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.

August 30, 2017

Let the fun begin

It's been a busy eleven months here at Claremont. Temporary facilities set up. Demolition of the
100+ year old golf shop. Excavation, grading, storm drain, concrete pour after concrete pour. Framing, fire line installation, roofing, windows... you get the picture. Oh, and we have a golf course and grounds to maintain as well. It's been hectic but fun, rewarding and draining. Now the fun really begins as we get to work on putting the golf course back together.
Course construction will be split up into two phases with phase one consisting of rebuilding the 1st tee, 18 green surround, warm up tee and cart path tie-in to 10. Phase two work of rebuilding the 1st fairway will begin sometime in November following the move in to the new Golf Shop and the breakdown of all temporary facilities.

Roger Downing of Earthsculptures and Golf Course Architect Jim Urbina were onsite for less than a week when things behind 18 green began to take shape. For the first time in almost a year the area is looking more like a golf course than a construction site. There are many reasons I feel absolutely lucky to work here. On this golf course. The opportunity to work with these professionals is near the top of that list as they are some of the best in the business. Great people doing great work. Claremont is in good hands with these two.

Much change will take place in the coming weeks. The full crew from Earthsculptures is set to arrive September 11 to begin irrigation and drainage installation. Hundreds of tons of sand will be imported to cap the 1st tee, the warm up tees and the surrounding areas. Finish shaping, bunker install, cart path install and sod... all in the matter of a few weeks. If all goes according to plan, which it always does, we will lay sod in mid-October on phase 1 of course construction. Keep an eye on the blog for updates as we move along.

As we progress, course construction may be more of an impact to you when playing the course. Please check in with the golf shop staff when you come out to play. Hole 18 will play to a temporary green at times and the 10th tee will be closed from time to time as well. These decisions will be made based on safety for workers in the area. Thanks for your patience. The new facility and course features will be amazing and a major improvement for the club.

July 11, 2017

Midway Point

For most Superintendents around the country July marks the midway point of the growing season. As we reach this point we assess turf health, the health of our staffs and ourselves with the thought of making the proper adjustments as we head full steam into 8 long weeks of summer stress, disease and dry spot. Its sort of like halftime at the Super Bowl as the adjustments made will set us up for a successful second half.

My half time assessment...
Lean and mean, firm and fast... The course is healthy and ready for the second half. The staff, while shy of our usual numbers is doing well. Next week we will begin the process of summer aeration and sanding. A successful few weeks will set us up for a strong finish for 2017.

Summer Aeration

July 17th - Greens DryJect Aeration, Fairway Sanding
July 18th - Front 9 Greens and Putting Green 1/4" core aeration and sanding
July 19th - Back 9 Greens 1/4" core aeration and sanding
July 17th to 24th - Tees, approaches and fairways solid tine aeration
July 17th to 24th - Tees and approaches sanding

These cultural practices are a major piece of a program that has resulted in the improvements seen on the course over the last few years. This is especially true for the DryJect aeration as depicted in the slide seen here. We expect a few weeks of disruption and we thank you in advance for your patience and understanding while we perform these important tasks.

New Course Accessories

We've recently upgraded course accessories and with that, changed how we provide sand and seed mix for our membership.

The new wooden benches, garbage cans, divot mix containers and sand & seed fill stations provide a clean, natural look in keeping with our wooden flag sticks and bunker rakes. Please note that divot mix containers are now located on carts and at the 1st and 10th tees only. Every third tee you will find a sand and seed fill station that you can use to fill your carry tube or cart tube. These items are extremely well built and will serve the club for years to come.

Enjoy your time on the course this summer. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me with any questions or concerns you may have.


May 19, 2017

Golf Course Things and Stuff

The golf course has taken fine shape as we approach summer and our first heat wave of the season this weekend. We have many things going on out there and I wanted to take a minute to update you on some of whats happening.

Natural Grass Areas
The new natural grass areas have grown-in and are no longer to be played as ground under repair. Ground under repair will be marked with signage or white paint. The picture above of the natural grass between holes 4 and 5 shows the area still roped off but this is only to keep carts out. These areas are sensitive to cart traffic and provide a natural habitat for beneficial insects, pollinators and small animals. Please do not drive carts in any of the "long" grass on the golf course. If the grass is over 2.5 inches carts should be kept out. As of this week, all hillsides and natural grass areas have been cut and/or mowed for what was hopefully the last time of the season. These areas will turn color soon and slow their growth to provide a nice visual contrast from the green turf found down the middle of the fairway to the golden brown of the California native grasslands. I look forward to this transition each year as the contrast of color and texture can result in some of the most visually stunning views around the property.

Bunkers (hazards)
I seem to get the question every spring about bunkers (hazards) and their consistency, or lack there of. Each spring we go through the hazards to add sand in areas that were contaminated or where sand was removed during winter. With the heavy rains this past winter our work here has been more than in years past. The hazards where new sand has been added will take time to settle in and firm up. This can create variability from hazard to hazard as some will play firm and other soft. The expectation for the hazards to play consistent is unrealistic even when all the sand is the same. Many factors go into this. The location of the hazard, surrounded by trees or out in the open. Angled toward the sun or away from. How much water does the surrounding turf require to maintain health? More water for the turf means more water in the bunker. Size and shape of the hazard... you get the idea. What will be consistent is our set up and maintenance routines for these hazards. Many hours each week are focused on preparation and maintenance of the hazards. Members can help improve consistency in hazards by making an effort to return them to previous form following play. Unfortunately we see this all to often...

The Small Stuff
We are working hard to catch up on many of the small things and stuff around the golf course. While we are very happy with course conditions down the middle, we know that some of the detail could be better and we are working on it. Things like pruning low branches on trees, edging cart paths, repairing of DG cart paths, pulling and/or treating weeds and many other detail items have had to take a back seat this spring. Why you ask? Long winter and short on staff. With the wet winter that lasted into April, we've had to focus our efforts on getting the greens, tees, fairways, roughs and yes, hazards back into shape. We've had to do so with just two additional seasonal workers when, in years past we would have had 5 to 7 seasonal workers at this point. The lack of applicants willing to come out and work has dwindled over the years. This season has been terrible even with a significant increase in pay being offered. The labor issue is real and is something affecting all clubs, not just Claremont. All this being said, our existing staff has worked well to make up the difference and I thank them greatly for their efforts!

Unrepaired ballmarks on greens continues to be an issue. Truth is, the fact that their are more ballmarks is a good thing. More of you are hitting the greens it seems! Please remember to find and repair your ballmark. As the greens firm up, the chance that that your ball will land on the green and end up over is real. Don't forget to look for the mark and make the repair as it will help to provide an improved experience for other members and guests. It will also lighten the work load for greenkeepers allowing them to focus on other tasks.

Thanks so much for following the blog over years. We are over 70,000 page views as of last month! That's pretty cool. There is so much information shared in these blog pages, in the newsletter and on the website. Even so, please do not hesitate to reach out to me with any questions or concerns you have. We are always happy to help...

Enjoy your time on the course this summer!

Josh Clevenger, Golf Course Superintendent

May 2, 2017

Getting on with a Routine

The last week of sun and temperatures in the 80's has been a nice change to say the least. Especially following a relentless winter season that produced over 44 inches of rain and many stormy days that had us far from routine. As of last weekend the irrigation system was up and running for the first time since October 2016 and our first big member event was held. The Turf Department is officially ready to get on with 2017!

In this post I'd like to share with you our regular routine for maintenance that will take us through the golf season here at Claremont.

Daily Maintenance Routines

Greens - The following is our plan on greens for the season. This routine should result in healthy, smooth and firm greens throughout each week with minimal fluctuation in green speeds. Our target speed for greens is 10 to 10.5 feet for daily play.

  • Mowed at .125 inches; 4 to 5 times per week based on growth
  • Rolled 6 to 7 times per week
  • Verticut and topdressed with sand every 2 weeks
  • Spiking or venting aeration (minimal disturbance) every 4 to 6 weeks
  • Checked for moisture daily and hand watered as needed
  • Night time irrigation of 20 to 40 min. every 5 to 10 days as needed 
Tees, Fairways and Approaches - These areas are maintained in a similar fashion with the goal of providing a healthy, dense and firm surface for golf. Tees will be irrigated to a level that will minimize hand watering while fairways and approaches will be irrigated with just enough water to ensure growth and recovery from golfer traffic. Approaches and fairways will be hand watered as needed to ensure a firm surface. 
  • Mowed at .475 inches; 3 to 4 times per week
  • Solid tine aeration every 4 weeks
  • Treatments of wetting agents and acids to insure good water penetration and mitigate salt build up
  • Topdressed with sand every spring and fall - 40 tons per acre is the goal this season

Roughs - Areas of rough are maintained to higher degree closer to the field of play. Green surrounds and roughs adjacent to fairways are fertilized and inter-seeded to promote a consistent stand of turf. The further away from the center of fairways you find yourself, the more natural and "rough" the playing conditions will be. We will irrigate the rough as needed allowing areas adjacent to natural grasses to brown out and blend into the natural environment.

  • Mowed at 2.25 inches; 2 to 3 times per week
  • Aerated with a solid tine 2 to 3 times per year
  • Walking rotary mowers used around greens on areas difficult to mow with ride-on equipment
Bunkers (Hazards) - The bunkers here at Claremont are beautiful and penal all at once. While we spend many, many hours of maintenance each week in these hazards, expecting consistency here is unrealistic. Our practices however will remain consistent throughout the season and will result in very playable and aesthetically pleasing hazards. 
  • Bunker detail performed each Monday to include: edging / trimming short grass, pulling weeds, removing debris, checking sand depth and adjusting
  • Bunkers floors raked daily - Tuesday to Sunday
  • Bunker faces smooth raked once per week 
  • Bunkers deep raked via mechanical rake and hand rake 2 times per month
  • Fescue eyebrows "chopped" each spring and fall 
Natural Grass / Hillsides / Creek Banks - These areas will be maintained in a similar fashion throughout the season - minimally. We do not fertilize or irrigate these areas. We will mow and/or trim these areas at a height of 4" coming out of spring until growth has all but stopped. This will allow seed heads to emerge and will provide a wonderful contrast from maintained turf to the wispy, golden and natural grasslands found across California in the summer. Certain areas deemed "in-play" will receive an extra mow or two in early summer just so we don't loose to many golf balls.

We are looking forward to a fantastic golf season here in the Oakland Hills! As you may know, we're in the middle of a fairly significant project that has and will continue to take up much of my time and energy until complete. Please know we will continue our focus of improving the member and guest experience on the golf course while we wait with great anticipation of the finished product. What a great way to end your day on the course it will be! 
Thanks and we'll see you on the Course!

Josh Clevenger, Golf Course Superintendent