May 24, 2019

Working into a Routine

Following an extended rainy season with little to no spring-like weather, its nice to feel like we're finally working into a routine on the golf course. Greens have been slow to grow out of the Drill & Fill aeration performed in March thanks to the cool and wet weather. While holes have been visible, their effect on putting conditions has been minimal since the Oak Tree event on the 4th. I'm happy to say greens are 95% healed and as of this week, we are back at it with our routine applications of Plant Growth Regulators. We are very happy to see the forecast turn from rain to sun in the coming week.

We were able to work around the weather to complete a few more projects this spring. Most noticeable has been the sod work around 11 green. Like other areas on the course, the turf around 11 green had become an inconsistent mixture of various turf types. Sand splashed out of bunkers had resulted in collar dams. Sod and built -up bunker sand was removed. Collars and bunker tie-ins were returned to original grades and new Perennial Ryegrass sod was installed. We plan to resume re-sodding of collars this fall with the intention of completing remaining holes next year.

The goats have come and gone and at this point, we kinda wish they were coming baaaack. Natural grass areas were just about where we wanted them following the fine work done by the heard of over 500 seasonal workers. 

Natural grasses on 13 looking perfect after the goats are done
The 2.75 inches of rain that fell over the last week or so have these areas growing again. As a result, we'll be out trimming and mowing natural grasses with special attention being paid to in-play areas. The addition of goats to our springtime routine has become one of my favourite times of the year. Goats are an ideal weed control and brush clearing solution for hard to reach sites controlling invasive species while helping to restore native plant and animal habitats. A green, environmentally sound solution for keeping chemicals off the course, equipment in the shop and staff focused on the golf course. Each year, we intend to use the goats more with the goal of eventually getting them to each of our naturalized areas on the property. Have a look at the below link to a USGA article on the use of natural grasses on the golf course.

We hope you enjoy your time on the golf course this season. Please do not hesitate to reach out to myself or the members of our Green Committee with any questions you may have.

April 2, 2019

Not According to Plan

Sometimes things don't go according to plan. When April 1 falls on a Monday, you can pretty well bet whatever plans you made will be wadded up and tossed to the side. Yesterday was that kind of day. While much of what we set out to accomplish was done so with precision and to completion, our main objective was not met. The sand spreader truck broke down after completing just a few fairways. First with a large hydraulic leak on 12 followed later by a broken drive chain on the same hole. As to be expected we were unable to find a replacement part nearby. Nearly 600 tons of sand still sits in piles around the property on this dreary Tuesday morning. 
2018 Spring Topdressing - hey look blue skies!

With the forecast for more rain over the next week we are going to do our best to get the sand out by the end of the day Wednesday (tomorrow). Please be advised - If you are playing golf tomorrow and it is not raining we will be working on spreading and dragging sand on all the fairways. You will be impacted to some degree throughout your round. If it rains at all, we will be unable to make the application and will wait for the course to dry. It would be nice were Spring to finally make an appearance. Keep an eye out for an email update and we appreciate your understanding as we work to complete this important process.

February 16, 2019

Long Time No Blog

Long Time No Blog is right! I guess it has been a while since the last update. Sure we've been busy on the course and off but that's no excuse. We'll look to be more regular here on the Blog in 2019 so keep an eye out. Check back often. As for now, here goes your winter update...

The winter season to date has been pretty well ideal. Timely rains have allowed us to keep the course mowed, make our product applications and complete a few course projects in between weather events. As you can imagine, following the last stretch of wet weather, the course is saturated and winter conditions exist throughout. The staff worked hard to repair bunkers and clean debris from the course yesterday. We are out setting up the cups and raking bunkers today but many greens still have standing water on them and are too wet to mow or roll. Rain total for the week was 4.13 inches. February rain total is now 6.53 inches. Season to date rain totals are now 18.38 inches!

Winter Projects

The breaks in between storms have allowed us to pick a few winter projects off the to-do list. The collar around 3 green was stripped, bunker sand build up removed and new sod was installed. Its hard to believe this collar had almost 12 inches of bunker sand built up after just three seasons. While working on 3, we went ahead and stripped the collar around the practice putting green as well. This collar had a mixture of different warm and cool season grasses and did not blend well with the new sod that was laid as part of the new Golf Shop and 1st tee project. The staff did great work on the areas as seen below.

For some time now the retaining wall on 16 has been in a state of disrepair. The two sections that have been repaired over the years were out of necessity. The wall was damaged as a result of a tree falling tearing out a section of the wall and a car crashing through the fence and out onto the course. Not wanting to wait for the next incident we went ahead and replaced the remaining sections of wall. Again, kudos to the staff in the Turf Department for working on this over the last few weeks!

New Penalty Areas

The natural grass hillsides between 12 / 13 and 13 / 14 are now marked with red stakes as penalty areas. The USGA made changes to the rules of golf and as such we are now able to mark these areas red as a local rule during the winter season. Once the hillsides dry out and the goats have come through to do their thing, the stakes will be removed and play will resume as it always has... Play it as it lies!

October 15, 2018


One week later and greens have healed up nicely. The process of aeration is especially important this time of year as we head into winter . The rainy winter weather can result in soils that are saturated for extended periods leaving little to no air for roots. The solid tine aeration will help to ensure our turf is in shape and ready for the winter season and all that Mother Nature will bring.

Over the next few days we'll work to catch up with mowing greens and getting speeds back up to standard. Progress has been made this fall. The course is shaping up nicely for our final events of the year.

Early mornings on the golf course are always a treat. This weekend we had our first few days of crisp fall temps and partly cloudy skies to start the day. Enjoy a few pics from a nice morning on the course.

October 9, 2018

PGA Tour Set Up, Bunker consistency and Fall Maintenance

PGA Tour Set Up

I had the great pleasure of helping out on the maintenance crew at Silverado last week for the PGA Tour's Safeway Open. Working for former Sonoma Golf Club Superintendent Mat Dunmeyer is always a treat and last week was no different. I especially enjoyed seeing old friends and making new ones from all around the turf industry. My job assignment for the week was Back 9 bunker crew and I wanted to share an "inside the ropes" view of PGA Tour bunker preparations.
The vast majority of course preparations are spent in the weeks and months leading up to the event. Once tournament week arrives, the course is expected to be prepped and ready so the crew can get out and perform routine course set up without skipping a beat. When we arrived early in the week it was obvious the staff at Silverado had done well to meet their goals. The course was in fantastic condition and more than ready. This was especially true in the bunkers. Edges were crisp. Sand depths perfect. Ready for the big show. Then, leave it to Mother Nature and her ability to change even the best of plans. Rain fell Tuesday and while totals were low, it was enough to wet the bunkers and change conditions somewhat. Thankfully the rain let up early in the week leading to sun and perfect Napa weather. By the weekend, winds had picked up resulting in very dry bunker conditions and lots of debris clean up. My point here is...
The bunkers were prepared perfectly throughout the week and yet still, perfect consistency day to day and bunker to bunker was an impossibility. The preparation of bunkers was consistent each morning. The bunkers looked and played beautifully but conditions differed. A snapshot of reality for the tour and for day to day set up at every golf course. Please take a look at the below article from the USGA on bunker consistency.

Bunker Consistency - FIVE reasons why bunkers are not consistent - by the USGA

Despite the best efforts of any agronomic team, maintaining perfectly consistent playing conditions in every bunker is not possible.
Although golf course maintenance teams may spend more labor hours attending to bunkers than greens, golfers will still find that bunkers are inconsistent. Maintaining totally consistent playing conditions in bunkers is not achievable, nor is it necessarily desirable. Here are five reasons why the playing conditions in bunkers will never be perfectly consistent:

1.    Sand depth – The depth of sand on the bunker floor has a profound impact on playability. If the sand is too shallow, bunkers may be wet and firm. However, too much sand yields soft conditions that increase the probability of buried lies. Inconsistencies in bunker sand depth develop on a daily basis from events such as normal play, raking and wind exposure. The recommended depth for bunker sand is 4-6 inches but varies depending on factors such as the physical characteristics of the sand and the properties of the underlying material.
2.    Sun exposure – Bunkers that receive more sunlight will dry faster and play softer than those that receive less sunlight. For example, east- and southeast-facing bunkers dry faster in the morning than bunkers oriented to the west or the north, causing them to play softer.
3.    Wind exposure – Bunkers facing the predominant wind direction will dry faster and play softer than bunkers that are shielded from the wind or face the opposite direction.
4.    Play volume – Bunkers that receive more play will be softer and less consistent than bunkers with very little play. Why? Golf shots, foot traffic and raking disturb bunker sand and soften conditions.
5.    Irrigation – Many golfers wonder if irrigation systems can be designed to avoid adding water to bunkers. Unfortunately, such a design is impractical due to the shape and strategic location of many bunkers. Uniformly irrigating irregularly shaped playing surfaces such as greens, green surrounds and even fairways often places adjacent bunkers in the line of fire of sprinklers. If bunker sand is shallow, contains fine materials such as fine sand, silt and clay, or has been contaminated with organic matter, bunkers will retain moisture. Wet sand plays firmer than dry sand, so bunkers that receive more irrigation and retain more moisture will likely play firmer than those that are well drained and out of the way of irrigation. In the Southwest, where there is little rain and high water demand during summer, bunkers are often wet and firm due to frequent irrigation.
The bottom line is that golf is an outdoor game with inherent variability. For example, no two lies in the rough are exactly the same and, like it or not, the wind blows on some days while other days are calm. Sometimes the wind even blows from one direction in the morning and the opposite direction in the afternoon. Golfers are encouraged to embrace variability in the bunkers and throughout the golf course as a welcome challenge. Remember the wise words of the late Payne Stewart, "A bad attitude is worse than a bad swing." For additional information on bunker consistency, please review the Green Section Collection, “Managing Bunkers,” or contact a USGA agronomist.
 Fall Maintenance 

This fall our maintenance routine has changed from years past. A sure sign that the work we have accomplished over the years has paid off. Greens were aerated with a solid tine and given a medium amount of sand topdressing. Fairways and approaches were slit-seeded with blend of Fine Fescue seed. Tees were aerated with a deep tine. No cores pulled. Less surface disruption and less impact on play. This work was complete in just over a week despite a few equipment breakdowns and being a bit short on staff. As always we do everything we can to minimize disruption to the membership while performing these important "preventative maintenance" tasks. With the first rains of the season falling last week the greens are growing at a good pace and we should be back in shape come this time next week. 

My hat is off to the staff in the Turf Department for their efforts this season. Their work over the year and especially the last few weeks will ensure a strong finish to 2018 and will no doubt set us up for a fantastic 2019. We hope you enjoy the golf course this fall and we appreciate all the support in doing what is right for the health of the golf course. 

July 2, 2018

Good News / Good News

The first week of July typically signifies the beginning of summer at Claremont. The course and club will slow down as members and guests enjoy time away around the 4th of July holiday and the weeks following. Our Men's Invitational and all of the spring and early summer member events are in the rear view mirror. Good news is... the golf course has been in tip top shape since coming out of winter. And, the good new is... we'll begin work next week to ensure this is the case moving forward. 

The turf conditions we've enjoyed this season and over the last few years are a direct result of our efforts to modify the soil beneath. Consistent, firm and healthy turfgrass surfaces are the goal and our cultural practice routine, while disruptive for a few weeks, will ensure a strong finish to the season. Next week we will perform a contract aeration again called the DryJect. These machines inject a blast of water that fractures the soil 6 to 8 inches deep creating a void that is then filled by sand. The process has proved to be quite beneficial on our soil based push-up greens allowing for improved percolation of water and healthy exchange of gasses. We will follow the DryJect with our own core aeration using a ½” hollow tine. We will not over fertilise greens around aeration as this creates the exact situation we are attempting to alleviate with this process. Please expect a period of three weeks or so for recovery. The summer aeration schedule is as follows:

July 9 – DryJect aeration on greens
July 10 – Front 9 aeration (front 9 closed)
July 11 – Back 9 aeration (back 9 closed)
July 16 – Fairway sanding
July 9 to 20 – Solid Tine aeration on tees, approaches and fairways
July 9 to 20 – Sanding on tees and approaches

Please enjoy a few nice shots of the golf course from the last few weeks and remember, the reason we do things like aerify, verticut, spike, vent and sand top-dress is so we can provide the conditions seen below. 

The Turf Department hopes you enjoy summer with friends and family. Have a safe and happy 4th of July holiday!