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.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Carts In Fairways Only - WHY?

On numerous occasions, I receive the questions:
"Why are carts in fairways only today?"
"Why are carts in the roughs only today?"

There are 3 main factors involved in how cart decisions are made on a day to day basis.

1.  In most cases, the fairways drain quicker.  The turf is cut shorter so it dries quicker.  There is also drainage installed in the subsurface of the fairways to get rid of the water quicker.  So whenever possible, we ask that carts be kept in the fairways.

2.  The roughs have longer turf and it does not dry as fast.  The roughs do not have drainage in the subsurface like the fairways do so they stay wetter longer.   The roughs have numerous bird baths and low areas resulting in standing water.  Therefore, the carts can cause more damage in the roughs during wet periods.

3.  No two rain periods have the exact same effect on the course.   Decisions on specific cart usage for any individual day depends on a number of factors.  Drying times depend on:
      How much did it rain on a particular
      How much did it rain on previous days
      How soon does the sun begin to shine
      Is there sufficient wind movement to aide
           in drying the course
      What are the humidity levels and how do they
           affect the course drying process
Standing water in the roughs can limit  cart usage because carts cannot get to the fairway without causing damage

Every morning each fairway and rough are check for moisture & saturation levels.  Carts are available whenever remotely possible.  I understand the necessity of cart usage for many of our members.  But as you can see, there are simply days when carts cannot access the course without causing significant damage.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Augusta National

There are very few golfing venues in the world that rival Augusta National Golf Club.  I have been to 7 or 8 Masters and unless you have been on the site, it is impossible to imagine the vastness and elevation changes of the property as well as the serious contours of both the fairways and the greens. 
When the best players in the world are regularly 3 putting and sometimes 4 putting, those are not the conditions that the average would enjoy playing on a daily basis.  

John Morris, our Assistant Superintendent and team member here at NCC, was an Assistant at Augusta National and was involved first hand in numerous Masters events.  
Below are just a few of the "Only At Augusta" items that make the Masters an un-comparable venue to almost any other in the United States and the world.

The green at #12 actually has a heating and cooling system designed into the subsurface of the green. This helps control the turf growth in the winter and summer months.
Each green has a SubAir system install under it.  This device can either push air into the rootzone of the green or extract excessive moisture out of the rootzone of the green.  This feature may cost as much as $ 25-30,000 per green.  It is an excellent way to manage the firmness of the greens.
 Notice the water being sucked out of the green to help dry it out.
Many of the bunkers at Augusta are 8 foot deep or more and expansive in size.  Golfers cannot even see out of the top of the bunkers.
We see the balls roll and roll on television.  This is due to the tremendous fairway contours and elevation changes on the course.  For example, the #10 fairway has a 60 foot elevation drop.  Balls roll downhill.
Not only are there significant elevation changes from tee to green on may holes, there are contours within the fairway cut that assist in ball roll.  #11 Augusta
Many of the green's surrounds are shaved down resulting in balls rolling into water hazards. 
It is an unbelievably difficult golf course to play.
The greens have such tremendous contours and slopes that you cannot imagine unless you have been on the property.   On many of the approach or chip shots, the golfer must hit a spot within a 5 foot circle or the ball will roll totally off the green.  Notice the significant "false front" on the green below.
                                          Notice the surface drainage patterns and contours of this green.  There are numerous contours on each green.  A putt can break 10 feet or more on a 15 foot putt.
Unless it rains, water is with held from the putting surfaces resulting in severely sloped greens that become as hard as pavement by the end of the week.   Putting is similar to rolling a ball on a table top and trying to get it to stop.   Notice the areas of brown and purple wilted turf on the greens in the two photos below.  This is putting the health of the turf at a huge risk.  This "on the edge of turf survival" would not be prudent at a regular golf facility.
      Budget????  No one really knows.  It isn't published.  The Golf Course Operations budget at Augusta is many times in excess of an average private facility, even of an average upper end private facility.   I am talking many millions of dollars.    The average 18 hole facility will have 3-4 fairway units.   Below is the fairway equipment inventory of the Augusta operation.
The normal 18 hole golf facility will have 15 to 20 staff members.  The regular season staff at Augusta ranges from 35 to 120  volunteers during the Masters event. 
Numerous greens and bunkers are rebuilt EVERY YEAR while the course is closed all summer.

Did you realize that the course at Augusta is closed  June 1st through mid October  !!!!!!!!!!  
A number of the greens are actually rebuilt EVERY YEAR.  

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Austin Country Club

Prior to being recruited to Wynstone Golf Club in the Chicago area, I managed the Austin Country Club, a stunning, dramatic Pete Dye design.  It is an extremely challenging course in the hills of Austin, Texas.  It was rated the #3 course in Texas by Golf Digest Magazine.   This past weekend the Dell World Match Play Championship was played there.   Below are a few photos of the course.   It has numerous elevation changes, long carries over deep rock ravines, narrow rolling fairways, penal green's surrounds and very large - undulating Pete Dye signature greens.  The hilly upper part of the course differs significantly in design from the lower 45 links style designed holes along the Colorado River.  If you ever get to Austin, give me a call and I will see if I can get you on the course.  

The original ACC location was a gently rolling Perry Maxwell design just south of Austin.  The new club is located in the hills just west of Austin.  To give you an idea of the difficulty of the course, member handicaps initially increased by almost 50% and an average of 6 hour rounds of play.  A tough track indeed. 

The 11th hole has a 220 to  230 yard carry over the canyon
The 18th hole has very difficult approach shot into the green from 200 yards out at the top of the hill
The 12th hole has a long & difficult approach carry to a very narrow green
#2 Par 3  Requires a total carry
Hole #3 - A 250 yard approach into a green with water 4 feet left of the green
The 11th hole commands a long approach shot into the with a 60 foot deep canyon 6 feet left of the green
Ben Crenshaw & Tom Kite are members of ACC
I had the tremendous good fortune of working with Teacher of the Century Harvey Penick


Time To Prepare

The following article, presented by the USGA relates to the time involved in preparing a course for member and golfer play.

They Need Time To Get It Done      

Double mowing is a common strategy used to increase green speeds, but this practice requires additional time to complete ahead of play. 
Golf courses can be very busy, but providing time to complete necessary maintenance will lead to greater overall golfer enjoyment.
Golfers want their course available when they want to play. Closing the course or delaying play for maintenance is never popular. Golfers feel inconvenienced when their course is closed and facilities lose revenue when golfers are unable to play. However, providing adequate time to complete essential maintenance tasks is critical for presenting a well-conditioned golf course that meets expectations on a consistent basis.
When thinking about the time it takes to complete golf course maintenance tasks, we are really focusing on labor hours. Every maintenance task requires a certain amount of labor and equipment to complete in a given amount of time. If the timeframe shortens, more employees and equipment will be required to achieve the same level of course maintenance. If the available labor or equipment decreases, more time will be needed to complete the same tasks or fewer tasks will be completed. There is a direct link between time spent on maintenance and golf course conditions, there is no way around this concept. 

Important practices like morning watering should not be compromised by the golf schedule. Water management can be the difference between healthy and dead grass.
So, how can maintenance and golfer access be balanced? Superintendents can track the labor hours required to complete specific tasks. With this information, starting times for golf and maintenance can be coordinated so that maintenance is completed ahead of play, when staff can work most efficiently. Using a tee time system makes it easier for maintenance work to proceed ahead of play because it takes time for golfers to make their way through the entire course. “Shotgun” events require maintenance to be completed in a tighter window because all holes will be occupied simultaneously when play begins. Good communication between pro shop personnel and the maintenance department is imperative for scheduling maintenance according to daily starting times and special events.
Additional Resources
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Additional Resources
PDF Version
Golfers can do their part by respecting daily starting times. Maintenance operations are carefully planned. Although teeing off on the fifth hole to get ahead of groups on the first few holes may seem inconsequential, it could interfere with overall course maintenance. Once maintenance is bogged down by golfer traffic, efficiency is dramatically reduced. This causes a domino effect throughout the day, potentially keeping important tasks from being completed. If this frequently happens, overall course conditions can suffer.
Providing a place to play golf is every golf course’s primary purpose. No golf course was built solely for the purpose of maintaining it. However, if expectations are to be consistently met, there must be a clear understanding of the time required to conduct necessary maintenance practices. Striking a balance between golfer access and the time available for maintenance will lead to better overall golf course conditions.

Additional Resources:
PDF Version
Additional Resources:
PDF Version
Additional Resources:
PDF Version
Additional Resources:
PDF Version

Shotgun starts are desirable for large events because they allow participants to start and finish at the same time, but the maintenance staff needs additional time to have all holes prepared before play begins.

More from the USGA

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Course Opening

When we open the course this spring we will start out playing the north course.  This allows the staff to concentrate on getting 18 holes cleaned, prepared and playable for member play.  Then we will move to preparing the holes south of Clavey as soon as possible. 

Some of our seasonal staff are just beginning to return for the season.   The temperatures are still very cool and I am looking for the first good few days of weather to open the greens.  Below are photos of  just a few of the tasks that the staff does to prepare the course for spring play.

Weather permitting, we will open the course and the range on the matts on Friday March 25th.  There is a chance for snow this week so be sure and check the condition line, my twitter @TommyDWitt, or the site for updates

Fairways are being mowed for the first time
Debris is blown from the greens and fairways for mowing
Greens are rolled to firm the soft surfaces after the freezing and thawing
Greens are mowed for the first time

                        Fallen trees from winter storms are removed from the course
    Accessories are readied for placement on the course
   Refurbished benches are put on the course
Thousand of sticks and branches are collected
   Bunkers are prepared for play

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Efficiency and Productivity

As the ever increasing demand for golf course conditioning and playability continues, the turf industry manufacturers have continued to provide Golf Course Managers with improved tools and equipment to meet golfer expectations.   Controlling labor costs and improving efficiency and timing of maintenance practices are two key components provided by the newer technologies in the industry.

The labor line item of any golf course operation budget can comprise 50 to 70 % of the total operating budget depending on maintenance standards and playing conditions expected by the golfers and employers.   With this in mind, I want to share 3 or 4 ways that our operation has invested in equipment and technology that has resulting in labor savings.  This in turn has given us ability to help maintain a responsible annual operating budget.  Cumulatively, these new pieces of equipment, save tens of thousands of dollars in efficient man hours, help provide better playing conditions and give us the ability to work more productively and stay out in front of play.

The Dakota trailer below has the ability to dump to the back and to the sides.  This trailer has the capacity to hold 4 to 5 times the smaller trailers that we have previously used on the course.  Not only will this trailer help free up labor to accomplish other detailed tasks.   This unit also has a heavier load rating to safely transport materials whereas our smaller trailers can only haul limited loads without damaging the frame of the trailers.  Two men can be assigned to this unit.

Below are the smaller trailers which we have used for years.   We have had 8 to 10 employees in the past hauling materials all across the property.  This resulted in excessive man hours.  Now several employees will take the place of 6 to 8 employees for tasks involving the use of this unit.  This will free the other 4 or 5 staff members to give attention to other needy tasks. 

Years ago, when we instituted the 84 inch rough intermediate mowing cut, we had two men and two mowers that mowed theses areas twice a week.  That was labor for two men, fuel for two mowers, and the cost of two mowers at $20,000 each. 
One of our new investments is a machine (below) that mows the same width as the two mowers above.  The benefits - less man hours of labor, less fuel and 1 less mower at a cost of $20,000

 The aerification and topdressing tasks are extremely time and labor consuming.  In order to expedite the process, we have invested in a new technology that helps get the sand into the holes quicker and with less labor than before.  The attachment on the aerifyer below helps collect the cores so                 the staff  doesn't have to shovel them.
Previous shoveling of the aerification plug
  Our new aerifyer plug collection attachment
Previously we had a high number of employees assigned to fill in he aerificaition holes following the  sand topdressing with hand brushes
Our new blowers allow us to use less staff  to fill the aerification holes more effectively with less employees