressing on the greens. The past few weeks have either been too busy with golf or the weather has been unsuitable for top-dressing. We applied a heavier dressing than we normally do but it brushed in really well and rolled the greens afterwards. All was going too well until some dark rain clouds appeared and we had to abandon the last 3 greens until the next day.