A behind the scenes look into maintenance practices including past, present and future development plans of the Lac la Biche Golf Club.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Driving Range Etiquette.

Last week we had an unfortunate incident regarding a member who got hit with a golf ball. The ball was hit from the bottom driving range tee and carried the creek where he was struck while walking up to the #6 tee. In the past, I mentioned the need for some netting not only for the end of the driving range, but also down both sides to protect golfers and staff on #1 and #7 fairway. This request is actually addressed in year 2017 of our 10 Year Capital Improvement Plan.
The problem with our driving range is that there is a large elevation change from the teeing area to the distance markers on the range. Today I decided to spend some time and measure the entire range and teeing area and this is what I found. All measurements where done with both GPS and metered wheel.

Elevation Change:  66 feet or 22 yards
Driving Range Width (From #7 Cart Path to Tree Line #1 Fairway): 163 yards
Driving Range Length (From Top Tee to Creek Directly Behind #6 Tee): 267 yards
Driving Range Length (From Top Tee Directly Over Yellow Yardage Markers to Creek): 311 yards
Distance From Top Tee to Bottom Tee (3 Tier Teeing Deck): 17 yards

I also measured from the bottom driving range tee to the tee sign on #6 and this distance is approximately 276 yards. There is no doubt we have some players that are capable of hitting the ball that far. When you take into account the elevation change, this distance can be cut down by 5% (Roughly 262 yards).

So how do we protect our members, guests and staff from future issues? Here are some of my thoughts followed by potential cons of each:

1) Erect proper netting especially at the back of the range. (The net will have to be very high due to severe elevation change. In the area of 40 feet or higher. Expensive and maintenance prone)

2) Re build the entire teeing area towards the back of #8 blue tee. This will better align the tee down the full length of the range. There are no cons to this option since it makes a lot of sense. It also allows us to increase the square footage from the current tee which is much too small.

3) Make the entire driving range irons only. (Takes away from the complete practice experience)

4) Erect a cage for woods only. (No one likes hitting inside a cage)

5) Build more target areas on the range. (Can be expensive and more labour intensive. People will still want to hit their driver)

6) Move #6 tee further from the creek. (This would greatly shorten a par 4 hole which is already only 340 yards)

7) Use of "Limited Flight" range balls. (Currently we do use these but perhaps there are better options out there that may cut distances down by 30% or more)

I think at the end of day, anyone using the range has to exude the utmost responsibility. Those that aim towards #6 tee knowing they are big hitters are knowingly putting others at risk. If these people would simply aim down the line of the yellow yardage markers, we would never have an issue. Be safe and respectful.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Matting Greens.

For those of you who golf early enough in the morning, you may see us matting the greens prior to cutting them. I try to mat 2 or 3 times a week but it depends on weather and staff availability. Matting accomplishes a few beneficial practices.
1) It removes excess moisture (dew) which allows for a better quality of cut.
2) It lifts the grass and helps eliminate grain.
3) Over time it provides upright and dense shoot growth.

This particular brush manufactured by T.I.P.S. is controlled via a hand remote. The brush rises and falls from an electric ram which controls the vertical movement of the wheels. It works amazingly well due to it's weight and brush arrangement. It also makes quick work of brushing in top dressing sand into aeration holes or the turf canopy when light bi-weekly topdressing is performed.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Poa in Full Bloom.

You often here the term poa on golf courses but few actually know what it is or how it can affect daily play. Annual bluegrass (Poa annua L.) is a very common grass species that almost every golf course in North America has. It's very adaptable and can be found on all areas of the golf course including rough, fairways, tees and greens.

In nature,  poa behaves as a true annual. It germinates in spring and/or fall when moisture is adequate and develops quickly, often flowering six to eight weeks after germination. After flowering and setting seed, these annual types die typically from drought and leave dormant viable seed behind to germinate when moisture again becomes available. This efficiency in seed production makes annual bluegrass (poa) a major component of the seed bank of cultivated soils. This seed can remain dormant in the soil profile for up to 6 years.

Many high end golf courses go to great lengths to eliminate Poa. It's a labor intensive, time consuming and expensive practice. So why do it?  Here is a list of the Pros and Cons of Poa annua.

CONS:  -Inconsistent putting speed and roll on the golf green.
               (Greens are slower and do not roll true)
              -Mottled appearance and not aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
                (Poa is light green in color compared to darker green hues of bentgrass)
              -Temper mental growth habit.
                (Does not tolerate too hot, too cold, to wet or too dry conditions)
              -Prone to environmental and cultural stress.
                (Compaction, disease, surface disturbance, traffic, ice and freeze injury,
PROS:   -Usually the first grass to break dormancy from winter.
              -Can provide a true and beautiful putting surface when conditions favor it.
                (ie. Pebble Beach and Oakmont are 100% Poa greens)
              -Naturally reproduce with prolific seed dispersal.
                (Under lush conditions, 14,000-63,000 seeds/ft2/year)
              -Thrives under normal cultural practices.
                (Regular top dressing, verti-cutting and aerating practices)

Poa Seed Heads #6 Greens Collar (June 12, 2011)

My philosophy with regards to poa is one that differs from the high end courses in Alberta. I have a limited budget and work force and accept poa as a fact of life on the course. Over the years I have incorporated bentgrass (A-4) after each core aeration. Currently our greens comprise approximately 60 to 80% poa. It's at this time of year the greens take on a whitish color due to the seed heads. This process will cease in another 3 to 4 weeks and then the greens will take on a darker green most golfers have come to appreciate.  

Poa on #6 Green (June 12, 2011)
 To combat the rougher putting surface the seed heads cause, I lightly topdress the greens on bi-weekly cycles. This helps fill in the voids within the turf canopy and will speed up and smooth out the green. At times this process gets delayed during prolonged periods of wet weather. It's best to topdress the greens during dry conditions so that the sand can be matted in more efficiently. This process is so unobtrusive, golfers don't even know when the greens have been topdressed.

Poa Seed Head (Left) vs. Bentgrass (Right)
(Notice difference in leaf texture and width)

Over the next few years, I plan on over-seeding the greens more often then I do. The addition of our new greens over-seeder the club purchased this month will help immensely in bringing poa populations down to acceptable levels. I am aiming for 40% poa levels but this will take many years to accomplish. We will never be 100% poa free and once a club accepts this, dealing with this overly sensitive grass species will save a lot of time, money and energy. Poa is here to stay so work with it and provide the best possible playing conditions the golf course can financially afford.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

A clASS Act.

#13 Green Divot (June 11, 2011)
It never seizes to amaze me the lack of respect I find on the golf course. It's almost a daily occurance and it will be the subject of a few posts in the near future. In this particular instance, someone decided to take out some frustration right beside the pin. The sad thing is a large tournament had to play with this unnecessary obstacle in their way. In the future for those inclined in perpetrating such stupidity, take your putter in both hands and ram it down hard over your knee. Make sure to listen for that "SNAP!" It will feel so much better and it gives you an excuse to buy another putter since the one you currently broke can't make a short putt. If caught, you will not only be asked to leave but you'll forfeit any future play at our club.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Irrigation Update.

To say the irrigation system has taken up a lot of my time this past month would be an understatement. We last experienced rain on April 28 (12mm or 1/2"). Couple this with warm winds and it's no wonder the knolls and non-irrigated areas are dry and hard. The course and Lakeland County for that matter are in desperate need of precipitation. It's hard to believe but some courses in the Calgary area have experienced major floods and a few of the mountain courses have seen almost 12" of snow. Edmonton has also seen enough rain and are anticipating drier conditions. Apart from the greens, it's tough even keeping the fairways and rough green and lush. The one positive is 10 to 15 yard increases in driving yardage.

On May 12 my irrigation start up procedure involved priming the mainline. Within 5 minutes I had a break on the side of #7 fairway. Not exactly the start I was looking for. So I fired up the tractor and back hoe and began to dig and repair. The break was an easy one to fix and within 3 hours I was ready to continue priming the mainline. Slowly pressuring the system and rechecking my repair, I have another break about 15 feet back of my original repair. So a few curse words later and extension of the trench, I replaced 20 feet of irrigation pipe. Now I'm good to go and none too soon because the course at this time needs water pretty bad.

Once my mainline is primed, I like to prime each fairway individually. This is done through isolation valves located at the tee and green. At the far end of the fairway or green, I'll use a quick coupler key to vent the water which originates at the tee. This greatly eliminates water hammer which is the number one cause of irrigation breaks particularly at start up. The other benefit to priming the fairways this way is that I'm able to flush the lines of potential debris. It's amazing the sorts of debris that may accumulate in the lines. (Pebbles, gravel, metal flakes from the pumps, weeds and even small fish)

So after a 16 hour day, the irrigation system is finally primed and ready to go. I set up the satellite clocks to water tees and greens that night and hope come morning I have no issues. It rarely turns out that I have no issues unfortunately. One of my biggest problems is heads not completely turning off after their cycle (leaking) and/or heads not turning due to plugged drive nozzles. Our irrigation heads are Rainbird 51DR and 91DR which are impact heads. They are loud and best suited to handle brackish water which makes up the bulk of our irrigation pond. These heads are no longer made by Rainbird and over the years I've been replacing them with 900 series rotary heads. These heads are quieter and so far maintenance free considering our water source.

#7 Mainline Break (May 12, 2011)

#7 Mainline Break on 4" Pipe (May 12, 2011)

Cut Out Section of Mainline (May 12, 2011)

#7 Mainline Repair (May 12, 2011)

In the coming weeks, I hope to preform an irrigation audit to  make sure all heads are working properly. In the past 3 weeks, I have replaced 13 heads, 2 isolation valves and have added 4 new quick couplers at greens. In the near future, I'm planning on hand watering greens more often. This will minimize strain on the irrigation pumps and allow better water metering on the greens. The next spell of rain we get, I'll shut down the system and repair another 5 isolation valves and replace approximately 6 more heads.

Friday, May 06, 2011

18 In Full Swing!!

After a hectic week prepping the course, the B9 is now open. Just a few weeks ago I thought there would be no way the course would be open till mid May. Mother nature had other plans and we're all thankful because of it. The golf course is in fantastic shape and judging by the booking sheet, it'll be a good test this weekend.
To get you up to speed, today all the fairways were cut with the exception of #3 (too wet). The greens were all matted and cut and the first cut of rough got a fresh mow. Next week the pump house will be assembled and the irrigation lines will be primed on Wednesday. If the forecast holds true, we're going to need some water ASAP. Enjoy the weekend and remember to leave the course the way you found it.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

F9 Officially Opened.

After a long few days of prep, the F9 officially opened today. The rain we experienced last Thursday (April 28) made a huge difference in seeing the course green up. Yesterday we took off all the tarps on the F9. We then cut all the tees, aprons and collars, put out bunker rakes,  erected all tee and advertising signs, double cut all the greens and then cut holes to be used for the following day.
Green #6 (May 2, 2011)
This morning we finished putting out all the ball washers and tee markers and then roped off some of the wet drainage areas on the course. For the time being, carts will be permitted but MUST REMAIN ON THE CART PATHS AT ALL TIMES. Holes #1, 3, 4 & 9 are extremely wet which necessitates cart path only.

The plan for this week is to cut all the tee and green surrounds, the first cut of rough and then continue with tarp removal for the B9 greens. I'm hoping to have all 18 holes in play for Saturday. (Weather Permitting)

In terms of green conditions, we wintered very well with a few greens showing some snow mold damage. Those greens are #3, 5, 13, 18 & the putting green. These greens tend to winter a little worse then the others year after year. In the next few weeks, these greens will be core aerated, over seeded and top dressed to speed up recovery. Plugs will also be done to remove infected areas. The good news is these greens really aren't that bad but when compared to the others which are in fantastic shape, they are lacking aesthetically. Enjoy and respect the golf course and remember to give the maintenance staff the right of way. The staff is instructed to pull to the side when it's safe to do so and they will idle down their machine as you play through. HAPPY GOLFING!!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Green Conditions (Spring 2011)

Today, the staff and I had a look under some of the green tarps. We looked under greens #2, 7, 8, 9, 12, 13, 14, 16, 17 the Putting Green and the Nursery which was built last year. Many of these greens have been snow free for the past 2-3 weeks. Yesterday the staff shovelled off the remainder of the snow on greens #3, 11, 15 and 18. These greens remain fairly wet and I plan on having a look under them sometime next week. For tomorrow, the plan is to look under #1, 4, 5, 6, 10 and 18.

What I saw today were greens that wintered well with minimal ice damage. We have some pink snow mold particularly on #13 and the Putting Green. The other greens look great especially #7 and 8 which always seem to be come out "mint" year after year. The greens were cut and the tarps were put back in place. With the exception of #13 and the Putting Green, I plan on taking off the rest of the tarps permanently on Friday or next Monday. (Weather Permitting) This is a time consuming process and needs to be done when the tarp is 100% dry. Tarps that are put away wet are prone to mold and tend to degrade quicker then normal.

It's always an exciting part of the year having a look under the tarps and hoping things will be good. Sometimes I'm pleased and other times not as happy but that's the nature of this business. All the knowledge, money, cultural controls and chemicals in the world mean nothing when "mother nature" decides to reek havoc on a superintendents best lay ed plans.

Green #13: To date, our worst green in terms of pink snow mold.
(Apr. 27, 2011)

Green #12:  Good to Go (Apr. 27, 2011)

Green #7: Year after year, one of our best greens.
Reason being: South Facing, Great Surface Drainage
& Full Morning Sun.
(Apr. 27, 2011)

Green #8: Another great green that winters well.
(Apr. 27, 2011)

First Cut on Nursery. This green was built last year and had been
maintained at tee height. This is the first cut at green height.
(Apr. 27, 2011)

#15 Green: The boys shoveling off the last bit of snow.
(Apr. 26, 2011)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Paving of Parking Lot.

Hard to imagination what it used to be like prior to the parking lot being paved. I recall a combination of dust and mud and everything in between. The county stepped up to the plate for us on this one and the club and it's visitors are grateful. Here's some pictures of sub-grade prep and the laying down of the asphalt. Perhaps the biggest task of the project was the sub-surface work and making sure all drainage issues were addressed.

Trenching in New Gas Line for Gazebo. (June 3, 2009)

Hydro-Vac Holes Identifying Gas, Power & Utility Lines.
(June 3, 2009)


Main Drainage Outlet. (June 11, 2009)

Grading & Packing of Gravel Base Prior to Laying of Asphalt.
(June 11, 2009)
Laying of Asphalt. Notice the Elevation of the Parking Lot to the Cart
Path on the Right Aiding Drainage Flow. (June 11, 2009)

Finished Parking Lot and Sewer Pump Out. (June 12, 2009)

The parking lot was officially completed a few months later when parking stall lines were painted to maximize user space and direct efficient traffic flow. Concrete barriers were also put in place to keep all traffic contained within the parking lot and curtail potential access onto the golf course.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Augusta National Changes.

Here's an interesting link about the changes Augusta National has implemented since its inception in 1934. With this years tournament in full swing, it's amazing all the changes the club has made since that time. Imagine the possibilities of a limitless imagination and budget. A beautiful and flowing property to begin with doesn't hurt either. Enjoy.


Friday, April 08, 2011

Clearing Off Driving Range Tee.

This afternoon I decided to clear off the driving range tee. Like most of you, I'm looking forward to swinging my golf clubs and dusting off some winter rust. If the warmer weather continues, the driving range maybe open for Easter weekend?

Clearing D.R. of Snow (Apr. 8, 2011)

(Apr. 8, 2011)

The condition of the turf under the snow looks pretty good at this time. The freeze thaw conditions we experienced in February and March created minimal ice formation. I'll have a better perspective next week once I'm able to check potentially problematic areas. I am noticing fairly moist conditions on the turf which could mean pink and grey snow mold in spots. My experience here at the club has shown ice damage to be much more problematic then winter disease.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Winter Green Damage.

I came across this picture the other day while surfing through all my JPEG files on my computer.
After removing the tarp in the spring of 2009 this is what we saw. Any ideas what that ugly brown streak is?

#4 Green

#4 Green
What you're seeing is the result of a snowmobile driving on the green. It's analgous to a golfer who walks on a heavily frosted green. Their weight crushes plant cells within the crown (growing point) of the plant (grass) which in turn leads to plant death. At the time, there was roughly 12 inches of snow on the ground.

In 2008 I took it upon myself to fence off areas around the golf course to keep this common occurrence from happening. (#11 Fairway and Green, #12 Tee, #13 Tee and Fairway, Access Road into Shop, #4 Green and #7 Fairway Beside Dugout)

Some how this snowmobile found a spot and was actually on his way to gain access to the lake when he came across my new fence behind the green. He turned on the green and realised after traveling the course the only way out was the way he got in.

To fix the damage, I core aerated the area and then overseeded and topdressed. Spring conditions that year were optimal and within 4 or 5 weeks the damage had healed.

Tee to Green Cart Path Construction.

In November of 2010 after temperatures fell below freezing and many of you stored your clubs for the winter, we began construction of our new tee to green cart paths. The weather cooperated, (unlike the heavy rains we experienced in July and August) and we were able to get everything done before the first snow fall. Chedkor Contracting Ltd. was awarded the contract and I'd like to personally thank Barry and his crew for completing the task in a timely manner with minimal destruction to the course.

The project involved excavating the new paths (6 feet wide x 4 inches deep) and then hauling away this material. To speed up construction, excavated material was hauled on site to the back of the driving range. Here it will be contoured like a dike and help stop the long hitters from rolling balls into the creek. The cart path on #7 fairway is 8 feet wide since it's used as a major travel route from the maintenance shop to the clubhouse. Approximately 1,300 cubic yards (1,672 Tonne) of 3/4 inch gravel was then applied and packed to level grade. Culverts were added in depression areas where drainage is an issue. The total length of the project was approximately 4,700 yards (4.28 km).

Beginning From #9 Green (Nov 3, 2010)
Advancing Down #17 Fairway (Nov 11, 2010)

The addition of the new cart paths will be a welcome sight for the golf course and it's members and I'm looking forward to the positive comments. Last year we lost almost 3 weeks of power cart usage due to the heavy rains. It will be nice not having to field phone calls from the pro shop asking if carts are OK to go after we experience rain. (I still enjoy talking to you Lance over the phone..lol) This is a look of what I hope to avoid:

#11 Tee. (Let's avoid some potholes & wreck some grass)

For 2011, the Capital Project Plan is to finish the existing green to tee cart paths which measure approximately 1,400 yards (1.27 km). Our goal is to pave all the paths within the next 2 to 3 years.

Hopefully this year the course will be a little drier but it's nice to know that when the rains come, power cart usage will still be allowed. In such cases, the 90 degree rule maybe enacted to keep turf wear at a minimum. The club thanks you for your support if such conditions apply.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

When Is The Golf Course Going To Open?

This is a question I wish I had a nickel for every time it was asked. Mother nature has her own schedule no matter how hard we work to prove otherwise. To help answer your own question, here is a list of the opening dates since 2003. (My first year here at the club)

2003: May 22 (Pre Tarp)
2004: May 21
2005: April 25
2006: April 22
2007: May 1
2008: May 4
2009: May 2
2010: April 21

As you can see, the dates vary by as much as a full month. If the weather continues to cooperate the way it has for the past week, a good guess is we "should" be golfing the first week of May. Lets keep our fingers crossed and hope for sooner.

I Figured It Was Time.

After weeks of visiting other golf superintendents blogs, I decided to initiate the same for the Lac La Biche Golf Club. The purpose of the site is to educate and inform our members and guests regarding the many maintenance practices that occur on our golf course. This will also include updates of past, present and future development projects that have helped propel the club to where it is now and where it plans to be years down the road.

Check back often and feel free to comment on any of the postings. I will also do my best to answer any questions you may have as it relates to our golf course.