Thursday, April 26, 2012

Golf Course Happenings the week of April 23rd 2012

You may have noticed we have started interseeding fairway area's that died as a result of water ponding and refreezing this past snow melt.  This is to get some seed into place with hopes it can germinate and out compete the Poa.  Soil temperatures have fallen slightly but the calendar says May 1st is right around the corner.

We've also double spiked our greens to promote rooting development in the spiker slits.

With the early spring and a difficult time predicting when pre-emergant products should be placed out in the field, I think we sprayed our Poa seedhead suppression chemicals just in the nick of time.  Scott Gilbertson of Reinders and I could not detect Poa seedheads in the boot stage one Friday but I noticed them early one Sunday morning on our fourteenth green and broke out the sprayer the following day.

Aerification Alert:  We will be aerifying Bull's Eyes fairways in the weeks to come. (Our when the loaner aerifier shows up the property.  So be advised.  _Mk

My Farm Links Experience.

First I want to thank Randy Luscher of BASF for the invitation and thank the great people of Farmlinks for all the hospitality.

I left home for Madison at the ungodly hour of 3:30 AM Tuesday April 3rd to the sights and sounds of Lightning and pinging of pea sized hail.  Travelling east to Bancroft I was hailed on two additional times by marble sized hail.  Thankfully the road is straight across the Buena Vista marsh as my windshield wipers had a difficult time keeping up in the down pour.  (When I later returned home, I learned the course received less than one tenth of an inch of moisture which we needed badly at the time.)

I rendezvoused in Portage with my traveling partners Scott Gilbertson, Sales Engineer from Reinders Brothers Inc. and Darren Armstrong, Golf Course Superintendent of Cedar Creek Golf Club in Onalaska Wisconsin.  (While waiting for our departure, we discussed problems associated with our Toro ProCore 648 Aerifier.  Seems Toro has updated the aerifier with a new "float" switch not present on our unit.  Thanks Toro.  I've been pulling the hair out of my head trying to resolve the scalped torn turf for the past five years.  With this information in hand, the trip was already worth every penny.)

We planned for a round of golf the afternoon of our first travel day.  We played a Tom Fazio designed course west of Atlanta named "The Frog."  Nice layout and enjoyable round of golf but much too warm and humid for my blood this early in the year.  I was pleased with my first round of golf for the year because it included two birdies but wasn't happy about the pain of a tennis elbow flaring up on the back nine. Scott managed an Eagle 3 on the finishing hole after blasting his second shot a foot from the hole.  (We made him putt it out.  Hey we're cut throats.)   

That evening we sought out found a Cajun restaurant in Douglasville Georgia named Gumbeaux.  It was well worth the two and one half hour wait for a table.  Being resourceful Wisconsinites, we gave the hostess our cell phone number to page us when our table was ready.  The food did not disappoint.  Blackened Catfish, Oysters, Crawdads,  Jambalaya.  The samplers platter was enough to feed an army.

We learned via email that the rental car was due back by 10 AM.  What we didn't know was Birmingham Alabama is in the Central Time Zone! So the extra hour was spent in the Birmingham Airport waiting for our host Randy and six additional Wisconsinites that would be a part of our tour group.  They wouldn't be arriving until 2 PM so there was a lot of time sitting and milking the free WIFI Internet service at the airport.  I noticed several Midwestern superintendents heading home from their Farmlinks experience.

We were picked up as a group by the Farmlinks shuttle bus for the forty five minute drive to the research course.  Farmlinks is an eighteen hole living research laboratory.  The purpose of the golf course is to test various technological advances in golf course maintenance.  They were evaluating a new bunker liner product that caught my eye as I was thinking how useful this would be in our thirteenth bunkers.  The course is a Hurzdan Fry design.  Part links, part woods.  In fact I was surprised at how mountainous this part of Alabama was.  (It is the lower end of the Appalachian Chain of mountains.)

It was Masters weekend and the azaleas were no longer in bloom.
Due to heavy weather forecast for the next couple of days, we were allowed to play nine holes upon arrival.  Not sure if we would play the next day, we took them up on their offer.  3 nines, three birdies.  Not a bad start to the year.

The first full day included a course tour regarding maintenance practices used in maintaining bentgrass putting greens in the deep south.  I found it interesting to know they used backpack blowers inserted in the drain tile vent to force cooler air trapped in the pipe upwards through the rootzone to keep the greens alive in the summer.  We were given a tour of the new maintenance shop that was under construction to replace the former shop that was destroyed by fire. Lightning was the match and equipment full of gasoline was the accelerator.  State of the art communication and flat panel TVs would come in handy as training aids.

Randy Luscher, the man in black listens to a question by Scott Gilberson of Reinders
In the class room we were shown the golf cart GPS tracking software.  This was some pretty cool technology.  Besides showing course yardage, they had the ability to communicate and track every cart on the course.  Drive off the cart path and the cart would shut off with the only way to move forward again was by backing out the way you came in.  We were shown a graph that plotted the route of every cart used the day before.  This was interesting to me because you could specifically target areas for aerification to minimize cart damage.  If I knew earlier our cart routes were being monitored, I would have made tight spirals down the fairway or would have tried to spell out my name in cursive just to mess with the golf shop.
While you cannot see it, but every carts route of travel was plotted on the course map.
Our travel day home was on Good Friday and what could best be described a day of pure hell.  Our flight from Birmingham to Atlanta was delayed because the plane coming in to pick us up had "mechanical issues" AND the back up plane Delta put into service had a flat tire!  Sure Delta!
Guaranteeing seats on a later flights only guarantees you lose the seats on the flight your seats were first guaranteed on! 

On the flight from Birmingham to Atlanta I swapped seats 1C, (bulkhead, no place to store my briefcase so I tossed it in the overhead bin) with one of our tavel-mates because he was younger, faster and hadn't checked any luggage.  His seat was 12C (Exit Row.)  The idea was to have Todd run to our connecting gate to tell them we were on the way. 

Off course the last person to board the plane was seated right next to me in 12D.  A gentleman named Abraham and of middle eastern decent.  (I'm sure he was profiled by TSA.)  Abraham was travelling home to see his family for the first time in three years.  He's been working in this country for fifteen years and has dreams of relocating his family here someday but something like 9/11 has slowed things to a snails pace.  I can now mention that he was returning to war torn Yemen! 

The announcement to turn off all electrical devices before takeoff was made.  It was then I remembered that my bag was in row 1 and my cell phone was still powered on!  I've been in planes were the pilot would announce that he would not leave the gate until the person with the cell phone turned it off.  I'm thinking I better not approach the front of the plane for fear of being taken out by a Sky Marshall or tazzed by the flight attendent!

Delta hurried us onto the plane with the hopes everyone with tight connections could make their scheduled flights.  It's a 26 minute flight, our hopes were high we could make our flight, we had ten minutes to spare?  That is until we sat on the tarmac for 15 minutes before we taxied out onto the runway for our departure.  We pulled an OJ through the Atlanta airport to our next gate only to get there to find  gate had been changed to one that we ran past on the way to the gate posted on the departure board.  Both Todd and Darren noted the location of the flight to Madison WI on the Departure board.  Encouraged by the fact that  the flight we needed to catch was delayed and still at the gate.  When we got there we couldn't board because Delta oversold the flight and had given our seats to standbys because we were "guaranteed seats" on the last flight home.  What!  We went to Delta's service desk to lodge a complaint with management and were given a $7 voucher for food for our inconvenience.

But some of our troubles didn't end there.  Scott checked his perfectly intact set of clubs into Delta's care only to find his Taylor Made driver broken in three places with a nice hole punched through his Club Glove Golf Travel Bag.  His request for restitution was denied by Delta as it wasn't their fault!  What! The clubs and bag were "whole" when entrusted into Delta's care and now there not!  But somehow that's our fault for checking golf clubs as luggage.  (And no, we were never given a waiver to sign.)

It was a very educational trip and we all know flying is a pain, but if I had to do it all over again, I'd do it again tomorrow.   Thanks BASF, Randy, Scott, Darren and all the folks at Farmlinks.  _Mk

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Significant Shrinkage!

We've all seen the costs of everything we purchase today going through the roof due to raising fuel costs.  We've seen the products in the grocery store we commonly buy shrink but the prices we pay remain the same.  We are all getting less for the buck and it's happening to your dues dollar as well.

I took delivery of a few bags of greens grade fertilizer the other day and to be quite honest with you I was afraid to look at the price because of how tightly fertilizer prices are tied to fossil fuel prices.  But to be gouged multiple times with one product is hard to swallow.  First is the up front purchase price.  I hate to date myself, but I remember buying bags of fertilizer for as little as $6.00 per bag.  Today, this same bag will cost better than $50!  This is known.  The second and third price increase are those that are hidden.

I remember when fertilizer formulations were sold to me in a range of 24 -28% Nitrogen for greens grade fertilizers. (32-36% N for fairway grades.)  To provide the same rate of Nitrogen to your putting greens I would need TWO bags of the product shown above to every single bag of 28% product that is no longer being produced.  While I'm no math giant, I know two are never cheaper than one.

The third price increase comes as product downsizing.

Fertilizer used to be sold in 50 pound bags.  Today, while easier to handle with these arthritic wrists, it is sold to us in 40 pound bags.  That's a decrease in size of 20%.  An area I used to cover with four bags now requires the purchase of five bags to do the same.

While my fertilizer example demonstrates first hand how you are getting less for your dues dollar it's not the only thing that has me peeved!

That's right, toilet paper.  Fewer sheets, thinner ply's and narrower rolls!

It's a sad day in America when you have to "invent" a toilet paper dowel to keep the roll from falling to the floor.  What should I do with all the patent royalties?  _Mk

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Iceman Cometh

I found myself forced to water putting surfaces with frost and freeze warnings in effect for most of the state.  Living in cranberry country, I had mental pictures of ice covered fruit and vine.  However daunting, I was hoping I might out smart mother natures cold by making multiple irrigation cycles through out the night starting my application hours before the thermometer fell below freezing.  I would be using relatively warm 38 degree river water.  Besides our soil temperatures were already approaching fifty degrees, how much ice would we make?

I found out first thing Wednesday morning.  It was a man made ice storm!  I had more ice than what the skaters found at skating rinks around the city this past winter!

Now that's "firm and fast!"  Stimp speeds off the chart!  Notice the uniform coverage.

People, it's just frozen dew?

For scale, that's a 1/2" flag stick inside!

There's a small flowering crab in there. (Some where?)

Chili pepper like icicles!

Now that's cold!

As we are in "low country" I've come to automatically subtract four degrees from the weatherman's predicted overnight temperature lows so it came as no surprise to me that our irrigation cycle would create the pictures you see above.  Once the air warmed up and the ice turned back into its liquid phase, we were good to go AND I managed to re-wet our badly parched greens. _Mk