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.

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

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Video - Frost Delays and Damage

Thanks for taking a look at the video below.  It gives an accurate description of why it is necessary to delay starting times when frost is present on the golf course. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Witt Family

Many of you have asked about my son Tanner and his baseball career.  Thanks for your interest in him and his career.  I appreciate your interest in my family.  Needless to say, they are a priority for me.  Let me introduce you "The Witts."

Before we get to Tanner, I wanted to share my entire family with you.  Seth, Lauren, Tanner, Lorrie
   My wife Lorrie, a Certified Master Gardener does the flowers at NCC.  Gardening is her passion.

Our oldest son Seth has his degree in business.  He currently owns his own business dealing in energy, gas and telecommunications.  He has just returned to Chicago to launch his business here from recent team building terms in Birmingham and Austin.
Our daughter Lauren currently lives in Austin, Texas and is the Director of Public Relations and Communications for the Texas Psychological  Association.  Austin is only 60 miles from my home and my family.  Lauren is very involved in her church and Mission Possible, a local ministry committed to helping women and children that are victims of domestic violence.

 Tanner was an All Big X11 Conference baseball player at Kansas State University.  He received his degree in Business  before signing to play professional baseball for the Rockford team in the Independent professional Baseball Frontier League where he was Rookie of the Year.  He was recently signed by the Baltimore Orioles of Major League Baseball. 
   Below are a few photos of Tanner and a youtube video of his baseball highlights that you can access if you wish.

It is listed under Tanner Witt KSU July 2013
Our family has many great memories of watching Tanner play ball on TV and at his games
Tanner in Mesa, AZ at the Cubs Spring Training
Tanner - Rookie of the Year Award
Tanner was recently signed by the Baltimore Orioles organization and is playing in Maryland.


Friday, September 4, 2015

Bunker Consistency Factors

                 Why Do Bunkers On The Same Course Play Differently?

The September issue of Golf Digest Magazine has an article that offers a few factors involved in bunker consistency and playability.  It includes comments from Golf Course Managers at
Chambers Bay, Oakmont, Baltusrol, Oakland Hill and Pinehurst.  The playability of bunkers change daily.  Weather and course design play a huge role but below are some additional factors.

Their comments on the reasons for bunker inconsistency include:

  • The type of sand, the particle size and sand depth
  • The winter freezing and thawing & heavy rains
  • North facing bunkers dry slower than south facing bunkers
  • Bunkers change on a daily basis due to wind, sun and golfer raking
  • Unless there are fried egg lies then bunkers should not be a problem
  • Different shots struck at different angles & trajectories
  • Different weather conditions affect drying and wetness 
  • The type of sand, the particle size and sand depth
  • Bunker location - the closer to greens and fairways may receive more irrigation
  • The quality of construction, drainage, erosion protection & sand quality
  • Different sizes and designs of bunkers - Are they open and flat or deep
  • Shaded vs. sunny locations
  • Closeness to greens & fairways - irrigation influences
  • Mechanical vs. hand raking
Below are several videos related to bunker management

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Aquatic Plantings

Based on Board of Director request, the staff has initiated an aquatic plantings program.   The first plantings have been planted on White #4 lake and Red #6 lake.   These plants come in smaller container sizes but they will mature nicely in the next season or  two.  These are all perennial plantings.  We will see how they are received before expanding the planting project.   The plants are placed at the water's edge and also above the water line, depending on the plant species. 

Sod is removed from the edge of the lake.

Once a general planting site has been determined, Lorrie arranges the plants where she wants them.
 8 to 10 different species of plants have been chosen for use in the new program
 The photos below are of several of the localized planting sites.   As they mature, they will be visually outstanding.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Red 7 & 8 Lake

The Red #7 and #8 lake overflow structure heaved out of the water and became dysfunctional. 
We will be installing a new structure next week.  The reason the lake is down is because it as at the current level of the pipe that connects the lake with the Skokie Canal to the right of # 8 tee.  

The structure below served two purposes on the Red 7 & 8 lake.  It served as an overflow to lower the lake when flooding occurred and also had a valve we could open to drain the lake when necessary.   For some reason, it just floated up out of the water one Sunday morning.
The photo below is of the entire structure after we lifted it out of the water
In the photo below, the pipe which controls the level of the lake when the structure is functioning properly. 
The photo below shows what the new structure will look like.  It will actually be placed on the land in the bed next to the bald cypress tree behind #8 blue tee.  The pipes at the bottom of the structure will connect the lake to the canal so we can drain the lake in the winter to prevent our rock wall damage.
The lake level will return to normal as soon as the new structure is installed.

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.
 Below is how the range looks at the end of the day.   You can see how much of the turf has been removed.  New seed will germinate and begin to grow in just a few weeks but it takes months for theses areas to become dense and mature.

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.  A scattered divot pattern removes the most amount of turf because a full divot is removed with every swing. Scattering divots results in the most turf loss and uses up the largest area of a tee stall. This forces the golf facility to rotate tee stalls most frequently and often results in an inefficient use of the tee. . 
When large areas of turf are displaced by hitting in a concentrated location, this area will take months to re-establish and mature.  A concentrated divot pattern removes all turf in a given area. While this approach does not necessarily result in a full-sized divot removed with every swing, by creating a large void in the turf canopy there is little opportunity for timely turf recovery. 
The linear ball placement method uses the least amount of turf and recovers the quickest.  This is the recommended ball placement patter for practice.  The linear divot pattern involves placing each shot directly behind the previous divot. In so doing, a linear pattern is created and only a small amount of turf is removed with each swing. This can usually be done for 15 to 20 shots before moving sideways to create a new line of divots. So long as a minimum of 4 inches of live turf is preserved between strips of divots, the turf will recover quickly. Because this divot pattern removes the least amount of turf and promotes quick recovery, it is the preferred method.
 Each afternoon the staff distributes new seed and soil to the current day's divots.   It can take the seed several weeks to germinate and then months to mature to an acceptable stage for usage.  The photo below shows newly germinated grass seed out on the course (not on the range.) This turf is about 4 weeks old.  You can see it is several inches tall but still very thin.   It has not had the chance to "tiller" and spread and densen to the point where it will support a ball on top of it.

The photo below is of the same turf at two months of age.  It is still not dense enough to support driving range usage.  
It will take virtually a full growing season for the driving range seed to germinate and mature to the point of being ready to hit off of.   When we go from front to back 3 to 4 times a summer, you can see that the turf simply cannot grow fast enough to mature to keep up with the activity and volume of hitting on the range tee.   Therefore the more precisely we practice both in the number of balls we hit and the pattern in which we place the balls, the more we enhance the recovery period for the turf.

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.