Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Sudden Summer

A cool and wet spring has flipped, seemingly overnight, and has brought us sweltering heat, and drought like conditions.....summer is upon us.

Full cycle daily irrigation is upon us; as is the presence of hoses taking care of business on our fine turf areas.  Hand watering will always be a necessary practice in an attempt to keep uniformity during these stressful drought periods on the turf.  



I will say (while knocking on every piece of wood in the near vicinity), that our irrigation system is performing spectacularly.  Any issues we have had have been self induced, and programs run when we ask them, as is the pump station.  I would hate to think where we would be if this was not the case......

In the past month, many of our filled in bunkers were sodded and now in play.  There are still about 10 bunkers that have been partially filled in, which require either fill or sod.  We will be tackling these as we can allocate resources to them, but in the meantime please treat these as ground under repair.

If you have not been following the US Open coverage this week, check it out.  I have been retweeting interesting perspectives and challenges that are currently being faced in Wisconsin. There has been a fascinating storyline developing about the fescue, and the challenges that they have faced.  Many of these challenges are shared between Erin Hills and ourselves, including the challenge of dealing with thick fescue in areas which experience irrigation overspray.  The only difference is, Sawmill Creek does not have 400 volunteers on the turf crew this week to address thick fescue......

The bunkers continue to hold up well, and we have seen a marked improvement in member care; thank you.  We have pulled back a little bit on maintenance for the time being in an effort to accomplish projects (ie. mulch, sod jobs, etc)., so it has become even more imperative for you to follow through on your duty to rake a bunker prior to walking away.  There will be a short video released at some point, detailing the manner in which we will ask you to enter, exit and rake a bunker.

Beautiful fescue on #4

Thanks for reading, 

Jamie

Friday, May 19, 2017

Revisiting our favourite topic - Poa

The unofficial start of summer begins this weekend with the arrival of the May long weekend here at The Saw.  We had a taste of summer for a few days, but reality kicked us this morning with the near 30 degree drop....it is a cool one out there.

I have cheated with today's blog post, and have stolen a post I made last year about Poa.  The concept, the causes, and solutions are all the same.  It is an unfortunate part of putting green management and we are just entering the ugly seed head phase.

So without further adieu, here is the still relevant post about Poa....

Enjoy!


Jamie

Poor Anna


Poa Annua (or Po Anna/Poor Anna as Johnny Miller often calls it), is an invasive species of turf which all turf types are susceptible to.  It is a weed, plain and simple.

So why have I brought this  up today?

There has been plenty of questions brought to me in the last two weeks about why our greens are bumpy at times, or have a shade of white/yellow tinge to them.  As you can see from the photo below from our 10th green, there is a mixture of a few different colours, which equates to a few different turf species, including several biotypes of Poa Annua (annual bluegrass).



We have had an increase in the amount of Poa in our greens in 2016.  There could be numerous reasons for this, from the timing of last fall's aeration, or the cold spring, in which the bentgrass refused to wake up, allowing the Poa to grab a hold first, or any number of things.  The fact of the matter is, I can't give one specific reason why this year has been worse than others, but there is no question that our Poa population has significantly increased.  For a course such as Sawmill Creek, that is 20+ years old, this is an unfortunate reality to putting green management; Poa will eventually rear its ugly head.

The million dollar question to the Poa problem is, what are you going to do about it?  And that is a question that I cannot give a straight answer to.  There is no magic bullet that we can apply to the turf, and walk away knowing that our problem is solved.  We simply don't have access to that tool.

Instead, all we can attempt to do is make the best agronomic decisions possible, in the interest of promoting bentgrass and not the Poa. They are two very different plants, and require two very different management strategies.

 How we can promote the bentgrass is by stressing out the Poa by means of starvation of both water and nutrients.  Perhaps we cut back a bit on both, which will favour the bentgrass, while annoying the Poa.  My favourite technique is to head out on a hot day in the summer, and hit our greens with a heavy cultural practice such as a topdressing or a vertical mowing.  This occasionally can harm the Poa enough to allow the bent an avenue to take back over, but I will admit, this year, with the Poa population so high, it may cause some adverse conditions briefly.

The biggest problem as I see it with Poa, is that over a couple of rough weeks each season, Poa goes to seed.  This year, that seed production has now been ongoing for 2 weeks, and is really strong, hence the mottled appearance, and at times bumpy greens.  It is a nuisance, but does eventually go away.  

If you do have some spare time on your hands, and are curious about the life and times of Poa Annua, here is a link to the USGA website talking about Poa.  USGA - Poa  If you recall last year's US Open, you'll remember that Poa was a highly talked about issue during the event at Chamber's Bay, and a quick Google search about the matter will give you tonnes of reading material as well about the downfalls of Poa.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Doing what we can

We are entering our second straight full day of sun!  A new record for the past 6 weeks....

We were very fortunate at The Saw this past weekend to escape unscathed from the torrential rains which have tormented everywhere east of us.  In total we saw about 2 inches fall over the 3 day period.  This of course leaves us wet, but certainly not extreme as is the case in many other places.

Our daily routines have essentially been a crap shoot the past few weeks.  What the turf crew can accomplish may not be what we want ideally, but what we can.  Somehow, the fellas have kept up with the rapid growth rates in our rough and have kept it from becoming a hay field!  

There are many items on our to do list seeking attention and will eventually be crossed off, it has simply been a matter lately of trying to stay productive despite Mother Nature's best efforts.  By all accounts, I am happy to have some of the lesser priority items crossed off our lists, and look forward to getting back to some of the bunker renovation tidy up as soon as we can start playing in dry dirt!

Let's hope the warmth isn't far behind this sun......

Thanks for reading, 


Jamie

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Waiting for Warmth

A typical Camlachie spring is taking place; cold, wet and waiting for the southerly flow of warm winds.  Some of our maintained turf areas have started to awaken, but true to form, our greens are lagging behind....

The Turf Department continues to plug away at some projects however, as we have maintained focus on reclaiming Ground Under Repair areas from our bunker renovation.  We are planning on bringing in sod for some filled in bunkers, however, some we will make an attempt to seed first (I will always choose seeding over sod for long-term turf health).  Please keep all traffic - foot and cart - out of these areas while we attempt to establish them.


In speaking of foot traffic, how do you like this photo below from this past week?  To summarize, 100% of the rounds we had done this chilly day were Sawmill Creek members........such a lack of respect for your course, and fellow member.  The Turf Department will not be raking bunkers daily; areas like this may be present for days on end if you do not do your duty as a golfer.


During the bunker renovation, we made great progress in tracking golf course drainage lines, and learning how water moved around the property.  This helps immensely when we run into issues such as a backed up tile such as we have experienced this spring on #17.  With the addition of the clean out ports, and the knowledge we gained as to drain line positioning, it makes finding issues achievable. 


After the tile was exposed, we were able to trace the line towards the pond, and the outlet.  What we found was this......


 A 100%  clogged drain tile!  The mass of roots inside was absolutely incredible!

Problem solved.

Now in the meantime, while we had a shovel in the ground, we also discovered a pond overflow line, that will drain the pond at 16/17 when it is too high, and dump it into the creek; a project I have long had on our to do lists.

2 Birds, 1 Stone.

I love it when that happens ;)

Thanks for reading, 


Jamie


Friday, April 7, 2017

Uphill and into the Wind

The course is officially open for 2017!  And true to form, we had snow on the ground within 48 hours of the flags being put out.....the rule stays true....

It has been a tough  week for the few brave souls of the turf department.  We were able to get a couple of cuts down on the greens, a cleanup cut of the tees and aprons, and the installation of many course supplies.  This has been a bit of a challenge, as the weather really has not been conducive to productivity.  In fact, our greens mower was actually forced to traverse the course in reverse, as we simply could not gain forward traction with the wet conditions!

The weekend forecast looks fantastic however, and will hopefully begin to dry the place out a bit, but do not be surprised if carts are kept away for a few days still.

We have installed new cups and flag sticks out onto the course as our previous supplies had worn down over their 5 year use.  This will mean, however, that they are a bit sticky when you pull the flags.  If you look closely at the cup, as in the picture below, you will notice that there are notches in the flagstick and cup, to allow the flag to "lock" into place.  Occasionally this will mean you need to turn the flag stick ever so slightly to lock the flag in place, but this ensures that the flag will stay in place during windy days such as today!

With the weather constraints we have experienced this week, we have only managed to get into about half of the green side bunkers so far.  I have been very impressed with their playability in both the bunkers which have been raked, and especially those which have not.  With the extreme wet conditions out on the course, it is incredible that we have bunkers looking, and playing in the manner in which we do.  Here are a couple of shots showcasing them in all of their beauty!



We will be back into these bunkers at the start of next week, as we bring in a few more of our teammates to give us a hand.  If you do encounter a bunker that has not been worked up yet, give it a shot....you will be pleasantly surprised with how playable the are, even after a long winter!

Here's to better weather ahead!

Thanks for reading, 

Jamie

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Unfinished Business

We are less then a week away from the commencement of the 2017 golf season, and the course is slowly coming along.  Although everywhere around us has had great growing temperatures these past few days, the typical north wind off of the lake has kept us quite frigid at times.  

Today's post is meant to serve as a bit of an instructional reminder as you head out onto the course for the first time this spring.  I know everyone is eager to get out and see all of the work completed since closing day, but there are a few things which need to be noted...

There are quite a few items to tidy up from the construction in the fall, some of which may take us some time to get to.  Of course we have the ultimate goal of having everything buttoned up by the 1st of July, but we also need to be realistic in our expectations....there is a lot to get to!  So without further adieu, here are some photos and explanations of the various items to know as you arrive.



This is the former bunker on the left side of 16 green.  As is always the case with dormant sodding, you are at the mercy of mother nature and unfortunately, we did have an early snow fall in December, which shut down our sod farm in Strathroy.  This resulted in some partially complete sodded bunkers such as this.  This entire area will be painted GUR, and we ask that you kindly refrain from any foot or cart traffic until all signs are removed.  We will finish sodding these areas as soon as possible.


The picture above shows the apron on #9, which was the site of an exploratory drainage dig, and correction.  There are a couple of spots which settled over the winter, and will need to be re-graded.  This area will be painted GUR as well.


This is the fairway bunker at the centre of 8 fairway,  To say that it is in rough shape, would be an understatement!  As you can see, the tile itself has heaved over the winter, as well as all of the pea stone that would have been within the drain line.  It is hard to tell from this photo, but it is more of a gravel walkway than a sand trap!  We will also mark this area as ground under repair, and will more than likely have no choice but to completely overhaul this bunker.  As a general statement, the fairway bunkers are in need of some TLC, but will be a little ways down the priority list as we try to recover the most prominent bunkers first.


There are numerous scars such as the one above near the left side bunker on 7.  For the most part, these were areas that we encountered tricky drainage issues, and required further work.  You will see these areas painted GUR, with the plan to recover these areas via topsoil and seed.  These areas are imperative that you keep foot and cart traffic out of, as we heal these wounds.


The fairway bunkers on #6 have been demolished!  This means that they will remain GUR, which of course is no different than how they were from the majority of 2016.  We will be devising a plan as to how we will resolve these issues, but for the time being, they will remain GUR.


The new fairway bunkers on #3 are wonderful, however, they do require some time for the sod around them to knit.  The bunker itself is playable, but we ask that you keep all traffic off of the sod for the time being.  The same can be said for #5 green, #6 green, #8 green, #10 green, #17 green and #18 green bunkers.


Almost all of the new bunkers have seen the addition of a bunker cleanout port.  What this port is designed to, is to allow us the opportunity to flush the bunker drainage system out periodically, to ensure that they do not clog.  This will hopefully extend the life span of our bunker drainage system, keeping the bunkers operable longer.  This has however, created the areas which you see above; a maintenance access cover, with bagged soil acting as a bunker board for the edge of the bunker.  I am a bit hesitant on the state of these bags, and am unsure as to how they will react in the next month or two.  I am hopeful that the turf roots will infiltrate these bags, and cause them to stabilize the wall of the bunker, but cannot guarantee this; they may alternatively rot away, causing some of the soil to bleed into the bunker.  As we wait and see how these react to turf growth, I will ask you to keep off of them with any traffic, but to also keep sand raked up to the edge of the bags.  I believe if we keep the sand pressed up to the bags from the interior of the bunker, it may provide enough pressure to keep the bags from splitting.

The Turf Department will soon be producing an instructional video on how to rake our bunkers, in an effort to standardize the methods used by both golfers, and turf staff while maintaining our new traps.  Keep an eye out for this soon.

I am hopeful to get a few first cuts down on some turf areas prior to opening day, but will monitor the situation following the rains over the next few days.

As always, feel free to contact me if you have any questions.  Thanks for reading today's novel!


Jamie

Friday, March 3, 2017

A Good News Post on a Frigid Day


In like a lion, out like a lamb?  Will that be the story for March this year?  Can we call it in like a lion if it is 15 degrees C and thunderstorming, or is does it only refer to snow and winter weather?  These are the questions, sadly, which keep me up at night......

With the more than 20 degree temperature swing we have seen in a matter of hours this week, we have received a stark reminder that winter is not quite done.  This, despite the spring like weather we had experienced during the majority of February.  I cannot recall a year such as this with the number of double digit lows in the overnight hours; I will be begging for those come April/May.

Just how warm was it?  You don't need be a Google master to find all of the records broken last month between daily highs and average mean temperature.  A good real world snapshot of the warmth we received, is of the sod that was laid December 1st here at Sawmill......


Check out the roots!  Keep in mind, that this sod was laid days before the first shot of winter arrived.....I had to yank it out of the ground, as it is firmly rooted.  Just crazy.

This cold front that has visited the past couple of days will be interesting to see the effects on the property.  Action was starting out there, greening was happening, and plants were awakening.  This type of extreme can do some damage to sensitive plants at this time of year, Poa specifically, as the temperatures fluctuate.  It is not uncommon for massive plant failures, as we have had such issues as recently as 2012, when much of Ontario's peach and apple crops were destroyed due to fluctuations such as this.  Time will tell.

After the early week thunderstorm and the flood inducing rains we experienced, I was very pleased to see the condition of the course.  Typically, when our dam is flowing as hard as this above, we experience wide spread bunker washouts, flooding, and in the golf season, many labour hours of putting the bunkers back into shape.  This, however, was not what I saw.  In fact, with the exception of a couple of creek or pond induced issues, this was the look of the new greenside bunkers:


How about that eh?!?!

Makes me excited for the golf season :)

Thanks for reading, 

Jamie

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Golf and Pesticide Use

Good afternoon everyone,

If I were to follow the trend of my blog, I would spend the next 5 minutes of your life, discussing the record breaking temperatures, its effect on the golf course, and the reasons why we remain closed through periods of weather such as what we are currently experiencing.

But I won't.....at least not today.

Today, I want to discuss with you, a topic which has a few more layers.  A topic which has historically been emotionally driven - on both sides.  A topic which may or may not involve our health - both you the golfer, and me; the "applicator",

Pesticides.

Here is the one and only fact I will spout today; pesticides are used on food crops for production, forestry operations, parks management, rodent and pest control, and of course golf courses.

Why I have brought this up today, is I know that within the next couple of weeks, you will see advertisements for a documentary on David Suzuki's The Nature of Things on CBC entitled Dad and the Dandelions.  Click here for the link to the preview (which is only available in Canada).

I don't know exactly what is within this documentary, but knowing that it pertains to my livelihood, I will certainly be in attendance.

Being avid golfers, I am sure that many of you will also be curious as to what this documentary has in store.  In fact, I encourage you to watch it; after-all, it pertains to the game that you know and love as well,

But here is what I am going to ask you to do.  Watch the documentary and if you feel inclined to do so, take notes.  If there is something in there that worries or compels you to further research the topic, by all means, do so.  If you are still looking for information after this, or perhaps you have questions about how we at Sawmill Creek handle pesticide usage, then I want you to call me.  Together, you and I will setup a time for you to come into my office, sit down for a coffee, and I will show you what it is we do, how we do it, why we do it, and anything else with which you wish to know.

The door is open; I have nothing to hide, and always relish the opportunity to talk about my craft - it truly is one of my favourite aspects of my job.

You can reach me at jamie.downton@sawmill-creek.com or by phone at 519-899-4081

I look forward to speaking with you.

Thanks for reading,

Jamie


Monday, January 23, 2017

Winter Update

Good afternoon everyone,

After a weekend in which we saw highs just below the teens, I took the opportunity to get out on the course for a walk to check in on how the course is handling this wacky winter weather.

From my journey around the property, I had a couple of main takeaways:

  1. Overall, and although the course is wet, it is in remarkable condition for the end of January
  2. There is next to no fungal activity on areas which were protected and those which were not
  3. We have a far greater population of Poa annua than I care to admit
  4. Rene Muylaert's design intention of draining greens into bunkers becomes very apparent when the bunkers have not been raked in months - there are partial washouts in several bunkers as a result
  5. I need to limit course walkarounds in the winter - it is far too depressing to see some bunkers holding water due to extenuating circumstances caused by winter weather 
All in all, I was quite pleased to see how we were holding up to winter.  Of course February is still to come, and surely some frigid weather awaits, but for the time being, we are on the downside of the winter slope.

Surface water off of a green and into a bunker

Poa - everywhere!

Water stuck in the bunker at 1 from a frozen outlet


Thanks for reading, 

Jamie


Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Changing Winter Season

Good soggy morning everyone,

In how many words can we describe the winter of 2016/17 thus far?  Wacky, weird, odd, peculiar...the list goes on.

It is yet another morning in which we saw near double digit highs at the crack of midnight, soon to drop to near 10 below.  This combined with a somewhat mid-summer like thunder storm last night, crazy winds over the last few days and weeks, an abrupt short-lasting snowstorm two days ago, and we have what we have become accustomed to for winter in these parts; winter on the southern shores of Lake Huron.

I have spent 16 years in the Sarnia-Lambton area, so my local knowledge is limited to this time frame, but even in this short sample period of time I have seen a significant shift in the conditions that we would consider normal for the winter months.  The new normal for our golf course in January, seems to look like this:


Unfortunately this weather has not been conducive to achieving much in the way of any work on the golf course, for it is, and has been, very wet.  To put any kind of machinery on the course in an effort to clean up is useless at this point.  

I have spent considerable time working on the Resort's health and safety requirements as of late, and fine tuning some of our processes in this department,  It has been a refreshing change to have had the opportunity to actually "think" about how we do things, and attempt to find better, or more efficient ways.  

One of these thoughts I maintain is the issue we have observed in the last couple of years, of the increasing Poa population on our greens.  Of course there is no one single factor contributing to this invasion, but I can't help but think that a tough winter of extreme fluctuations such as what we are seeing, will further encourage Poa, as our Bent tries to figure out what it should be doing.  

And why would I speculate that Poa may have the upper hand with our weather right now?  Well, Poa is one tough plant - one which will outcompete most other plant species on the planet.  In fact, it is so tough, that it is the first known invasive plant species on Antarctica (The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History - page 207).   If Poa can establish itself in what could be considered the toughest growing environment on the planet, it certainly will be tough to keep it out of our own backyard.  

It will be an interesting Spring nonetheless, and we will have to wait and see what Mother Nature brings us.  No doubt it will be a wild roller coaster ride nonetheless.  


Thanks for reading, 

Jamie