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