Friday, October 1, 2021

Project Update


Seed starting to germinate. Look closely at the new chipping green. You can see lime green bentgrass seedlings starting to grow!

The chipping green 1 week later!

The projects are moving along at a decent pace despite being delayed by a week because of rain. The areas around the chipping green and practice tee have been shaped, drainage connected, and irrigation has been installed for the entire project area.  The chipping green, approaches, range tee, and surrounds have all been seeded . The chipping green was seeded with S1 bentgrass, the approaches with declaration bentgrass, and the practice tee was seeded with a combination of both. All surrounds were seeded or sodded with turf type tall fescue. Also, a starter fertilizer, and a fungicide for damping-off disease were put down. Futtera matting has been placed over the rough areas surrounding the practice tee to hold the seed and soil in place until the turf becomes rooted enough to hold on to the hillside. 

Now the process of watering has begun. During the beginning part of the grow-in the shallow rooted seedlings will need light and frequent irrigation. As the turf matures, watering will change to deeper and less frequent. The maturation process of the seeded areas will be ongoing. Optimistically, we will be able to mow the turf a couple of times before winter sets in. A deep root system and a thick canopy will be needed before the green can begin to be prepped for constant golfer traffic. This process will take many months, and is very weather dependent, but hopefully by late spring it should be ready for play.  On the other hand, the sod must be watered heavily, daily so it does not dry out. Once the roots grow in the the existing soil we can cut back on watering.

Next up will be to continue to lay sod around the entire chipping green complex and start shaping, adding drainage, and seeding the target greens and driving range floor. The putting green has been seeded and we will be working on the surrounds in the next couple of weeks.

A wet construction area after a week of rainfall

12" catch basin installed in front of chipping green area

Russ Macke digging drainage lines for the new practice tee. The mound of dirt to the left is the old practice tee topsoil that was reused for the existing tee.

Leibold irrigation company installing the irrigation lines

Assistant Michael Westendorf dimpling in the S1 bentgass on new chipping green

Futtera matting installed to help with erosion on steep banks

Brush cleared out of old wooded area next to #5 tee. Much better view now from 4 green and 5 tee. Maybe a park bench and grill for this beautiful new site?

View of chipping green after sod installed and matting placed around tee

Putting green enlargement cavity

The next project is already on deck. Golf Preservations will be here to fix the slope on #13 green and install drainage on #4 and #8 greens on October 25th. The right side of #13 green will be raised up around 6" and new drain tile installed. This should help with drainage for the low turf area, and allow putting to occur on the front right portion of the green. Hopefully, this improves the playability of this problem green. 

Currently, #4 and #8 are the worst draining greens. There are many benefits to having a better drainage system installed, some of them are as follows:

  • increase turf quality
  • increase green speeds
  • create firmer conditions
  • decrease compaction
  • increase root depths
  • allows greens to be opened up quicker after a rain storm
  • decreases disease presence. 
It will take a couple days for them to finish this project. The 2” tile will be placed around 15"-16" below the surface and will drain out to the lowest point of the greens. These holes will be closed for a short time to allow the sod to root back in. Updates will occur as we move closer to the project date.

Meanwhile, fall maintenance practices have been occurring on the rest of the golf course. The aeration of the greens was completed on September 7th and have healed in well. Most of the tees have been aerated. All of them should be completed by next week. On Thursday, October 7th fairway aeration will take place (weather permitting). The fairways and approaches will be aerated and the cores drug and mowed into the turf. This will be an all day project and the course will be closed that day. After this the play rough will be aerated and overseeded.

Topdressing #1 green after greens aeaification. 6 cu/ft /1,000 sqft of sand was used to fill in aeration holes

Aerating #9 green

Aeration plugs on #12 tee

The wear and tear on equipment and labor is becoming evident as the projects, daily operations, and fall maintenance progresses. Particularly, the utility vehicles and loaders/skid steers are being pushed to the limit. A pro gator recently succumbed to the added work load and needed a worn out clutch replaced from hauling sand, gravel, and topsoil back and forth from the job site. After ordering a new $1500 replacement clutch, and spending an 8 hour day fixing it, Jim Hessel, and his assistant, were able to get the vehicle back into operation. These fixes have been happening much more lately with the increased work load, and the hard working mechanics deserve a substantial amount of credit for keeping the equipment fleet up and running on a daily basis.

Clutch replacement on Pro Gator utility vehicle

Also, currently some of the thinned out rough areas are being overseeded with turf type tall fescue. Fall fertilization will occur once aeration is completed. I will continue to update the status of these projects as we push through the fall season. Hopefully, by November most of these fall maintenance practices will be accomplished and the crew can be ready to take on the next work load- leaf removal!

Brad Piecuch
Grounds Superintendent 


Saturday, August 28, 2021

The race is on!

 The race is on to get the driving range project completed and seeded by mid to late September. So far things have been running along as planned. The glyphosate application was accomplished on August 16th. Then the irrigation heads were removed, point of connection areas cut and capped, mats moved to the far practice tee, and signs and tee plates taken out. Next ,Russ Macke (Contractor) began shaping the chipping green and new practice tee area. Currently, the chipping green is formed, the back of the practice tee is shaped, and the parking area is in the process of being formed. The drainage pipes and fittings have arrived and we are working on installing drain lines in the chipping green and surrounds. 

Chris Wheeler spraying the old practice tee area

Glyphosate working

Old tee mix stripped

Drainage on new chipping green

Raymond and Wilfredo digging out a green drainage trench

Next up will be adding greens mix to the chipping green base and forming/smoothing out the front part of the driving range tee. Also, after labor day, the floor of the driving range will start its makeover with a fairway pattern and target greens created. Once the areas are completely shaped, all drainage installed, and mix added, Leibold irrigation will be on site to install the new irrigation pattern. Tentatively, that should happen the week of September 13th. Fingers crossed that Mother Nature, labor, and material deliveries all cooperate and keep this project on schedule!

Green drainage installed

On the golf course maintenance side, the current weather pattern has stressed out the cool-season grasses immensely. Three weeks ago the temperatures were hot and dry, causing us to scramble during the member/guest tournament to keep turf alive by hand watering and utilizing the irrigation system. The next week brought on rain with hot and humid temperatures. The hoses were quickly replaced with spray rigs to keep as much grass disease free as possible. The crew has done a great job keeping high impact turf areas alive, but some of the deep rough has been decimated by Mother Nature's scorching late summer stretch. Spray applications of the deep rough areas are not in our current maintenance schedule due to its size, its minor importance to playability, and budget constraints.
Cool-season grass ideally likes temperatures between 65 and 80. Once the thermometer crosses into the 90 degree range during the day, and 70 degree range at night, the turf becomes really stressed and it becomes a catch 22 for the agronomy team. With humidity low and recent rainfall scarce, the evapotranspiration rate increases causing the plants to become dry. Watering is then imperative and difficulty arises when trying to keep adequate moisture in the ground before evaporation and transpiration rob the supplemental watering. When humidity rises or rainfall becomes abundant during hot temperatures, disease outbreaks take place. This hot, moist environment is ripe for devastating summer time diseases, such as Pythium blight, brown patch, gray leaf spot, summer patch, dollar spot and anthracnose. The only remedy is applying expensive plant protectants to prevent the pathogens from entering the turf. If the disease has already taken hold curative measures can be taken, although preventative applications are far more effective. Once nighttime temperatures cool down to the low 60s the turf will begin to recover; however, until then the stressful conditions will continue to wreck havoc on the turf and crew.
Pythium blight mycelium

Pythium damage in #17 deep rough

Dollar spot on #8 tee

Some of the maintenance practices that took place during the early season are showing beneficial signs. The root pruning done in January has kept many of the fairway areas, as of now, alive.  In the past, outside fairway areas were the first to go during stressful periods because of competing tree roots. The root pruning in these areas has kept this stressor at bay; resulting in healthier turf.

Jarred Wherekamp root pruning #1 fairway in January

Root pruning having a positive effect on #16 fairway. Notice the line between green turf and brown turf right at the short rough and fairway intersection. That was the location of root pruning last winter.

Tree roots by #6 tee stressing out the poa annua on the tee. This was not root pruned.

The verticutting along with core aeration has started to decrease the heavy amount of fairway thatch accumulation, allowing roots to grow deeper into the soil profile. On the greens the light and frequent topdressings along with other sound cultural practices has kept them in great shape throughout the toughest time of year.

#6 approach and fairway during the member/guest tournament. Looks healthy

Despite applying preemergent herbicide in April for goose grass and crabgrass control, by the late summer/early fall the protection from these weeds decreases. Once these grassy weeds spring up there is only a couple options for post-emergence control. Pylex (topramezone) is the best chemical for post control. When Pylex is sprayed onto the weeds they turn a bleached, white color before dying off. You may notice the bleached patches out on the course as we eradicate these late summer invaders.

Pylex herbicide control of hard and soft crabgrass. In the picture above Dallas grass (brown patches) is also being sprayed with Dr. Dave Gardener's (Ohio State Professor) concoction of 1/2 rate of topramezone and a 1/2 rate of quinclorac

Pylex applications

Overseeding of some dead patches of rough will take place in September once the temperatures cool down. Fall aeration is on the horizon with September 7th scheduled for greens aerification and fairway/tee aeration will soon follow. Of course fall fertilization won't be far behind. In the next couple of weeks, the lightning struck tree by #7 will be removed and the tree by #9 will be pruned and treated to keep it alive for as long as possible. As many of you can see we have a packed end of the season work load. Updates will continue to happen as everything moves forward- hopefully at a quick and uneventful pace!

Brad Piecuch
Grounds Superintendent

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Bugs and Lightning and Projects, Oh My!

The annual bluegrass weevil has been detected at many golf courses around the Tri-State area over the last couple of years and now we can add Western Hills Country Club to that list. ABW was first discovered in the northeast in the 1930s and over the last 90 years has typically only been a problem in that area of the country. However, they have now made their way to the Mid-West. 

Annual bluegrass weevils are small black beetles that cause significant damage to turf specifically annual bluegrass (poa annua) and bentgrass. They feed on grass blades and crowns. The damage begins as small yellow patches in the grass that turn brown later in the season. They cause significant plant desiccation and can wipe out big areas of turf in a season. This insect was detected around some of the green collars and we are applying insecticides to control this pest. We will continue to scout for this insect and treat when/where appropriate. 

Annual Bluegrass Weevil adult and larva.

Early ABW damage on #7 collar

ABW larva found on #7 collar

 After below average rain for the months of March, April, and May; June and July have been above normal. Our weather station has recorded 9" of rain from mid June to mid July, and we stand about an inch above normal for the year. All of this rain was great for giving our irrigation system a rest, but it kicks our spraying program into overdrive. We have been decreasing our spray intervals to stave off the summer-time diseases such as pythium blight, summer patch, brown patch, anthracnose, and dollar spot. Also, our plant growth applications have increased, especially on our green's spray program, to keep growth in check. This along with topdressing and verticutting has, so far, kept our green speeds consistent throughout the early summer months.

Now, heading into the latter part of the month, the dry, humid summer weather has replaced the tropical monsoons. The abundant amount of poa annua that permeates the golf course is showing signs of stress. When soil temperatures get above 95 degrees this grass plant taps out until cooler temperatures return. The other cool season grasses such as bentgrass, ryegrass, and to a lesser extent fescue, struggle as well, during these hot and dry days. Watering becomes difficult when the evapotransporation rate increases and sometimes we have to water multiple times a day to maintain proper moisture levels. You will also see us handwatering many localized dry spot areas. We will continue to do everything we can to keep turf alive during the hardest time of year to grow cool season grass; however, even with our best efforts some turf will be lost. 

Irrigation precipitation report from the WHCC weather station for June 17th to July 17th.

Golf cart damage #11 after driving over stressed turf during a hot summer afternoon. This is why "rough" days need to be implemented.

Death of cool season grass due to summer heat

For the Fourth of July, mother nature provided her own firework display and dropped lightning strikes like bombs around the golf course. Two pin oaks located by #7 green and #9 green got struck. The strike was so powerful that the bark on #7 pin oak blew over the green and into the fence across the cart path. Our irrigation system did not take the lightning well either and we had a couple computer boards fried and many blown fuses to replace. We are currently having both lightning struck trees being assessed by board certified master arborists to figure out if removal of these trees is warranted.

Lightning damage to #7 pin oak

Up close picture of #7 oak. 50% of the trunk’s bark may have been damaged. This will weaken the tree’s structural integrity over time and open up the cambium layer to insects, weather, and diseases.

There are many projects on the horizon with two projects currently taking place. A Verdin clock is being installed by #1 tee. The knee wall and pavers have been completed. Flowers were planted around the future site of the clock and the actual clock should be set in place by the end of August.

Also, lighting is being installed under the Ohio champion overcup oak tree. To protect this tree, an air spade was used to dig the trench for installing the light fixtures. If we would have dug the trench using a shovel or backhoe around 50% of this old oak's critical root area would have been lost, putting the tree under a tremendous amount of stress and ultimately leading to significant canopy die back or death. The use of an air spade kept the roots intact and the electrician was able to thread the wires bellow the roots for installation. Eight well lights were installed around the base of the tree. The lights are 120V fixtures with a medium base screw shell. They are manufactured by Coast 2 Coast lighting and are PAR 38 LED lamps, 30W (4000 lumens) with a 110 degree beam angel. The health of this signature champion overcup oak (biggest overcup oak in Ohio, and 6th biggest in the country) has been our #1 concern throughout this process and hopefully the lights will be enjoyed by all.

Champion tree designation from Ohio department of forestry 

Trench dug with air spade

Notice how the tree roots are still intact

Close up of lights in the early morning

Lights at night

Progress on Verdin clock project

The end of August will be the beginning of other big changes coming to WHCC. The driving range tees will be getting an expansion, a new chipping green will be added, and the putting green will be expanded. Brian Huntley is the architect for these projects and the grounds department is excited to be a part of these upgrades. The first step will be to remove 20 trees located in the driving range to make way for these improvements. This will begin sometime in late July or early August. Then, starting August 16th, the renovation will ramp up, beginning with the spraying of 2 acres with glyphosate, removing existing irrigation heads, and mobilization. The following week Russ Macke will begin shaping. After that mother nature, labor, supply chains, and any unforeseen problems will dictate the pace of the renovation process. This will be a big project with many moving parts. Irrigation will have to be relocated and added, areas shaped, drainage and gravel installed, cart paths added and relocated, and sod/seed installed before colder temperatures arrive. We hope to have this phase of the project done by mid-October. Phase 2 will occur next year on the south end driving range tee.

Another project currently in the works is installing drainage to greens #4 and #8 and raising up the right side of #13 green. We are currently talking to Golf Preservations about this project and hopefully this will take place as the driving range renovation is slowing down.

Brian Huntley's driving range renovation design

Putting green expansion

Leibold irrigation plan for new driving range

Since we may get bored in mid-fall when these projects wind down, we have decided to install a new golf cart building. It will house all of the golf carts and give us the current golf cart storage area. This will help us out immensely with storing the grounds equipment. Currently many of our expensive tractors are stored outside in the elements and having this area will allow us to place this equipment inside along with other important and expensive new equipment such as the new fairway verticutting unit. Other upgrades are needed for the grounds building including installation of a lift for better equipment access for repairs and maintenance, upgrading old lighting, and installing bins for grounds materials (sand, gravel, topsoil, mulch, etc.). The first step of this process was removing a big section of irrigation located parallel to the parking lot by #18, where the new building will be placed. In addition, the parking lot will be expanded where the current employee parking area is occupying. The irrigation located in this area was removed as well. The cutting/capping and sprinkler head removal was completed this week and is ready for the parking lot expansion that will take place in early August.

Irrigation area that has been cut and capped. Red lines are the capped locations.

There are many changes ahead for the WHCC grounds. I will continue to update as these projects take shape. We ask for everyone's patience during this exciting time. Many of our workers will be busy with projects in the next couple of months. We will continue to keep the golf course in great shape as the year progresses; however there may be days when most of the crew will be busy with renovation tasks and some daily maintenance might have to be overlooked. Fingers crossed that everything will go as planned and we are excited about the changes coming!

Brad Piecuch

Grounds Superintendent