Fall golf is fun…even with aeration!

October 18, 2018

Yes it’s that time of year…getting the golf course in good shape for the coming season. Don’t fret, we’re still putting a lot of work into the course this year. Autumn can be a great time to play and we want you to enjoy the course now! Weather conditions are directing the turf to harden off and head toward dormacy, therefore the plant is putting most of its energy toward the root system rather than its growth above ground. Because that growth is slowing down, greens are being mowed 3-4 times per week now compared to daily mowing in the summer…with very little sacrifice in speed.

Tomorrow we will be aerating the greens through a process called Dryject. This will be the fourth consecutive year we’ve used this method and I believe the benefits are great; for now and next year. Through dryject, channels are created in the soil (3/8″ in diameter by 8″ deep) by sand injection that makes it much easier for air and water to reach the roots.  Another big benefit of the dryject process is the finished product; greens are playable immediately after on a smooth and firm surface. Obviously this is much preferred over convential aerification methods of the past when greens were not very playable for a couple weeks.

Fall is also an excellent time to make improvements to the bunkers. Our staff has been working hard to improve drainage in the sand traps. 2018 produced extreme amounts of rain (3 different months had rain totals that were all time highs). Needless to say the water pumps were busy; not to mention the shoveling of sand back onto bunker slopes that had been washed down.

This picture of the bunker left of 4 green pretty much tells the story; sand mixed with the underlying soil in a bunker that had to have water pumped out a dozen times over the summer. This sand trap along with 7 others will have all the old sand/soil removed, followed by new drainage pipe installed, with fresh new sand added. I know that will please many a customer at Hilldale along with all those who work on the grounds. Thanks for your patience and understanding this season and I’d love to get your thoughts on the course now and in 2019.


Winter golf…yes!

March 4, 2018

Here at Hilldale we’ve always been a welcoming golf course in the off-season.  It’s not always possible as we have to be delicate with those putting surfaces, but frost is out of the ground and greens are firm so we’re good to go. Golf carts have to stay on paths as there are many wet spots on fairways and in the rough.  It’s great to see so many familiar faces and hopefully we can do this many more times in March. The forecast for the coming week doesn’t look great, but I do think we’ll be able to open again tomorrow as rain and cold aren’t forecast to arrive until evening. After that we’ll just go day to day when determining if conditions are suitable to open the golf course. Hope everyone has a great day!


Frost…what’s that?

November 11, 2017

front door of proshop replacement 006

As most of our regular customers know, Hilldale is open for play whenever possible…even during the winter months occasionally. There are many instances in spring and fall when frost (that dirty word) is present on the grass surface and we have to delay play until the frost is gone. Most everyone is aware of this condition and subsequent delay, but few know why. Frost on the grass blades indicate that the water inside the leaves is frozen. Because water is the primary component of plant tissue, when it’s frozen is when traffic on the turf causes the ice crystals in the cells to puncture through the cell walls, killing the plant tissue. Little damage is done to the crowns (growing points) or roots if only a light frost appears; however, when the frost is heavy, cell disruption may occur at the crown, thus killing the entire plant. Frost damage symptoms include white to light tan leaves where traffic has passed. Obviously it’s best to avoid traffic until the frost melts.

Now when the soil is completely frozen to the surface but the grass blades have thawed, then limited foot traffic will create little damage, if any. Because there are many instances of this during the winter months, Hilldale is open at certain times (obviously snow or ice can not be present).

I’d like to thank everyone for their cooperation during the cold months as we try to find that balance: allowing traffic on the golf course but minimizing excessive and heavy traffic (carts must stay on paths). Thank you!

What Flood Plain? Time for some tender loving care

July 17, 2017

Amazingly, after 4 in. of rain on Wednesday we didn’t have to close the course…in fact as of yesterday there were no cart restrictions in place! Pretty sure after 15 years as Supt. at Hilldale I’ve never seen this golf course firm up so quickly. Greens, tees, and fairways are doing great (Healthy Turf!) this summer but we’ll really have to baby them the next few weeks through the “dog days”.  When the ground gets as saturated as it is right now and then you throw 90 degree temperatures into the mix, trouble is right around the corner! Turfgrass roots need air and water to survive but when the major % is water; the root system can’t breath and soon the turf will decline to the point where playability is extremely poor. There’s a good probability that our grounds crew (who I have to say are a great group of young men!) will have to create air space in the root zone by punching small holes with aerification equipment in our greens, tees, and fairways. Please don’t panic because I’m not talking about traditional aerification that is done in spring and fall; the holes we create with small mini tines (picture the size of a pencil) will not be visible after using rollers to smooth up the putting surface immediately after.

Thanks to everyone for your patience and patronage and I’ll look forward to seeing you on the Hilldale grounds!


A beautiful Sunday with May right around the corner

April 23, 2017

 Well, April has dropped its usual amount of weirdness on us in 2017. With only one week to go until May we’re finally off cartpaths and hoping (praying) to stay dry the final few days of April. The month has seen 3.5″ of rain so far.

All areas of the course have been mowed several times now with turf conditions hanging strong despite the water surplus. The greens still have a ways to go before mid-season speeds are realized, but the combination of mowing and rolling on alternate days has helped maintain a good “ball roll”.  A light to medium layer of sand topdressing is planned for tomorrow and Tuesday, which will help further to improve putting quality now and into the season.

A few drainage issues…brought into focus by the recent rains are also on our to-do-list for the coming week. Small areas on both 10 and 18 fairways should have drain pipes added before next weekend.

As always, we appreciate your patience with projects/practices like those listed here. Especially with sand topdressing on greens…we’ll try to get it applied and brushed in prior to any golfers coming through.

Thank you!

Welcome to a new (2017) season!

April 1, 2017

This picture shows the first mowing of greens two weeks ago. We feel very good about the condition of the greens at this early date. As you well know by now nearly 2 inches of rain fell on Thursday and so obviously carts will have to stay on cartpaths at all times…Please! Course cleanup (sticks, branches, leaves etc…) has been in full gear this past week and the staff is doing a great job preparing the place for another season. The course is very busy today despite all the rain recently and boy is it great to see the sun shining. We’re planning on mowing greens again tomorrow with our smaller walk-behind mowers. These mowers are used approximately 75% of the time once we get into our routine of mowing everyday, but the main reason we’re using tomorrow is because of the very soft conditions. Thanks for playing Hilldale!

Bryan Widmer, Supt.

Indian Summer-circa 2016

November 2, 2015

11-2-15 Hole 17 and wedding area 006

It’s pretty rare when you get four consecutive days of 70 degree weather in November but that’s what we’re looking at this week…so come out to Hilldale GC and enjoy.  All aerification has been completed this fall which is always a good feeling heading into the offseason. Keeping the course clear of leaves is a continuous job right now, but that will also start winding down soon. The grounds staff, who have once again done a great job keeping the course in fine playing condition, will hopefully have enough good weather to complete a few more jobs on the to-do-list (mostly bunker projects) this fall.

With the latest 30 day accuweather forecast looking good, it should be awhile until we start talking about the off-season coming into play. As any of Hilldale’s regular players can attest, the course will remain open until greens can no longer handle foot traffic. Wet conditions will force us to keep carts on paths…a normal procedure at any time of year.

11-2-15  Hole 17 and wedding area 005





Fall Happenings

September 25, 2015
18th hole (looking back)

18th green

Let’s take a look at the upcoming calendar at Hilldale Golf Club.  The men’s club has their annual championship this weekend which is a 2 day event starting Saturday morning. I’m very pleased with turfgrass conditions this autumn which have made tournament preparations go well this week. It’s always our goal to have the course play firm and fast but that’s especially true for tournament play. After 3″ of rain last Thursday and Friday (9/17-18), I didn’t think there was any chance the course would firm up in time for this week’s event. Well, it has with cool/dry conditions prevailing. The Fremd High School Boys golf team once again had Hilldale serve as their home course this year. With the final event having taken place last night I’d like to say thank you to the coaches and players…we’ll look forward to having you back next fall! There are a couple outings scheduled for the first week in October and then the men’s jamboree takes place in week two. The remainder of autumn will be open to daily play until weather forces the course to close…hopefully that’s a long way off!

One of the main factors determining an enjoyable round of golf in the fall is leaves (or lack thereof). Leaf cleanup is a daily priority at Hilldale and we’ll do whatever is necessary to make sure it’s a non-issue for all customers.  Greens aerification (I know, one of the last words any golfer ever wants to hear) is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 29th. We will be doing the front 9 holes on this date with the back 9 tentatively scheduled for two weeks later. When a specific date is decided upon (weather forecast is everything), we’ll announce it immediately.

Finally, I’d like to say one more time how grateful I am that Hilldale’s ownership allowed us to install the artificial mat at the back of the practice tee this past spring. Using the mat once or twice a week throughout the summer has allowed us to maintain the grass tee in much better condition than in previous years.

Nice outlook for the Dog Days

August 4, 2015

June 28, 2015 007 The cool temperatures of the 2015 golf season have been downright perfect (of course that is the opinion of a golf course superintendent). Now, if we’re talking about precipitation, it’s a whole other matter…I don’t need to remind everyone that we’re in the midst of one of the wettest years ever in the Chicago area. Up until this past week we’ve used the automatic irrigation system a total of 1 time. But lately, as temperatures have warmed and dry conditions now are common, the water system is running almost every night. As August gets under way, mowing frequency of the high play areas has slowed substantially. In June, the primary rough (areas bordering fairways) was being mowed several times per week…now it’s once if at all. So, in what was becoming known as “the year of cart path only”, we’ve at least been able to allow golfers to drive on the grass lately.

2015 flowers 003 2015 flowers 004It has been a weird year regarding our annual flower beds…the flowers that like a lot of moisture obviously look good. On the other hand, those that don’t such as petunias, leave a lot to be desired. Forgive me please if I don’t show our Easy wave petunia bed. As many of the regulars know, Rosa Castro (Hilldale’s excellent gardener of  many years) retired following the end of the 2014 season. Well, even with a group effort this year, we still miss Rosa’s great landscaping touch. “Hope you’re enjoying retirement Rosa…we miss you”.

18 green on 8-4-15 001 Several golfers have mentioned that the greens are very firm lately. I talked about the lack of rainfall earlier in this post, but I will say that “firm” is definitely preferable to “soft” where high quality greens (smooth ball roll, good plant health etc…) are concerned.  As temperatures cool and turfgrass disease pressure eases, we’ll be a little more judicious with the amount of irrigation water applied. I hope everyone enjoys their time at Hilldale and thanks for visiting us!




Rain, Rain, go away

June 24, 2015

June 16, 2015 download 033June 16, 2015 download 031  The first picture was taken on 6/13/15 and shows the 18th fairway at Hilldale. This was after 3.5″ of rain had fallen during the previous three days. The second picture was taken this morning (6/24/15). I’m very pleased with course conditions considering the high rain totals (6.5″) so far in June. Accuweather is forecasting more rain this evening, but we’re hoping this system stays south of Hilldale GC. Carts are allowed to use the 90 degree rule which is our standard policy. Obviously this could change in a hurry with additional rain tonight…we’ll keep you updated as conditions change.

Hilldale’s greens are due for a “light” topdressing of sand which we like to apply prior to rain. This will move sand down into the turf canopy; thus causing no inconvenience to golfers. The smooth surface it creates along with turfgrass health benefits are the primary goals when applying sand to greens.

The Hilldale Men’s Club has their annual Guest day this weekend and it appears that we’re in store for good (dry) weather…knock on wood! Good luck to everyone and I hope you enjoy the golf course.