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.

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

March 21, 2017

Spring is here... No Really. It's Spring now.

The first day of spring was Monday the 20th. Yesterday. After two full weeks of dry and warm weather it decided to start raining yesterday. It rained over an inch in 24 hours. Mother Nature must've known we had aeration on the calendar, yesterday. It's all good, par for the course if you will. We'll look to next Monday to begin spring aeration. But I'm not putting it on my calendar.

After a long winter season of rain, storm clean up and projects, it's time for us to get out there and perform the very important cultural practice of aeration. Over the next few weeks we will poke millions of holes on the golf course and make large applications of seed, sand and organic fertilizers. We do not perform these tasks because its fun but because the results of the next few weeks will set us up for another great year on the golf course. We are fortunate to have the support of the membership in blocking four weeks each spring for weather dependent aeration. This is so important and we thank you for this support.

Please check out the attached video from the USGA on why we aerate:

Josh Clevenger, Golf Course Superintendent

February 1, 2017

2017 New Years Resolution for the Putting Greens

Unrepaired ballmarks result in bumpy greens and poor aesthetics. Each flag is a mark left unrepaired on the 5th green 

The following is a recent article published by the USGA. I thought it would tie-in nicely with the newsletter that just came out and with our objective of improving player etiquette this year. Enjoy!

With the start of every new year comes a list of resolutions. In this case, the resolutions specifically pertain to putting greens. As you dust off your clubs for the coming season, please consider the following resolutions:
I resolve to properly fix ball marks for the benefit of putting green recovery and putting green smoothness. This simple and critical part of the game is outlined in the video, How to Repair Ball Marks (also available in Spanish).
I resolve to not only fix my ball marks, but also the ball marks left by others when I observe them on a putting green.
I resolve to place my golf bag, pull cart or golf cart in appropriate locations that allow easy access to putting greens without causing excessive turf wear. This not only minimizes damage near putting greens, it can help improve pace of play.
When using a pull cart, I resolve to never take it between a putting green and greenside bunker.
I resolve to carefully remove and replace flagsticks as to avoid damaging holes. I will also never drop a flagstick on a putting green as to avoid leaving indentations that impact ball roll for other players.
I resolve to remove my golf ball from a hole with my hand or an appropriate tool, never with the head of my putter or other golf club.
I resolve to not leave remnants from any snacks or seeds on putting greens.
I resolve to remember that cigars can leave large ash deposits that should never be on a putting green.
I resolve to understand that when putting greens have frost on them, the delicate turf can be killed by footsteps.
I resolve to be aware that even though most golf shoes have soft spikes, they can still impact putting green smoothness if I scuff the turf with my shoes. When playing with others, I will not walk on their intended line.
I resolve to always knock excess sand off my shoes when exiting a bunker and before walking onto a putting green.
Finally, I resolve to improve pace of play by being prepared to putt when it is my turn.

January 24, 2017

A Dry Forecast

It sure is nice to have clear skies this morning. Rain total for the last six days is just over 4 inches. Since January 1, we've received 11.5 inches. As you can imagine, the course is saturated and messy and winter conditions exist. The forecast however has turned to cold and DRY. Today we are out mowing greens and raking bunkers. Over the next few days we will continue to clean in-play areas with a plan to mow tees, approaches and fairways toward the end of the week. We have continued work on drainage and bunkers over the last few weeks. We began hard edging bunkers on 18 last week and work there will continue this week. Lot's more sand there for sure!

Carts will not be available today. We will evaluate course conditions on a daily basis and will allow carts on the front 9 as soon as possible. Thanks and we'll see you on the course.

January 18, 2017

A Wet Start to Winter

Mother Nature delivered a wet blow to the region dumping over 10 inches of rain since winter began just a month ago. Rain totals for the season are over 20 inches (since October 2016) and the drought has been declared over in the Bay Area. If you've been out on the golf course in the last few weeks, you may have been able to come to that conclusion yourself!

All things considered the course handled the storms well. Sure the bunkers were blown out and large amounts of debris were scattered about but, all in all, no big deal. No trees down, no major issues. Once the storms let up we were out cleaning the course and making repairs to bunkers and surprisingly, the course remained quite playable throughout.
Golf Carts have been restricted for many days this winter. We simply cannot allow carts on to the course when it's this wet. Over the holiday weekend, we went five days without rain and by the 5th day, we were able to lift cart restrictions. Pretty amazing that after all that rain it took just five days to dry out enough to safely allow golf carts. Then, it rained again...
We did get out to mow the entire course yesterday. Numerous wet areas were skipped but, for the most part, we mowed the entire course for the first time in weeks. Again, pretty amazing considering just a few years ago, the course would have been closed for weeks following a similar winter pattern. This says a lot about the commitment the Club and the Membership has made to supporting the golf course over the years. Cultural practices like aeration and sand topdressing are disruptive during the process but pay off greatly in over-all course conditions year around. A big Thank You goes out to the Membership for their support of the Turf Department! Now lets get to Tahoe. I hear the snow is amazing!!