This site is intended to share information relating to the management of the golf course conditioning and quality of Northmoor Country Club and the art, the science, and the factors that influence those conditions. Please visit as often as possible.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Driving Range Practice - Ball Placement

Our driving range is a busy place.  We rotate through the range teeing surface 3 to 4 times a year.  Although we seed the range each evening when the range closes, the new turf simply cannot germinate, mature and become as dense as the fairways in a 4 to 6 week period.  For this reason, we need to do everything we can from both an agronomic  & player practice standpoint to maximize the quality of the hitting surface.  Thousands of golf balls are hit each day displacing the majority of turf across the hitting line of the range. 
These 25 baskets are filled with thousands of balls a day.   This equates to thousands of divots per day.  Each baskets hold hundreds of ball and the baskets are re-filled numerous times per day.
With our driving range being an active area and receiving heavy usage, there is one thing that golfers can do to help preserve the existing turf and also assist in the recovery of the turf as we rotate the hitting areas on a daily basis.  The photo below shows 3 basic ways that golfers place their golf balls in preparation for hitting on the range.  When exact measurements have been taken by the USGA researchers, the recommended ball placement in the middle of the photo is the preferred method.

When balls are spread out over the practice area, as in the photo on the right, this uses the most turf space.   When golfers hit balls from a solid area, as shown in the left side of the photo, this takes the longest for the area to fully recover. 

Therefore the linear ball placement, as located in the center of the photo, disturbs the least amount of turf and contributes to the quickest grow in and recovery of the turf.  

Random or scattered hitting of balls uses the most teeing surface and should be avoided.
When large areas of turf are displaced by hitting in a concentrated location, this area will take months to re-establish and mature.
The linear ball placement method uses the least amount of turf and recovers the quickest.  This is the recommended ball placement patter for practice.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Wet Periods - Cart Usage

One of our main priorities is for the members to have golf cart access to the course as much as possible.  I recognize there are many members that require a cart to be able play and enjoy the course.   On the other side of the equation is my responsibility to protect Northmoor's valuable asset, the golf course. 
Following a rainfall, I make a determination shortly after daylight as to the course condition.  If it is too wet for carts, I update the course condition line at  10 or 11 am or I send out an immediate change in cart availability via the  "" medium. 
Whether the course is open to carts later in the morning or the afternoon on a particular day depends on the drying conditions.   The course dries the best when the conditions are sunny, windy and warm.

The photo below says it all.   It has been a very wet month of June.
I am frequently asked why carts are allowed in the fairways and not the roughs following a rainfall
The reasons are: the red and blue fairways have drainage installed, the grass is mowed lower so it dries out faster and the fairways are smoother and more level than the roughs which have longer turf and numerous depressions that hold water long after the rain has stopped.
    Puddles and standing water in the depressions of the rough are one of the reasons we ask carts to stay in the drier fairways following a rainfall.
There are many low areas on the course that do not have subsurface drainage installed.  Below, Ramiro is pumping out a depression on Blue # 5  that is still holding water 3 days after a rain.
   The photos below show exactly why we ask carts to stay on the paths certain days.  Golfers may not see or know the wet areas and cart traffic can damage the course.

We try to mow the roughs 3 times a week when weather permits.   The roughs are mowed with the large tractors pictured below.  During wet periods there are times when mowing is not possible without damaging the turf or leaving ruts also as shown below.  For this reason the roughs may be taller than normal until we can mow without damaging the turf.
There are days when the course is too wet even for our staff to drive on the turf.   Notice below how the work vehicles are parked on the path so as not to make tracks and ruts on the turf.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Augusta Syndrome

The first full week of each April, the golfing world tunes in to The Masters Tournament at Augusta National.  I have been there a number of times and it is quite a place for sure. If you have never been to The Masters, you cannot imagine the significant undulations of the property including both the fairways and the greens.   On the first and eighteenth fairways, golfers are walking up a steep slope from the fairway to the green.  Both fairways have virtually a 45 degree slope.  There is a 175 foot elevation change on the Augusta National course.  As a reference point, the Horseshoe Falls drop at Niagara Falls is 173 feet.  There is actually a 100 foot elevation change on the #10 hole.  The entire elevation change across the entire property here at NCC is only 64 over almost a mile.  On certain holes, if your chip or approach shot does not hit in the correct 2 to 4 foot landing site, your ball may end up 30 to 50 feet away from the cup or even off of the green.   The slopes and contours of the greens are not visual on the television screen.  The contours make the greens like putting on a table top.   There are places that you simply cannot get the ball close to the hole.  These conditions test the very best professionals in the world.
Several factors that public & country club golfers may not be aware of concerning Augusta National:
    There is no operating budget at Augusta.  This does not occur at but a select few private clubs
         They spend millions of dollars a year, whatever it takes.
    The course is closed from May-October when all other courses are open and under stress
    The cutting height of the greens at Augusta may not be lower than we cut our greens.  We mow
        our greens every day and may double cut and roll the greens to get maximum speed.  The
       greens at Augusta have enough undulation to generate high end putting speeds, not to mention
       that their greens may be mowed as many as 6 to 8 times a day during the even. 
   Any given putt may have 20 to 40 feet of break to it.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The photo below shows the number of volunteers for the event.  Most 18 hole facilities might have a staff of 12 to 25.   There are twice that many saff members preparing the bunkers on this single hole
Most 18 hole courses have 2 or 3 fairways mowers.  14 here in the Augusta photo and a few extra in Golf Course Operations in case they are needed. 
Who determines the daily cupping locations for The Master event?  
NCC's own Assistant Superintendent, John Morris was an Assistant at Augusta for 5 Masters events.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Every Course Is Different

Each golf course is different in may ways.  Courses vary on design, construction quality, construction materials, local climatic environments, elevation changes, soil types, irrigation water quality, shade, air movement and turf grass species just to mention a few.  For these reasons, it is difficult and rather impossible to make exact comparisons of any two golf courses.  Note the following examples.

The photo below is of our Pennlinks 2- Penneagle2 bentgrass fairway at NCC on April 2nd.  It is just breaking dormancy.

The photo below is of a Sunset Valley GC that is just a mile or so away.  Notice how their older bentgrass-poa annua fairways are much greener on the same day of the year.

The photo below is of #1 Red green at NCC today.  Notice how it is just breaking dormancy.
The photo below is of a green at Sunset Valley taken on the same day.  Notice the greener color from the older bentgrass -poa annua greens content
The photo below is of the new green at Exmoor CC taken on the same day.  A newly planted turf and a new generation of bentgrass is the reason for the darker color.
These 3 courses are within walking distance of each other yet quite different in many ways.  Imagine the differences in courses you play at different times of the year that are located in the north and west areas of Chicagoland.
The photo below is of #4 red tee looking onto # 9 red fairway.  The same turf variety is established in both areas.  Notice the turf on the tee is still brown and the fairway turf is beginning to green up and break dormancy.  Why the difference?  The tee has an amended sand content rootzone which is different from the native black fairway soil.  There is more fluctuation in the sand based rootzones.  In this case, the rootzone temperature of the tee is colder and therefore the tee turf is still dormant.
The photos below are of # 1 white tee and #1 white fairway.  Same turf species.  Same day.
Again, the tee has a modified rootzone which remains colder than the native soil fairway, thus delaying green-up of the tee.
#1 white tee
#1 white fairway

Friday, March 13, 2015

Internship Opportunity: Golf Course Management Operation

The following presentation shares information about the excellent Turfgrass Internship and Assistnat In Training Programs offered at Northmoor Country Club.   Students have the tremendous opportunity to be exposed to and participate in the FULL SPECTRUM of a high quality golf course management operation from a leadership, agronomic and business aspect. 

Winter Work Tasks for the Golf Course Operations Staff

While Chicagoland golfers and NCC members are traveling to warmer climates, enjoying winters at a southern or western club or just staying warm inside their homes during our Chicago winters, the NCC Golf Course Operations staff stays busy caring for the club's property and preparing for the next spring's golfing season. 

The presentation listed below will give you a bit of insight into the frequently asked question,
"What do you do all winter?"  There is a tremendous amount of work that happens in the early fall, throughout the winter and in the spring prior to opening the course.   Enjoy the presentation.

Monday, January 5, 2015


Many of you saw Bristol, our Border Collie goose dog, on the course this past summer.  As a 3.5 year old, she was just beginning to learn her way around the course.  Unfortunately and devistantlingly, Bristol developed a sudden fungal infection and passed away on Friday night of last week.  Personally, I have lost a loyal friend and a valued staff member.  Spending all day together everyday we became very close.  This came only a year after Polly, our previous Border Collie died at age 13 from an enlarged heart issue.  
One of her commands was to "Lie Down"   

On point and ready to go get the geese.
Both Bristol and Polly lived with John at night.  The breeder insisted that the dogs be with someone 24 hours a day and not just left in a small pen and alone at night.
Bristol supervising my two pugs Bowie and Kuma
This was Bristol's last handshake for me before I left her at the trainers.  I hugged her and promised her I would be back. 
The photos below are of Polly - A Grand Lady and Friend