A Warm Weekend Ahead

August 23, 2012

Great View of the 2nd hole

Before I write about course conditions etc… please accept my apologies for the lack of new posts (updates) recently.  Needless to say, it’s been a pretty brutal summer weather wise.

The combination of heat/drought has made the past couple months very challenging with regard to maintaining a golf course…I’ll try to do a much better job keeping you updated now that the cooler days of late summer are in sight.

Don’t get me wrong, the last thing I want to do is come off as a weather winer…especially considering I’m only managing an area of land that’s used for leisure activity.  Farmers who have lost complete crops, landowners whose homes have been destroyed by wildfires, and firefighters trying to contain those wildfires…now those are the people who deserve pity for what they’ve gone through this summer.

Ok, now a little more about what’s happening at Hilldale GC.  I’m very pleased with the condition of the greens. All putting surfaces have come through the summer in good shape. In fact, now that we only need worry about brief hot periods (like this weekend); not week upon week of severe heat, we (Hilldale’s grounds dept.) can get on with the fun business of prepping the golf course  aggressively.  I’m referring to things like: double cutting and double rolling greens, lower mowing heights on greens, tees, and fairways, and other practices we have to be very careful with or simply not do during extreme hot periods.  FYI, greens now are cut daily with double-cutting used on weekends. They are rolled several times per week with the occasional double-roll employed when an extra .5 or 1 ft. is needed on the stimpmeter.  We’re back to mowing tees and fairways 3-4 times per week after mowing only 1-2 times per week from 6/15 thru 8/1.  There are thin areas on several tees and fairways that will need overseeding in the coming weeks (we hope to start next week).

Overall, I’ve been pleased with conditions on all the fine turf areas…considering the summer weather.  Obviously, the rough at Hilldale is very weak/thin heading into autumn.  The combination of heat/drought/cart traffic has been very hard on the Kentucky bluegrass rough. KBG is a great turfgrass (as many of you know from home lawncare), so I definitely expect our rough to come back strong with the aid of fertilizer, fall rains (I hope), and again, cooler  temps. Our irrigation system only covers small areas of rough therefore most of it went dormant many weeks ago.  Speaking of irrigation water..at Hilldale our water supply comes from a well on the property.  The well water is pumped into the small lake on hole #10 and subsequently pumped into the irrigation system throughout the golf course’s greens, tees, and fairways.  Every attempt is made to conserve our natural resources so even during severe droughts like this we try to limit irrigation cycles to 2 nights per week.

Thank you for helping make this a successful summer at Hilldale, I hope to see you out on the course this fall. Sorry again for the low number of course condition updates lately… I’ll definitely do better going forward.  Sincerely, B.W.


Shaping Up To Be A Great Weekend

August 25, 2011

All cart restrictions lifted; 80 degrees and sunny with a light breeze; quick greens and very receptive.  Hope you can all make it out to Hilldale.  Below is the maintenance schedule for Fri.-Sun.:

Greens-Double-cut and double-roll all three days.  Depending on stimpmeter readings, greens could also be mowed on Sat. evening.  Goal is to be at 11.5 ft. in the morning, which normally would indicate about a 10-10.5 ft. speed in early afternoon.  I know many players would like to see speeds in the 12 ft. range, but past experience has shown the amount of time for an 18 hole round increases significantly when greens are rolling that quick.

Tees & Fairways-Mow on Friday and Sunday.  Both areas have firmed up nicely and with no rain in the forecast, should play to your liking throughout the weekend.

Rough-All rough areas will be cut at a 2″ height on Thursday and Friday, with the primary rough (20-30 ft. around greens and fairways) mowed one additional time over the weekend.

Bunkers-Will be raked with a mechanical rake on Friday and Sunday, and hand raked on Saturday.  As I’ve written in earlier posts, the unusual number of heavy rain events over the last 4-6 weeks have caused an excessive amount of washouts in the sandtraps.  Because of this, we’re using the cultivation tool on our mechanical rake to “loosen” the sand and attempt to minimize the number of “hard lies” in Hilldale’s bunkers.

Hope everyone has a great weekend and good luck to all those playing in the Hilldale Men’s Club event on Saturday and Sunday.

 


Sunday Rain

August 8, 2011

Well, it only rained from 9:00 until 9:25 a.m……only 1″ in 25 minutes!  But all is well that ends well; fortunately we were able to let play resume at 10:00 a.m.  Carts were restricted to stay on cartpaths and will remain so through most of the day on Monday (8/8).  This is a big inconvenience for some players…I assure you we’ll get back to the 90 degree rule as soon as possible (when fairways can tolerate cart traffic).  Thank you!


Great Weekend Weather

July 30, 2011

All indications point to a couple of days w/o rain!  Now that’s a good thing.  There will be cart restrictions in place…at least on Saturday.  We’ll be keeping a close eye on the course, and if at some point during the day the fairways are drying to the point where turf damage will be minimal…then obviously we’ll remove the cartpath only restriction.

The excessive amount of rain and humidity has caused a rapid acceleration in turf growth.  We’ve double-cut and rolled greens the past two days (normally, something I prefer not to do when putting surfaces are sooo soft), and still have had a hard time getting green speeds above 10 ft.  We’ll continue these practices right through the weekend with the hope of achieving not only good speeds…but more importantly, a good/true roll.  Fairways will be mowed this morning and hopefully (weather permitting), the next several mornings as growth is at a peak rate due to all the moisture.  Bunker maintenance has required an extreme amount of man-hours this week, and this morning we plan to cultivate/rake the sand to minimize compaction (“hardness”).  The Hilldale Men’s Club has their two-day member/member event this weekend, so good luck to them and I hope all regular players and guests enjoy the golf course and find conditions to their liking.  The picture below is from earlier in the week when the Evanston Firefighters had their annual outing.

First foursome of Evanston Firefighters at the finishing hole


4th of July Weekend

July 2, 2011

Hard to believe it’s here already…other than a slight chance of rain on Sat. evening, the forecast looks great all three days…hope you can join us at Hilldale GC over the holiday weekend.  I’m very pleased with the condition/health of the primary turf areas (greens, tees, and fairways), as the heart of the golf season is upon us.  After double-cutting and double-rolling the greens this morning, stimpmeter speed is 10’6″ and should remain in that range (perhaps slightly quicker) right on through the 4th.  The grounds staff has worked extremely hard prepping the course this week, and I can’t thank them enough!

Rosa...looking after the annual flower gardens

   Hope everyone has a happy and safe holiday and look forward to seeing you out on the course…I’ll leave you with a couple more pics of Hilldale GC.

Tuning up at the Practice Green

 

Heading up the finishing hole


Winter Golf, 2010 Review, A Look Ahead

December 1, 2010

A few years ago it was decided that Hilldale Golf Club would remain open to play for winter golf.  On days when temperatures reach the mid-upper 30’s with no snow, the course will likely be open.  Please call ahead to be sure (847-310-1100).  Golf carts with full enclosures are available.  Come on out and keep your swing sharp… the 2011 season will be here before you know it.

Speaking of winter, with Thanksgiving now past and cold weather setting in hard, a few important winter preparations were performed this past week.  The irrigation system (pumphouse, pipes, sprinkler heads) was emptied of all water using a large portable air compressor.  Greens, tees, and fairways were sprayed with plant protectants to prevent snow and cold weather disease. Finally, greens were topdressed with a heavy layer of sand to help insulate the turf from extreme cold and wind.  If weather allows in the coming days, I would like to add more sand to the fairways that were overseeded this fall (#’s 2,5,11,18).  Drainage work on #5 fairway was completed the week prior to Thanksgiving, and again…weather permitting, I would like to add drainage to a small area on #2 fairway (near the 100 yd. marker). 

Looking back on the 2010 season, above average temperatures were all too common.  The months generally associated with cool/damp weather (April, October, November) were very pleasant and dry.  Hot/wet conditions dominated the summer months, which made it a very challenging and hectic year for “yours truly” (fun was the word I originally used to describe the year, but as many of you know, sarcasm is not my strong suit). Seriously, managing a golf course grounds department through a year like 2010 causes a fair amount of anxiety and time away from family.  Because cool-season turfgrasses (like those grown on golf courses in the Chicagoland area) don’t handle high heat and humidity very well, a great deal of time and sleepless nights are spent conditioning greens, tees, and fairways to survive stressful weather.  However… I take a lot of pride in preparing the golf course for our members, guests, and regular players.  It’s a fun and tremendous challenge to continually present the course in a way that meets your high expectations.  I love this job and consider myself very fortunate to come to this golfcourse everyday — where so many people enjoy and appreciate the quality of our work.

Just like 1988, 1995, and now 2010, we’ll use the challenge of preparing a golf course during extreme environmental (weather) conditions as a great learning experience.  We’ll review our maintenance practices and use that knowledge to improve upon all facets of the course.  Hilldale’s greens came through the season in great shape, but now, we’ll find a way to make them even better and more pleasing to you.  Several fairways did not get through the season in the best shape, so what can we (the Grounds Dept.) do better to prevent or minimize turf loss the next time severe heat pressure hits? 

I was disappointed with the consistency of Hilldale’s sand traps in 2010.  Economic conditions have made it difficult to devote the time and money necessary to provide outstanding bunkers.  But, no excuses… we will figure out a way to ensure better bunker playability next year.  My first thought is to ask our players to please stop hitting shots into sand… ok? All kidding aside, improvements will start by adding 2-3″ of new sand to all green-side bunkers.  If time allows, we’ll do fairway bunkers also. Obviously, hitting a bunker shot with a “hard lie” isn’t as frustrating (maybe preferable) coming out of a fairway trap as it is a green-side trap.  Winter is the time when equipment repairs, snow removal, and tree upkeep (pruning, removals etc..) dominate most of our time.  But if conditions allow, we’ll make every effort to get a head start on the bunkers and start adding sand this winter.  Whatever start date is used, we’ll have a completion goal/date of 4.15.11 to coincide with a new golf season.  Check back here for progress updates.

Thanks to all for your patronage this year.  My staff and I appreciate the many comments directed our way and we look forward to seeing you on those nice golf days (let’s hope for many) this winter.  Finally, thank you to the wonderful people on Hilldale’s Grounds Department who make my life and job so much easier.

  • Fernando Chavez-Mechanic
  • Rosa Castro-Assistant
  • Jaime Jimenez, Sr.
  • Juan Maravillas
  • Victor Rosales
  • Carlos Rosales
  • Antonino Angel
  • Ricardo Rivera
  • Oscar Hernandez
  • Dave McDonald

Happy holidays to everyone.


Autumn Course Conditions, aerification progress, and tee projects

October 26, 2010

What a difference a year makes!  In 2009, we had a very cool summer followed by a cold/wet October.  Now in 2010, after an extremely hot/wet summer we have one of the driest October’s on record with very mild temps.  The rough is very dry and begging for rain, but conditions have been terrific to complete the amount of overseeding work that was necessary.  I’ve had to use our irrigation system constantly this month to ensure good seed germination and subsequent growth.  I’m sure those who’ve played Hilldale lately can attest to seeing sprinklers running at some point during their round of golf. Hopefully, we didn’t aggravate any players as the watering was carefully done to avoid interruption.  All told, six fairways were overseeded to some extent.  #2, #11, and #18 needed the most attention as #5, #7, and #9 also received new seed in spots.  All fairways have grown-in well as overseeding efforts this fall couldn’t have gone better.

Greens aerification began on October 4, as half of each green was done.  I explained this procedure in the September update, but if anyone has questions or concerns, please let me know. Thus far, comments have been very favorable and I do appreciate your patience as this work is completed.  We started aerifying the 2nd half of each green this past Monday (10/18) which gave us that two week period to allow the first half to heal.  Business considerations and staff size don’t allow for completing the process quickly (four to five halves are done each day), and I do understand the problems this creates with consistency.  The recently aerified parts of each green are receiving extra attention: brushing, rolling, hand watering, etc…to quicken up the healing process and deliver a smoother surface. 

Leaf blowing and mulching work is at a peak level right now, but should begin easing up as we near Halloween and the majority of trees have lost their leaves.  Grounds personnel are devoting much of their time keeping the “playable areas” cleaned off.  We typically have leaf blowers on greens, tees, and fairways every day this time of year.  The real windy days obviously produce a challenge, but we’ll keep at it until the trees are bare.

Work on tees 11 and 13 is progressing nicely.  The ladies tee on #11 was elevated by 2 ft. and enlarged slightly to the back.  Obviously the goal was to give you a better look at the fairway and add some surface area to tee off from.  As you know, that tee is in a very shaded area which makes divot recovery slow and limits the amount of marker locations when setting up the course.  The reason for work on #13 tee was fairly straightforward…the need for more surface area on a par three tee.  Again, this will give us more diversity when setting up the tee marker locations… for ladies and gentlemen on this hole.  Both tees will be sodded early this coming week, and although will not be playable the remainder of this season, should be in good condition to open the 2011 season.

I’d like to take this time to say thanks to all our regulars and guests for coming out and playing Hilldale this season.  The weather might just cooperate and remain pleasant right on into November (so please don’t think I’m trying to chase you away!), but you don’t know what you’re going to get this time of year.  I’ll update you again as we wrap up aerification soon, and also give you an idea how we operate during the winter…we are open to play in the wintertime, it’s just very necessary to monitor the greens closely as damage can occur quickly when freezing temperatures persist.


Course Condition Update; overseeding & aerification

September 19, 2010

Now this is more like it!  As I’m writing this blog, it is hard to imagine there could be a nicer day weather wise.  Temperatures in the low 70’s with a light breeze and nary a cloud in sight.  Hope you’re enjoying your round of golf at Hilldale…thanks for coming out.  As I mentioned in the last update, maintenance practices can really be intensified this time of year due to such benign weather conditions.  Green speeds are running just over 11′ this morning as the putting surfaces had no problem handling a double cut and rolling. These practices will continue as we head into the fall golf season.  It is a pleasure to manage poa/bentgrass greens when you combine cool temps., light moisture (.25″ of rain yesterday morning), and no seedheads.

Overseeding work has been completed on tees 11 & 13 and fairways 2, 11, 18.  A newer generation of bentgrass seed was planted this year, and so far germination has been excellent as #18 fairway is completely filled in, with the tees and #2 fairway not far behind. #11 fairway was just completed two days ago, and because the new seed only takes about one week to germinate, you should see significant progress…if not complete fill in by mid-October.  Just a note about the newer generation bentgrasses; they have a much denser growth habit along with a great ability to handle heat stress.  Today, many courses in the southeast part of the country are using these new bents because of that ability to tolerate high heat.  The older bentgrasses that were planted on golf courses forty and fifty years ago, simply don’t have the “makeup” to withstand the kind of summer heat that hit the Chicago area this year and the southeast part of the country just about every year. 

We will delay greens aerification plans for at least one more week to allow our customers the benefit of putting on undisturbed greens.  Please remember that when we do aerify, only half of each green is done at one time with the hole location put on the non-aerified half.  Following recovery of the first half (2 week period),  the other half of each green will be done. We’ve received very positive feedback at Hilldale by using this method…obviously the idea is to give our golfers a large area around the cup from which to putt w/o rolling over a recently disturbed surface.  Needless to say, if aerification wasn’t such an integral part of producing high quality greens, then it would not be done.  

Please share your opinion if there is something the Hilldale Grounds Department can do to better your golf course experience…comments are always welcome.

Sincerely,

Bryan Widmer, CGCS


Father’s Day-2010

June 21, 2010

The severe storm that hit Chicagoland this past Friday took a hard toll on Hilldale’s grounds.  Rain totals ended up around 1.5″, but winds in excess of 70 mph were definitely the big news.  As usual, willow trees took the brunt of the damage because of their weak structure.  Anyone who played the golf course this weekend, I’m sure noticed the large willow tree on #5 that was blown over.  Unfortunately, the tree fell almost directly on a smaller willow tree that had been planted just five years ago.  The small tree is still standing, but suffered a lot of damage.  Willows are a very attractive tree and do well near water (the reasoning for 5th hole location), but are only attractive if a great deal of care and upkeep are performed.  The tree that fell was right at the dogleg on #5, so you could definitely say it was in an important location.  With a large portion of the fallen tree being in the lake, we’ll have our work cut out for us trying to remove it without damaging the fairway (turf) in the process.  I hope to complete this removal in the coming days, but with more rain in the forecast that will be iffy. 

Course conditions on Father’s Day were affected somewhat by timing of the storms, but overall I was pretty pleased with the amount of work completed in the two days following.  Some cleanup work remains on several holes including #5, but most of the remaining debris is smaller and in out-of-way locations.  As you might imagine, turf areas are growing at a considerable rate with all the rain and warmer weather we’re having.  Fairways were mowed five times this week with primary rough areas cut three times.  Obviously this rate of maintenance will continue with the current weather pattern.  Green speeds were right around 10 ft. the past two days, and though I would prefer another foot or so of speed on weekends, we had to limit the maintenance intensity due to the “soft” nature of the putting surface.  As it is, the grounds staff double-cut and double-rolled greens both days.  Bunker conditions are a little less than desirable right now.  We will continue bunker maintenance this week (sand addition, edging, weeding etc…), but please be patient as storm cleanup, mowing of primary areas, divot repair, and additional greens maintenance practices are performed.

In closing this week, just a note regarding noise (distractions) out on the course.  All members of the grounds maintenance staff are instructed constantly on the importance of golfer (customer) respect when performing their duties.  This is “peak” season for the amount and intensity of golf course maintenance practices, but at no time is it permissable to perform their duties in a way that is rude or bothersome to our customers.  Please notify the pro shop or myself should you have an issue with worker conduct.  Thanks for keeping abreast with the Hilldale grounds department happenings.  Another update will be coming soon.

Bryan Widmer, CGCS