Winter officially starts this coming Thursday, but it feels like forever ago that we closed the golf course. The weather since closing has been filled with ups and downs, but regardless, our department has been very busy and productive.
The process of closing down the course and getting things “winterized” was a marathon this Fall. All playing surfaces were sprayed preventatively for snow-mold disease. These applications need to be very precise, as they have to have 100% turf coverage and last for up to 5 months. They have to be applied with little to now wind, which was the challenge this year. These products also need to be applied before snow fall, and at times, the process of applying them had to take place in less-than-ideal scenarios.
Greens and approaches were topdressed, greens and tees were deep-tined, after snow-mold applications were finished, as a preventative measure for ice accumulation and winter-kill. The practice has already paid off, as on December 4th, we had a high of 58 degrees, a thunderstorm rolled through, the temps rapidly dropped to 17 degrees, and all that rain turned into ice. Luckily those deep tine holes created channels for the water to get into the ground before freezing. The holes and sand also help prevent a smooth surface for ice to form on, protecting the plant’s crown. It’s not a guarantee that we will never again experience winter-kill, but deep-tining and topdressing are steps to lessen that chance.
Covering greens is always a large task, this year was no different. After the course closed, the wind picked up from the North, and wouldn’t let up, prolonging the process. With some help from seasonal staff coming back to help out, we were able to get everything tucked in for the winter months. Hundreds of sand bags were also placed around greens to divert snow melt water from getting onto the putting surfaces.
We completed a large drainage project on the right side of #10, and a few smaller ones on #11 and #18. Each year since purchasing a trencher attachment for our skid loader, and a laser transit, we have been making improvements. It wasn’t that many years ago, that after a 1″ rainfall, carts were almost guaranteed to be banned, and standing water was common for a few days. With the proper capital and a progressive plan, we’ve made great strides in drainage improvements. Once we’re done addressing areas that don’t have existing drainage, we’ll start replacing drainage that’s over 30 years old, as it eventually gets filled with leaves, tree roots, soil, silt, clay, etc., and stops functioning.
After 5 weeks of working on it intermittently, we finally cut down and raked up all of our native and Fescue areas. We remove the material that is cut, as a means to remove organic matter build up, which is to keep them as thin as possible. Especially with areas that we have converted Native (rough left to grow) to Fescue (rough killed off and seeded to Fescue), it’s key to keep it as thin as possible.
After we regrass natives to Fescue, we want to keep irrigation off of these areas, again to keep them thin and playable. Our irrigation system was created well before the process of adding Fescue, so sometimes the irrigation head configuration needs adjusting. We want to move any sprinklers in the “inside” of the Fescue areas to the perimeters, and install internal components to the sprinkler to only water outward into the rough. This is a labor-intensive and technical task, but necessary at keeping the Fescue areas playable.
Speaking of irrigation, our system is now 12 years old, and some components no longer work. Valves that shut water off to the fairways are failing, preventing us from making easy and effective in-season repairs. However, replacing these valves is very time consuming and labor-intensive, because of their depths in the ground. We have been replacing fairway valves for the past 7 years and have almost completed all 18 holes, and the driving range (each hole has 2 valves). This Fall we replaced a valve that was almost 5 feet deep, so a mini-excavator was rented to speed the process. I also used the excavator to remove approximately 20 yards of built-up silt inside the pond on #14. This will help lower the water level, and assist the water from the drainage we installed last year to get into the pond. The piles of silt around the edge of the pond will be seeded and covered in Spring.
We’ve been detailing our equipment each morning before the sun comes up. With over 100 different pieces, it takes us several months to complete. Every piece gets steamed washed, components taken apart, and hand detailed. A lot of pride is taken in keeping our equipment running and looking like it’s brand new, and the cost of use down, regardless of age. This is our mechanic’s busy season; making curative and preventative maintenance measures, and small fabrication improvements, that keep our equipment running reliably throughout the playing season.
Couple the above with the few small snow events we’ve had, budgeting and programming, tree trimming and removals, the on-course bathroom renovations (no pictures until they’re finished!), small improvements to our turf facility, and general organization, it’s easy to see our “off-season” isn’t a vacation.
On a staff level, I’m extremely proud of our newest full-time Technician, Brad Holt, who was hired January 2017, and has been enrolled in the Penn State online Turf Management program, and just earned his degree last week. Brad has been working full-time and attending to his schooling daily for the past 2 years. Before joining Midland, Brad was employed at Northland CC and the Minikahda Club. We are proud of his accomplishments and commitment to higher learning. With Brad obtaining his turf degree, we now have 4 full-time staff with formal turf degrees, something Midland should be proud of.
The one aspect of our operation that we haven’t started is grooming ski trails. We need 4-6″ of a snow base before we can start grooming. The few snows we’ve had were too dry, and the subsequent wind blew most of it to the South side of the course features. Once we groom the trail, a blog post will go out. Just like in years before, we will groom a trail for classic skiing, skate skiing, and snowshoeing/walking. If you have a dog/s, please come out and walk the course, it’s a fantastic and tranquil experience. As always, please stay on the appropriate trail as to not damage the others, and PLEASE do not walk on any tees, fairways or greens. Compaction of snow on short grass can create ice, which can lead to winter-kill.
Come out and enjoy your course!