Monday, September 14, 2015

Fore The Golfer: How to Repair Ball Marks


        The golf course maintenance staff walks the greens in the pre-dawn hours with a flashlight and a golf tee as their tools. In those hours, they are cleaning up messes left behind by others.They're ugly, hideous depressions in the greens -- ball marks left behind by golfers who didn't care to take the 10 seconds necessary to heal a scar on the putting surface, where a true roll is of the utmost importance. A ball mark that goes un-repaired can be unsightly for more than two weeks, cause putts to roll off line and possibly become a bigger problem if a mower -- one capable of cutting within a tenth of an inch -- goes over it in the pre-dawn hours, leaving a blemish the size of a soft drink can. The importance of repairing ball marks applies to every course and every golfer. Repair is not only a courtesy to those in later groups on a given day, but it should be a common courtesy no matter the importance of the round.
        So, what is the best way and tool to use to fix a ball mark? Ball marks vary in shape and severity so there is no one best tool. In fact, virtually any pointed tool will work as long as the proper method of repair is performed. This has even been the focus of several research projects in recent years where multiple repair tools were evaluated. Each study concluded that no particular repair tool was significantly better than any other when used correctly. 
        It is the understanding that it is the method, not the tool, that is most critical to restoring a smooth surface and allowing turf to heal quickly. Begin by inserting the repair tool into the soil behind the rear of the ball mark at about a 45-degree angle. Gently pull the top of the tool toward the center. Continue working around the ball mark, gently stretching the surrounding turf toward the center until the indentation is filled in. Less is generally more when it comes to ball mark repair, so this should be done just three or four times; anything more generally adds injury to the already damaged turf. Use your putter or foot to tamp down the repaired area to make it smooth and level with the rest of the green. Avoid prying actions that tear live roots and bring soil to the putting surface. Doing so causes significant damage and greatly slows recovery.

         Fixing ball marks is on par with many other course courtesies that golfers should follow. Golfers should follow the signs, be courteous to fellow golfers and know that the superintendents want to keep the course as pristine as possible. So when a sign says, "Cart Path Only," there's a reason. When a sign says, "90 degrees," there's a reason. When a sign says, "Please repair ball marks," there's a reason.

We at Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club, want our members and patrons to treat the course as their own: Obey cart rules, rake bunkers and repair ball marks.
As always any questions, comments or concerns is always welcomed.
We'll see you out there!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

2015 Bunker, Collar and Approach Renovation Update


 The 2015 bunker, collar and approach improvements are under way. And, despite the uncooperative weather of late, the golf course construction company has made up ground and are currently not that far off of the original completion schedule. I have been informed of some questions and concerns regarding our current project. I would like to answer some of those questions and concerns, by discussing the intricacies of golf course construction and renovation.

     Today, many mature golf courses face a number of common problems. As assets age, golf clubs can be burdened with increased operational and maintenance costs. And increasingly, golf clubs are asked to comply with more stringent environmental restrictions. But older clubs still hold certain advantages. Often, they sit on prime locations and have mature landscapes that might take a newer club years to develop. These advantages make them prime candidates for renovation. Golf course renovation can improve the play-ability and overall strategy of your course. It can address environmental issues and revitalize your aging assets. Above all, it can reinvigorate the current membership and help add new members.

Golf course construction and renovation can be a monumental undertaking for any golf club. Every renovation project is unique and demands creativity, flexibility and investment from all of the involved parties. It requires a well-orchestrated team of individuals including the club manager, golf course architect, golf course superintendent, etc. These stakeholders must have the necessary vision to see the possibility of what could be and the passion to market and illustrate their plan of action to the general membership of the facility. Despite the often glaring need to renovate aging and outdated facilities, there still may be some individual club members resistant to the proposed change and it’s accompanying monetary costs. It is very important during this time to secure the confidence and approval of the membership. 
     Construction and renovation of a golf course is a highly specialized and technical affair. The decisions made in this phase will last a lifetime, so it's essential that the job is done right from day one. Ultimately, for completed construction to match intended design, it is important for the golf course architect and the selected golf course construction company to interact and remain in constant contact during the various phases of construction.
   During a construction or renovation project, there a number of hurdles that can/will be encountered that can slow or stall the project, resulting in completion schedules and dates to change. It is preferential to undergo construction in the late fall/early winter. However, the sod that is being used for the majority of this project (Zeon and Palisades Zoysia grass) plays a major factor in the scheduling of the project. Zoysia grasses do not establish as quickly or as aggressively as Bermuda grasses. Therefore, sod availability is not even an option until March. It would not be beneficial to begin a construction project until the sod is readily available to finish out the project. 

The biggest challenge to any construction project is weather. Excessive rainfall can bring a construction project to a complete halt. And, if the rain is significant enough, can destroy previously completed work that will need to be re-done. And, it’s not just the weather in the specific area of the project that can create a delay. For example, the sod that is being used for our current renovation project is coming from a sod farm outside of Houston, TX. Rainfall events in their area can cause delays or cancel sod deliveries if the ground is too saturated to harvest sod for delivery. With the sod being delivered form that great of a distance, it is imperative that the sod be harvested, trucks loaded and immediately en route for delivery. This is to ensure that the quality of sod is still acceptable for use on the golf course.
    I would like to thank all our members and patrons, for their continued patience and support while we continue our current renovation project. I hope this provides some insight of what challenges we face during the construction and renovation of this golf course. If you have any further questions regarding construction and renovation, please feel free to catch me the next time you see me out on the golf course. I would be happy to answer any questions or concerns you may have.

Any questions, comments or concerns are always welcomed.

We’ll see you out there!

Friday, March 21, 2014

EMPLOYEE PROFILE - Rex Schad - Equipment Manager


        Over the next few months, I will be doing a series of blog posts that I am calling EMPLOYEE PROFILE. In these blog posts, I will be introducing some of the employees of the Jimmie Austin Golf Club Turf Care Facility and what their job function and responsibilities are within the club.

      In this inaugural blog entry, I will introduce Rex Schad - Equipment Manager. Rex Schad has over 20+ years working as an Equipment Technician and Equipment Manager in the Golf Course Maintenance Industry. He is a member of the International Golf Course Equipment Managers Association (IGCEMA) and is working on becoming a Certified Golf Course Equipment Manager thru the IGCEMA. 

      The Equipment Manager is responsible for the entire fleet of turf maintenance equipment. Jimmie Austin Golf Club Turf Care Facility has 75 individual pieces of equipment that the Equipment Manager is responsible for the maintenance and repair of. He oversees a comprehensive preventive maintenance program. This program includes the repair of failing equipment, keeping records of parts and labor needed to maintain each piece of equipment, and placing orders for parts and supplies needed for equipment or service. He is responsible for properly communicating any needs or problems relating to the maintenance or repair of equipment to the superintendent and/or the assistant superintendent, and schedule and direct the work assignments of the assistant equipment manager. He is to place safety as a top priority and is responsible for maintaining a clean service area and maintenance building. 

      One of the most important aspects of the Equipment Manager's responsibilities is referred to as "Reel Science". "Reel Science" is the proper maintenance, adjustments and set-up of reel mowing equipment to provide an exceptional quality of cut. Over time and after repetitive use, the reels on our mowing equipment will dull and they will need to be sharpened. A method called back-lapping can be utilized in between reel-grinding to keep the mowers sharp. Back-lapping is done by applying a gritty compound called lapping compound to the blade while it is running in reverse. This gritty compound will sharpen the reel against the bed-knife. However, back-lapping can only be done so many times to sharpen the blade. To keep the reel and bedknife sharp and adjusted  correctly, it is necessary to grind them periodically. To correctly grind the reel and/or bedknife, it is placed on the respective grinder, set-up and adjusted accordingly to the manufacturers recommended settings and then Spun and Relief Ground. Rex has 50 reels and bedknives that he is responsible for keeping in exceptional cutting condition at all times. Reel mowing equipment is used to maintain the greens, tees, collars, approaches, fairways, intermediate rough and courtesy paths, while, rotary mowing equipment is utilized on all of the lawn areas, rough and native areas. 

      Rex has done a wonderful job of maintaining our fleet of turf maintenance equipment. Many times the Golf Course Superintendent, Assistant Golf Course Superintendent or Turf Care Facility employees are stopped by golfers and told "how great the golf course is" or "how great of a job they are doing". While these compliments are always nice to hear, I have never had anyone stop and tell me "how great the quality of cut is today" or "how well the equipment is running". Most of our patrons have never seen or met Rex, and, have no idea just how important his job duties are to the overall maintenance of the golf course. That is why this series of blog entries is so important. I want our patrons to know who these thank-less individuals are, that they may or may not have seen on a daily basis. I want people to know what these individual's job functions are, and, what important role they play in the operation and maintenance of this great facility. 

As always any questions, comments or concerns are always welcome.

We'll see you out there!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Turf Care Facility Construction Update 3/5/2014


      Jimmie Austin Golf Club at the University of Oklahoma broke ground on the construction of a state -of-the-art golf course Turf Care Facility in September 2013. This facility, when completed, will be an approximate 2-Acre facility with (4) building structures, (2) of which are completely enclosed. We will have an ESD Waste-2-Water recycled wash system, fuel tracking software, chemical mix/load stations with spill containment, 50 ton capacity sand storage silo, bulk material storage bins, recessed slab with a parking curb for roll-away dumpsters, recycling station, greenhouse and much more. 

      Building (A) will be the main core building. It will house offices, meeting/safe room, utility vehicles, irrigation, tool & parts storage, equipment maintenance operations, employee lounge, locker rooms, laundry room, etc.

       Building (B) will be a three-sided storage building. It will be the main storage for our large mowers, tractors, topdressors, sweepers, etc.

       Building (C) will be the storage for chemical and fertilizer storage. It will also have (3) separate bays for our chemical application equipment. These bays will have a spill containment system in the floor and will have an overhead water supply to fill up the spray tanks. These bays will serve as our mix/load stations when conducting applications to the golf course. 

      Building (D) will be an open-sided structure. It will provide overhead cover for the ESD Waste-2-Water recycle wash system, as well as, fuel tanks and fuel pumping control system. The fuel pump system will come with software that will allow me to give each piece of equipment its own unique ID. By doing this, it will allow me to track our fuel consumption precisely for each piece of equipment, as well as, eliminate accidental fill-ups with the incorrect fuel type. 

      We will also will be breaking ground soon on a new turf nursery that will serve as a training center. This Turf Training Nursery will be constructed similar to a Short Game Practice area with (2) greens (A1-A4 Bentgrass & G2 Bentgrass), (2) bunkers and approximately 0.25 acres of closely mowed turfgrass area (Zoysiagrass, Bermudagrass). We will have the ability to train new employees on daily golf assignments, fine-tune equipment or conducting field trials for local educational institutions, chemical and/or equipment vendors.

      We are very excited about this new facility and the impact it will make from an environmental stewardship aspect. Are goal with this facility is for it to be as environmentally sensitive and responsible while still being a fully functioning Turf Care Facility. 

As always any questions, comments or concerns are always welcome.

We'll see you out there!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Winter Time is BUSY TIME!

      Winter time is upon us and in full force. Temperatures have been extremely cold and working days on the golf course have been far and few between. Many people ask "What do you all do during this seasonal downtime to stay busy and productive?" All though there aren't a lot of outside jobs to do during this time of the year, there are a number of things that can be accomplished that are important to the golf course and that contribute to the aesthetics of the golf course. Many of these small projects include: re-staining the wood on the benches and water cooler stands, re-painting the trash cans and ball washers, fixing and/or touching up aged or broken bunker rakes, etc.

      Another important project that can be done during the down-time of winter, is equipment maintenance and repairs. This is a time for our Equipment Manager to tune-up all of our maintenance equipment, grind reels and bed-knives on mowers, and go over our fleet of maintenance equipment and vehicles with a fine-tooth comb and report what equipment is in fine, working order and what equipment is on it's last leg and in desperate need of repair or replacement.

      We have initiated an Equipment Purchase Plan and have been fortunate to buy and trade-in equipment as needed over the past 5 years. We hope to maintain this type of plan and continue to purchase equipment as individual pieces "life-span" expire. This way equipment expenditures will be less as years go on because of the "older" equipment still having a decent trade-in value.

      One particular piece of equipment we had that was older and had no real trade-in value was a Buffalo Turbine Blower. It was a Model KB2 Turbine Blower. This type of blower was a hard-wired remote control system and a 23 HP motor. The motor had seized up, and,  therefore that blower had no trade-in value. A new Buffalo Turbine Blower Model KB4 with a wireless remote control system and a 27 HP motor is about $7,500. I read a blog entry, written by Stephen Tucker, where he had a Model KB2 that he stripped down to the frame and replaced all of the old parts and old motor with new parts and a new, larger motor and turned it into a KB4 model. All of this was done for about $3,100 (a savings of $4,400!!!)

      This is just an example of some of the types of projects that we have been working on during this winter, and we have many more like this to continue working on. We have started counting down the days until the 2014 growing season begins, and, all of our focus returns to maintaining the golf course to exceptional standards that our patrons deserve and have come to expect.

As always any questions, comments or feedback is always appreciated.

We'll see you out there!

Monday, November 18, 2013

What happened to the Winter Overseeding?

      I have recently been asked by a number of our patrons: "Why aren't you all overseeding the Fairways this year?" I will outline the reasons for overseeding, as well as, the reasons to not overseed at times.
     Overseeding is most commonly done by courses that use bermudagrass, which goes dormant in winter. The ryegrass seed is then distributed on top of the bermudagrass and nurtured for several weeks as it germinates and grows in the upper profile of the bermudagrass that is entering dormancy. In late spring as the weather warms up, the golf course superintendent will encourage the bermudagrass as it comes out of dormancy and the ryegrass is losing its ability to withstand the warmer weather. Many courses either close during overseeding or offer discounted greens fees during these periods because of the disruption to play that overseeding causes. Superintendents across the nation's southern tier of states avoid the brown -- dormant bermudagrass -- and perpetuate the green by overseeding with a cool-season grass. To call it a cosmetic practice would be accurate, but also simplistic. The economic viability of thousands of golf courses and the job security of those who manage them loom beneath the pretty, green surface. The key fact is, golf courses that rely on winter play to be a successful operation must, for better or worse, overseed to achieve that level
     Many issues have been addressed along the way, such as impact on play, costs, water usage and chemical removal of the ryegrass in transition because of its tendency to hang on too long in the Southwest.
For those superintendents and facilities that choose not to overseed , they often find their course provides variety and challenge as the seasons change. Beyond aesthetics, overseeding does provide better turf conditions in the winter. Without it, many courses have to combat wear and compaction problems caused by player and golf car traffic. However, they have their reasons for avoiding overseeding:
  • Water conservation – Dormant bermudagrass uses far less water than overseeded perennial ryegrass.
  • Uninterrupted play in the fall – Courses avoid the disruption and course closure often required for overseeding.
  • No spring transition problems – Without competition from overseeded ryegrass, bermudagrass can green up earlier in the spring.
  • Ease of weed control – It is easier to control annual bluegrass and weeds in dormant bermudagrass with selective and non-selective herbicides.
  • Sustain a stronger strand of warm season grasses – Many courses experience a gradual decline of bermudagrass density after years of renovation and overseeding. Without overseeding, courses can build a strong strand of bermudagrass throughout the fall that will provide better density and playing quality the following spring and summer.
  • Lower maintenance costs – Courses that do not overseed may save $750 to $1,000 per acre by not purchasing seed. Overall costs are lower for water, fertilizer and mowing; plus there is less wear on equipment.
     On the other hand, dormant bermudagrass has produced golfer complaints based on its lack of green color (which can be supplemented with the use of Turf Colorants); worn areas, especially in high traffic zones; and slow recovery from divot damage. Non-agronomic advantages to managing dormant bermudagrass include the subtle changes in playing quality during the winter. Tee shots often roll farther, different clubs and types of shots are required and hazards that are usually unreachable may now come into play. All of this adds up to a course that provides variety and challenges as the seasons change.
It’s the age-old question for golf facilities, to overseed, or not to overseed? The answer, however, is not cut and dried.

As always, any questions, comments or concerns are appreciated.

We'll see you out there!
Sources: United States Golf Association Southwest Regional Update, Jan. 25, 2005; Golf Course Management, July 2004.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

2013 Fall Greens Aerification & Update on Turf Care Facility Construction

      We have just recently finished up our fall greens Aerification for 2013. As I have explained in previous posts, this vital agronomic practice is extremely crucial for the long-term health of our bentgrass putting surfaces.  Aerification achieves three important objectives. It relieves soil compaction, it provides a method to improve the soil mixture around the highest part of a green’s roots and it reduces or prevents the accumulation of excess thatch. The condition of a green has a lot to do with what goes on below the surface. In order for grass to grow at 1/8-inch, it must have deep, healthy roots. Good roots demand oxygen. In good soil, they get the oxygen from tiny pockets of air trapped between soil and sand particles. Over the course of time, foot traffic from golfers, mowing equipment, etc. compact the soil under the putting green surface. When the soil becomes compacted, the tiny air pockets become crushed and the roots start becoming deprived of necessary oxygen.Without oxygen, the grass plants become weaker and will eventually wither and die.

      Aerification is a mechanical process that creates more air space in the soil and promotes deeper rooting, helping the grass plants stay healthy. In most cases, the process is done by removing cores from the compacted soil, allowing for an infusion of air and water that brings a resurgence of growth. The spaces are then filled with sand “topdressing” that helps the soil retain air space and makes it easier for roots to grow downward. Older greens are often constructed of soils with significant amounts of silt, clay and fine organic particles that are prone to compaction. Filling aerification holes with sand improves drainage and resists compaction. The periodic introduction of sand to a green’s top layer can over time, avoid or postpone expensive rebuilding or renovation of greens.      

      Finally, actively growing turf adds to a layer of organic matter on the surface. This layer, called thatch, is an accumulation of dead stems, leaves and roots. A little organic matters makes for a resilient green, but too much invites diseases and insects. Topdressing with sand can prevent thatch buildup, and aerification is one of the best ways to reduce an existing layer and prevent an excess of thatch from becoming established.

 On another subject, we have officially broken ground on our new Turf Care Facility. This facility will be state-of-the-art. It will be large enough to easily accommodate up to 30 employees, house all of our maintenance equipment inside of buildings and be environmentally sensitive (which is becoming more important every day). We are looking forward to the completion of this project and I will include updates on how the construction process is progressing with future blog entries.

As always any questions, comments or feedback is appreciated.

We'll see you out there!