Saturday, May 25, 2019

Month of May

May the fore's be with you!

"One day it started raining, and it didn't quit for 4 months. We've been through every kinda rain there is. Little bit of stinging rain, and big ole fat rain. Rain that flew in sideways, and sometimes, rain even seemed to come straight up, from underneath. Shoot it even rained at night."

- Forrest Gump, who would understand what it's like to work at Swope.

In between thunderstorms and monsoons, May has been a busy month as always. We hosted the KCGA Men's match play earlier this month and were able to get the entire course mowed and fairways double cut in preparation for the tournament. Normally this task isn't difficult to do, but trying to let the ground dry out long enough to get mowers on it seemed to be a never ending postponement.

(Difference in fairway turf on #12, also can see water damaged area in bottom picture.)

Hopefully another aspect of the course golfers notice is our flower beds located near tee boxes and cart path turn arounds. Each summer, the city greenhouse provides us with over 700 plants to place around the course. Canna's, Seniorita Rosarita's, Marigold's, and Lantana's are just a few of the plant species we use in these areas.

(14/15 turn around flower bed.)

(Cleome Seniorita Rosarita's headed out to be planted.)

So next time you lose a ball, hit into a water filled bunker, or step in a mud puddle, just take a look at the beautiful flower gardens and continue to enjoy golf at Swope Memorial.

Remember to fix your divots!

Monday, April 29, 2019

April Showers bring May Flowers... & Wet Fairways

Spring is in full effect in Kansas City, Missouri. We've had days at 50-70 degrees, rain showers weekly, and wind that just doesn't seem to stop throughout the month of April. Trees are starting to get leaves and our grass is starting to get striped. With the onset of nice weather, we've been giving our course turf the attention it's needed since winter. 

The majority of turf on our course is breaking out of winter dormancy. With the grass growing and taking in nutrients now, it is a perfect time to spray the turf with fungicides, fertilizers, and selective herbicides. Our zoysia fairways, tee tops, greens, and fairway rough surrounds were all treated this month. 

(Sam spraying 12 green)

It's easy to talk about big projects we take on here at Swope, however, there are many small daily tasks that people may not know about. Each day we mow or roll our greens and cut new cups. Cutting the cups can make or break the hole. A cup placement too close to a slope or on an uneven surface can make for some unappealing circle 10's on the scorecard. We have 3 different pin positions: pin position 1 would be the cup in the front area of the green, 2 in the middle, and 3 being furthest away from the tee box in the back of the green. Changing these locations each day help spread out play on our greens, eliminate isolated wear areas, and change up how the hole is approached. After the new cup is cut, the cup and flag are placed into the new hole, and the turf plug is then placed in the old location.

(New cup, flag, and flag-stick along with hole set-up tools on 11 green.)

Weekly rain in the springtime is to be expected and we do look forward to it. However, sometimes the ground becomes so saturated that additional rain just adds puddles and problem areas around the course. From constant snow coverage all winter to transitioning into a wetter spring, many spots on the course haven't seen a dry day for too long. For example, 17's top fairway is roped off to eliminate any extra stress caused by carts so that it has the best chance it can to grow through the wet areas. Swope is a very up and down course and with so many fairway undulations almost any amount of rain can cause puddles and sloppy wet rough conditions. Cart path only is not a phrase golfers nor course workers want to hear, however, it's the best way to allow these areas to dry out and be safe for cart path/mower travel. Golfers and the maintenance crew alike must follow the cart path only rule to protect the integrity and aesthetics of the course as a whole. 

(Wet conditions on 17 fairway.)

With more rain in the forecast, we hope golfers will bear with us through the wet conditions and continue to enjoy Swope Memorial Golf Course. As always, remember to fix your divots and watch out for puddles!

Friday, March 29, 2019

March Course Madness

March has been nothing but madness here at Swope.

(First mow line of the season on #13)

Winter has let up, the snow is all melted, brackets are busted, and we are right back into taking care of the course. Spring weather brings about the beginning of productive course care. Each year we make a list during the winter of jobs that must get done before Spring gets to full swing and the grass starts growing. This year our list included: deep-tine aerification, tree work, spray zoysia, apply fertilizer/pre-emergence to entire course, spray greens, re-charge irrigation. From the beginning of March to the very end, we were checking off these projects quicker than my Tournament picks were eliminated. 

On March 8th, we hired a third party, Commercial Turf & Tractor, to come out and deep tine aerate our green surfaces. In past years we've used 4" tines to poke holes and remove cores on our greens, this year we used 7" tines. This allows air and nutrients to get deeper into the soil and removes more organic material relieving stress to existing turf. After cores have been pulled and cleaned off green, we applied a heavy top dressing of sand, along with dragging and rolling, to fill in and close the new holes. As I mentioned before, this is our first attempt at deep tine aerification so we hope to see a positive and overall better result after greens heal.

(Superintendent Sam Bailey rolling after aerification, top-dressing and dragging.)

In February we applied a pre- & post- emergent  herbicide that eliminates unwanted grasses from the zoysia by targeting the non-dormant species trying to spread into the zoysia, i.e. Poa, clover and other broadleaf weeds. The dormant zoysia will not absorb the herbicide where as the other grasses, still active, will absorb it. Zoysia is found on our tee tops and fairways. We were only able to spray tee tops because of sloppy wet conditions. In mid-March the rest of the zoysia on the course was treated with the same products. Once again, the goal is to eliminate any other grass in our fairways that isn't zoysia to achieve consistent and healthy fairways. 

(#5 Fairway zoysia spray)

Before winter arrived we drained our irrigation system to avoid any freezing of pipes and cracking that comes with that. After aerification our greens are somewhat fragile and need to be watered so the turf can start new growth. Luckily, a day after aerification we received rain, so charging the system could be done slowly and carefully. Many problems can arise after turning irrigation back on after a winter of sitting empty: sprinklers turn on randomly, sprinklers won't turn off, valves can leak, and our control boxes can go haywire. We slowly crack our main valves on and let the system fill itself over the day. Also to remove air from the lines, we place quick couplers at the highest spots on the course. Once we have 100% water spraying from the coupler we know that line is charged and ready to be used. Besides some pesky sprinklers turning on at random times of the evening, we made it through irrigation re-charging without any large problems. 

(First sprinkler watering of the year on #13)

Now that we are in the full swing of Spring we will continue the course work to improve turf health as much as we can so it is prepared for the Summer ahead. Greens will continue to be fertilized, the entire rough will be treated with fertilizer and a pre-emergent for unwanted weeds, and continue to work toward the overall aesthetics of Swope Memorial Golf Course.

Remember to fix your divots and go Duke!

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Winter Time

January and February at Swope Memorial

Related image

Winter could not get more wintry for us at Swope this year. With around 20" of snow fall throughout January and February, we have been a white, cold, winter wonderland since the new year.  The turf has been covered in snow for the majority of this winter, which acts as a great insulator and keeps the ground saturated with moisture. Once the snow melts and the sun sheds some light, the grass will break dormancy and be in a great position for immediate healthy growth. 

In between our winter storms, we had a few days where we were able to get out on the course. As I mentioned before, the majority of our turf is dormant right now, or hibernating for the winter in other words. Mainly, our zoysia turf is dormant. Zoysia is the turf on our fairways and tee's. When dormant, zoysia is a straw blonde color, and other grasses and weeds may grow and try to spread into the dormant zoysia. To keep our tees and fairways clean and healthy, we spray a pre- & post- emergent  herbicide that eliminates unwanted grasses from the zoysia by targeting the non-dormant species trying to spread into the zoysia, i.e. Poa, clover and other broadleaf weeds. The dormant zoysia will not absorb the herbicide where as the other grasses, still active, will absorb it.

(Spraying our #6 zoysia tee for unwanted invasive grasses.)

One of our first and worst winter storms this year brought snow, ice, and wind. Many trees on the course and throughout the city lost a large amount of limbs, big and small alike. Our winter plans always include tree trimming. The amount of limbs on the ground from the storm alone helped us make the decision to go ahead and try to trim every tree on the course. Trimming the low hanging branches will allow more sunlight to the turf, better course visibility, and all around better course aesthetics. At the end of winter, or tree trimming season, we plan to rent a wood chipper and truck to make clean up of limbs quick and easy.

(Downed limbs in #4 rough.)

Another small winter task we take care of each year is to burn the ornamental grasses around tee complexes. These plants are perennials, meaning they grow back every year. Burning off the dormant stalks and leaves will allow for new and healthy growth come spring.

(Burning the grasses around #10 tee box.)

While most people enjoy a summer vacation, we golf course workers are winter vacationers. Its the only time we can get away from the course without worrying about losing grass or setting up the course for golfers. Some could say we actually have a life during the winter. I myself took off to Colorado for a ski trip and my superintendent goes to Nebraska for his annual deer camp trip. Hand-watering greens is a blast, but we enjoy life outside of Swope as well. 

(The back bowl at Keystone Ski Resort.)

Enjoy the rest of this winter and we'll see you after the thaw,
Remember to fix your divots!

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!!

It's been a chilly and white December at the course. Intermittent snow and temperatures flirting around freezing has kept the course pretty secluded from golfers and even our maintenance staff. After the coldest November on record, December has continued the winter weather for us. Every year, there are certain tasks that must be done during the winter months. The most important being draining our irrigation system. 

Blowing out our irrigation is a preventative measure to pipes freezing and breaking during the cold winter months. Although many of our pipes are multiple feet underground, enough days of sub-freezing temperatures would be able to freeze any water left over in our lines. By isolating the course in two halves, we can build up enough pressure using a commercial compressor to blow out every hole, sprinkler head by sprinkler head.

Blowing out irrigation on 12. (Above)

Another winter task is sharpening the reels from our reel mowers. Our fairway, green, and tee mowers all use reels rather than blades to cut the turf. This year, we purchased two new grinding apparatuses. One is for the reels themselves, the other is for the bed knives that the reels spin against. These are very specialized and automated machines. Our new full time mechanic, Sam Marlin, was trained by an official dealer expert, so that with proper initial settings and close monitoring Sam can sharpen the reels with the push of a button. The reels from Swope, Minor Park, and Heart of America will all be serviced here at our shop. Swope alone has over 20 reels, hopefully the new grinders will help this task get accomplished quicker and more effectively than past years.

Sam leveling out the reel on the grinder. (Above)

With freezing temperatures and snow on the ground, most days are spent in the shop organizing, cleaning and servicing equipment. Throughout November and December, every piece of machinery was serviced and deep cleaned. Along with the machinery, our shop floor was swept and our parking/safety lines re-painted. 

Our entire fleet outside, cleaning and painting the lines on the shop floor. (Above)

December continues to be a month where the majority of our work isn't focused on the course. Our shop receives the care and repairs that its been needed all year, our equipment gets checked and worked on, and paper work from the year gets completed. Also, my supervisor and I attended Common Ground, a Kansas City area wide convention for education on certain turf and environmental topics. It is a great way to meet other members of the golf course career and learn something new about the job we do everyday.

Have great start to 2019, and remember to fix your ball marks!