Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Late Fall Greens Aeration

I seem to have caught a few of the members off guard this year with my late fall greens aeration.  This is something that I have done for the past 3 years on our putting greens.  It usually goes unnoticed as the weather is usually terrible in November.  This year I did it on November 14.

I punch the greens in the late fall and sometimes in the late winter with 3" long 3/8" diameter solid tines.  These tines don't take a core out like we do every spring and fall.

There are two reasons I aerate this time of year.  The first is to increase drainage on the greens to help keep them as dry as possible.  We often see large volumes of rain and puddling is a concern as well as ice if it gets cold out.  Last night the course received about 1" of rain and there wasn't a single puddle on any of our putting greens!  Ideally we would aerate deeper but our current equipment only allows us to punch holes 3" deep.

The second reason I aerate in the late fall is to help increase the soil-air gas exchange.  With all the rain in the winters our soils often become anaerobic and black-layer can become a problem.  The aeration helps open up the soil and allows the it to "breathe".  The disruption to play is usually minimal and the holes should be more or less covered by the end of the week.  The pay-off from this process is a healthier plant and better playing conditions in the spring!


Friday, 11 November 2011

Driving Range Pole Reinforcement

Don't worry, that yellow rope is just there to hold the channel iron in place while it
was bolted to the pole!!

This week George and his usual group of volunteers set out to reinforce the poles on the left side of the range.   These poles were some of the originals installed and were quite rotten right at ground level.  The rest of these poles were still in good shape.

George devised a plan to reinforce the poles to extend the life of them for a few more years.  He has all the materials and labor donated for the project except for the concrete so the cost to the club was almost nothing.

Thanks to George, Robbie, Gerry, Wayne, Terry, and Kirk for their help on this project!

Monday, 7 November 2011

Equipment Usage Database

Over the years I have seen a few different methods that golf clubs use to keep track of their equipment usage.  The first and most basic of these is writing it down on a piece of paper after each use.  The more advanced of these systems automatically check the hour meter reading each time the machine enters the shop area and automatically enters this info into your equipment management software.  While both of these systems do work they both have drawbacks.

The first pen and paper system is very labor-intensive.  It requires that after each use the operator must fill out the sheet.  Later on the Mechanic or designated individual needs to interpret this data to make sense of it.  This works good but takes a lot of time.

The automatic system is great but the cost of acquiring such a system is astronomical.  This system also requires that each machine has a hour meter that can communicate wirelessly with your computer.  Another drawback is that this system takes a great deal of time to set up and get running smoothly.

I have created a simply data input and filter using Google Docs that makes it easy to input info from any computer or device with internet access.  It inputs that data into a spreadsheet where you can filter the data for different operators, equipment, areas used as well as date.  The database can keep track of equipment hours, areas cut, circle/clean up cut directions, fuel consumption as well as amount of clippings harvested and whether or not the equipment needs servicing.

This info is then pulled from my equipment maintenance database and notifies me when I need to do scheduled maintenance.  I'll talk about this part of the system in another post.

The best part about this system is it's free and you can customize it however you want quite easily.

The backbone of this system is the spreadsheet which can be found below or here.

Use this template and change the name to whatever you want.

Here is the list of equipment at my course
The first step to using this database it to edit the form.  On the top of the screen select "form" then "edit form".  A window will pop up that will allow you to edit the data that is able to be input into the database. This form ensures that all of the data input into the system is formatted the same and eliminates issues with spelling and the like.

The first field has the equipment operator names.  Add all the names of the people on your crew here starting with the operators that use equipment the most.  As employees come and go you can go in here and add or remove them.


Next is the equipment name field.  Add all the designations for all your equipment that you use on the golf course here.  If you have multiple units of the same type you will need to assign each a different number.

The next is what area of the course the equipment was used on.  Again you can edit these to better suit the terminology that is used on your course.  I can use this information so sort out the total machine time per area at the end of the year.

The next input is the holes which the equipment was used.  I only have 9 holes on my course so I only have 9 options plus my practice areas.  I use this information mainly to let my employees know what was last done with each mower so they know what needs to be done next.  I embed this spreadsheet on my maintenance website so that everyone can see it.  The sheet titled "last use" is a collection of the last use of each machine.  As I only have 1 machine per area of the course this is easy.  You may need to sort this sheet differently.

The next data is the circle cut direction.  Some people call this the clean up cut.  Call it whatever you like but I use this to inform my employees of the direction the last circle cut was done in so that they can alternate the directions each time they cut.

Fuel consumption is here as well in case you want to monitor this.

I use the basket empties field to monitor the growth of the turf on my putting greens.  Read all about this here.

The next field is used to inform the mechanic if the machine needs maintenance.  For the purposes of the basic equipment log this is of no use.  If you want to tie this into a equipment maintenance database later on then keep this here.

The other two fields are for the mechanic to read and are optional.

Now that you have the form filled out and ready save it.  You are now ready to embed this form onto the web.

I created a maintenance website that I will briefly discuss here.  I will throw up a template later if I have the time.

Equipment use section of my Maintenance website
I have created a Google site that is only accessible to my employees. The following picture shows how I have set up the equipment use section of the site.  I have put the "last use" sheet up top so that everyone knows what was most recently done.  Followed is the form that we just made.  Under the "form" selection up top select the "embed form in a website" option.  Copy that link and paste it into your site in html format.  This is easily done on Google sites. (note: to make the form easily view-able on a mobile device edit the width for 100% and add about 50 pixels to the height)

Now whenever your crew comes in after completing a task on the course they just go to the shop computer and enter the info into the form. They can even access the form on their smartphone if you allow them access to you site.

Now that you are collecting data you can go to the "filterdata" page to filter the information however you like.  Under each section option at the top you can select the different data and it will filter it accordingly.  The dates can be changed to only show data for a specific period in time.  I have it set up to default from the beginning of 2012 to tomorrow's date.

The "uniquedata" sheet is there simply to formulate the drop down menus on the "filterdata" sheet.

The "greensgrowth" sheets are for monitoring the growth rates on your course.  Delete these if you don't want to do this.

The last sheet titled "3100-G" can be used as a permanent sheet for each machine.  Simply duplicate this sheet for every piece of equipment you want a permanent record for and rename it accordingly.  To get the equipment data into the sheet just change the name on the Sheet cell A2.

And that's about it.  This can be used to monitor a large number of things on your course.  The true potential of this system really comes out when you link this to an equipment maintenance database.  I have mine linked and it automatically alerts me when machines need scheduled maintenance.  A very cool feature which I will discuss in a later post.  For now see if you can set this up and let me know how it works.  I look forward to receiving feedback.













Saturday, 5 November 2011

Another Look at the Stunted Sod Farm Turf

The turf in the foreground is Poa annua grown from hollow tine aeration cores from our putting greens.
So earlier this year I made a post regarding an observation I made on our sod farm.  I noticed that the newly planted turf was growing at a much slower rate than the surrounding turf.  The grass was planted using cores from the hollow tine aeration of our putting greens.

The predominate species of grass on our putting greens is Poa annua.  Poa annua is a species of turf that is very adaptable.  It is capable of withstanding heights of cut as low or lower than 2mm!  Some scientists have also observed that at low heights of cut the turf actually doesn't even grow upwards!  It had been cut so low for so long that it had adapted to not growing!  Poa annua has the ability to adapt to almost any environment.  This is one reason why it is such a widespread turf species found on every continent other than the Antarctic.

The above picture was taken during May which is the time of year that we see a major seed head flush from the Poa annua.  The funny thing here was that the newly planted turf didn't produce any seed head!  At first I was completely stumped as to why this Poa annua wasn't bursting into a field of white but I finally clued in just now (I'm a little slow).



Mega seed head action !! It doesn't get much worse than this!!
The reason I think that it didn't produce any seed head this past season was that there was no stress from being cut.  The turf had already adapted to slow growth and frequent cutting so not being cut was like a day at the spa.  No stress = no need to reproduce.  Now I shouldn't say there was no seed head.  There was a little as can be seen in the picture but those who have managed Poa know that this is practically nothing.

So what this absolutely proves to me is that if I can reduce the stress that the plant is experiencing they I should also reduce the seed head in May.  Best case scenario I have no seed head on my greens next year or the year after that.  This makes a ton of sense but is easier said than done.  I have been doing a heap of research into fertility and disease prevention for Poa annua in an effort to maximize the health of my greens next season.

I have heard some say that as greenkeepers we can't forget why we are growing this turf in the first place.  "It is for the game of golf," they say.  "Turf health is secondary to playability!"  All I have to say to these people is the reason I am so concerned with the health of my turf is so that I can provide the best possible playing conditions period!

I cannot wait for next year!!!



Sand Trap Reno on 8


Sand Trap on 8 this past March
It has been a while now since we have completed the sand trap renovation on hole 8 but I only just now have the time to write about it.

Last winter we again saw a huge volume of groundwater coming out from beneath the wall behind 8 green.  The groundwater around 8 green has been crazy the past few years.  Incredibly high volumes of water have been popping up here and there as fast as we can install drainage pipe.

Anyways the water that was coming out from the wall was flowing out onto the green and into the large sand trap on the right of the green.  We have since installed a catch basin behind the green to prevent any surface run-off from flowing onto the green.  Either way the way the trap was designed cause all the sand to wash down to the front and into the rough.  The quality of the sand was also at a point where we were looking at a total sand replacement in this trap.

First day working with the backhoe
This trap has also been a safety hazard for the maintenance staff for years.  It was built only 2 feet from the edge of the green making it very difficult to turn our mowers without going into the trap.  It was also very difficult to maintain.  The slope of the trap caused all the sand to pile in the bottom and we were forced to shovel the sand back up the slope weekly!  So I asked myself "Do I really want to spend all this effort to fix up this hard to maintain and dangerous trap?" In case you're wondering....no...no I didn't!

Fill has been added and the traps are starting to take shape!
I came up with a plan to move the traps further from the green to increase the room for turning equipment as well as level out the bottom of the trap.  I also decided that 2 traps would be better than 1 big trap.  It would make it easier to mow, reduce the amount of weed whacking and still catch errant shots before they went over the steep embankment.

In April we were working on a few subsurface drainage projects so I used the waste material from the ditches for fill on this project.  We also used some of the left over fill from the previous irrigation system upgrades that were done 2 years ago.

A view looking towards the tees from the back of the traps.
We decided to not line the traps as all of our existing traps aren't lined and I wanted to keep things consistent.  I have found that liners often cause more problems than they solve and we have very little issues with our liner-less traps.  I also decided not to install subsurface drainage in these traps as the ground here was very porous and already drained remarkable well.  So far to date we have had absolutely no puddling in these traps.

Once the traps were roughly shaped we sodded the ground so that we could bring this area into play as soon as possible.  As we had used up most of our good sod I was forced to use a less than ideal area from our nursery.  The sod we used was full of clover and weeds and I wasn't sure how it would turn out.  I used it anyway just to cover the ground to hold the soil together for the time being.  It turns out that after a season of good maintenance almost all of the clover and weeds have been choked out from the turf and as always we don't use any herbicides at Pender Harbour!

Bunker Board Installation
We had to purchase new sand for the traps as the old sand was completely contaminated with rock and debris.  We used the sand from the CAL gravel pit as it is the same sand that we use in all our other traps and I wanted to keep them looking and playing consistent.  The only trouble with this sand is that the spec has changed at the pit, and now it is full of the odd 3/4" rock!  We remove any rocks that we can find every time we rake it!  It really is too bad that even though we have the largest gravel and sand pit in North America, they can't seem to accommodate the golf courses!

We lined the trap edges with 4" strips of plywood to keep the edges intact and allow the sod to really knit in and stabilize.  I had a number of complaints over the season mostly from the visual impact and also from the fact that it might damage a club if it was struck.  For this reason I placed the traps as GUR.  I really wanted to start the edges off right to prevent future troubles.

We recently removed the bunker boards and gave the traps a finishing edge.  I think you will agree with me when I say that they look fantastic!
New traps on hole 8 in November


The crew has really enjoyed the increased area for turning and overall feel safer on this green.  The traps also save us a lot of time each week in maintenance.  The sod has knitted great, looks good and healthy and I also think that the overall appearance of the area has improved.  The only real cost for this project was a portion of a load of sand and a sheet of plywood.  Everything else was done with recycled materials on site.  I hope that this improvement will reduce maintenance cost and increase the safety of this area of the course. This is just another thing that we have done to try and increase the sustainability of our club!

Thank you everyone for your patience while we worked on this project.