Sunday, May 19, 2013

Remember Collars?

This picture of #11 green was taken a couple years ago and I've always loved it because the lighting was just right and so the turf looks amazing.  This picture was taken the same time of year as right now and I know that because with this picture, I was showing how great things looked while under the influence of the plant growth regulator called Embark.  Well anyway, again we are very much on Embark, but a lot has changed in this area since this picture was taken.  The bunkers have been renovated, one of the bunkers and several trees have been removed, and many trees were lost in last years ice storm.  Below is how it looks today.
Now of course the lighting is different but what really should stand out is that now, today you see the fairway has continued up around to the side, and behind the green.  The result is of course a "run off" type area but with that......means you really no longer have a defined collar around the green.  This has really made the golf course more fun to play and also more fun to maintain.  I remember spending countless hours painting dots on the green so that the operators could see where to perform their clean up pass, resulting in a perfectly uniform collar.  Yes it looked great, but always in the back of my mind, I felt that this type of control was a little over the top and maybe we shouldn't be spending so much time on things that really aren't totally necessary.  Now we have these fairway extensions around every green except on holes 3 and 13.  On those two holes, we plan to install fairway extensions  but later on this year when we have more time.  Now that collars have been eliminated almost all together, so has the need to use walk mowers.  Soon you will see a new machine on the property that is perfect for mowing these fairway extensions, and it is not a walk mower.  It is a mid sized fairway mower.  You can expect a blog devoted to this machine and how it will make us so much more efficient with our mowing.  For now let me just say that I love these new tightly mowed areas around the greens, and  this week we sanded all of them which will further aid their development into smooth, firm swards that look and play like they've been here forever.
Above you can see us sanding this area on 11 green.
Now here you can see the new fairway extension on #1.  It's really hard to tell this area was sodded a few months ago. Even more amazing, the sod we used was that stuff we pulled off the middle of our driving range.  Poa annua is just amazing stuff.  It adapts to any mowing height and does so very quickly this time of year.
You've seen this area several times throughout the renovation, but now you can see that all the sod is starting to look the same and almost like the original fairway turf in front of the 8th green.  This area where green 5 and 8 conjoin is also done with a lot of driving range sod, but since this area is so large, we ended up using sod from several areas and today you can't really tell we did that.
Here is the back of #7 green and you can see this fairway extension connects to the tee surface on #8.  This is really neat stuff and again, we have eliminated most of the green's collar.
This picture shows how the new fairway extension around 12 green connects to the new tee on 16.  The picture really doesn't do it justice.  The contours here are very extreme and it looks really, really cool.
 I wasn't sure this area on 15 green and 13 tee would turn out this good, but it looks great.  The new black tee adds 20 yards to #13 and again, the collar around #15 is gone and it's all just one tightly mowed area.
Here it is again from another angle. 
This is looking down 18 from the back of the green and you guessed it, no more uniform collar.  Why does this look so good to me?  Why did I spend so much time all those years worrying about the perfectly uniform collar?  I'm not sure I have the answer to that question but I guess this just looks natural to me.  I guess it looks natural because there is a lack of uniformity.  It's this idea that golf should be played the way it was meant to be.  Yes, I'm stealing this idea from the Bandon Dunes motto, but really this is not a new idea.  It's a very old idea.  The best golf courses are those where very little earth was moved and thus they blend into the natural landscape, because they are the natural landscape.  The golf course at Tacoma Country and Golf Club is one of the oldest in the country and it's clear that very little earth has been moved on this parcel of land. Moving large quantities of earth to build a golf course is rarely necessary, but all too often done because it is easy with today's machinery.  At the end of the day, I think most people are attracted to natural looking landscapes as opposed to those that look "man made".  Okay, I might be wrong, I can't speak for everyone else so I'll just say that I personally feel this way.  You can tell I'm a big fan of the rebirth of minimalistic architecture.  Well I'm also a big fan of minimalistic maintenance.  In the last couple of years, we have eliminated stripes, straight mowing lines, and all the different mowing heights.  Our objective is to be who we are and that is one of the oldest golf courses you'll find anywhere.  There is no need for the modern look here.  Tacoma is a classic and we just want to focus on good playing surfaces.
Okay I need to stop rambling.  Above is a picture showing our dedication to playing surfaces.  Not only are we sanding around greens this week, we are sanding everything that was sodded during the renovation, including repairs made around fairway bunkers.  Soon it will all be smooth and firm again.

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