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

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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


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