Tuesday, September 27, 2011

"By all these lovely tokens September days are here With summer's best of weather And autumn's best of cheer." - Author Unkown

Autumn arrived on the 23rd of this month and I have to say the weather until this past weekend has been great.  The golf course remained dry, the greens rolled well and our rounds played were terrific (almost 5,000) for the month.  Much of this has come to a screeching halt over the last few days as cool, wet, dreary weather has parked over much of the Midwest since the weekend.  From Saturday afternoon to the time of this writing we have logged about 3" of rain.  Fun stuff.

Manuel Munoz clearing Master's Patio this morning
I am asked frequently, and rightly so, about exactly what it is we do during rain events?  The answer to that question is this: "That depends".  On Monday the rain was too severe and the golf course was too wet to do much of anything.  The grounds crew went home shortly after our morning meeting.  Today is a different story.  The rain is not as hard and we have a window of opportunity to perform many tasks that we normally don't have the time to do quickly because of the low volume of play.

Nicacio is shown here string trimming around the pond on #6 Woodland
Indian Lakes resort encompasses approximately 275 acres.  13 of those acres are bodies of water.  We do not string trim around ALL 13 acres but where these ponds come in to play we try and trim around them as much as possible.  This is a time consuming, labor intensive task but it is much easier to do on a day like today when Nicacio doesn't have to change cups, mow tees and collars or help manage the golf course during heavy play.  We have to "steal" work opportunities when and where we can.

Dennis is having a nice time moving tee markers in the rain
You might ask why we would change tee markers in the rain when we won't have much in the way of golfers today.  That is a fair question.  The answer is this: we didn't take the trash out from golfer traffic on Sunday, nor have we moved the tee markers since then either.  Further, we use days like this when there is going to be low golfer traffic to catch up on filling divots.  Finally, not moving the tee markers for more than a couple of days can cause the grass underneath those markers to die from "light exclusion".  That's a fancy term meaning the grass underneath those markers don't get no light.  SO we have to get the trash picked up and we have to fill the divots anyway so, while we're at it, let's move the markers too so we don't have dead grass in the perfect shape of a tee marker on our teeing grounds.  How's that sound?

Angel, Anthony, Chily, Manuel C. and Jr. shown here detailing a bunker
This too requires a lot of time and energy to keep the bunkers throughout the golf course trimmed, detailed and looking good for our golfers.  Blackhawk Trace has 112 bunkers, after all, and they all need varying degrees of maintenance depending on their age, construction quality and location.  The grounds crew can be much more efficient and move much more quickly through bunkers on a "rain day" than when they'd be getting bombed at by golfers all day.  We are able to assign more crew members to this task as well when mowing and course set up aren't chewing up the large amount of people it normally does.

Feliciano and Santiago are hiding behind that garbage can
We are also tasked with managing the interior plant care of the hotel and BOY is that a favorite job assignment on rain days, cold days, hot days or some other day that is less than ideal to be outside.  Feliciano, Santiago, Jose M. and Felipe do the bulk of the work inside and the Atrium has looked very good so far this year.
A gaggle of grounds crew men together before the morning meeting
If you look at the circle you'll see this picture was taken a little before 5 a.m.  This was taken a couple weeks ago because we recently moved to 5:30 a.m. for a start time but the point is the grounds crew is a hard working group of people.  They arrive early, work outside in ALL weather all day and then many of them move on to second jobs here in the area so they can provide for their families.  They deserve the credit for our department's successes.  I am forever indebted to them for their work ethic and wide array of talents.  If you see these gentlemen in the cafeteria give them a pat on the back and say "muchas gracias" because even if you hadn't see them work that day, they have already earned that praise.
 Canada goose damage on 2 Island green last Friday
Skunk damage 2 Island Fairway also last Friday
This is a good time of year to remind everyone why it's not a good thing to have Canada geese and why they shouldn't be a protected species.  Further, it's a good idea to spray preventively for white grubs in Chicago.  Canada geese are either resident or migratory and both of them eat grass and poop all over the place.  The dog does a decent job of keeping them away but only a shotgun is 100% effective and that is WILDLY illegal so we live with and repair this type of damage.  Here's a picture of the dog in case you forgot what he looks like:
  This is a pic of the dog sniffing geese out on the roof of the hotel
Skunks dig for and eat white grubs as they surface this time of year.  We treat greens and tees preventively for these critters:

A white grub at the surface
We don't treat fairways preventively, or more accurately, we didn't treat ALL our fairways preventively so we are seeing the damage scavenging for these buggers creates.  As we see damage we spray an insecticide curatively that makes the bugs die and skunks not want to hunt for them.   You might have treated your lawn at home with GrubX or something but if you haven't look for "Dylox" somewhere at the hardware store and it will begin to solve your problem.

 Molly and I at Garfield Park Conservatory (again)
Tina and Tom lounging and watching "Wall E" at Grandma's house
I don't like to put pictures of myself on here because, well, I'm not that easy on the eyes.  I liked the pic of Molly and I so much though I felt compelled to share it.  She's a fun, happy little girl and I am glad she smiles my way when I come home everyday.  Tina and Tom looked so cozy and comfy and warm here it made me giggle a little bit about how lucky we are to have my parents so close and just how lucky we are in general.  I hope you enjoyed reading if you made it this far and we will look forward to some drier weather.


Friday, September 9, 2011

"I'm thankful to be breathing, on this side of the grass. Whatever comes, comes" Ron Perlman (1950- )

Ron Perlman is a fine American actor who was born in Washington Heights, NYC.  He also happens to be one of the stars of "Sons of Anarchy" on FX which I enjoy watching (while the kids are asleep, for sure).  The above quote is good for all of us to remember in life and, specifically for us in golf course maintenance, at work.
 4 Island green soil
 SOOOOOO, you might've guessed that some of our soils on putting surfaces can be challenging to say the least.

1 green on Island where we often enjoy standing water
This is about as hard a soil as I've seen in my career on 4 Island green
Practice green 2 after 3 minutes of irrigation 
Harder soils like we have on our putting surfaces make it VERY difficult to have water flow into the ground.  Three minutes of irrigation is not a great deal of water and the plant's demand during dry weather is high.  How, you might ask, do we try and improve these conditions?
  This is a Wiedenmann deep tine aerifier
There are many methods to aerating soils.  Aerating means to somehow open a hole to allow air into something.  In this case we're talking about soil.  This machine made  roughly 2.75 million holes in our greens 1/2" wide and 7" to 11" deep on all the putting surfaces.  This helps relieve compaction and aid in gas exchange (carbon dioxide out, oxygen in).  Over time (several years) this will help soften the soil structure so long as we incorporate something into the soil to improve structure.
Dale topdressing after aerification on 1 Woodland green
It might not look like much in the way of sand but it was a bunch.  The goal is to repeatedly incorporate improved root-zone media (i.e. sand) to help improve soil structure so our greens perform better during the golf season.  By better performance I mean improved rooting, receptivity and drainage.  Maybe, just maybe, we'll be able to get water into the profile someday!
 This is a marking flag on its own
This is a marking flag in the aeration hole roughly 7" deep
Note the angle the flag is as well.  The machine we use heaves the soil, or kicks in the opposite direction of travel as it moves into the soil.  The hole is small at the top, in essence, but 'explodes' beneath the surface.  A nice perk to make a larger impact without too much surface disruption.
This is what the green looks like when we're done
Our Director of Golf, Tom Denklau, rolling Practice Green 2 following aeration
Remember, he's the cart lot attendant, range attendant, cashier, teaching pro, outing facilitator, f and b assistant and now, as it turns out, a good grounds crew guy!  Rolling the greens following aeration helps to smooth the surface and achieve better ball roll.
Steve Stewart of Reinders, Inc. Franklin Park, IL
Our local Toro distributor was kind enough to allow us the use of one of their large material handlers.  Normally we fill up our topdresser from the sand pile by the driving range tee just a few scoops of the skidloader at a time.  When we topdressed greens on Island, for example, we made 14 trips to and from the sand.
Using the BIG machine to fill the little machine
This method saved us 10 trips to and from the sand pile and, as a result, a BUNCH of time.  "Time is money": We were able to verticut:


Mow Collars:
Change cups, spray wetting agent, fertilizer, move tee markers and have the golf course back into service by 1:30!  Everyone did a great job, the equipment didn't break down and it was as smooth a process as I've enjoyed in my career.
Dave in engineering fixing a broken light post outside
I wanted to add this picture because this guy really does work his butt off to make sure the operation inside (and out, presumably) runs smoothly.

Carlos and John put together a badly busted drain on 6 Woodland

Aerifying is not all we do during the week.  We have other stuff to do and boy is it nice to have guys like Carlos and John who can help out wherever we need it.

A good picture of my son, Tom, showing off his newest safety glasses. 

I think he's a good looking kid.  I'm just saying.

This is a neat lily pond at the Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago

I highly recommend a visit to the Garfield Park Conservatory.  It's free, it's beautiful and I've always taken away some lesson I can use here at work.  This lily pond is amazing, this picture does not do it justice.

Molly looks a little 'food drunk' here, no?

Molly is 9 months old now.  Almost 10 months, actually, and she's going to be walking really soon.  She needs to because MAN is she fat!  It's all cute baby fat, I know, but still.  Push the cheese away, will ya?!?
Thanks for reading (if you made it this far) and Have a great weekend.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

"Nowadays, business is all about productivity - and our folks produce." - North Dakota U.S. Senator John Hoeven

North Dakota's Junior U.S. Senator, John Hoeven, was the governor of North Dakota from 2000 through 2010.  During his time as governor of the Peace Garden State he helped usher in an era of economic and social service expansion unique among the other 49 states.  Thanks in large part to a boom in energy production in his state North Dakota ranks at the top in fiscal responsibility and economic security.  I wish we could say the same for Illinois but that's not why I bring up Sen. Hoeven's quote.  I wanted to talk about the productivity our team brings out on the golf course and hotel grounds.

 Escobar, Rivera, Santiago and Chily hittin' the sticks
They really do deserve a bit of golf after a hard day's work, I think.  Our team starts at 5:00 in the morning.  Escobar, as an example, starts his day cleaning the driving range tees of debris (divots, tees, garbage, etc) and then transitions into hose dragging fairways for dew removal.  After he finishes that he will then spend the rest of the day fixing ballmarks, filling tee divots, straightening/moving ropes and stakes or a variety of other tasks.  PRODUCTIVITY.  That's what I call productive.

 Chily displays his homemade weed eating protective gear
Chily will begin his day mowing fairways, mowing tees, collars, or raking bunkers.  He'll move on to string trimming around ponds, trimming trees or mulching beds at the hotel.  This guy produces, let me tell you.  To look at him I'd say he appears to be in his early 20's but he's actually 42.  Go figure.
 Standing water on 3 Island green after THREE MINUTES of irrigation!
 Barrett, Ernesto and Dale sod cutting the damaged turf
 Barrett and Dale backfill the excavation with sand
 A close up view of the soil here.  Challenging to say the least
 A long view of the finished product
Ernesto, Barrett and Dale did a fine job of addressing one of our biggest challenges on the Island course last week.  Three minutes of irrigation represents roughly .05" of precipitation given our irrigation system's design.  If you have that much standing water on a putting surface after that little amount of precipitation, imagine what it would be like if you had roughly 9" of rainfall from July 22nd until August 15th.  This area is especially sensitive given it is at the front of the green where every golfer will basically walk right over this exact same spot over and over again for days on end.  This is merely one step in a long term solution.  All of our greens need internal drainage installed but this is the most pressing and we will find a solution to the standing water problem one way or another.  The sod job is only a band aid until the water can be moved off the putting surface reliably.  You can see more of spots like this on a much smaller scale on 1, 4, 5, 6, and 9 on the Island course as well.

It's important to note that Barrett, Ernesto and Dale only spent half a day on this project.  Their earlier assignments include course set-up, mowing collars and intermediate rough as well as chemical applications. 

 Grass clumps
 Grass Clumps.....again....
Grass clumps.....some more....sigh....
I would imagine that some of you at home are having a hard time keeping up with the mowing requirement for your lawn.  Now imagine your lawn is 300 acres.  It's no different for us.  The beautiful weather we've been having (low nighttime and daytime temperatures with a little rainfall) has produced some lush, green turf but it grows LIKE CRAZY!  Just in case you were wondering, no, we don't fertilize our rough.  It just GROWS!  Dennis, Chongo, Jimenez, Rivera, and Santiago spend the early part of the morning mowing or blowing greens.  They spend the mornings cleaning hotel trash, cleaning the patio and the tents or prepping the golf course for early morning outings.  Once that is complete and things have dried out a bit later in the morning they'll spend much of the day trying to keep up with the seemingly endless mowing requirement.  They are great examples of how we can be productive.  These guys work hard, lemme tell ya!
Angel and Anthony preparing to get after some string trimming at the hotel
 This is another good example of teamwork.  After a particularly busy day for Angel and Anthony mowing fairways (46 Acres of fairway, to be exact) they had an hour or so left in the day.  That left enough time to help out Engineering extraordinaire Dan Ayres by clearing a nice swath along the golf course side of the hotel so the Engineering team could repair some foundation leaks for the conference rooms.  We have a good team and I am always short on words for how to thank them for their efforts but here we go: Thank you, all of you, for the effort and hard work you bring each day.
My daughter, Molly, is 9 months now.  Time flies when you're having fun!
Tom, now 3 1/2, dancing his heart out at Pritzker Pavilion in June
I am a firm believer in being a cheap date.  There's too much to do that doesn't cost money in our part of the world not to take advantage of it.  The above photo was taken during a Justin Townes Earle free concert in Chicago Memorial Day weekend.  You can catch "Million Dollar Quartet" at the Pritzker Pavilion for free next week.  That's something you don't want to miss.  If you look hard enough the world is at your fingertips.  My wife, Tina, deserves all the credit for finding all this stuff out.  Have a great weekend.