Mid-Winter Update Jan 2019

Fall 2018

Oct.  12th, 2018. Snow caused Round 1 of IHSA Finals to be cancelled 

A quick recap of the Fall- we skipped it!

We had summer-like temps in early October and snow by mid-October.  November was cold (6-7 degrees below normal) and 7.7 inches of snow (we average 0.3 inches). Temps rebounded to above average for most of December and early January, but have been below average since Jan 10th, with record cold January 29-31.  Certainly a roller coaster over the last 4 months.

Mid-November snow.  Note the leaves still in the
trees in the background.
Fall fertilizer applications were scheduled 3-4 weeks earlier than years past, with a few applications not completed due to cold temps through November.   The challenge with fertilizing fine turf, such as greens, is that you need to be careful not to impact the plants' natural process of "hardening off".  Meaning the plant goes through the physiological process of releasing proteins and other enzymes to protect itself for upcoming cold and freezing temps.  A poorly timed fertilizer application can delay, or reverse these natural processes, and cause the turf to be damaged by a sudden or prolonged cold snap.

Blowing out the irrigation system presented challenges this year as well. The picture to the right is just before we started blowing out the system. My assistant Corey and irrigation specialist Vince, battled through a tough day.  It was not ideal to say the least.

December and even early January did present opportunities to play golf, (more on this later) but the quick cold snap in Oct./Nov. left us behind on leaf abatement.  Even the above average temps in December didn't offset the lost production in November. We were able to get some work completed, but there's still more to be done.

What Do You Do All Winter?

So on to the #1 question everyone asks a Superintendent in the Northern half of the U.S: What do you do all winter?... Well, exactly what I'm describing above.  Analyzing the 2018 year as a whole- what worked and what didn't?  What did we not complete in the Fall that will impact how we start our Spring practices? Not to mention, the maintenance of 70 golf carts and 30-40 mowers, carts, tractors, and small engines. We analyze and develop plans for fertility, plant protectants, water usage, equipment usage, labor, training, and more.  Our goal is to improve every aspect of our operation.

I am also fortunate to be able to attend our national education conference and tradeshow each year. This years event will take place Feb 3-7 in San Diego, CA and will feature unique education opportunities, new product features, and will be attended by over 12,000 industry professionals.  My education agenda includes: Municipal Golf Course Strategies, Bunker Renovation project (ROI, materials, and project management), Soil and water salinity management, and several other professional development seminars.  I will also receive recognition for achieving the designation of Certified Golf Course Superintendent in 2018 (1 of 10 in 2018).

I always return from the conference energized with new ideas of how to improve the operations of the golf course, to hopefully help our golfers better enjoy their time as they play the course.

What to expect for 2019

#11 Pond as we transferred water to
our irrigation holding pond on 17
Improvements to the recharge well for irrigation.  We suffered through some difficult weeks this summer, having to limited total water usage because of a failed irrigation recharge well pump.  We will be replacing the old setup with a  new motor and pump.  With this change we hope to improve pumping efficiency and if/when problems arise in the future, the new setup will be quicker/easier to repair.

More consistent grass-types in the collars around the green complex.  With the continued decline of the turf immediately adjacent to the green, we took the opportunity to re-sod all green complexes this fall.  Over the years, a variety of grasses have crept into the collars creating a mixed stand of Bentgrass, Ryegrass, Kentucky Bluegrass, and Annual Bluegrass (a.k.a. Poa).  This presents challenges when applying plant growth regulators and herbicide to the green and surrounding areas.  A more consistent grass type will be easier to manage and a better surface to play golf on.

More opportunity to play the course in the off-season.  We will be open when weather and course conditions permit, regardless of the month of the year.  This is a shift in operational philosophies but as unpredictable as the weather has become we feel it is a necessary change.   We hope to capitalize on opportunities when the weather trends warmer than average, such as December 2018, and be open for play.  I know a few people took advantage of us opening January 4-6 this year, which is a sign of things to come.

A resolution to the bunker projectTrust me, I have not forgotten we need/planned for new bunkers.  The project was delayed in the fall due to a tight construction window, which put the price at a level we weren't comfortable paying.  We want to be efficient with the donations from our supporters, making sure every dollar they contributed counts. There will be more details about the project in early March!

Thanks for reading,

Travis Williams, CGCS


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