Saturday, March 3, 2018

Time to Strip

This picture shows "cross grain cracking" on a painted surface.  This problem occurs when there is an excessive build up of paint and is common on older homes, especially historic homes which have been painted many times.  The only solution is to strip off all the paint and start over.  This is similar to the problems we see on older, historic putting greens when there is an excessive build-up of sand.  No, the greens aren't cracking but when we get too much sand built up on or around putting greens, the solution is to strip it off and start over.  
That's what we've been doing around some of the greens.  Here's a picture of #5 where we removed excess sand which built up in front of the green and impeded the run-off of surface water.
Then we stripped off the area near the bunker which had a build up of topdressing sand and of course sand splashed out of the bunker.  The problem here is that over time the build-up of sand exasperated the natural tendency for greens to change shape and the putting surface retreated away from the bunker.  Now that the excess sand has been removed, we can start mowing the green closer to the bunker as it once was and recapture hole locations that have slowly been lost over time.  
We then moved over to #8 and again started with the approach.
After the approach was put back together we moved to the back of the green.
Finally we finished up on #8 with that back area.  All together we removed over 10 yards of sand from around the 8th green.  You will immediately notice that the putting green and surround look much more natural with smooth transitions over the contours. Again this is going to allow us to mow the green out to where it once was and get back those lost hole locations.  This next picture shows the new green edge on holes 5&8 once the whole process is complete.
This is a time consuming endeavor and takes a tremendous amount of labor so we'll continue to pick away at it each winter but honestly this is the kind of project which is never finished.  Once we've gotten around to removing all the excess sand around the greens, we can always do the same kind of work on the tees,  Sand build-up on tees creates a different set of problems which I'll discuss at a different time.  Applying sand to turf really is a little like applying paint to your house.  Both processes are essential but over time the build-up starts to create problems and you gotta strip it off.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Bushed Bunkers

Seems like just yesterday we were rebuilding all the bunkers on the golf course. The truth is our bunkers are no longer "new". Believe it or not this picture was taken nearly 6 years ago.  That may or may not sound like a long time to you but lets look at it another way.  If we assume the golf course sees about 15,000 rounds a year (which I think is very conservative) and just one out of ten golfers hit into this bunker on #6 (I think that is definitely conservative), then that means at least 9,000 people have played from this bunker.  That means 9,000 times someone has walked into this bunker and 9,000 times someone has walked out of this bunker.  Let's not forget that almost every day one of my staff walks into this bunker in order to ready it for play.  Each time someone enters a bunker they take several steps around it so it's not a stretch to assume that there has been tens of thousands of steps taken around this bunker. Maybe this doesn't sound like a big deal to you but when I look at it this way I'm not at all surprised that some of the bunkers are looking tired and worn out.  Some of the bunkers are simply bushed and need help.
Specifically, look at the edges of the bunkers.  Even on steep areas like you see here, there are mashed down edges caused by people entering and exiting. These mashed down areas have become steps and are getting used as such over and over.  This is starting to cause a serious problem.  Balls are literally getting hung up in these areas which is a serious penalty.  Bunkers are supposed to be a penalty but the incidence of "unplayable lies" is becoming way to frequent. I'm telling you all this to say that we are taking serious steps to resolve the situation.  Here's a brief description of what we are doing.  
The first thing we do is pull away the sand from the edge so we can get a good look at what needs to be done and also so we can set the sand aside to be used again once repairs are finished.  Then we cut out the edge of the bunker so that we once again have a nice vertical face that clearly defines the hazard and hopefully permits balls to enter the bunker and roll down away from the face.  Some of these cuts we're making are pretty severe but our goal is to minimize the disturbance and retain as much of the bunker's original "character" as possible.

The sand that was set aside is then raked up to the new edge.  With the mashed down edges removed the bunker has a more defined look but it's a little harder of a step in and out in these areas.  That's hopefully going to encourage people to enter and exit where they should which is on the low side of the bunker, but one thing I've learned is if a golfer is capable of jumping in and out over a high lip they will do so in order to reduce the disturbance of bunker sand and therefore reduce the amount of raking required after they've taken the shot.  Here's a picture of how this bunker looked when we finished up repairs.
  Our unique bunkers come with some unique challenges but we're also addressing a common issue that occurs on virtually all bunkers and that is "sand blast build up".  This occurs from blasting out sand from repeated bunker shots.  The blasted out sand can build up quickly on a bunker which sees a lot of action.  There's no surprise this problem is most common on practice bunkers.  Here's a couple of pictures I took this week as we removed the build up of sand on the face of our practice bunker.  
before we started the project
During the project
project completed

Sunday, December 3, 2017

#3 Green....A work in progress

Growing grass in the Pacific Northwest is often easy.  Growing Championship caliber putting turf in the Pacific Northwest is often not easy and downright impossible without adequate sunlight and air flow.  We've proven this time and time again over the years by selectively removing trees and then watching poor quality turf turn into something to behold.  One of the best examples of this work is that which has been done around Tacoma's 3rd green.  Let's go back to 2007 when we first started getting serious about addressing the shade issues on the golf course.  Here's what the surface of #3 green looked like after a cold winter.
You can see that there was a lot of grass on the surface but obviously there was some areas where there wasn't any grass.  A putting surface like this most certainly does not provide good consistent performance.  Now some golfers are perfectly comfortable playing golf on a poor quality surface like this and this condition is pretty common in the Pacific Northwest where we find a lot of trees and subsequently a lot of shade.  But if you have the resources and the desire for exceptional putting greens, this shade induced condition does not need to be tolerated.  That's the attitude we took a decade ago.  We decided we wanted the best putting greens possible and that meant facing "head on" the issue of the invasive Douglas fir trees which were depriving the turf of precious sunlight.  To resolve our shade issues we contracted Arborcom to perform a shade analysis of the putting greens on #2 and #6.  At that time those two greens were by far the worst putting surfaces on the property.  The Arborcom study taught us all we needed to know in order to fix those two greens.  It also taught us so much about sunlight requirements and how the sun moves over the property that we've been able to develop tree management strategies for all the putting greens.  Now we have a comprehensive Tree Management Plan for the entire golf course.  Due to budget constraints we've only been able to tackle a couple of projects each year but it never fails that each year with each project I am blown away by the positive impact of more sunlight and air flow as a result of tree removal.  On #3 the first project or phase 1 was completed in 2010 and it involved removing 25 trees to the east of the putting surface in order to recapture some morning sunlight which is the best quality sunlight.  Here's a before and after pic of that area east of the putting green which is basically right around the 4th tee.
That project made such a positive impact to the quality of the 3rd green and it really made a very poor putting surface into something pretty good in just one growing season.  After two years of observation it was clear that the green still needed more sunlight so phase 2 was initiated which involved removing another 6 trees directly behind the green.  That project provided about 1 hour of mid day sunlight and made a huge difference, but then the following year the golf course went through an award winning renovation which resulted in the expansion of short grass around the back of the green.  The expansion of short grass meant that there needed to be an expansion of quality sunlight so last year we initiated a third phase of tree removal around the putting green.  The results of this most recent project is absolutely amazing.  First click here to see my blog post from last fall which detailed the project and showed just how bad the turf was around the back of the putting surface.  Now here's a before and after pic which clearly shows that the area behind the green has been thinned out. 

The "after" picture reveals a couple of things.  First of all notice the nice grove of oak trees which were released by the project.  Protecting our threatened native oak trees is a major focus of the Club's tree management plan.  Secondly, check out the nice view of the fourth hole which was revealed.  Here's a close up of that new vista.

Lastly, look at the results of the projects prime directive which was to improve the turf quality around the back of the green.  Here's a look at that area today which was thin, and mushy just a year ago.
The improvement is really remarkable.  We've received over 8 inches of rain in the last 4 weeks and this area is healthy and firm.   Needless to say the putting green has also improved from this recent project. The power of sunlight and air flow never ceases to amaze me.