December 1, 2015

Sometimes golf, like life, isn't fair

Great stuff here from our consulting Architect Jim Urbina. The guy knows his stuff and here he gets it spot on. See Jim's take below with 5 Bunker Myths as seen in Links magazine August 2015. 

Architect Jim Urbina says we no longer understand their true purpose

1) Bunkers are there to penalize golfers
Nothing could be further from the truth. The great old-time architects said a hazard isn’t just for punishment but to make the game more interesting. Golfers take bunkers personally: Those of us in the design business see them in the exact opposite way. Robert Hunter wrote, “Without hazards, golf would be a dull sport.”
2) You should be able to advance the ball from a bunker
Why? Sometimes golf, like life, isn’t fair. The original bunkers were totally natural, which meant sometimes it was impossible to move the ball forward from them. We’ve since made our own rules and now demand the ability to hit out of a bunker all the way to the green. But that wasn’t always the original purpose.
3) Maintaining them is important
We spend too much time and money maintaining bunkers. Due to expensive sands and labor costs, what should be among the cheapest parts of a course to maintain are the most expensive. They’re hazards, not gardens, and don’t need to be beautiful let alone neat and tidy.
4) They should not be in the middle of a fairway
If you hit a great shot down the middle and it finds a bunker then it wasn’t a great shot. A hazard is often placed for strategy, and one in the fairway is telling you that’s not the best place for hitting to the green. The game requires thought and skill, and sometimes the right play isn’t the obvious one. Same with bunker placement.
5) What you see is what you get
C.B. Macdonald said it can take years to discover and appreciate the hidden qualities of a bunker. Take the time to study the bunker—where it is, how it’s shaped and looks—over and over again. A good bunker makes you think and, as all the greats said, makes a course more interesting.

November 30, 2015

Still Thankful

Just a day after Thanksgiving we are reminded that the golf course does not take days off.

Grass still grows on a holiday, leaves fall on a holiday and yes, pipes can break on a holiday. The picture here is not a new water feature at 14 green but a busted valve late on the Friday after Thanksgiving. At least it didn't happen on Thursday afternoon. Just a part of the job and yes, we're still Thankful!

It got pretty cold here this week with a few frost delays. Please check in with the golf shop if you have an early tee time and cold weather is expected. While we can live with a little frost in the rough, we will hold players from going out when the tees and greens have frost. Thank you for your patience during these times and please know we are doing what is best for your golf course.

Thanks and we'll see you on the course!

November 25, 2015

A Lot to Be Thankful For

Sometimes its hard to realize just how fortunate we are to be a part of such a special place. Claremont CC, Oakland, The Bay Area, California, The United States of America... Man do we have it good. To live, work, recreate and raise our families in one of the most desirable places in all of the world. That is special. It's easily forgotten just how good we have it. Thanksgiving is a special time when we allow ourselves to take a break and enjoy good times with family and friends. To think about the many things we have to be thankful for. To give back to those less fortunate.

What am I thankful for? A happy, healthy and supportive family. An amazing place to go to work each day and call my office. A very supportive Membership and General Manager. A great group of people to work with. A good Dog. A short drive home. Food on the plate.

We are Lucky. Thank you. Enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving!

August 25, 2015

Solid Tine Aeration This Week

As we approach the fall golf season here at Claremont the need to keep things open becomes more and more important. With our current drought situation it's been so long since any real rain (almost 5 months to be exact!) that the soils tend to lock up creating a poor environment for turf and roots. This week we are performing a solid tine aeration to all fine turf surfaces. Yesterday, greens 1 to 12, 18 and the putting green were aerated and sanded lightly. Greens 13 to 17 will be completed prior to play this morning. All tees, fairways and approaches will be solid tined and/ or aerated with the Planet Air as well. We hope to have all areas completed by the end of the week.

The picture here shows the green surface following aeration and sand.

This pic shows the green following brushing, rolling and a few minutes of water.

The disruption for players is minimal from this process while the benefit to turf is great. The holes punched on greens are 9 inches deep and provide channels for good air/gas exchange and allow for water to penetrate deeper into the soil. The machine is set to "kick" while tines are in the ground in effect shattering the soil below and helping to greatly relieve compaction. The end result is a healthy environment for roots and turf.

You can expect slower green speeds over the next few days, especially if you are out early. Greens will not be mowed until Thursday or Friday dependent on how well sand is incorporated into the turf and rollers will be sent out in the afternoon once the greens have dried out from morning dew. This is done to minimize movement of sand and fertilizer around the green and alleviate the need to clean greens following the rolling process. By the weekend, greens will be back to normal and we will be off and running toward the busy September and October golf season and hopefully... RAIN!

August 7, 2015

Summer Project Season

It's been some time since my last post and needless to say we've been kinda busy. The weeks following July 4th are historically a slow time on the golf course when we perform the cultural practices of aeration and sand top dressing, as well as various course improvement projects.

Summer aeration was much less disruptive than in years past as we were able to get away with a solid tine aeration to all surfaces other than greens. Greens were cored with a 3/8" tine and sanded. They came back nicely in just 10 days or so and are now as healthy as I can remember. Fairways, tees and approaches were aerated with a solid tine and top-dressed with sand at 10 tons per acre. The course is now healed and in top shape following these events.

Projects this summer included work on the 3rd green/bunkers and the re-building of the 5th tee.

The placement of the bunkers surrounding 3 green results in many bunker shots and each time a shot is hit, sand is sprayed onto the collar and green. What do you expect for a hole named Sand Circle?Over time so much sand had been hit out of these bunkers that grades of the bunker edge, collar and even the green had significantly changed. This resulted in an abnormal transition from bunker to green that made it necessary to mow the green smaller each year so we could keep good turf in the clean up pass of the green. The slopes from the fronting bunker edge to the green became so severe that shots just carrying the bunkers would rocket over the green. When playing nice and firm, this green was very hard to hold for many players.

Work on 3 green began July 13th with the removal of sod from the collar and approximately 8 feet of sod from around the entire green. Greens sod was stored off to the side so it was able to be replaced. Our contractor and in house staff then went to work removing all of the built up bunker sand.

Front right bunker seen before sod removal.

Same bunker - work in progress. We removed close to 24 inches of sand from the edge of the bunker here and between 10 and 18 inches along all 4 bunkers.

Jim Urbina and staff checking grades from bunker to green.

Grades all set and sod going back onto the green... Nice to get the sod off plastic and back where it belongs!

The result is a significant change for this hole. The size of the green was increased by almost 600 sq feet and will play much larger than before with shaping back to original grades.

Buzz checking out work in progress at 5 tee.

The 5th tee box has been on the to-do list of the Green Committee and our Architect Jim Urbina for some time now. The tee was tired, small, 2-tiered and surrounded by old landscaping. Back in the 80's when all the tees were re-done, many were unnaturally built up so as to create the effect of looking down to the target. On the 5th hole, named Hog's Back for the spine running diagonally across the fairway from left to right, the raised tee gave the visual of looking over this feature instead of into it as intended.

Approximately 3 feet of soil was graded off the tee and surround, the rise taken out of the middle and the tee re-shaped to flow nicely from the 4th green to the tee and up to a new turf area shaped for event use. Six inches of new sand was imported and the new tee top graded. The tee top itself was lowered by 2 feet.

During the process tree roots were removed and a wood chipped tree well was established here to use as golf cart parking/turn around. New sod was installed and water turned on. Superintendent and staff were then able to take a breath...

We are really happy with the results of our summer maintenance period. 3 green and 5 tee opened for play just yesterday (August 6th) and and bunkers will be played as ground under repair until sod takes good root along the edge.

Thanks and we'll see you on the course!

June 14, 2015

May Newsletter Article - Drought and Water Use

The following article was included in our Member Newsletter earlier this year. As we move into summer, water will continue to be the discussion and I felt it important to share here as well. Enjoy!

On The Course - Maintaining a Golf Course during Drought

As we all know California is in the midst of a record drought. While we did get some much needed rains early this season, rain totals are well below average for the fourth straight year. Temperatures have also been abnormally high during this period. Since January 1, the average high temperature has been 70 degrees with just 3.4” of rain falling. Last month, Governor Jerry Brown mandated a 25% reduction of the use of potable water. While we are fortunate to have a good supply of Non- Potable water to irrigate the golf course with, we must be responsible and show we can and will do the right thing for the course and environment. Over the years, we have accomplished much in the way of becoming more efficient users of water and we are prepared to maintain the course nicely throughout the drought.
We are constantly looking at ways to be more efficient with our use of water. We evaluate the efficiency of our irrigation system on a daily basis. The course is inspected daily for wet spots or dry spots and irrigation run times are adjusted accordingly. Irrigation leaks are detected and repaired quickly. My goal has always been – NO WET SPOTS! This month, we will be going through sprinkler heads in fairways replacing all nozzles and checking pressure to ensure proper coverage is achieved and water is applied as efficiently as possible.

We’ve used hand held and in-the-ground soil sensor technology to monitor soil moisture levels for years now. The use of these sensors allows us to properly monitor soil moisture and insure that the correct amount of water is applied to a given area of turf. Our in-the-ground soil sensor data can be monitored in real time from our desk top and handheld devices.  

With our on-site weather station, we have the ability to monitor weather data in real time as well. The weather station communicates with our irrigation computer calculating daily ET (evapotranspiration) rates. This information is downloaded to the irrigation computer and used to determine appropriate sprinkler run times insuring we are replacing just the amount of water used by the turf and lost to evaporation (ET).

Over the last five years, we have seeded the tees, approaches and fairways at times of aeration with a drought tolerant Chewings Fine Fescue seed. This turf requires approximately 10% of the water needed by many other cool season grasses. Each year, as our stand of Fine Fescue multiplies, we are able to manage more for the fescue and in turn use less water. There will be times when the weaker grasses stress due to drought conditions and this is part of managing toward the desired turf species.

The use of soil surfactants (wetting agents) is an important part of our agronomic plan. A soil surfactant is a material that allows us be more efficient with our water by helping the soil to better hold on to water applied. Surfactants aid in breaking surface tension of tight soil/turf conditions allowing water to better penetrate into the root zone helping to move water deeper and more evenly. This promotes better rooting of turf and a more healthy soil condition. The Club invested in an injection system last year to deliver these materials onto the course via the irrigation system.

Organic fertilizers are an important part of building healthy soils and healthy soils use water more efficiently. These organic fertilizers make up nearly 70% of all fertilizers applied to the course.
If you are on the golf course during the summer months, you have no doubt seen the staff out hand watering various turf areas. There is no more efficient way to deliver water to the desired location than through hand watering.

We have invested much time, effort and resource into providing a high level of turf condition while being environmentally responsible with our use of water. Many of the above practices were implemented years ago, well before the drought. While these changes to our program have resulted in an improved playability of the golf course, they have also put us in position to better weather the current drought.  The majority of increase in the Golf Maintenance budget over the last few years has been directly related to the practices discussed here and I commend the Club for supporting the golf course in such a way.

The fascination with a wall to wall green golf course in California should have changed years ago.  As a responsible member of the community and the golf industry, we should be doing all we can to limit the amount of water we use, mandate or no mandate. Greens, tees and fairways can and will be kept in top condition but we need to get used to rough and areas out of play becoming more natural, un-irrigated and BROWN. As we move through the summer months, there will be more areas of off color turf and that is OK. It will come back when it rains…

Josh Clevenger - Golf Course Superintendent

June 11, 2015

2015 Invitational Recap

With our biggest event of the year now in the rear view mirror, I wanted to share some pictures and discuss the hows and whys of setting the course up for tournament play.

It was a long two weeks of prep work and set up. Over 250 hours of overtime went in to produce the conditions we had for our Men's Invitational last week. The staff really turned it up a notch and I thank them for their hard work and long hours. The focus leading up to the event was catching up with all the detail work we fell behind on this spring. With the dry weather this winter and into spring combined with a short staff, we had fallen behind with some of the little things around the course as we made mowing and setting up for play the priority. The focus during tournament week was drying the course out and fine tuning the playing surfaces for our major event of the year. This means lots of extra mowing and rolling of greens and daily mowing and hand watering of tees, fairways and approaches. The result of this focus and detail was a course that set up and played as good as I have seen it.

While it's fun to tune the course up for these big events, it is unrealistic to expect these conditions daily. Many factors go into preparing the golf course in this fashion with the most important being the health of the turf leading up to the event. Greens and fairways have been in the best shape that I've seen and Mother Nature was kind enough to help out with some mild temps.  Therefore we were able to push things pretty well to the limit without any adverse affects. All of the aeration, sand topdressings, soil and water testing, inter-seeding, fertility and water treatments and general care and planning over the last few years is paying off nicely with the results being a healthy turf that can stand the kind of stress we put it through. Our goal now is to maintain the health and playability of the course through the summer. We will monitor the health of the turf closely and when we can push, we will. When we need to back off, we will. Please enjoy the course each day you play knowing we are doing all we can to provide the most pleasant experience for members and guests possible.

Thanks and we'll see you on the course!

May 10, 2015

Happy Mothers Day Mom

In many ways I owe it all to her. My Mom grew up working the family farm in south eastern Colorado with her 3 siblings. Over 1000 acres between them and my grandfather, 7 days a week 365 days a year they worked hard and played hard. She became and art & pe teacher, a coach, a wife, a mother and an amazing home maker. No one I know worked as hard as she did. She never took a day off and she didn't blink an eye when challenge presented itself. She instilled in me the value of hard work and dedication. She pushed me to always be better in life and everything I chose to do. In 1996 I was a few years out of high school and a bit lost. It was March, I found myself out of work and spent the better part of the month watching every game of the NCAA tournament from the couch at my parents house. She was not thrilled to say the least. One morning she pickled up the Reno paper and went throughout the classified adds in attempt to get me off that couch. When she spotted a seasonal grounds maintenance position at Northgate Golf Club she insisted I call and apply. I did, I got the job and the rest is history. Without her love, support and constant pushing for me to be my best, I would not be where I am today, and I'm in a pretty good place.    
Thank you Mom for never giving up on me and for pushing me all those years. I couldn't have done it with out you!

Happy Mother's Day to all of the wonderful women in my life. Jill, Kristen, Mom, Grandma Karen, you all mean the world to me. Thank You!

May 5, 2015

Course Etiquette 101

As we enter prime golf season here at Claremont, I wanted to take the time to talk about course etiquette. My father always taught me to respect the course and leave it in better condition than I found it. Here are some ways we can improve member experience by doing so...


Unfortunately we see this way too often. The staff puts many hours of labor into these hazards (204 hours last week!) and the picture here shows the result of one of the first groups of the day.

Please remember these tips when playing from bunkers:

  • Enter & Exit from low side
  • Rake out area of play and all foot prints
  • Be sure to PUSH the sand back to where you played from. DO NOT pull all the sand back to the edge of the bunker
  • Leave rake inside bunker
  • Please tap your shoes when finished
Please take a look at the attached video from the USGA on bunker etiquette:


Ball marks continue to be left un-repaired far to often. Each flag in the below picture is an un-repaired ball mark.

This picture was taken on a Saturday morning just a few weeks ago. Please see the USGA video on Ball Marks:

                                             SAND & SEED YOUR DIVOTS PLEASE

Sand and seed stations are located at tees on holes 1, 2, 6, 10, 13 & 16.

TRASH - Tees & Butts Drive me NUTS!

I've received numerous comments lately regarding trash left around the course. There are trash cans at every tee box. Please use them. I'm not sure when it became acceptable to leave tees and cigar / cigarette butts all about the course but its to be the new norm. These items are garbage and someone has to pick this stuff up.

I would prefer to have the greenkeeper staff work on making the course look and play the way we all expect it to. When basic golfer etiquette is not followed, it creates additional work load the staff and as we shift labor away from grooming and detail to clean up and repair. The regular readers of this BLOG are a good lot. You know and practice what is being preached in this post and others. Let's get the word out to all others. WE can do better.

Please leave the course better than you found it.


March 24, 2015

Out With the OLD, In With the NEW...

We are now a full week into our Spring aeration and things are going nicely. Greens were drilled & filled with sand to a depth of 12". We followed that with our traditional core aeration using a 5/8" tine. A significant amount of organic material as well as old silt and clay soils were removed from the greens and over 80 tons of new sand added. Out With the OLD and In With the NEW! A fairly aggressive process for sure and one that will pay off big time come July and August.

This picture shows the green just 1 day following aeration.

Fast forward 1 week and we see the greens healing up nicely.

We can expect about double the heal time for the Drill and Fill holes.

Currently we are half way through Fairway aeration and hope to finish up Thursday this week. Sand will be applied to all Fairways, Tees and Approaches next Monday and Wednesday.

Your patience is appreciated during this important process. We know this is a disruptive time for all golfing members. It is a long 3 weeks for all of us in the Turf Department as well and we are looking forward to wrapping things up on Wednesday next week. Despite what some may think, aeration is not something Superintendents look forward too as it is stressful on the turf and staff alike. This year has been particularly straining as we have yet to fill out our seasonal staff. The regular staff has stepped up with a great effort and some long hours. Please thank them when you are out on the course. What we do look forward to is providing members and guests with the best conditions and experience possible. The cultural practices performed over a few weeks in Spring will set us up for a fantastic golfing season here at Claremont.

Josh Clevenger; Golf Course Superintendent

March 9, 2015

Spring Aeration

It's hard to believe but it's that time again... Spring Aeration. The weather forecast for the next 10 days is for dry conditions allowing us to begin our aeration as planned on Monday the 16th. The schedule is as follows:

March 16, 17 & 18  - Greens Drill & Fill / Core Aeration
March 19 to 23 - Tee & Approach Aeration and Sand
March 23 to March 30 - Fairways Core Aeration
March 30 & April 1 - Fairway Sanding

Late last year, we took soil core samples and sent them to ISTRC (International Sports Turf Research Center) to analyze the physical properties of the soil in our greens. This very in-depth testing of 8 inches of root zone has given us a large amount of hard data. Varied soil particle size and numerous layers throughout the 8 inch profile has made it difficult to establish healthy roots, has created issues with properly watering the greens and allows for more salt accumulation in the root zone. The recommendation was to perform an aeration called Drill and Fill to modify the subsurface by removal of old material and incorporation of fresh new sand. 

Please take a look at the Drill and Fill Video from the last blog post...

While this is a new process for us, the Drill and Fill has been used for years, many times on modified soil push up greens like those found here at Claremont. We will follow the Drill and Fill with our traditional core aeration and sanding and hope to have the greens healed up in 4 weeks time.

drill and fill video

February 10, 2015

Trees and Turf

Please take a look at the video from the USGA. We are working on the course in and around trees right now root pruning, removing surface roots and thinning canopies. This will help us out down the road when we get into the stresses of summer. Good sunlight and air circulation = Good Turf!

Josh Clevenger; Golf Course Superintendent

January 8, 2015

Putting Things Back Together

It's been a whirlwind start to winter this season. Over 13 inches of rain in December followed by two strong wind storms followed by three days of frost followed by a few 70 degree days... What's the simple Greenkeeper to think? (See my head spinning currently)

I think it's gonna be a wet spring cause it sure doesn't look like there is rain coming anytime soon!

We are fortunate that the rain let up and gave us time to catch up on mowing, fixing of bunkers and the repair the 1st green.

Ismael working on the sod repair work on #1 green.

Miguel and Moises finishing up the repair work.

With all the wind just before the New Year, a few more trees came down.

A large Redwood in the grove between 18 and 9

Acacia trees down to the right of 15 green.

We also lost a large Eucalyptus along the fence line of #16.

The staff has been hard at work repairing damage to greens and fairways and cleaning up the golf course in preparation for play. They have done well despite being short staffed and I thank them for their work.

The course is playing nicely now that it's had some time to dry and receive some much needed TLC. I encourage you to come out for a round of golf and enjoy the fun winter conditions.

Cheers for a fantastic 2015!

Josh Clevenger; Golf Course Superintendent