Busy couple of weeks

I made it to San Antonio for the Golf Industry Show and had a great time. The talks I was involved with went really well. The Great Debate was a debut light-hearted event meant to be educational but entertaining. We had a blast and the overflowing room did also. I heard a lot of positive comments throughout the rest of the week about the talk. One guy unsolicited said "was that the seminar with everyone laughing? I was in an architecture seminar next door and we were all jealous thinking we took the wrong seminar!" The other was in a booth on the trade show floor. Not as many people but just as much fun.

Speaking engagements
As I always do at GIS I spend a fair amount of time at TurfNet events. This year the Beer & Pretzels event had extra special meaning. We kicked off the Jerry Coldiron Embrace Life Awards This article sums it up perfectly: Press Release It was a very emotional night with awards given to some amazing people with stories we have all followed in the TurfNet forum over the years. We have a term called the "TurfNet Village" because we have formed a community that goes far beyond just an online forum. Another part of this wonderful evening was reuniting the ColdIrons with a student they had housed many years ago from England. That story is HERE There was a personal twist to that story since Josh Webber was my roommate for a couple of days. It was fun to meet one of the bright young men in our industry and be involved in the surprise. The TurfNet Emerald Challenge/Byrne Cup had lower attendance so instead of playing golf on a course against the Irish Greenkeepers we moved it to a Top Golf. That was a blast and I recommend you try one. Cheryl and I are looking forward to this event in Ireland come October.

TurfNet events and Professor hi-jinks 
Meanwhile back at Mink we opened the greens for the first time all year. All except number 3 which is still frozen due to all the shade even after all the trees we removed. We will continue to open that green up to more sunlight in the future.The weather continues to be a roller coaster. 25 one day then 50 the next. Otis said his yard was full of robins so maybe we are over the hump? The rain and temperatures over the weekend certainly changed the color of the course with everything starting to turn a bit green again. Finally the much awaited hard fought project to clean out the old drainage ditches in the marshes began. This may not be on the radar of the golfers who play Mink Meadows but if the intended consequences of a healthy marsh come true every golfer will be thrilled. Less Mosquitoes. A better flowing marsh and having fish pools to support natural predators is in everyone's best interest.

Marked up photo for environmental committee 

Marsh and beach channel work

Boat ride off

Just another week of roller coaster weather

After a nice warm weekend with golfers afoot on Saturday it rained Sunday but it was warmish at least. A predicted dusting for Tuesday turned into snow all day and about 3 inches. Hard to tell since it was blowing 30+ mph all day. Overnight temps in the teens and snow cover reminds us it is still winter.

Bill O'Brien Jr diagnosing a leak. 

Potential subnivean tunnel?
I often get asked "is the snow good for the course?" As with most things in life there is rarely a straight forward answer, but in short, yes. It acts as an insulating layer protecting from the extreme cold and wind. I discussed in an earlier post about how Twitter is filled with talk of people having to water their courses this winter because it is so dry. This tweet from Jared Kalina at Ballyneal in Colorado cracked me up:

from Twitter

 We are fortunate that we generally do not have to worry about drying out in the winter. We get a lot of rain and some snow but stay moist enough. I discussed the perils of rain on frozen ground and the damage ice can cause earlier this winter. How does snow act as an insulator? This winter I learned a bit about the interface between snow and earth. I follow this blog from Naturalist Mary Holland from Vermont. The title is Naturally Curious.
blog post
From the interweb: The subnivean zone is the area between the subsurface of the ground and the bottom of the snow pack. [under the snow pack] the snow that lands on the ground sublimates; that is, changes from a solid into a gas without going through the melting stage. Sublimation is prompted by heat radiating from the earth. Warm, moist water vapor rising into the bottom layer of snow cools, condenses, and refreezes into tightly packed, rounded ice crystals. [at 8 inches of snow the subnivean zone remains within a degree or two of 32 F regardless of the temperature and weather conditions in the outside world. For the full site click HERE

This zone is mostly described for the critters that live within it and the predators that feed on them. But it explains why snow is a great thing for turf. 32 degrees at all times. Perfect climate control. It would keep us from building feet of frost, and/or drying out. I remember one year getting almost 3 feet of snow on unfrozen ground. It lasted for almost two months and we had barely turned off color so when it melted we rolled right into spring. On a walk yesterday I stumbled upon some marks in the snow and it prompted this post.

intersecting paths?

Beach art

We lost another early house from the founding of the association. Possibly an original from 1964? It stayed in the family at least. Should be interesting to see what is put up in its place.

out with the old.....
Next week I will be off to a conference in San Antonio. I was asked to be involved in a couple of talks again this year. One is a new light-hearted  game show style talk titled The Great Debate. there are a handful of us that will debate some turf topics with another Superintendent acting as the MC/moderator. The other is a technology session happening on the trade show floor. I am sure there will be lots of activity on Twitter about it and I will more then likely be tweeting about other stuff happening at the show so follow along if you do not want to wait for a recap when I get back.

Talk at the Golf Industry Show

Tree work. Removing the emotion

My Twitter feed is full of pictures and videos of trees coming down. This is all over the country but mostly in cold climates since it is the off-season. This is not a coincidence. It is always interesting to me that we superintendents get labeled as tree haters. I can only speak for myself but I think most of my peers are of a similar mind. We love trees. Who doesn't have fond memories as a child climbing a tree and each year getting just a little bit higher? Who doesn't enjoy the shade of a big tree on a hot summer day? Who has not played in a giant pile of leaves in the fall? The issue is that our livelihood is to grow quality turfgrass and trees and grass are in direct competition. We all hate trees in bad places. Does anybody who has a pool love the tree that is too close and always dropping stuff into it? It adds to the cost of maintaining the pool. If you are the one cleaning it you know it adds a lot of time. The same goes for bunkers. Our 3rd and 4th greens had this issue. We filled in the one on 4 a couple of years ago and I do not miss having to clean it out all the time. This past week we made a dent in removing the trees over the bunker on 3. The area is a site to behold, in my opinion, and pictures do not do it justice. The approach to this green was choked so heavily by trees that once removed it is nothing short of dramatic. It has allowed some sunlight to reach the green but we still need a few more to come down to have any real impact in that department. I cannot wait to fill the stump holes and regrade the area.

3 Before
3 After
When I stood on the path and looked around taking in the entire area from a players perspective the first thought that came to me was I need to shrink this path. Before there was no shot to the green from this area so it did not make a difference. Now the right side is completely different and the path seems to be out in the playing area. It is weird how the perspective is so different with such a simple change. I say simple but if you put emotion into every tree decision it can be a monumental task to even remove one tree. As superintendents we have to temper that emotion and through experiences similar to this we know how much improvement can be gained by removing trees. As I said above we have not gained the needed the sunlight benefits and more need to come down but the goal of playability improvement has been accomplished.

9th hole looking towards tee

9th hole towards green
Not all trees require saws and chippers. The landowner project on nine a few years ago removed several pines on the hillside for their water view enhancement. It improved the playability immensely. Before, any shots left would rattle around in the trees and you had to punch out, usually sideways from behind pine trees. Now you can not only see the green but actually try to make a shot to it. We will save the discussion of the old 150 yard cedar in the picture for another day. Well, these invasive black pines are trying to colonize this grassy hillside once more. Brush cutting and some chemical sprays have not really slowed them down. It is a steep bank to spray or mow and I think you know my feelings about chemical use. Yesterday I looked at the area for the hundredth time trying to figure out what to do and decided to see if pulling them by hand would work. Not the easiest job but in a couple of hours I put a good dent. Next will be dealing with the little bluestem invasion. The last thing we need is thick clumps of bluestem on this hill so you cannot find or play your ball. Last year I tried spraying roundup on a few clumps and simply killing them. Risky since it might kill any other grass as well but other chemical attempts have not been very successful. Spot spraying uses a lot less chemical and is safer. The goal is to have a tall grass area where the ball may roll out on its own but if not, easily found and played. A holy grail perhaps but all tall rough areas are a challenge and balancing act for playability.