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!

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!