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!

Thursday, November 29, 2018

November at Swope

Remember, remember, the snow of November!

Swope is covered in a blanket of snow and we are still a month away from the official start of Winter. Imagine that, crazy weather happening in KCMO. The sight of our course sheathed in snow is a beautiful sight and a welcome drink for our turf before it completely shuts down for the winter. As the grass is going dormant, we were able to get a couple housekeeping, well, course-keeping, tasks done for the upcoming winter.

Snow is a great insulator and source for moisture. As the winter goes on, and the turf growth will come to a halt, and whatever nutrients the plant has is what it will survive with until the Spring thaw. In early November we fertilized our green banks and the entire rough areas on the course. Think of it as a bear stuffing himself full of food before he goes to sleep for the winter. The plant absorbs every available nutrient as it can before taking a long winter 'nap'. 

Using a Lesco Spreader for fertilizing areas around greens. (Top) 
Our Vicon large area spreader for fertilizing the large rough areas. (Bottom)

Along and somewhat opposite with fertilizing, we sprayed our greens with a growth regulator. Our greens are Poa Annua (annual bluegrass). This type of turf will sprout seed heads in the spring, making for a bumpy and unattractive putting service. Getting the growth regulator in now and once more after the thaw, the plant should be free of seed heads coming prime time golfing season. Fertilizer was also applied along with the growth regulator. 

Spraying 17 green.

Preperation is key with colder weather approaching. It's not just about the chemical and metabolic processes of the turf, but physical course attributes that need attention too. We keep carts on path only for as long as we can once it cools down to relieve as much stress on the turf as we can before dormant season. Tee markers are removed from boxes to be re-painted and allow golfers to spread out play and hopefully avoid isolated damage from a single tee location. Course signage is also brought in for touching up. When the ground gets colder and starts to freeze, cutting fresh cups is impossible. Before that weather started, we cut winter cups on each hole. This allows us to be able to have a choice of two different pin locations per hole. Just in case winter brings playable weather, golfers will be able to have two different looks at each hole. 

As winter begins, its time for our winter projects to begin: blowing out irrigation, opening up green complexes, plowing snow. It will be a busy and cold couple months out here, but we're looking forward to it. 

Stay warm, fix your divots, and watch out for geese.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

October at Swope

October Brings Rain!

Hello all you loyal blog followers, and welcome to the official cool season! 

October has finally brought our reliable and predictable cooler weather. What a relief it is. During the summer months, as we're hand watering for 6 hours a day, this weather is but a dream to us. Our greens and collars are cool season grass, meaning they strive once temperatures drop and moisture is more available. The first 10 days of October brought us 10+ inches of rain. Almost 8 inches alone fell on Sunday the 7th. With abundant moisture and temperatures riding around the 50-60's, our greens and green surrounds have started to fill in, grow up, and green up, all in time for the end of season. 

On the opposite end of the spectrum, you'll notice the zoysia grass that makes up our fairways and tees has started to turn a straw yellow compared to its mid summer green. Zoysia grass is a warm season turf, so as soon as temperatures start to consistently be cool, it begins to go dormant for the winter. Dormancy is comparable to hibernation, the living part of the turf moves down the plant and into the ground insulated roots, hence the yellowing of the leaf. October 3rd was the final fairway cut of the season. Shaggy fairways aren't the best for playing conditions, but with that extra grass going into winter, the roots will have even more insulation to keep them healthy and ready to spring back in action when the warmer weather reappears. 

As far as maintenance goes, nothing too exciting in October. Our rough is still being mowed, we are mowing and rolling greens every other day respectively, and still fixing those all too familiar irrigation leaks. We sprayed our rough for broad leaf weeds such as clover and dandelions. This weather is great for spraying because the plant takes the nutrients right to the roots to prepare for winter, as compared to summer when the plant absorbs nutrients into the leaf only. With the herbicide in the roots, we should see a better affect on the plant as a whole.

Our native grasses were knocked down following the first frost. In an earlier post, I mentioned that conservation of the Monarch Butterfly includes not cutting down native areas that contain Milkweed, the butterfly's main source of nutrition during migration, until after the first frost. The plant's seed containing pods pop open and allow seeds to disperse once the first frost has arrived. Waiting to cut natives allows butterfly's nutrition as well as the plant to spread and return next year.

Superintendent Sam Bailey doing an excellent job mowing the native between 18's tee complex and fairway (Left). Milkweed plants being cut down. (Above)

Looking forward we expect to see leaves dropping left and right as fall continues into winter. As beautiful as the leaves look as they change colors, the moment they hit the ground they become a whole new project and problem for us and the golfers. 

Don't forget to fix your ball marks, pick up your clubs, and enjoy Swope Memorial Golf Course with a refreshing cold beverage!

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

September at Swope

As September ends, so does summer...finally! Aside from a surprise week of 90's, the cooler September weather allows us to focus on other projects and knock off some tasks on the annual to-do list.

In early September, the greens underwent aerification; the process of pulling small cores out of the greens to allow better ventilation and promote new growth. Our current problem greens, Practice, 14, and 10, we went a step further and deep tine aerated the turf along with re-seeding. These greens have and will continue to be our main focus of repair.

Deep tining of 14.

In order to prepare for future green problems, fingers crossed, we created a new bent grass nursery. In two days, our crew along with help from our agronomist, tore out the old nursery and completely started over from square one. With some care and a bunch of water, we expect to have a full nursery by next season.

 Nursery, Day 1

One more annual task we tackled was the over-seeding of the entire course. After a busy and dry summer, many areas of the course attract more wear and tear than others. Areas like cart enter/exit paths, rough near cart paths, and our walking paths experience more damage and receive little attention. Our slit-seeder is pulled behind a tractor and creates small furrow and drops seed into the soil. 

Over-seeding of 15 walking path.

Let's hope that cooler weather keeps on coming for October!

Monday, August 27, 2018

August at Swope

August has finally brought us some relief from the high and dry conditions we've been battling with throughout the Midwest. Throughout the past three months our main focus has been hand watering greens and fixing irrigation leaks as they appear, and it seemed like they were appearing daily. With cooler temperatures and even some light rain, we were able to relax with hand-watering and turn our focus to other parts of the course.

Pictured above is Hole 18, this month was the first time since last season that we were able to get our fairways completely mowed out during the week. With more rain in the forecast and warmer temperatures expected for another week or so, it will still be a chore to keep them in ideal playing conditions. 

Here we are venting 7's green. The venting process uses a small diameter tine to punch a hole in almost every square inch of our green surface. This process relieves environmental stress by allowing fresh air to get to the roots and also allows new turf growth to fill in the holes created.

As always, we try to stay environmentally aware out here at Swope Memorial. Not only do our native grass areas help our course keep that natural Missouri look, they are also home to the Milkweed Plant, pictured above. These plants are one of the main sources of food for the Monarch butterflies during their migrations. According to the Mo. Dept. of Ag., mowing of native areas should be held off until the first frost, to maximize the Monarchs use of the weed until they have all moved on. Keeping these areas un-mowed until that frost date will be bad news for the ball hawks and rookie golfers, but will hopefully keep us in the good graces of Mother Nature.