Winter Update

It’s been 2+ months since the golf course has closed, wow! Our department may have had the busiest late fall season I can remember. The goal of keeping the course open as long as possible, then complete as many technical projects before the ground freezes up, mirrors the craziness of a quick spring snow melt and prepping the course for opening. No two years are the same, so adapting to a changing environment is key. 

Since closing the course, we’ve been extremely busy. You might only associate covering greens with “putting the course to bed.” That is a major task, but just one of many tasks we execute after closing the course.

  • 16 Green covered and sandbagged

Here’s what we’ve been up to:

  • Each fall, we attempt to improve our drainage system throughout the property. With heavier, and more frequent rains throughout the playing season, our drainage system is key to protecting the soil structure, turf health, and allowing carts (and mowers) out quicker after rain events. For many years, I’ve known that the existing drainage that ran from 17 fairway, all the way to the red tee on 13 was not functioning properly. Since we wouldn’t have time to execute a new drainage installation, fixing an on-going issue, would be the goal. The drain pipe was kinked, and cut, in several locations, limiting the flow of water. Lead Assistant, Mark Ries, had the pleasure of playing the role of detective, finding each kink, digging it up, and repairing each section of pipe. We will see a massive improvement to these areas next season.
  • 4 repairs made within 100 yards
  • The system now working with a “flush” after repairs have been made
  • Spraying Snow Mold preventative applications to almost 45 acres of turf. This takes a full week and weather must cooperate with no wind. This year, it took two weeks, as we couldn’t string together calm days. We always add dyes to our applications to make the turf as dark as possible. This serves us well once the snow starts to melt, as the dark color absorbs heat, melting snow quicker, and hopefully assists with preventing ice formation, which can kill Poa Annua. 
  • Darkest the turf gets all season, right before snowfall


  • Irrigation blowout is always a stressful day, and this year was no different. One of the 2 compressors was 3 hours late, a large fitting came off the compressor once it did show up, and we fought keeping enough PSI in the system all day. Minimal damage to the system, meaning not breaking heads and pipe, is always the goal, and we did succeed in that regard. 
  • Oli having fun at the moment
  • And paying the price once she stopped moving in 20 degree weather
  • Topdressing greens after snow mold applications has proven to be a very effective addition to our agronomic practices that assists in winter turf survival. The sand protects the crowns of the plants from extreme low temperatures, as well as prevents small amounts of ice from forming a smooth layer under the greens covers, that can seal off the surface, and prevent gas exchange. Yes, you have to deal with a fresh topdressing right out of the gate, come spring. But I’m confident it’s easier to deal with sand, than to say we didn’t do everything in our power to ensure our greens survive 5 months of winter. Another benefit of this late season topdressing is the greens open in the spring very smooth, firm, and fast. Everyone likes that, except our Mechanic Jim Pollock, who has to deal with keeping the mower reels sharp day one of the season!                                                                                                                                                      
  • 10 Green cozy under its winter cover with a layer of sand and deep-tine holes
  • Deep-tining Greens and Tees has also been a significant part of our winter-survival program. Our deep-tine machine is very slow, as the tines penetrate the ground up to 14″ deep. This process happens simultaneously ahead of covering greens, which is always a stressful race. The deep-tining helps get any snow melt water into the ground come spring, and prevents a smooth surface for ice formation during such events.  
  • Heavy protective layer of sand

  • Deep-tining 9 Green before covering and freeze-up


  • Day 2 of deep-tining greens shows the quick change in weather, and the subsequent tight window of completion

  • Trying to complete the deep-tining of Tees proved to be difficult and serene at the same time.
  • Unfortunately, the ground froze up before I could finish tees.  1-12 are complete, but the night-time lows in the single digits put an end to the process, as 2″ of frost set in very quickly. We will attempt to finish in the spring before the course opens, as the deep-tining not only serves its purpose during the winter, but it’s just as important during the summer months to provide a limited-internal drainage benefit. 
  • Once we were complete with the greens covering process, and the ground had froze at the surface, we ambitiously started our on-going isolation valve replacement process. Since 2011, after the irrigation system is blown out at the beginning of November, we have slowly been replacing faulty irrigation valves that isolate our fairways. Anytime we need to make a repair to any irrigation head, we need to shut the water off to its green, tee, fairway, or practice area. Our goal is to replace ~6 every year. This year, our goal was 17! We finally finished all 18 fairways, the driving range, and both chipping/practice fairways, as well as the tees on 1-9. Digging out isolation valves is no small task. The hole is usually the width and length of a golf cart, and 3 feet deep. This year, the frost had set in 2 weeks early, so digging these holes turned into more of a CrossFit session…for 2.5 weeks. The staff did an amazing job with staying positive through such frigid weather. Since we were putting frozen soil back into the holes after completion, we couldn’t pack it properly. We will revisit these areas in the spring to get them healed in correctly.
  • A deceivingly sunny day with a Real Feel of 9 degrees
  • Prepped for valve replacement

  • New isolation valve installed

  • For the past two years, we have been working on over-due maintenance to our ponds. Over decades, organic matter accumulates around the edges of ponds. Grass clippings, branches, and thousands of pounds of leaves, accumulate in the ponds, especially around the edges. This eventually turns into “muck” soil. This muck is extremely nutrient-rich, and promotes algae blooms and aquatic weeds. The curative maintenance would be to completely dredge the ponds. An attainable alternative to dredging, is to remove the muck with an excavator. We tackled 6 pond this year, and approximately 50 tons of accumulated muck was removed.
  • After breaking through 4″ of ice, we were able to reach out 18 feet to remove material

  • No heat in this cab…
  • Our yearly Tree Management program usually starts in September, as by this time of the year, it is obvious which tree canopies are showing signs of decline and/or disease. Sometimes, you need to look down and not up, to see what is causing the issue. The picture below shows the base of the Oak tree right of 8 approach. It has been in rapid decline for the past year, and as you can see, the bark at the base of the tree is completely rotted, preventing the tree from taking up nutrients and water. Why this happened, we are not certain. Unfortunately, the tree must be removed as it will turn into a safety concern. 
  • Rotted base of Oak

  • The canopy shows the symptoms of the rotting base

  • This is the base of the Elm behind 16 green. It was never pruned properly, and the crotch of the tree accumulated water and eventually rotted. Another unfortunate safety issue, as the two co-dominant leaders have completely split, and subsequently needs removal this winter

  • This is the canopy of the same tree. The arrows are pointing at safety cables I had installed in 2010, with 2 feet of slack. The cables are now tight, and under full pressure of 1/2 of the tree, that once cut, will fall

  • This time of year, we can more easily see the progression of the Emerald Ash Borer. Seeing the branches without leaves reveals how much bark has fallen off the Ash trees. We are starting to see advanced stages of EAB, and the plan now is to remove all of the remaining Ash trees on the interior of the property over the next few years. With what started with over 600 Ash, we are down to less than 25 on the interior. Several hundred more remain within our perimeters, and we have slowly started managing those areas. 

 

  • We also continue to remove Spruce and Pine that are infected with Needle Cast, Cytospora Canker, and Diplodia. I’ve written about our Tree Management Plan in the past, check out these links if you haven’t read them:   http://www.mhccturf.com/?p=827   http://www.mhccturf.com/?p=487    Our plan has always been proactive, with much thought to not only our past, and Seth Raynor’s original design and intent of the property, but how to manage our current situation of correcting incorrect tree positioning and variety.  
  • Spruce succumbing to Needle Cast
  • An infected Spruce in front of a healthy specimen shows the symptoms of dying branches and overall thinning
  • We have over 100 pieces of equipment that get cleaned each winter. And not just taking a hose and spraying them down, we detail them! Mower heads, and removable parts are taken off, crawling under large pieces of equipment, de-greasing, waxing, buffing, touch up painting, all take place. We typically work on equipment detailing when it’s dark out in the mornings, or it’s just too bloody cold out! All equipment is detailed before any preventative/curative maintenance is completed by our fantastic mechanics.
  • Centennial Bridge Update: The construction of the bridge on #8 has begun. The cement forms will be poured in Hartman Construction’s (http://golf.hartmancompanies.com/) heated facility, and allowed to cure for several weeks. In the picture below you can see the arches of the design. Once cured, the real stone will be painstakingly selected and attached by a mason, to achieve the exact look. The bridge will be constructed in several pieces, semi’d to our site, and installed with a crane. Deconstruction of the old bridge and installation/construction of the new bridge on-site will more than likely start at the beginning of February. We need the ice on Walsh Lake to be as thick as possible to drive heavy equipment on, as well as road restrictions to bring a 100 ton crane through the non-modernized streets of Lauderdale. I will post the entire process as it unfolds, as it will be very exciting.

Our normal winter routine is now in full swing. We’ll be completing our yearly normal tasks, and we always have a few surprises up our sleeves for next year. Hopefully we get some more snow, as it’s the best protection for our fine turf, as well as provides us the opportunity to groom our ski trails. Hope to see you out there! 

Mike Manthey




14 thoughts on “Winter Update

  1. Hello Mike! Thanks for the detailed and informative update. Please do keep us posted on the timeline for the bridge. Might be fun to come on out and watch those pieces swing into place. Merry Christmas to you and the entire crew. – RJE

    • Rob,
      Will do. We may or may not have time lapse camera on the construction of the bridge…..stay tuned!
      Merry Xmas to the Etten clan!
      M.

  2. Fantastic report, Mike. Thanks to you and your crew. Can’t wait to see some of the less-treed views in the spring.

    One minor thing: It’s been only one month plus since the course closed! Must’ve seems like two months to you…

  3. Mike!
    Your report was sooo interesting –had no idea all the issues you have to battle in fall
    after the last golfer is off the course!

    Thanks for the very informative report!

    Merry Christmas to you and your family.
    Barbie Sheehan

  4. What do we do with all the “muck” soil that we remove from the pond?

    By the way, great post, I really enjoyed reading!

    Happy Holidays.

    • Mike,
      We have to create areas on property to haul it to. For the pond on #6, we cleared out all the dead trees and Buckthorn behind 6 green first. We’ll seed over the top of the piles in the spring with a Fescue blend.
      Happy Holidays to you as well!
      M.

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