April 18, 2018


The last month or so has been a bit of a whirlwind. Spring aeration is behind us completed in and around significant late season rains. Playing catch up with mowing and course detail (YES we are cutting the natural grasses and hillsides).  Ticking the last of our seasonal projects off the list. Bringing on new seasonal staff and prepping for the first of many Member events. There is always so much to do this time of year that we simply cannot get to it all at once.

While we've had a productive start to 2018, not all things go as planed. The course came out of aeration shining thanks to some heavy rains and the staff pushing hard for the Challenge Cup with Bel-Air Country Club last week. All things were looking great coming off the weekend as we start prep for the MacKenzie in two weeks and then... Murphy's law rears its ugly head.

While topdressing greens this Monday our sand spreader blew a hydraulic hose leaking oil on the 12th green. The good: The oil spilled was not hot and did not burn the turf. The Bad: Grass does not like oil as it can smother the leaf blade resulting in death of turf. The area affected will be evaluated over the coming days with hopes that the grass will grow out. If needed we will re-sod next week. Unfortunately, these things happen.

We are always challenged when trees are close to areas of turf. This is especially true when close to greens. Roots from trees spread throughout the soil competing with turf for water and nutrients. When just a few feet off a green the challenge can be significant resulting in turf loss. As part of our spring/fall maintenance we send out the root pruner to address these areas but with a working depth of 6 to 8" sometimes that's just not enough. This week we used our trencher to root prune two of our most problematic areas. Left of 1 green (pictured here) and left of 15 green.

These pictures tell the story well. Lots of trees roots large and small severed with hopes of giving
the turf a fighting chance. Side note: pretty cool to see the column of sand from the Drill & Fill just to the right of the radio. Three years later and the channels are still there doing their thing!

We are challenged with maintaining turf and managing wear and tear on a small property. The average urban golf course is 120 acres. Claremont, at just 84 golf course acres is small and compact. Golf carts were not in the picture when the course was laid out in the early 1900's. The new cart fleet was outfitted with a GPS system for the safety of members, guests and the golf course.

This picture above is a screenshot of just one day worth of cart traffic (in yellow). The areas in red are zoned off as carts are not allowed on greens or surrounds, on tees, in natural grass areas or in the creek. Yes, we've had to pull carts out of the creek. Combine this much cart traffic with course maintenance traffic and we can and will see significant wear and tear in our highly travelled areas. When using carts this summer, please keep this in mind by avoiding dry areas and areas of worn or stressed turf. Do your best to keep carts in the fairways. Drive on green grass. I encourage members to take a caddie and enjoy a fine walk around an amazing property. We are lucky to have a caddie program and should do all we can to support it.

March 16, 2018

Aeration Update

Here is a quick update on where we are with aeration. Tees, approaches and fairways 2, 3 & 9 were complete by the end of the day Wednesday. Rain yesterday and today has had us at a standstill. A total of 1.5 inches of rain has fallen this week. 

We plan to begin greens aeration on Sunday afternoon. The 1st tee will be closed at 4pm allowing me to follow the last groups and begin aeration on greens. This will give us a head start for Monday when we intend to finish the process. We will not perform the deep tine as we would normally due to the forecast for more rain next week. This process will be made up later in Spring. As always our work with aeration is weather dependent and if we receive too much rain in the next 48 hours we may not start on Sunday. It will be a game time decision. 

Please have a look at the attached articles for more information regarding aeration. Also attached is a brief USGA video on why we aerate greens. The question of why we aerate comes up each year. The simple answer is that we need to if we want healthy greens that will stand up to the pressures of golfers and maintenance. Our focus is on the long term health of our greens. Our cultural practices over the years have paid off with consistently firm, fast and healthy greens conditions. Conditions that have improved year after year. The second article speaks specifically to timing and recovery. Timing is key if we are to make the most out the practice. Aeration in March is a crap shoot here in the Bay Area. Low soil temperatures and possibility for heavy rains can result in delays in recovery and potential damage to the turf and soil below. The club events calendar dictates our timing which is not ideal but reality. 

Thank you. Have a great weekend and P.S.  The word is out... 4 feet of fresh in Tahoe by end of the day today!!!

March 8, 2018

Double rainbow all the way

Following a significant cold and dry period, rain has returned to Northern California just in time to to throw a wrench into our spring aeration plans. Rain is forecast to begin this Saturday and continue off and on all next week.  The Drill and Fill aeration that was planned will not take place this spring as a result. As many of you know, we set aside a four week period each spring for weather dependent aeration. We thank the Club for supporting the Turf Department in such a way knowing this important practice must be completed with cooperation from Mother Nature. There is a chance we will go forward with our traditional coring and deep tine aeration on greens Monday the 12th but that will be a game time decision. A detailed rundown of our spring aeration plans can be found in the March newsletter article. The important dates are March 12 to April 6 when we intend to complete aeration and sanding of the entire course. Fairways sanding dates are set for March 26 & 28. We cannot perform these practices if its at all wet and we will update the membership as soon as we make a decision to move forward.
We've been hard at work this winter on various projects both large and small. The most significant being the Eucalyptus removal along hole 11. The dry weather in January and February allowed us to spend weeks pruning and removing about half of this grove. While it may seem like just a dent was made to the stand, work here will result in significantly more sunlight and air movement across holes 9, 10 and 11 and we should see improved turf conditions as a result.  In the coming weeks a new fence will be installed and we will begin work to establish natural Fescue grasses in the area.

Keep an eye on the blog and in your inbox for communication regarding spring aeration. We will do
all we can to minimize impact to golfers and we appreciate your understanding during this important time on the golf course. We are looking forward to a great season of golf and recreation at the club!

December 21, 2017

And... That's a wrap!

After fourteen months of construction we put a wrap on things last week with the installation of new sod on the 1st fairway. With the sod down our focus turns to grow-in of the new turf. The first tee is open finally and I must say it's been quite the exiting time here at the club with the new facilities being met with overwhelming positivity. As is to be expected with anything new, an adjustment in routine when playing the course is necessary. Please keep the following in mind when playing golf this winter:

  • The first tee is open for play but the sod on 1 / 18 fairway is not. Please keep all traffic off new sod. If your ball comes to rest in the newly sodded area inside the ropes, please carefully retrieve your ball on foot then drop and resume play from outside the area.
  • The entire new area of sod including the 1st tee and 18 green surround MAY be closed at some point this winter due to wet conditions. Please be respectful and keep off closed areas when asked.
  • Golf carts are not permitted on the 1st tee or any of the tees. Pull carts are always discouraged from crossing tee tops as well. Please use the cartpaths as much as possible when in the area.
  • When playing 18 – as your ball reaches the green or surround please pull your golf cart left to the shared path between holes 9 & 18. Continue up the path and in-between the warm up tees  to the cart parking directly behind the green. Once finished on 18 it’s a quick drive up the path to the cart barn where the golf staff will greet you at the end of your round. The picture below shows a cart parked in the ideal location when finishing out on 18. 
  • Walkers on 18 should also move toward the back of the green and finish their round at the cart path behind 18. Please do not walk up the grass slope toward the first tee. Walk off the back of the green toward the tennis courts and then up the path. Please use the cart return area to drop off clubs, pull carts and any other items prior to returning to the golf shop or cafe via the stairs to the left of the cart barn. 
  Kikuyugrass Removal
      With new sod heading our way we made the call to remove all turf on the slope right of 16 green. This area had become infested with the vile weed Kikuyugrass. This particular weed is invasive and difficult to control spreading aggressively on south facing slopes. In this particular area the contamination had reached the green. We chose to remove the entire apron leading up to 18 tee as the Kikuyu creates an inconsistent playing surface and had spread up the slope to 18. We will experiment with various control methods over the next few years in attempt to keep out the Kikuyu. The area will remain roped off until spring. Please carefully remove your ball from the new sod and drop in the drop zone. 

  With the New Year approaching I want to thank all of those that have made 2017 such a success.The staff in the Turf Department has accomplished great things on the course while the distraction of construction pulled at us daily. Led by Assistants Bill Scheer and Ismael Valadez and Equipment Manager Armando Ramirez, we had an amazing year for golf course conditions. Firm, fast and fun continues to be our target and I feel we met this in spades much of the year. Thanks so much to GM Steve Shaw, the Board of Directors and Green Committee for the continued support of our direction on the golf course. We do things a bit different here as we are allowed to present the golf course in a very natural fashion resulting in a rough, rustic look around the edges. I am so thankful to have the support from the membership as our approach would not fly at just any Club. We all know that Claremont is not just any Club but a unique place full of charm and quirk. It really is a special place that I feel so fortunate to be a part of. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all Claremont Members and families and best wishes for a prosperous 2018!

November 3, 2017

Course Construction Update

 Phase 1 of course construction came to an end with the final roll of sod installed last week. The new
1st tee, 18 green surround and bunker, warm up tees and 9 green surround areas were all re-shaped and new irrigation and drainage installed. The tee surfaces were sand capped. All turf areas were sodded with a blend of Fine Fescues and Perennial Ryegrass.  The finish product is a wonderful improvement for the club and we are proud of the work completed with Jim Urbina and the crew from Earthsculptures. Phase 2 will consist of re-shaping the 1st fairway, installing new irrigation and finally new sod. Work here should take about two weeks and will begin November 27th. Sod is scheduled for installation sometime the week December 11. As always when working this time of year we depend on Mother Nature's cooperation and any rain during this time will slow progress. We've come a long way in the last 12 months!

September 13, 2017

Claremont on Golf magazine website

Pretty cool mention in magazine. Thanks to Frank Ryan for catching this and passing it on...

4. GOLF unveiled its biennial list of the Top 100 courses in the U.S. and World last week. Name a course that's not on either Top 100 list that deserves to be.
Sens: Claremont Country Club in Oakland, Calif. Charming Mackenzie design where Sam Snead won his first Tour event back in the 1930s. Too short for tournament golf today, but loaded with character, beautifully conditioned and a ton of fun. Also, Belvedere in Northern Michigan. It's always been great. But recent work that brought it closer into line with Willie Watson's original have made it, as the kids say, frickin' awesome.
Wood: Josh, I've played Claremont! Used to play there in college every once in a while. Fastest greens I've ever putted on and such a pure course. I'd have to say Harbour Town. The course hasn't had to change one iota and the scores are the same they have always been. It's a brilliant test.