Monday, November 30, 2020

Happy Thanksgiving

 November is finally  here!

(Bird hunting in northwest Kansas.)

Fall has arrived. The temperature has dropped, along with all the leaves. The colder weather helps everything start to slow down, especially the grass on the course. Our zoysia fairways have turned straw yellow and entered into dormancy for the winter. The greens haven't completely shut down, but their growth has started to slow. Our rough has been fertilized to prepare it for the winter months ahead. The trees have almost completely dropped their leaves, and for the last month we have been blowing and mulching those leaves. Blowing the leaves off the fairway and mulching them in the rough allows for a clean and smooth playing course along with free organic fertilizer for the rough grass. 

Another November project has been mapping our irrigation system. Instead of a numbered list with a general description of where the sprinklers are located, we made maps with exact pin points instead.  This will help up diagnose dry spots, leaks, and target water certain areas.

(12 new sprinkler map.)

Winter allows us to also spend some time doing what we enjoy. Along with seeing family for holidays, Sam and I both like to hunt when we can. Sam went to Northern Nebraska and got himself a deer, while I went home to Northwest Kansas and knocked down a few birds. 

(Above, Sam with his wall hanger. Below, a quail, not a wall hanger.)

Looking forward we continue to prepare the course for the winter months. Tree work and keeping the course clear for play will be our main focuses. Once again, we will be selling firewood, contact the clubhouse for details!

(Firewood stack at a satisfied customers house.)

Remember, no matter the weather, fix your divots!!

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Fall time

 October and September

Summer has ended and fall work has begun. As we do every year, the course was aerified this September. Aerification includes layering the greens with sand, poking holes in the green allowing the sand to refill the hole, then rolling the green to smooth the surface and close holes. This promotes new healthy growth, increases ventilation to the roots, and relieves compacted areas. Our aerification took place September 22. Within two weeks, all aerification holes were naturally closed up and the greens were back to rolling and looking normal. 

(12 during aerification.)

(7 during aerification.)

Another fall job is to spray all the zoysia on the course. Zoysia grass makes up our fairways and tee boxes. During the cooler months, zoysia is susceptible to Large Patch, a potentially devastating fungus that can ruin a fairway in days. During this application, fungicides and fertilizers are sprayed on all zoysia areas. Also, a Potassium product is put down to harden the grass blades to better survive the winter. 

(Sprayer on 10.)

The leaves they are a'falling. One of the biggest tasks during this time of the year is leaf management. One day the fairways are perfectly clear, the next you'll lose your ball on a perfect shot down the middle. This is an ongoing job until the trees are empty. Our crew does a great job of blowing the leaves from the fairway into the rough, where another worker is chopping them up with the rough mower, eliminating leaves and creating organic material that can act as fertilizer once warmer weather returns. 

(11 green covered in leaves.)

Have fun out there, stay warm, and fix your divots!

Friday, August 28, 2020

August Survival

August brought the HEAT!!


 (14 fairway)

Hello all, I apologize for not giving you the Swope content for the month of July. Sometimes a blogger needs a break. Not to mention this blogger was busy fixing breaks. The end of summer is always a challenge for golf course maintenance. Up until mid July and almost all of August, we had had a mild summer. The temperatures were hovering around 80 degrees and we were even getting the random rain shower. The last two weeks have been nothing but 90's and the last rain we saw was in July. As soon as the weather turns mean, our course goes into survival mode. We rely completely on irrigation during these stretches. However, it never fails that when we are running irrigation at 100%, there will always be issues. Clogged sprinklers, faulty computer stations, and the dreaded 6" main line break were all problems that had to be addressed. One positive, positive-ish, aspect of being in a drought is being able to tell exactly which sprinklers are not running; look for the dry spots, or look for the isolated green patches where sprinklers are just leaking out. Keeping our heads up, we've tackled the problems as they've arrived and can see the end. Today is a high of 95, tomorrow 78. Fingers crossed, please.

(Carlos rolling 18)

To relieve the disease and drought pressure on our greens, we've had to allow them to keep a longer leaf blade during the week to promote healthy growth and water management. We would roll our greens two days, and mow the third. Some of the more particular golfers noticed the speed of our greens were slower than preferred, but keeping our Poa alive and in check always outweighs stimping at 12. With cooler weather forecast, we look forward to lowering our height of cut from .150 to .125 in the next few weeks. The balls are going to roll all the way back to the tee box after we're done with them. 

(Man, Myth, Legend, Mike Daffer)

Most of our regulars will recognize this view, especially during the hottest times of the summer. Mike Daffer is a huge asset for us. Starting off as a marshal for Swope, he became interested in helping out the maintenance side of the business. Needing someone to help us with hand watering throughout the day, he quickly learned the in's and out's of keeping his greens alive and healthy. With Mike at the wheel of hand-watering, my supervisor and I are able to focus on other aspects of the course that need attention, and know that the greens are taken care of. Mike also runs his own company, S.A.F.E - Surveillance Alarm and Fire Equipment, specializing in security systems, fire detection, and all other electrical safety systems and deals with all commercial and residential electric protection. Without him our greens would be browns. 

Stay cool out there folks, hope to see you in September!

Fix your Divots!!

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Hot June

Surviving June at Swope

Once again, I'm sitting here writing a blog with 2 inches of rain out on the course. Maybe I should start writing these damn things 12 times a month? Throughout this month it's only rained twice, and I've wrote two posts....maybe if this drought continues into July I will try a rain dance blog. I'll keep ya updated. We might as well stay on this topic of water for this blog. 

Last year, the city started a huge project on Gregory road, installing a new main water line along with new hydrants. When they were working, they somehow contaminated our irrigation system, that runs off of the same main line, with rock sediment. This sediment made its way throughout the entirety of our course system, our sprinkler heads were the most affected. The rocks clogged up the screens completely shutting down supply to the head, they wedged themselves in the mechanics of the head not allowing it to completely shut after it runs, and it just kind of gunks up every piece of those heads. 

(Clogged sprinkler on 17. Notice the green grass follows the path of the puddle the sprinkler leaves.)

Fixing these issues is an absolute nightmare. First, thanks to the drought we are currently in, when you look at the fairways there are large dry circles. So identifying which sprinklers are affected is the easy part. Once the sprinklers on a hole are flagged, you have to isolate the hole via valves, a nightmare in itself. Every turn on these old valves could be its last, leaving you with a broken open or closed valve, another story for another time. When the hole is isolated, you disassemble the sprinkler head so that the system is open to allow debris to blow out of sprinkler housing.

(Difficult to see, but there are 3 disassembled sprinkers in a row here on #5, not pictured are the other 3 behind me.)

Now the sprinklers are open, you'll open a main valve to pressurize the hole and allow whatever was clogging the lines to blow out, this is the hope. Most times you will see the sediment bubbling out, but I'm sure that some comes out and some just moves on further down the line. Once water is flowing out of the empty housings free of debris, you re-isolate the hole so you can install the sprinkler heads back into their housing. After that, you again open the valve to pressurize the hole and test your fixes. 

(Flushing hole 6's heads.)

Sometimes the heads are fixed, sometimes their not, no matter how much effort you put into the tasks above, it just doesn't work. More rocks could have shifted, you could have a faulty foot valve that allows water into the sprinkler, and with these issues, you start all the way over from the's brutal on a man when that happens. But, it is what it is and we need our sprinklers, so ya just gotta keep swimming, just keep swimming.

Hoping for more rain in the coming days and easy fixes for myself and Sam.

Fix your divots and tip your beer cart girl!

Friday, May 29, 2020


May at Swope Memorial Golf Course

(7's bunker back drop.)

Hello, all! I'm writing this blog update with wet socks, so apologies if it's short. Here at the end of May, we were in need of some rain for our newly sodded fairways, 6 inches of rain in 4 days later, the sod is watered in and I believe there is a catfish living at the bottom of Hole 4's fairway. On the bright side, the first days of June are supposed to be sunny and 80's. The grass will be jumping out of the ground, but we will have some gorgeous weather for golf and being outside.

As most of you noticed, we've grown out certain bunker faces and back-sides. The idea came from Bethpage Black, a PGA course in New York state. Bethpage is also an A.W. Tillinghast course, the same designer as Swope Memorial Golf Course. The bunker grass adds a challenging yet distinct aesthetic. Enjoy the views, but hit that ball straight!

(4,300 sq. yards of Sod.)

As mentioned in the opening paragraph, we have newly sodded areas around the course. Our fairways have had winter kill/erosion areas for a year or two now. At the beginning of the month we ordered over 4,000 sq. yards of Zoysia sod from Select Turf. Fairways we stripped and re-sodded include areas on 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 12 and 17. 15 and 18's tee's were shown attention, too. All of our crew were a part of this job, nobody on a mower or trimmer. With all hands on sod, we were able to strike a line through possibly the biggest task of the year. The guys deserve a huge pat on the back after those 2 days.

(Dead areas cut but not stripped on 7.)

(17 while stripping, holes were punched and fertilized before sod was laid down.)

(Laying new sod on 17.)

Socks are dry now, so guess I better get back out there and continue making Swope Memorial Golf Course the pinnacle of Kansas City golf. 

As always, Repair your Divots!!

Friday, May 1, 2020

Springing into the May

Fast times at Swope Memorial Golf Course

(Drone photo taken by Dimitry Lash)

Corona season, golf season, what's the difference?

First and foremost, I hope everyone has stayed healthy and happy over these last months. As society has changed its every day routine, so have we. Our clubhouse is only open for use of the restrooms, booking is online, our course is open for walkers only, and our cups are fitted to allow ball retrieval without touching the cup surround or flag. In itself, golf can be an easy outlet for activity with limited social interaction. Although walking Swope may be a challenge for the average player, our course is as healthy as it has ever been. The removal of golf carts has allowed our high traffic, enter/exit, areas to grow back in with healthy grass. Our fairways have some erosion damage from the wet winter and spring, but they don't have that all too familiar tracks of carts zig-zagging every way. 

While the rest of the city was shut down, operations were going on as normal here since winter let up. The spring is a perfect time for us to be able to keep up with course maintenance, as well as take on little projects along the way. The drive up to our facility is lined with a stone wall, installed by the City of KC in 1934. Over the years, honeysuckle and small saplings have turned into a forest of underbrush and trees, taking over the wall. The superintendent and I love returning the original designs and aspects of the past to the present day course. The rock wall is one of those aspects.

(Returning the rock wall view.)

There were two large dead trees to the left of  #1 Tee, or on the left side of #18 fiarway. Every windy day these trees would drop bark and limbs, making for constant cleanup. We sharpened our chainsaws and made sure that they would never need cleaned up again. We plan to plant new trees in the gap to protect golfers from wild golf balls. 

(Dead trees on #18.)

Until next time, stay safe, wash your hands, follow social guidelines, and most importantly...

Fix your divots!

Wednesday, March 4, 2020


March brings golf, and a vacation.

(Salt Lake City Skiing Views)

What a winter we've had! Snow, bitter cold, and a Superbowl win has blessed us here in KC. Winter season is always great for golf course superintendents. There is no grass growing, no golfers growling, and time for us to actually take a step back and relax for a short time. We are able to catch up on all the small jobs that are difficult to get done during our busy spring/summer/fall season. As for myself, there was also time to slip away and take a needed vacation. Skiing in Salt Lake City was an awesome experience, but with temperatures in the high 50's back home, I returned back to the machine called Swope Park already up and running. 

We've had two major winter projects. First, we trimmed, limbed, dropped and chopped up the low hanging and encroaching trees along the parking lot wall. Historically, we believe it was possible to see from the club house directly down to the KC Zoo. Years of tree and undergrowth later, it was a wall of honeysuckle and 20 year old trees. Cleaning these trees up will not only improve the aesthetics of the parking lot, but also reduce the chance of a limb or tree falling on a patrons car and/or blocking the path at 5 o'clock on a Friday.

(Part of the wall cleanup.)

Project number two has roots that grow back to, maybe the 1970's? The existing tee signage is an aluminum, square plate, with 3 yardages and the hole number. The information is correct on them, however there isn't much other info, nor any feature to catch a person's eye. Since I've been employed here, since my boss has been employed here, since my boss's boss was employed here, there is a stack of old tee signs in the basement of Swope. There are large, stone signs that have the hole yardage as well as the hole layout. Originally the signs were in wooden post frames, and they were rotted and falling over. The superintendent at the time took them down, stored them in the basement with the intention of fabricating new metal housing for each sign and use hanging bracket system. The plan never grew to fruition and the stones started collecting dust. Enter Matt Nash, our new mechanic. Matt has an immense background in metal fabrication. Coming from BTM Manufacturing with over 15 years experience, Matt formed, welded, and painted a bracket and sheath for each and every sign, while myself and Sam power-washed and repainted each sign. After installing a few new poles for holes with multiple signs, the course has Tillinghast era tee signage again. Still to come, names for each hole. 

 (Cleaning up the stones.)
 (Digging a new post hole on #15.)
(#1's final product, missing the hole name plate: Hope)

As I said before, the machine was up and running when I returned from my Mormon vacation. Greens were mowed, new cups were cut, and zoysia was sprayed all before March 3rd. The zoysia is sprayed to reduce anything other than zoysia to grow in our fairways: poa, clover, goose/crabgrass, etc. The zoysia is currently dormant, so any product applied to the plant will not be absorbed or used by the zoysia. However, any thing else growing in the fairway will die out and allow the zoysia to fill in once warm weather appears. 

 (#12 during spraying.)
(Sam perfectly spraying #12. A very photogenic Superintendent.)

Once we finish spraying our tee tops, we will return our newly painted tee markers and our enter/exit signs in the fairways. The season is upon us, and we are ready.

Fix your divots!