#12 @ Wild Horse

#12 @ Wild Horse

Friday, February 27, 2015

Golf Industry Show

February  27--The weather will prevent the course from opening on March 1.  Looking at the forecast leads me to believe it might be March 7 or 8 weekend.  Stay tuned for an update.  The cold weather we have had recently is definitely not ideal for turf.  I don't mind 6 below in January nearly as much as March 1st but still think our turf is doing better than last year.  Now it is wait and see once spring arrives.

I just returned from the Golf Industry Show in San Antonio put on by the Golf Course Superintendents of America and the National Golf Course Owners Association.  It is a good sized trade show ranking 75th in size of all trades shows with about 17,000 attendees.  It includes educational sessions and a product trade show that illustrate how large and worldly the golf industry is.  I was particularly pleased with my education sessions this year that included information ranging from the business of golf to turf fertility to cutting unit performance and more.  There is a great breadth of seminars available that encompass all facets of golf operations. It is always exciting and thought provoking to attend such conferences and really motivates me for the upcoming season.
Technology was present everywhere you went on the show floor from gps controlled sprayers to apps that track your maintenance inputs.  I have to admit I am not much of a techie but I always evaluate advances that might help us be more efficient.  The key is adopting technology that produces a significant effect and returns on our investment.
For example our new irrigation software definitely is able to put water where and when we want it better than before.  Also we are utilizing moisture meters to monitor soil conditions more than ever so we irrigate only as needed.  We have always tried to irrigate efficiently but these technological advances have helped us do it better.  
Many technological features are apps, data logging, or gps driven platforms (software), but there are still some old fashioned advances (hardware) that are exciting.  Cutting units continue to be fine-tuned to achieve a better quality cut at lower heights. When I say low height of cut that means .1 of an inch or lower.  Don't try that at home! You must be thinking "it's just mowing how complicated can it be"?   It is amazing how much design and setup considerations are accounted for to achieve great cutting quality.  The number of blades on a reel, the speed of the reel, ground speed of the mower, the angle of the blade and bedknife, the centerline of the reel in relationship to the bedknife, the metallurgy of the reel, the roller orientation to the reel, and how the cutting unit is carried on the mower are just a few things that influence our mowing.  Most of those things I mentioned don't mean anything to you but I relay them just so you can realize how technical "just mowing" is to us grass guys.  There continues to be advances in mowers that will help us cut better at the low heights necessary, and I am excited to get new greensmowers in a couple years that will highlight these advances.

Just like any industry golf course management continues to evolve and we try to keep up to maintain Wild Horse at a high level.  It was a great conference and show that has me excited for the golf season to arrive!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

New this Year?

February 17--It seems like I get the "Are you doing anything new this year?" question as the season starts.  Most of the time the answer is "no, not really" which answers their question accurately because they are talking about anything new that they will instantly notice.  No new tees, filling in 16 bunkers, or cutting 10 inch holes are planned so it is true nothing new is in store this year that will drastically change the course.  That said though we continually look to tweak and improve our agronomic programs from year to year.  There are some minor changes that you probably won't notice but should help the course in the long term.  In actuality the most crucial part of our program is diligence and persistence whether it be pest control, cultivation, proper fertilization, etc.  So the key to keeping turf at its highest level is not a magic bullet or "something new" but a continued, consistent program.   That is why you see us doing many of the same things i.e. aeration, topdessing, etc. year after year.  The biggest mistake to be made is thinking our turf looks good so we can skip this or that.  So expect to see us doing many of the same practices but we hope to do them a little better and more efficiently each year.

We are excited about the upcoming season.   Some of the projects we have worked on the past few years should really show their benefits this season.  The greens surrounds transition to bluegrass and ryegrass although not fully complete is going well and should provide excellent playing conditions this summer.  Our sand traps have been much better in terms of playability and shape due to our continued focus on them during the fall.  We often reshape, excavate if necesssary, and refill bunkers as needed and they are much  better than 10 years ago.  No one is ever happy with bunker conditions but we have tried to make them penal (as was their design) but recoverable with a good shot.  Our irrigation controller upgrade last year went smoothly and this winter has given me time to fine-tune that program.  We expect to utilize it to its fullest potential this year and while it may be difficult for the golfer to discern we are able to irrigate more efficiently and use less water.  This should subtly lead to better overall turf conditions.  Another improvement over the years has been in the "wooga".  Our goal when we started burning on a regular basis was to reduce the bluegrass population, control unwanted weeds like sandburrs and ragweed, and make the rough more playable.  Although the playability of the rough can be an issue during high precipitation years we think we have accomplished most of those goals. Can it be better? Yes, but the health of the prairie in terms of plant diversity and the aesthetic value of the native flora is much better than when we first started banging balls around this pasture.