As we slip into late summer the golf course looks to be in fairly good condition. After experiencing a rare drought in late May into June, July has delivered timely rainfall events with near normal temperatures. Early August has provided much of the same. However, this last week the temperatures have become very hot and humid. Some poa annua is starting to die out, but the longer nights and shorter days are helping to decrease the amount of stress experienced by the turf. As we move farther into August hopefully the turf conditions continue to out preform previous summers.
July 27th Storm
The storm that took place on the night of July 26th was a big one to say the least. 4" of rain fell at WHCC in about a 3 hour window. This created an abundant amount of debris to clean up. Some big branches fell, with others hung up in trees that needed to be pruned out. Cleanup took some time but the crew did a great job making sure the course was playable and within a couple days all the debris had been removed.
The bunkers took a hit from all the rainfall. Bunker consistency has been an issue recently, and highlighting how the bunkers were impacted is helpful to this discussion. The WHCC bunkers are constructed on top of existing soil. Drain tile is dug underneath to help with drainage and signature 700 bunker sand is dumped on top of the native soil. This type of construction leads to frequent washouts from the edges after big rain events. Water rushes in from the sides, especially on steep bunker faces, and washes the sand down to the low areas and mixes in soil and silt from the surrounds. This contaminates the bunker sand and decreases the consistency of the bunkers. It is an all day job for two crews to get the bunkers into playable conditions after these rain events. Inevitably, sand and silt are mixed and sand depth consistency is negatively impacted. Measuring sand depth is still accomplished but the soil and sand line quickly become blurred after a number of washouts. Currently there are much better ways to construct bunkers to minimize washouts from occurring. A liner is implemented in between the sand and soil layers to decrease contamination, hold the sand in place, and keep soil from mixing in. There are many different techniques and materials used to achieve this but one of the most popular is the Better Billy Bunker System (click here for more information). We are talking with the Green Committee to asses if bunker renovations are needed/wanted. The drawback is the cost and time it will take to install the linings. We will continue to improve our maintenance process; however, we are limited by the makeup of the current bunkers. For more information click here for an article from the USGA about bunker inconsistency.
|Photo courtesy of the Food and Beverage Manager, Josh Ward. The parking lot during the 4" rainstorm-looks like a river.|
|Debris on #8 fairway|
|Ash tree limb|
|Limbs hung up in ash tree right of #9|
|Silt in a bunker after the rain.|
|The amount of water in a bunker immediately after a big rain event.|
September is aeration month and it is quickly approaching. The greens are first up and they will be aerated the day after labor day on September 5th. Cores will be pulled to help decrease organic matter and this will increase the amount of time it takes to accomplish. Hopefully, mother nature will cooperate and we can get this done in one day. After greens, the tees will be aerated throughout the week working around play and during any maintenance time worked into the golf schedule.
Fairways are due to be deep tine aerated on October 5th. This will be a solid tine aeration. We have been able to bypass pulling cores on the fairways because of the purchase of the wiedamenn triple v verticutter unit. Verticutting is another way to decrease thatch. We have been verticutting the fairways at least once a year over the last 3 years and it is having a noticeable impact in decreasing the fairway thatch. Some aeration is still needed and the deep tine solid application is beneficial for creating deeper root systems, and allowing oxygen down into the rootzones. The rough will be aerated late September into October. Aeration is a necessary process for maintaining healthy turf and hopefully everyone understands the importance of it even though play will be impacted for a short time.
First an overdue hello. Jim Hessel worked as the WHCC head mechanic for 8 years. Earlier this year he decided to cut back on the physical labor and transition into mowing rough a couple days a week. In March we hired his replacement, Kevin Obert. Kevin started out working on equipment with his dad at a very young age. After graduating high school (from Moeller, an inferior GCL school but we will try not to hold that against him), he attended and graduated from Nashville Auto Diesel College. After graduation he worked for a couple years as a mechanic in the automotive and forklift industry. Then he jumped on as a mechanic at Kenwood Country Club for 8 years before working with Greenville Turf and Tractor. With the recent merger of Greenville into Beard Equipment Kevin decided to come back into the golf course industry and took the head mechanic job at Western Hills Country Club. We are grateful to have him on the team and look forward to his mechanical knowledge and input to continue to improve the WHCC golf course and grounds.
|Kevin adjusting the height on the greens mowers.|
Now for the goodbyes. Lynn Thompson started his career at WHCC in 1986. As the golf course superintendent he was involved in many course transformations. In his first year he orchestrated the installation of a new hydraulic irrigation system that ushered in the area of automated irrigation at WHCC. In the 1990s he rebuilt the putting green and #17 green, managed the installation of new landscaping around the clubhouse, oversaw the construction of the current swimming pool, and added on new buildings to the grounds facility. In the late 1990s and early 2000s the golf course went through a major renovation with the help of architect Brian Huntley and Kentucky Golf Construction. Many of the holes were completely redone, #14 lake was added, #7 lake was reconstructed, new cart paths added, and most of the bunkers were redesigned. In 2011 he managed the construction of another irrigation system, with more irrigation heads, and much more technologically advanced components. These projects were in addition to all the hard work put in to manage the daily golf course maintenance operations throughout his 34 year superintendent career. In 2020 he officially retired from the superintendent position but continued to help out the crew by working a couple afternoons a week. This September he will be moving to South Carolina and this will bring an end to a long and productive WHCC career. His calm demeanor, knowledge, strong Christian faith, and patience helped to make him a successful manager. Personally, I can not begin to quantify how much I learned from him over the years about agronomy, management, and life. I would not be in this position without Lynn's mentorship and I hope you will join me in wishing him and his wife all the best in their new adventure!
On a sad note, long time assistant superintendent, Jamie Wullkotte passed away on August 14th. Jamie started working on the grounds in 1981, under then superintendent Harold Herbstreit, as a part time employee. He took a full time position in 1983 and became the assistant superintendent, under Lynn, in the 1990s. He worked along side Lynn on all the projects listed earlier and was instrumental in keeping the golf course in good condition for 39 years. Jamie was passionate about his job and loved working at WHCC. In 2020, he retired and spent the last 3 years with his wife in Indiana. The grounds crew is not the same without old Wullcotte talking about the good ole days, with his coffee in one hand and cigarette in the other. He spent a long career here and helped to shape the golf course into what it is today. Hopefully he is somewhere in heaven doing what he always loved to do- mow grass. RIP Jamie, you will be missed! (link to Jamie's Obituary)
The only constant in life is change, and the grounds department has experienced many transitions in the last couple years. While saying goodbye is always difficult, we look forward to the future and the prospect of improving the WHCC experience for the next generations!