Friday, February 24, 2017

"Winter" Update

What an amazing couple of days of warm weather that was!  The long range calls for warmer than normal temperatures for the next week and then slowly returning to normal for this time of year. It was great to wear shorts and a t-shirt in February in Canada but what does it mean for our turf? We took the time to check under our greens covers and blow some cool air under them on the warmest days. The reason for this is that the solid plastic cover acts like a greenhouse and the temperatures can warm up to the point where the grass comes out of dormancy and starts using oxygen for respiration (the process by which plants convert sugar to energy for growth). Without going into all the details, the problem with this happening is the lack of oxygen combined with increased levels of carbon dioxide can become toxic in the closed system underneath the cover. The telltale sign of this is a rancid smell when the cover is lifted. Using a backpack blower to blow air underneath the covers gets rid of any toxic gases and cools down the temperature. We could also remove the covers entirely but we felt that we still may experience some winter weather in which they would be needed. The good news is we detected no signs of any kind of winter injury and everything looks very good at this point in time. We still have the potential for unusual weather and we will continue to monitor the situation closely as we head into spring. Based on the warm weather all winter I have a feeling we will see an early spring this year.

#18 on a warm February morning

#14 with cover in place. Note the snow mould in the untreated rough.

#5 is the last green to lose snow cover.
The only damage we have experienced thus far is some light snow mould in the rough which we do not treat preventatively with fungicides in the fall.  This is typical for our property and if we did not treat our tees, greens, and fairways we would experience varying degrees of turf loss every winter. Some years would be devastating.  The reason I mention this is that on March 2nd the CBC will be airing a documentary entitled, "Dad and the Dandelions."  Based on the trailer, this documentary will attempt to link pesticide use on golf courses to cancer. Click here to watch trailer

This is an emotional topic which will no doubt generate questions and discussion.  I am not an expert on pesticide safety or cancer but Health Canada employs many people that are. I trust the fact that they are using a science based approach to approve products which are safe to use in Canada. If you have any questions or concerns about this topic please call or email me to discuss them. The following link is to a video that explains the difference between correlation and causation which is very appropriate for this topic. It is about 5 minutes long and well worth watching. Causation vs Correlation 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Another One in the Books!

We have finished up all of our fall tasks and the course has been put to bed in great condition. The drill and fill was particularly exciting for us and we added about six tons of sand per green.  They certainly felt firmer after they were cleaned up and we are looking forward to seeing how they perform in the spring.

 Here's the last few pictures I snapped before it snowed:

Cover installed on #2 Green

Looking down #4 from #9

Cover installed on #9 Green
We are once again building a rink on the tennis courts for skating and shinny.  Hopefully we have better ice making weather this winter.

The ice rink

On behalf of all the green staff we hope you enjoy the holidays and have a great winter!  Let's hope for a gentle winter for our turf and a quick start in the spring.  

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Fall Update

The fall weather has been exceptional with many spectacular days for golf.  As you might imagine, our major focus right now is leaf blowing and mulching.  The leaves have been late to come down this year so leaf cleanup season has extended into November. The fall is always a busy time for the green staff.  We are short staffed after the students return to school but still have plenty to do.  Our goal is to maintain the course at a high level while dealing with leaves and preparing the course for winter.

Nice fall morning on #7 Look at all those leaves!
As you know, we have a set closing date which allows us to postpone many golfer unfriendly tasks until after we are closed.  One of these tasks is greens aeration.  This fall we are adding an additional component to our traditional greens aeration.  It is called drill and fill and this process will improve the internal drainage of our push up greens.  Aside from our three newest greens (#3, #11, and #12) which were built to USGA specifications, the rest of our greens are push up greens.  By definition, push up greens are built by "pushing up" the existing soil to shape the green.  This was the method used when Westmount was built in 1930.  The problem with this type of green is that it does not drain very well. Most of the drainage is surface drainage meaning the green is sloped in several directions to allow water to run off rather than soak into the surface.  Of course some of the water does soak in and that is when the problems begin. As I have said before, the worst thing for our greens is rain. When they get wet they stay wet because there is no internal drainage. When they stay wet, they are slow and subject to big splatting ballmarks, and mechanical damage from mowers.  The drier and firmer we can get the surface, the better it is for golf.   This is where drill and fill comes in.  It is a process by which 3/4 inch diameter by 12 inch deep holes are "drilled" into the green (removing the native soil) and then "filled" with sand.  This will allow the water to penetrate deeper into the profile of the green and keep the top drier. To give you an idea of the scale, this process will involve adding approximately 180,000 pounds of sand into our 16 push up greens.  As you can imagine, this involves quite a bit of disruption and the cleanup is significant.  This will likely be a process we continue for several years to achieve the firmness we are looking for.

Click on the following link for a video that shows drill and fill in progress:

Drill and Fill Video

Friday, August 26, 2016

Construction Update

The rain continues to fall in large amounts including another 0.7 inches last night.  We have now recorded 7.7 inches of rain in the last two weeks.  Based on Environment Canada averages, this is 2-3 months worth of rain.  The wet weather has created a number of problems for us and it really highlights the fact that the course plays much better when I can control the water.  It is much easier to add water than to take it away.

The biggest issue with regards to the course is green speed.  While the rain makes for really vibrant green grass, it also makes for soft conditions and slow green speed.  There are also more un-repaired ball marks then I've seen in a long time.  Please take the time to repair your ball mark and one will really help!  As I've mentioned before, I really can't push for green speed when the conditions are soft without risking mechanical damage to the putting surfaces.  The rain will eventually stop and the green speed will get back to normal.  It's been a year of extremes in weather and we have been conservative with our practices.  Slow greens are better than damaged greens in the long run.  The following link is to an article from the USGA Green Section that sums up my thinking nicely:

The other issue we are dealing with is of course cart path construction.  We have had paving scheduled several times only to have to cancel because it is too wet.  The latest update is that we are scheduled to pave on Monday August 29th. The contractor will be in on Sunday to touch up the paths so they are ready for paving.  Yes, I have seen the forecast for 70% chance of thunderstorms on Sunday afternoon but I am trying to ignore it! Curbing will happen about a week after paving and then we can finally be done with this project.  Thank you for your continued patience.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Construction Update

We have had 4.5 inches of rain in the last 7 days which has delayed our cart path construction.  Our original plan was to pave the new paths last Monday which was then delayed until today.  Unfortunately, it is still too wet so the current plan is to pave on Monday the 22nd.  Hopefully it stops raining and we can complete the work and get everything cleaned up and sodded soon.

The recent rains have made things very soft
All the rain and humidity has also created some other problems.  Green speed has definitely been slower.  We have 85 year old greens that don't have internal drainage.  This means that when they get wet, they stay wet for longer than I would like which results in bigger ball marks and slower greens.  I can not push for green speed when they are soft because it will create other problems like scalping and mechanical injury.  We just have to wait until the greens dry out a little before we can get the greens back up to speed.  Late this fall, we will be trying a process known as, "drill and fill" on our greens. In a nutshell this puts deep channels of sand in our greens to help with internal drainage.  The expected result is that the greens will be more consistent in wet weather and not lose as much speed.  I will explain this process in more detail in the fall.  For now, we just have to hope for dryer weather going forward.

Please knock the sand off your shoes after exiting the bunker
   This morning I noticed that someone had played out of the bunker behind #3 green.  The raking in the bunker was not very well done and then sand was tracked on the green.  Please remember to knock the sand off your shoes before walking on the green and creating a mess for the golfers behind you to putt through.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Cart Path Improvement Update

The new path on #5 is roughed in and filled with gravel so it can now be driven on.  It's a great improvement on the visual side as you can see from the picture below:

The new path on #5 
The new alignment will also greatly reduce the number of balls hitting the path.  At the moment, we are scheduled for paving on Monday followed by curbing shortly after.  We will then landscape up to the curb and install new sod to complete the work.


The forecast for the next few days is calling for some very hot and humid weather - possibly the hottest stretch of the summer so far. With that in mind we are going to be a little conservative with green speeds until the weather breaks.  We've already had a fair amount of stress on our turf this season and we want to ensure we set ourselves up for a strong finish to the summer and smooth transition into fall. For us, the golf season, is a marathon, not a sprint.  We don't want to push too hard during stressful weather and struggle to make it to the finish line!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Cart Path Improvement Update

The paths near #2 green and #9 green have been realigned and filled with gravel so they are once again usable.  We shifted them slightly further from the greens on both 2 and 9 to reduce the risk of mishit shots hitting the paths. We also fixed the low spot on #9 so that there will no longer be water trapped there after it rains.

The construction crew is now working on the path near #5 green. This involves a big change in alignment which can be seen in the picture below:

The new path on #5 shifts out of view 
This will shift the path out of play and out of view.  The current path is quite obtrusive and is very much in play so this will be a substantial improvement.  Again, thank you for your patience during this time of improvements.