Friday, September 6, 2019

Dodged a Bullet

A week ago we were stocking up on chainsaw chains, bars and oil. We were also ensuring all equipment was full of gas and getting our fuel storage tanks topped off. A brush chipper was reserved with Sunbelt Rental and we were prepared to institute our golf course and maintenance facility protocol for securing the property for a hurricane. Fortunately for Isla, Hurricane Dorian took a turn to the north and we were left with beautiful weather over the past week. It's extremely unfortunate for those in the Bahamas as well as those affected along the eastern coast of the United States. Having a friend who serves as the golf course superintendent at The Abaco Club, I know I will be watching this area and look for opportunities to assist.

The grounds department has spent much of the last week keeping up with mowing and working on details. There has also been a focus on weed control. This focus will continue over the next few weeks. We are also working to recover any weak areas on greens, including #13 where we had the irrigation malfunction last week. You may notice that some areas have been top dressed with sand. While the sand actually makes these areas look worse, it is there in order to protect the thin plants and encourage faster recovery. The majority of our trouble spots are located on greens where we expanded the putting surfaces with sod last year. When lowering the mowing height, we experienced thinning in some areas. The core greens continue to be in great condition and expect all of these areas to fill in completely with a little extra TLC.

#13 Green When Malfunction Occurred
#13 Green Today
Notice the sand topdressing behind the flag where the green was expanded
Since the last blog update, the new tees have continued to mature. We have had tee markers on most of the new tees for the past two weeks and the grass seems to be handling the traffic well. We still wait for sod to finish any of the most severe wash out areas but fortunately these spots do not impact play. We also began to work on completion of the lake bank left of #13 tee this week. A final geotube is being installed here before we grade and sod. Because this area is separate from the rest of the golf course, if necessary, we will use a different type of bermudagrass if our preferred type is not available.

#12 Tees
#9 Tees
#8 Tees
Ronnie and Arturo working on 13 lake bank

Monday, August 26, 2019

13 Green

Over the weekend there was an irrigation malfunction on 13 green. Because of this, the green is showing signs of wilt. We will alter our maintenance program on this green to encourage recovery.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Open For Business

The golf course has been closed for the past four days for scheduled maintenance. The original plan for this week was to aerify and verticut fairways and approaches as well as greens. However, following the significant amount of rainfall experienced the week prior, we were forced to change our plans. The mowing of the entire golf course was behind due to all the rain and much time was spent catching up with the mowing. With most areas being saturated, it wasn't possible to perform the aerification and verticutting on fairways. Because of this, we shifted our manpower efforts to other projects. We were able to aerify greens with small tines, work on weed control, remove grain from the old tees, spread wall-to-wall fertilizer, weedeat the entire golf course, edge all the bunkers and work to remove invasive vines from many of the hedge lines. We also had time to install new drains around #10 tee.

Pedro aerifying #2 green
A few days later the greens are ready for play!
New drain line on #10 ready for sod
Today marks the opening of our new tees. Please keep in mind that while the tees are playable, they are nowhere near the finished product. Similar to the development witnessed over the past several weeks, the tees will continue to mature more and more each week. Not only will the grass density continue to increase, we have treated the volunteer weeds which will soon wither and die.

We worked hard over the past few weeks around the weather to get the height of cut down to a playable level. This height reduction results in the tees being less green than how they appeared previously. As the grass adjusts to the new height of cut, it will return to a normal green color.

At this point, most of the new tees are mature enough to facilitate play. However, we will be conservative on where we place markers in order to avoid thinner areas. Because of this, you may find tee markers at yardages different from where they normally would be. I do ask that everyone refrains from driving golf carts on any of the new grass. Nothing wears out grass faster than cart traffic.

We are still waiting for another load of sod to help us complete some of the areas plagued by washouts with the substantial summer rains. Due to wet sod farms and high demand for grass, sod has been very difficult to obtain this summer. I am told that hopefully this week another load will be available.

#4 Tee ready for play
#10 Tee
While from a distance the tees have a brown tint to them, a closeup of the tee displays a significant amount of green leaf blades

While we had hoped to manage thatch across the entire golf course, the weather had other plans. We did manage to address our old tees by lowering the height and cutting into the grain. The end goal is to provide a tighter, better playing tee surface. While these tees currently appear to be scalped, they will quickly recover.

#9 Tee following thatch management
These new green shoots were visible the day after the thatch program was performed
Finally, we were able to spread our quarterly application of fertilizer and weed control to the entire golf course. This application was scheduled for late July but because we have had so much rain, we were just now able to get it applied. A contractor uses a spreader truck to apply the fertilizer. This results in tire tracks in some areas. These tracks will roll out and disappear over the next week.

Tire tracks on 3 fairway
With all the rain, Fernando got creative on how to stay dry!

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Time to Build an Ark?

Since late July we have had many days of weather that is not typical of Florida summers. While we are used to rainfall this time of year, it usually comes in the form of afternoon showers. In contrast, we have experienced many cloudy days where the rains start early in the morning. Until this week, most of the rains have brought relatively small amounts with each event, but their consistency and the lack of sunny weather causes the golf course to stay very wet. Today we received 5.1 inches of rainfall, bringing our August total to 9.8". Obviously, this has an effect on our everyday maintenance as we are very restricted on where we can mow, we have had to postpone fertilizer applications, the grass is unable to fully photosynthesize (make food for itself) and our workday productivity has been disrupted. Fortunately, the weather is forecast to turn back to normal beginning next week.

These boards floated off the footbridge on #8 all the way up to the cart path by the green
The red arrow shows how high the water reached on the wall by 18 green before receding
Although we've had a lot of poor weather for growing grass, the new tees continue to mature. Many of you have asked if all the rain has helped or hurt the grow-in process. The answer is both. We always welcome fresh rain water. The grass prefers that over reclaimed water, especially when it is young. However, the abundance of cloudy weather means the grass is not able to effectively use the sun for photosynthesis. Another detriment has been our inability to fertilize over the past week. The rain has also limited our ability to mow and sand topdress as frequently as we would prefer. Regardless, we continue to push forward and it won't be long until they are ready for play.

#4 Tee - August 1st
#4 Tee - August 12
#12 Forward Tee - August 1st
#12 Forward Tee - August 12
While the rain has delayed some of our work, we have still been able to make some headway this week. Due to rain and heavy demand, sod has been difficult to come by since June. After a month of having two loads on order, one load of sod came available Wednesday morning for the slope left of the back tee on #8. The remainder of that load was used to sod around a new drain by 16 tee that was installed Monday. While we had hoped to install a new drain on #10 tee Tuesday, Mother Nature had other plans. We hope for better weather on Monday to finish this task. We are also keeping our fingers crossed for a timely delivery of the last load of sod needed to finish work around the new drains and other areas that have been prone to washouts.

While much of the golf course was covered in water, this area by #16 tee only had a small puddle following 5.1" of rain. Signs of an effective drainage project.
This photo on #8 was taken while the guys took a well-deserved lunch break.
Pedro was pumping this standing water away from #10 tee in preparation for drainage installation. Unfortunately, we were rained out from completing the project. Fingers crossed for next week!

Friday, August 2, 2019

Golf Course Update - August 2nd

Over the past 7 days we received about six inches of rain. While that is much more than we wanted, we are fortunate to have received much less than nearby areas. With 1.75" on Wednesday night we were cart path only on Thursday. However, at times like these we are fortunate to have a well-draining property and no cart restrictions for Friday.

We've had continued growth on the new tees which cover more everyday. The increased fertility program appears to be having the desired effect. The tees that are furthest along are almost at 90% coverage. Last week it was mentioned that we used stems verticut from the new approaches to fill thin areas on some tees. These small stems have already begun to produce new growth. Recognizing the success, this week we replicated this process across many additional areas in order to push them along.

#4 Tee July 23
#4 Tee August 1
#12 Forward Tee - July 23
#12 Forward Tee - August 1
New growth from sprigs made when verticutting approaches
We spent much of Tuesday verticutting new sod installed as part of either last year's or this year's project. This is done to smooth the seams and unevenness of the sod. In the process, the machine removes material from the high spots without much effect on the lows. While it appears to be scalped for a few days, it doesn't take long for new growth to generate. We will soon be aerifying, rolling and sand topdressing these areas to also assist in reducing the bumpiness.

Fernando is verticutting 9 approach
Chris spent some time spot spraying weeds this week. As a result, you will notice the dying weeds and bleached turf in these areas. The grass will soon green back up and cover the void left by the dead weeds.

You may notice spots like these on the golf course as a result of spraying weeds with herbicide
Part of last year's renovation project along as well as this year's project was to expand the green sizes back to their original footprint. Over the years the taller bermudagrass has encroached on our greens, leaving them smaller with fewer hole locations. The greens that have been expanded each gained approximately 1500 square feet in size. Each week the new green expansions get healthier and blend better with the older green surfaces.

This hole location on #4 is only 18 inches away from the old green perimeter

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Golf Course Update - July 25th - Anniversary Edition

Today marks 5 weeks since we planted our tees. I am happy to say most of the tees appear to be filling in on schedule. Yes, we all wish they were fully grown-in but it is not uncommon for full-coverage to take 8 weeks or more. Keep in mind, these tees are just over 1-month-old. Growth and spread will continue to increase exponentially as the tees mature. However, it is evident that a few, like number 12, are lagging behind. We have identified this and altered maintenance practices to add additional sprigs cut from our own turf. We also have assessed nutrient availability and determined that the numerous summer rains have made it necessary to add additional fertilizer at this time. In an effort to push growth, we will be supplementing with extra fertilizer every 4-6 days until coverage is achieved. With summer not even half-over, we have plenty of good growing weather ahead to allow tees to cover and mature. We will continue to push growth, monitor and adjust plans as needed.

Below you can see the progress of growth on #4 Tee since planting:

June 19 - Day of planting

June 28

July 3rd

July 12 - First Topdressing

July 17

July 23
It's the lateral growth of the bermudagrass stolons that enable the grass to cover
I am sorry to report that we lost a Washingtonian palm on #5 by the right fairway bunker due to a recent lightning strike. The tree will be removed at first opportunity. A good reminder of why we should not be on the golf course when there is lightning in the area.

This tree on #5 was destroyed by a lightning strike
Every year we make a preventative treatment for mole crickets. Mole crickets are large insects that destroy turfgrass by tunneling underneath and feeding on the plants. Left untreated, these insects can obliterate large areas of turfgrass in a short time. It appears as though there was an issue with this year's preventative treatment as mole cricket activity has been identified across the golf course. I have met with the chemical manufacturer's representative and they are providing us with enough free product to treat the entire golf course with an effective post-control product. We have already treated 10 acres and hope to complete treatments by the middle of next week.

This area shows damage caused by mole crickets
The grounds department spent some time this week verticutting the areas of sod around the greens from last year's bunker project. These areas were very bumpy, caused by the individual pieces of sod, and efforts are being made to smooth them. This was the first of several verticuttings aimed at removing the high spots over a given area. As a byproduct, there are numerous grass stems produced, many of which are expected to be viable for transplant. We took these stems and spread them like sprigs across 12 tee and part of 8 tee to encourage faster growth of these areas.

#13 approach following verticutting

#12 tee after verticut clippings were planted
Finally, today marks the 14th anniversary of my start date at Isla Del Sol. Where does the time go? It's been a wonderful place to call home, and I look forward to serving you for many more years to come.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Golf Course Update - July 17

The tees were sprigged approximately 4 weeks ago and are progressing nicely. We have fought a few washouts from rain along the way but continue to fill those areas as needed. This week we began to roll, mow and sand topdress the new tees. This helps not only to smooth the new tees but also encourages lateral growth of the young grass plants. I am sure many who are looking at the tees could be concerned that they are not filling in fast enough but we are exactly where you would expect to be at the 28 day mark for the majority of the tee boxes. A few, like 12 and 13, seem to be a few days behind the others but we will continue to push those along. Don't forget, it took the first 10-14 days for the sprigs to start growing. Now they are in the phase where the development and spread will be exponential.

Sand topdressing being applied to #4
Notice the new lateral growth of the sprigs

This photo was take a few days later zoomed out. Notice all of the lateral runners.
I have had a few questions about the standing water beside some of the new tees like 10 and 16. The plans called for drains to be installed in these areas. We chose to wait to install drains in order to not delay planting. Our priority was to get the grass in the ground as soon as possible. Over the next month we will work to install the new drains.

We are scheduled to complete the lake bank by the 13th tee the week of August 12th. We will do a finish grade and sod in order to stabilize this bank. 

We are getting rave reviews on the changes made to the bunkers and green surrounds. What a difference it is to have new sand that is not contaminated with seashells! The surrounding sod continues to mature and the aesthetics are greatly improved.

New greenside bunkers on #16
We continue to mow the green expansions from last year's project at the lower height. The transitions are smoothing out and the expansions are matching the green surfaces better each week. Each green gained close to 1500 square feet in area.

The greens from last year's project have been expanded onto the paspalum sod
As you can imagine, this time of year can be challenging to keep up with the everyday maintenance of the golf course when we still have focus on projects. We spent last week and continue to use our time this week to catch up on some of the details that are a little behind. We worked at tennis and the clubhouse on landscaping and also edged all of our new bunkers last week. We gave some attention to the greens with a vertical mowing which is intended to thin the canopy and reduce thatch. This week we are working to weedeat around the trees and lakebanks on the golf course, as well as spray the weeds out of the waste bunkers on 1, 3 and 10. Next week we will finish edging the old bunkers and remove the dead weeds from the waste bunkers that were sprayed this past Tuesday.

The crew edging the bunkers on #13