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.


Bryan Widmer, CGCS

June Course Update

June 7, 2010

As we head into the heart of the golf season, beginning this blog with a few words detailing recent weather events seemed appropriate.  Rain has been plentiful the last few weeks, but compared to our neighbors to the south and west we’ve been very fortunate. Memorial Day weekend and the past five days have produced roughly 1.25″ of rain in the Hoffman Estates area, where as many Chicagoland areas have seen 3-5 times this amount. Due to the fact that our area, and more specifically Hilldale Golf Club, has been at the heart of bad storms and severe flooding the past few years, I find it hard to apologize for our recent good fortune. The golf course is in good condition as we dive into the summer months, and obviously that is what we hope for each year as aggressive maintance practices now become the norm.

All annual flower beds were planted this past week, and I’ll take this time to thank Rosa Castro for her fine work managing this yearly project.  Rosa has been a key member of the Hilldale grounds department for better than thirty years now, not to mention an excellent staff leader and assistant.  Fernando Chavez (Head Mechanic), and Juan Maravillas (Crew Foreman), are also excellent employees who make my work look better and thus more gratifying.

The coming week will see the grounds department: begin tree/brush removal along  property lines on holes 3-11-12, edging bunkers, drainage improvement work, and ballmark/divot conditioning. The increase in play this time of year produces considerable scars left from ballmarks and divots (especially on par three holes).  The staff will begin the routine of adding a sand/seed mix to ballmarks this week. Of course divot repair started long ago and goes without saying, but good results can also be had from adding such a mix to ballmarks on greens. To that end, I’ll wrap this up by preaching the importance of good course etiquette by all golfers. Please help us keep Hilldale in good condition by fixing ballmarks, raking sandtraps, and filling divots during your round of golf. 

We hope you enjoy your day and golfing experience at Hilldale Golf Club and thank you for your patronage.  Until next time…

Bryan Widmer, CGCS

Mother’s Day and Beyond

May 10, 2010

As we head into the busy season, allow me to take this time to update everyone on course conditions, practices, and some general standards we try to employ. 

Green speed: The standard goal since I’ve been at Hilldale is for stimpmeter speeds of 9-10 on weekdays, and 10-11 on weekends.  To arrive at these speeds, the greens are mowed seven days per week with double-mowing and rolling required on Fri., Sat., and Sun.  Due to some overly cool days this past week, speeds were a little slower than preferred with a Mother’s day reading of 9’9″.  A light dusting of sand was applied to all greens this morning, a practice done every 3-4 weeks to keep putting surfaces smooth and rolling  true.

Bunker conditioning: Our typical maintenance schedule for sandtraps involves raking them with a machine 3 days per week, and hand raking (smoothing out foot-prints) the remaining days.  This past week we used a cultivation tool on the machine to loosen sand at the base of bunkers.  I know there has been some concern with guests and regular players about “hardness” or lack of consistency with sand conditions.  Hopefully as the cultivation tool becomes a more regular practice, this will no longer be a concern.  Just a reminder, bunkers are by definition a hazard on a golf course.  Just as rough is a hazard with inconsistencies due to shade, wet areas, cart traffic etc…bunkers will not always have consistent lies to hit out of, just like any other hazard.  Over the next few weeks, the grounds crew will be checking depth of sand in all bunkers with new sand added to areas in need. 

Course setup/marking:  Ground Under Repair areas are outlined with white paint.  You’ll see several of these locations on holes 2, 5, 7, 9, and 14.  Please take a free drop outside these areas.  The new tees on holes 4 and 13 are doing well and will possibly be open to play this coming weekend, weather permitting.  The renovated sandtrap located in front of 15 green will have the plywood removed later this week.  The plywood strips were used to hold the bank in place while the ground around the face firmed up.

Projects upcoming:  New drainage pipe will be installed in the low area behind the 3rd green.  The old pipe has deteriorated and no longer functions which is why this area remains wet and is marked accordingly.  Another area that will have drainage installed is between greens 2 and 6.  Work on both locations is slated to begin this week, and should be wrapped up in 2-4 days.  Again, weather permitting.

Thanks for your support and feedback.  Talk to you on the course,

Bryan Widmer, CGCS

Early Spring Grounds Update

April 20, 2010

As I stated when the course opened in mid-March, I couldn’t be happier with turf conditions considering the time of year.  This past weekend was the opening week for  regular players and the Hilldale men’s club.  Green speeds were fairly quick for an early date…stimped at 9.25′ on Sun. morning.  Soil conditions are much drier than normal for mid-April, which I’m sure anyone who played the golf course recently could attribute.  I’m hesitant to use the irrigation system too much this early for a couple specific reasons: ponds and groundwater are extremely diluted with salt run-off from roads this past winter (obviously due to the heavy amount of snow we experienced).  I’m in the process right now of pumping water out of the irrigation pond on hole #10 into the ponds on holes #6 and #13.  Also, dry soil conditions in the spring will produce a much stronger turfgrass root system compared to wet or even overly moist conditions.  A light irrigation was applied to the greens on Sat. evening (4/17), with another to follow this evening (4/20) to prevent plant wilt and extremely hard conditions.  To touch a bit further on watering practices, I have stated in the past that firm conditions will produce a much better putting surface over soft/spongy ones.  At Hilldale, a strong emphasis is placed on fine putting greens, so in order to keep consistently quick speeds and ballmark damage to a minimum, it is necessary to lean towards firm if weather conditions permit.

A couple other items of interest, the north tee on #13 has been modified since last fall.  We raised the tee about 4 feet to get a better view of the green and surrounding area, and at the same time leveled the surface to eliminate the slight downhill slope of the old tee.  It is my hope to have the tee playable by the weekend of May 8th and 9th,  although yet to be determined.  A slight facelift is also being planned for the back tee on #4.  Again, leveling off and straightening are the primary goals. 

Hope to see you out on the course soon, 

Bryan Widmer, CGCS