Monday, June 5, 2017

Water, Water Everywhere

To say that this Spring has been wet would be an understatement. According to the University of Waterloo weather station blog (Click here to view blog), the all time record for rainfall in April and May combined is 286mm back in 1916. Our weather station here at Westmount recorded  a staggering 293mm for those two months. To put this in perspective, consider the following:

  • An acre foot of water is equal to 325,851 gallons of water. This is a known quantity used in  agriculture.
  • 293mm of rainfall over our 165 acres of property means that almost 200 million litres of water fell on our property in April and May.
  • Our pump station has the capacity to pump 1400 gallons/minute when we irrigate. To put the equivalent amount of water on through irrigation, we would have had to pump 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for 26 days straight.  
Just like dry years expose any weaknesses in our irrigation system, a wet year will expose weaknesses in our drainage system. First let me say that the capital money spent on drainage in 2011 and 2012 was money very well spent. Without all of those improvements we would have had a lot more problems than we did. Carts would have been cancelled many more times than they were, and we wouldn't have been able to mow certain areas for long periods of time. 

However, as we learned this year, there are still improvements that could be made to our drainage. Most notable is the area near the irrigation reservoir on the right side of #5. This area has been wet in prior springs but never this wet. Our plan is to install a sump pump and pump the water to the drainage ditch behind the fairway bunker on #5. You may have noticed the sump pump between 5 and 13 failed and was not operating for a few days. Water quickly pooled there and it was a lesson in how much that pump actually helps keep everything dry down on 5 and 13. The addition of another one near the reservoir will help even more. 

Other areas needing additional drainage include:
  • The Practice Facility which is already on the long range plan (currently slated for 2021), 
  • The left side of #6 all the way across the approach to the irrigation reservoir.
  • The left side of #8 in the rough short of the fairway. This needs to be pumped to a catch basin halfway up #8.
  • The left side of #12, left of the cart path. Again a sump pump is likely the answer.
  • The left side of #15 about 180 yards from the green. A deep cut needs made through a hill in the fairway to get it to gravity drain to a catch basin in the fairway. 
These areas will be added to our Long Range Plan and addressed as time and budget allow. I know that drainage is not the most exciting thing to talk about (or spend money on), but it's essential for growing healthy turf and having happy golfers. Let's hope for some dry, sunny weather going forward!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Course Opening

It's official the course will open on Saturday April 22nd!  

Please contact the Pro Shop for details in booking tee times for this weekend.

The course is in great shape for this time of year but remember we have just recently aerated and topdressed all of the greens. They are certainly not in mid season form but they will be getting better all the time. The biggest determining factor in how fast they will heal will be the weather. Of course, we will do whatever we can to speed the process along but we need warm temperatures (particularly at night) to stimulate growth and healing. The nice thing is that there will no further large tine aeration until late fall.

On behalf of all the Green Staff welcome to the 2017 golf season!

#7 Green

Close up of aerated and topdressed green

Looking down #5 from #7

Monday, April 10, 2017

First Cut and Range Opening Date!

Associate Superintendent Jeremy Krueger mowing lasers on #2

One of the many milestones that lead up to opening day is the first cut of the greens which we completed late last week. They certainly look great as does everything else. The warm weather caused quite a bit of growth underneath the covers so we had to raise the height of cut higher than we normally would at this time of year. Before we open the course, we will need to lower the height of cut and mow a couple more times before aerating and topdressing all the greens.

The weather forecast for the next couple of days looks great! From past experience, I know that the first really nice day will bring questions about opening the range and/or the course. With all the rain we have had (and snow but lets not talk about that), we really need these nice days to move everything along to the point where we can work on the course again without doing any damage. So at this point I can say that the Range will open no later than Saturday April 15th. If the weather is better than expected, it may be before the 15th but that is unclear right now.

As for the course itself, I am not sure yet so stay tuned to this blog for more information. As always we are doing our best to get everything open as soon as we possibly can. Thank you for your patience and understanding.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Greens Uncovered!

We have recalled our seasonal staff and started work on the course.  The first task is to remove the winter covers.  We have completed this task and the greens look quite good with no winter injury. As you will see in the pictures below, the greens are glowing green! This is due to the winter covers creating a greenhouse like environment during the warm weather we experienced this past winter. Now that we have removed the covers, this colour will fade to eventually match everything else as we move forward.

#5 Green sparkling in the strong late March sun


#14 looking back toward the Tee
#16 green wasn't covered so it's not as green
 Our next task will be to clean up all the debris that collects over the winter.  When the weather is consistently warmer (especially at night) we will roll and then mow the greens before aerating and topdressing them.  Remember that we aerate with relatively large diameter tines in the fall after we close and again in the spring before we open.  There is no further disruptive aeration during the golf season.

Unfortunately, we do not yet have an opening date but we are monitoring the situation closely.  Since I started at Westmount in 2001, I have kept a record of many of the milestones that happen during the season such as: when we remove the covers, when we mow greens for the first time, when we start the irrigation, when we open the course, etc., etc.  Based on that information I can tell you that over the last 15 seasons the average day for removing the covers is March 23rd and the average day to open the course is April 23rd. Of course these days vary widely based on weather but the course opening has generally been 3-4 weeks after removing the covers. The biggest determining factor to opening the course is the weather. We want the turf to be actively growing when we open so that it can withstand the onslaught of golfer traffic.  Active growth is related to soil temperature so we need consistently warmer weather (particularly at night) to get there. So please be patient and understand that I want the course open as badly as you do but it is my responsibility to manage it at the highest level possible for the entire season - not just a few extra days in the Spring. Stay tuned to this blog for regular updates as we approach opening day.

Friday, February 24, 2017

"Winter" Update

What an amazing couple of days of warm weather that was!  The long range calls for warmer than normal temperatures for the next week and then slowly returning to normal for this time of year. It was great to wear shorts and a t-shirt in February in Canada but what does it mean for our turf? We took the time to check under our greens covers and blow some cool air under them on the warmest days. The reason for this is that the solid plastic cover acts like a greenhouse and the temperatures can warm up to the point where the grass comes out of dormancy and starts using oxygen for respiration (the process by which plants convert sugar to energy for growth). Without going into all the details, the problem with this happening is the lack of oxygen combined with increased levels of carbon dioxide can become toxic in the closed system underneath the cover. The telltale sign of this is a rancid smell when the cover is lifted. Using a backpack blower to blow air underneath the covers gets rid of any toxic gases and cools down the temperature. We could also remove the covers entirely but we felt that we still may experience some winter weather in which they would be needed. The good news is we detected no signs of any kind of winter injury and everything looks very good at this point in time. We still have the potential for unusual weather and we will continue to monitor the situation closely as we head into spring. Based on the warm weather all winter I have a feeling we will see an early spring this year.

#18 on a warm February morning

#14 with cover in place. Note the snow mould in the untreated rough.

#5 is the last green to lose snow cover.
The only damage we have experienced thus far is some light snow mould in the rough which we do not treat preventatively with fungicides in the fall.  This is typical for our property and if we did not treat our tees, greens, and fairways we would experience varying degrees of turf loss every winter. Some years would be devastating.  The reason I mention this is that on March 2nd the CBC will be airing a documentary entitled, "Dad and the Dandelions."  Based on the trailer, this documentary will attempt to link pesticide use on golf courses to cancer. Click here to watch trailer

This is an emotional topic which will no doubt generate questions and discussion.  I am not an expert on pesticide safety or cancer but Health Canada employs many people that are. I trust the fact that they are using a science based approach to approve products which are safe to use in Canada. If you have any questions or concerns about this topic please call or email me to discuss them. The following link is to a video that explains the difference between correlation and causation which is very appropriate for this topic. It is about 5 minutes long and well worth watching. Causation vs Correlation 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Another One in the Books!

We have finished up all of our fall tasks and the course has been put to bed in great condition. The drill and fill was particularly exciting for us and we added about six tons of sand per green.  They certainly felt firmer after they were cleaned up and we are looking forward to seeing how they perform in the spring.

 Here's the last few pictures I snapped before it snowed:

Cover installed on #2 Green

Looking down #4 from #9

Cover installed on #9 Green
We are once again building a rink on the tennis courts for skating and shinny.  Hopefully we have better ice making weather this winter.

The ice rink

On behalf of all the green staff we hope you enjoy the holidays and have a great winter!  Let's hope for a gentle winter for our turf and a quick start in the spring.  

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Fall Update

The fall weather has been exceptional with many spectacular days for golf.  As you might imagine, our major focus right now is leaf blowing and mulching.  The leaves have been late to come down this year so leaf cleanup season has extended into November. The fall is always a busy time for the green staff.  We are short staffed after the students return to school but still have plenty to do.  Our goal is to maintain the course at a high level while dealing with leaves and preparing the course for winter.

Nice fall morning on #7 Look at all those leaves!
As you know, we have a set closing date which allows us to postpone many golfer unfriendly tasks until after we are closed.  One of these tasks is greens aeration.  This fall we are adding an additional component to our traditional greens aeration.  It is called drill and fill and this process will improve the internal drainage of our push up greens.  Aside from our three newest greens (#3, #11, and #12) which were built to USGA specifications, the rest of our greens are push up greens.  By definition, push up greens are built by "pushing up" the existing soil to shape the green.  This was the method used when Westmount was built in 1930.  The problem with this type of green is that it does not drain very well. Most of the drainage is surface drainage meaning the green is sloped in several directions to allow water to run off rather than soak into the surface.  Of course some of the water does soak in and that is when the problems begin. As I have said before, the worst thing for our greens is rain. When they get wet they stay wet because there is no internal drainage. When they stay wet, they are slow and subject to big splatting ballmarks, and mechanical damage from mowers.  The drier and firmer we can get the surface, the better it is for golf.   This is where drill and fill comes in.  It is a process by which 3/4 inch diameter by 12 inch deep holes are "drilled" into the green (removing the native soil) and then "filled" with sand.  This will allow the water to penetrate deeper into the profile of the green and keep the top drier. To give you an idea of the scale, this process will involve adding approximately 180,000 pounds of sand into our 16 push up greens.  As you can imagine, this involves quite a bit of disruption and the cleanup is significant.  This will likely be a process we continue for several years to achieve the firmness we are looking for.

Click on the following link for a video that shows drill and fill in progress:

Drill and Fill Video