Wednesday, October 18, 2017

October 18, 2017

I, and others, struggle to understand the actions of a few, and sometimes more than a few. A recent sampling from the course:

unrepaired ball marks (every minute, hourly, daily)

missed a putt divots (more common than I want to say)

 ropes mean nothing, run over the stakes (daily)

ignore signs after the heavy rains (every time )
the olympic rake hurdle (daily)

Friday, September 8, 2017

Friday, August 11, 2017

August 11, 2017

On Wednesday, August 9th, we performed a bit of surgery to the 14th green.

Lately we have been noticing a “wet” area on the back center slope of the green that does not dry down as well as the rest of the green.  At first we thought the cause might be due to too much hand watering, or that the sprinklers were not functioning correctly.  We found that neither of these are the case.

Understanding  that the green was “expanded”  sometime about  20 years ago to the back and to the left for the LPGA, Kevin, our assistant brought up the possibility that when the green was enlarged, perhaps the loop of pipe that feeds the irrigation heads may have been left as is and the expansion built over it. If so, the pipe could be leaking, causing the area to stay wet.

We began tracing wires and confirmed that the “loop” was still live, running underneath the green, and passing directly under the wet area.

Normally, when a green or tee is expanded, pipes are removed and a new loop is installed in the rough around it.  The last thing anyone would want is a leak under a green or tee, or worse yet, a blow out that could wash it away. Why the loop was left to lie beneath the green is anyone’s guess at this time, since no one from that project is available to talk with.

Acting under this premise that there was a leaking pipe, we carefully removed the sod and dug down about 3 feet, exposing the live pipe. Running alongside of this pipe was the abandoned pipe from the previous irrigation system before the present one was installed in 1986. Over these two pipes was the metal pipe that was part of the first irrigation system, which I think might date back to the 1950’s or before that. Three generations of pipe underneath the green!

After carefully exposing the pipe and inspecting it, we found no leak at all. That was good news in some ways.

The answer to the wetness though, was in the soil profile, which our careful trenching had also exposed.  In this area, we dug through layers of different types of soil and sand that have different physical properties, causing a perched water table.

Looking at the photo, beginning at the top, there are a few inches of sand that is from our present  program of  only using USGA spec sand to topdress and modify the soil to help it drain and  to keep the surface dry and firm. You can also see the vertical channels of sand that are from the many standard aeration and drill and fills that we’ve performed over the years, which have helped increase the surface drainage, and create a healthy root zone. After this top layer, the problem becomes very apparent.

Directly under our sand is a layer of lighter colored sand which most likely was used when the extension was either sodded or seeded.  I imagine it was sodded and this is the sand that the sod had been grown on at the sod farm or nursery. The next layer is a very heavy, tight, top soil. Under this is a cupped shaped sand lens, resting on a band of heavy, organic soil which I think possibly was the grade of the original rough. Beneath this organic soil is the subsoil. All in all, there are 5 layers of differing soil types that drain and hold water differently above the subsoil.

In most cases, a “pushup green” is built of soil, yet even back in 1923, it was understood to have at least a consistent 6” profile over coarse, drainable subsoil.  Now, a green is built on a 12” deep sand mix that has been lab tested (preferably to USGA specs) for drainage, aeration, water holding capacity, organic matter, pore space, bulk density, etc , over a gravel blanket and drainage system.

 Obviously, the green extension was made of many types of soils layered haphazardly over each other resulting in no chance of consistency and very poor drainage. I am not sure why this was done, or who did this, but at this point, it really doesn’t matter. It’s there, and always will be there unless the green is entirely rebuilt to spec.

I believe, as well as the two consultants I contacted for second opinions, is that the excess water is holding up in the sand area and cannot drain easily enough so that the water is backing up and maybe even wicking up the drill and fill channels.

The reason it became so evidently wet lately is because we’ve had so much rain -  the 4.75” rain we had two weeks ago, followed by two more inches days later.

We thoroughly mixed all the soils that we had excavated finding the pipe, making it “consistent”, and used this to backfill the trench. We did not want to back fill the trench with something so different, such as our USGA spec sand, because then the trench  would be too dry and act so very differently than the surrounding areas that another problem would be created!  Hopefully, the water will find its way to this “mix” area and drain the surrounding area. Going forward, we may purchase a 2’ by 1” drill and create channels that go deeper than the drill and fill to break through the layers and improve drainage. This would be a very time consuming and labor intensive project, and would need to be a fall/ winter project.

As for having a live pipe under the green, we can either redesign and install an entire new greens loop in the winter, or leave it for now and keep our fingers crossed that it doesn’t blow, knowing we are planning to install an entire new irrigation system within the next 18 months.

For what it’s worth, this is a great example of how a green should not be built, and underscores the importance of our soil modification program that we started when I re- arrived here 14 years ago. Without all the aerations and the bi-annual drill and fill, conditions would have remained much worse, as I remember them. When I arrived here, my notes from that time document that this green was struggling with many bare areas throughout the extended area.

At the least, our soil modification/ topdressing programs cannot solve everything, but they have given all the greens a consistent mix on top and have provided improved drainage throughout most of the greens. We don’t struggle as much with poor turf, even under the circumstances that we found on 14 green.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

December 21, 2016

Today is the winter solstice, with the north pole leaned back to its furthest point from the sun, the first official day of winter, the shortest day, and longest night of the year. From here on in, until the summer solstice, the nights will get shorter and days longer, so its not really a bad thing if you like the sun - the worst is over for now. Maybe not for the cold, but that's another story.

I am the sort of person who thinks more in term of solstices and equinoxes, rather than celebratory dates, and would call this the first day of a new year. I guess its because my work is in rhythm of nature, more so that light switches. Although the cold and heat has a lot to do with the turf's cycles, the sun is the real driving force. It all comes down to photosynthesis, and the plant's ability to produce energy that causes it to grow or to go dormant. The plant knows more than we ever will.


I am really writing this blog post today to wish all of you happy holidays! Thank you for all your support this year - it was a tough one, and I cannot say enough of how much our staff and I appreciated and fed off your support. It was a team effort - all of us - that got us through what was the toughest season I've experienced in my 37 years in the golf business. I owe each of you a big thank you - I hope you know that it means more that I can ever say.

I will leave you with this shot of my friend Lou. I am not very good at decorating for the holidays, and when my wife put me in charge of brightening up our home for the holidays, I kept it simple. Sometimes simple is the best. Lou thought so too.

Once again, thanks for all your support!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

November 5, 2016

Greate Bay Country Club has been successfully re -certified by Audubon International for continuing to fulfill  the requirements of the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses , which includes sustaining our natural resources and protecting the environment by adhering to “best management practices”.  Only 803 of the 15,372 golf courses in the United States are certified, which is about 5%.

Our original certification was awarded in 2009 and took us two years to complete. To achieve the original certification we documented our efforts to protect water resources, conserve water, maintain habitat for wild life, reduce pesticide usage, and provide outreach programs. To be re-certified, we are required to continue and improve upon these efforts, and have a third party review our documentation and practices.

Over the years we have hosted local groups to help with building bird houses and native bee homes, established wild flower areas, protected milkweed plants for the monarch butterflies, reduced our water usage, delineated no spray zones to protect water and wetlands, used biological methods to treat certain diseases and pests, increased our use of organic fertilizers and decreased our use of synthetics, etc.

Why is this important? It is important merely because of the misconceptions of the general public that all golf courses are toxic, water hogs, and unsustainable, which is damaging the reputation of the game of golf. Only through education, and detailed documentation, can we reverse this view.  Certification is one way that we can demonstrate that we are responsible to the environment, that we care about our natural resources and work to protect them, and that we are able and willing to make golf a game that can bring man and nature together without harming either.

I am proud of Greate Bay for its continued efforts to be an environmental steward, and I hope, as member, that you are too.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

October 5, 2016

Although I didn’t know Arnold Palmer, I met him twice – in 1980 on the practice green at Balustrol, and in 1981 practicing at Merion before the U.S. Open. I remember him as approachable…he had time for people, while many other professionals were happy to ignore those around them. I got to thinking about this today- a lot of memories in my career of meeting and seeing celebrities, yet not all necessarily golf professionals.

There was Bob Hope who would show up at Merion and play, but I could never get near him. Jack Nicholas, who wasn’t happy about the scotch broom that grew wild in Merion’s white faces. Tom Watson who autographed a scorecard for me…

And after coming to the shore, there was Willie Mays who would seek time alone playing a few holes in the evenings. I gave him all the space he wanted- yet after seeing each other many times, we began to wave to each other, and in time exchange friendly hellos. I respected his space, and never bothered him- for that I always received a warm smile when we saw each other.

Clint Holmes, the singer/ entertainer, was one of the friendliness persons I can remember. 

One day I got a call that a cart had broken down on the 14th and could I go get the players. I think the club’s golf pro still regrets that he had no idea it was Michael Jordan. Here I was riding the course with Michael Jordan, talking about greens and grass…Dr. J was very serious when he played, so it was best to stay away. But after his round, the Doctor was as approachable as a best friend. So was Lee Trevino, who once took the time to walk across the 17th green and shake my hand, and thanked me for the course conditions. He was just giving a clinic, but picked me out…

Oh, and LT, Lawrence Taylor. Let’s just say that I pray that by now he has his act together. I won’t tell the story.

There have been many others during my career who I have met (and not met).

But back to Arnold.

We were there to walk the course and see preparations and what goes on behind the scenes at a US Open, as we were hosting it the next year at Merion. We, us interns, were with our “boss” Ritchie Valentine. He and Arnold were doing print ads for a seed company, so we went to the practice green to meet up with him. I remember him as very genuine, and not in any hurry to end a conversation. He talked with us a bit about grass  and about coming to Merion, and he and Ritchie talked about tees being rebuilt and moved back for longer yardages and how Merion was shaping up for the Open. And Ritchie was joking with him about his putting and anything else he could take a little jab at – Ritchie was a character to say the least, but like Arnold, as famous and respected as he was in his field, he never looked down on anyone. He looked up to almost everyone. I don’t remember everything said on the practice green that warm afternoon, but I remember that Arnold put out a radiance of calm friendliness. And I can still picture him standing there with us, as if there wasn’t anywhere else he wanted to be.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

August 20, 2016

On Saturday morning, August 14, so far the hottest day of 2016, the water stopped.

At first I thought maybe a pipe blew, or hopefully, there was a brief power outage. But it wasn’t. The electronic controls in the pump station that control the amperage to the pumps “fatally “short circuited.  The pumps still worked, yet we had to bypass the control system and run the entire system manually in order to maintain correct pressures and flow. Without getting technical and/or complicated, a person had to be here to run the pumps and run the irrigation heads at the same time to match the pumps output. Not an easy task.

To accomplish this, I stayed long into the evening running pumps, controllers, and heads to water the greens and tees. In the morning, the assistants irrigated fairways the best they could, yet with play, mowing, and needed fungicide applications, it was not foolproof.

To add to our challenges (the heat wave and pumps), a leak occurred on the 10” main, which caused us to shut down six holes for approximately ten hours on Monday. After this was repaired, another leak occurred on the same main, and the same holes were shut down Friday for that repair. This same main had developed a leak a week before the pump control went down – three leaks in 10 days. This is a matter of the piping system’s age – 30 years . We also had a leak on a 2” pipe and several heads on the course failed and required replacement.

As to the pumping control, the replacement part was found on Monday and shipped overnight from Wisconsin to our irrigation contractor outside of Philadelphia. Their pump technician arrived at approximately at 3:30pm Wednesday afternoon, and it took until 10pm to have it installed, calibrated, the compatibility bugs worked out, and running.  

Between the pump station not working as it should, two leaks in the main, and the continued above 90 degree temperatures, it was a nightmare week, and fortunately, we only got a few nicks here and there.