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


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