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, June 8, 2017

Summer Heat Stress and the Golfer

The effects of summer weather conditions can have a dramatic effect on closely mowed golf course turf (at thousands of an inch), much more so than on a home lawn that is mowed at several inches in height and does not have hundreds of people and golf carts driving over it.  Take a look at the following video.   Thanks

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Firming the Fairways

The North Shore golf courses command a slightly different agronomic management process than other courses that are farther south and west of the city.    The cooler and wetter weather conditions found closer to the lake tend to result in playing conditions that are not as dry as those in other Chicagoland areas.
Most North Shore courses were built 80 to 100 years ago on black clay soils which stay a bit wetter and softer than some of the more recent built clubs that may have a "lighter" soil type that drains and dries at a quicker pace.   Heavy - black -clay soils tend to hold water longer resulting in the fairways being softer than the sand based greens on the red and blue nines. 

Below are the processes that we have been implementing over the past 4-5 years to provide firmer playing conditions.  Striving for firmer conditions includes a number of agronomic processes.
The process below is the same for the fairways, approaches and tees. 

The fairway, aerification, topdressing and verticle mowing processes are utilized several times each year for the following reasons and to achieve these results:
1. To relieve compacted soils from golf cart traffic
2. To improve the surface dryness of the fairways
3. To increase irrigation & rainfall water infiltration into the soil
4. To reduce the amount of "thatch" in the fairways for improved firmness & less disease
5. To increase oxygen availability to the rootzone of the plant
6. To reduce "wet spots" in the fairways

The complete process includes:

Step 1 - Aerifying the fairways

Verticutting the fairways with the purpose of reducing thatch accumulation & stimulating an upright growth of the turf

This photo below exhibits a verticle mowing reel

Blowers are used to collect the thatch debris
Sand topdressing is implemented to assist in firming the fairways, reducing thatch
and making the surface drier

The final step in the process is mowing the fairways
Notice the sand layer on top of the clay layer.  This photo is from White #4 where we have been most aggressive with our aerificaition and topdressing programs.   What was once our worst fairway is not one of the best as we have been successful in changing the upper part of the rootzone
It takes time to change the soil structure of a golf course.   It also causes an inconvenience to the membership.  Our goal is to provide a balance of an aggressive agronomic program with member access to quality playing conditions.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Different Bentgrass Greens

I thought you would find these photos to be interesting.  The turf variety that we used on the red and blue greens in 2006 and 2008 was A1 bentgrass.   It was the state of the industry at that time.   In the late 90s when NCC did the white nine, L93 bentgrass was used on the white nine. because it showed the most promise in the research trials.  Today, Pure Distinction bentgrass is one of the highly performing varieties that Bob O Link recently used on their greens in their renovation.  Just one of the characteristics of Pure Distinction is that it has an earlier green-up.   Each of these 3 bentgrass varieties has different growth and putting characteristics. 

Northmoor A 1 bentgrass green on April 26th  - still off color

Bob O Link Pure Distinction bentgrass on April 26th - early green-up

Friday, April 21, 2017

Tanner Witt

I wanted to say a special thanks to those of you who have asked about and followed my son Tanner's baseball career through college and the pros.   Even though he had a year left on his contract and was scheduled to play at Double AA Chattanooga with the Twins organization, he has decided to enter the next phase of his career.   He has traded his baseball uniform for a business suit and a set of operating room scrubs.  He has joined the Nuvasive spinal medical equipment sales team and has moved to Dallas.   From the ball field to the operating room, he is beginning a new career.

Needless to say, my summer evenings will be different without watching him on TV or listening to his games on the radio.   He has given me more than 20 years of enjoyment watching him play.  Lots of miles, thousands of innings and a million great memories of watching him play.
I appreciate the interest you showed in him and my family.   Thank you.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Austin County Club

This week the PGA tour stop is at Austin Country Club located in the hills on the outskirts of  Austin, Texas along the Colorado River.  I had the opportunity to manage this dramatic course earlier in my career.  Architect Pete Dye used tremendous creativity in designing this stunning layout with long and forced carries, severely undulating greens, distinctive elevation changes and "eye-catching" native rock features.   The 6800 yard course plays to a challenging 74 course rating.   While the pros may find the length very short compared to their normal course lengths, the average golfer finds the layout to be extremely difficult.   Before we  cleared some of the native trees and brush in the rough areas, combined  with the number of forced carries, it was not uncommon for the members to lose 6-10 golf balls a round. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Graden The Greens

In the quest for firmer putting green surfaces it is necessary to control unwanted and undesirable thatch accumulation.   Newer technology in machinery, such as the Graden implement, are designed to aide in producing desired putting surfaces.   The question is "Does the golfing membership support the balance between necessary agronomic practices and the impact such practices may have on playing conditions for a week or two?"
                                          See the video below



Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Tommy Witt, GCSAA President Video

From the very first year of my professional career, I have been involved in volunteer service at the local, state and national level.  In 2001 I had the opportunity to be elected President of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America.   We had 23,000 members in 65 International countries. We funded a $23,000,000 a year operating budget that funded initiatives and programs all over the world. I learned a great deal about leadership and the important role it serves in any organizations.  It positively influenced the way I lead and manage even today.   Below is a video of my year leading my national professional association. 


Bunker Consistency

Today's expectation of a bunker has moved from it being accepted as a HAZARD to the expectation that it should at all times, and in every instance, be a perfectly manicured surface.   The USGA video below shares information and facts on why every bunker on the same course does not play the same as all the others.  Please take a look.

Producing a Great Putting Surface

Beyond simply watering, mowing and fertilizing a tournament quality putting surface, a matrix of factors and agronomic practices combine to produce great putting surfaces.   Take a look a the video.

Why is it necessary to aerate golf greens to keep them in a quality condition?
The USGA video provides the reasons.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

TU's Progress

Many of you have seen or asked about our new golf course - goose dog.   I adopted Tu in the early summer from the Deerefield Dog Shelter.   Having had 3 different previous owners, initially she was very nervous and immediately very protective of me.   In the last 4 or 5 months she has progressed significantly.  Those who saw her when she first arrived and who see her now are in awe of her improvement.  

Having had to say goodbye to our two previous Border Collies over a 3 year period, we weren't emotionally ready to begin starting over with another dog.  However, it has been a blessing to me and to Northmoor to have found and adopted Tu.  She will not leave my side.  She does have a major separation anxiety issue when we are apart but as time goes by I hope she will be more at peace that I will always come back for her. 

Having any dog, especially a high energy breed like a border collie, demands a significant amount of time to work with her and continue training her.  She is no ordinary house dog that is comfortable with laying on the couch all day.   She is bred to work and run and be active.  I was not looking forward to that and she has taken much more of my time than I ever imagined but that is the commitment anyone should make when they acquire a pet of any kind. 

I certainly, nor was my wife Lorrie, ever considering Tu living at our home but there was no where else to keep her.  She wakes up every morning at 4:00 am and is ready to come to the course.   All has gone pretty well except when I have to be out of town and have someone stay with her.   She is house broken but once when I was away, I guess she was pouting and decided to use our carpet to relieve herself.   She hadn't done it before nor has she since.  Guess she was just making a statement.  Now we have to take up and replace the carpet.   But, she is worth it.  

She loves the golf course and the dog park.  See below

Ready to go to the dog park

video video

Robotic Greens Mowers

Robotic greens mowers are the next phase of golf course management technology to hit the industry.
With the golf course maintenance labor pool decreasing annually, these units likely will begin to be embraced rather quickly.   There are already two clubs in Chicago that are testing one of the units in 2017.   The mowers cost $50,000 each.   Take a look at the video below and how they work off a GPS platform. 

Eagles On The Course

What a great sight to see.   Two bald eagles have been on  the course this past week.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Winterkills - What Golfers Need To Know

Three Things All Golfers Should Know About Winterkill   


Winterkill is an easy problem to define but difficult to fully understand. Simply put, winterkill occurs when turf dies during winter. However, understanding the mechanisms that cause winterkill, creating effective prevention strategies and formulating effective recovery programs is complex.

What causes winterkill?

Winterkill is a catch-all term describing winter injury to turfgrass that occurs through a variety of mechanisms such as ice suffocation, crown hydration, low-temperature injury and desiccation. Identifying the exact cause of winterkill is difficult because  winterkill may be caused by one mechanism or could result from a combination of mechanisms that act simultaneously or occur at multiple times during winter. Additionally, turfgrass species have different tolerances to winter injury. For example, creeping bentgrass is much less susceptible to winter injury than Poa annua.

Can winterkill be prevented?

Scientists have not been able to find a silver bullet that prevents winterkill. However, great strides have been made breeding turf varieties that have a better tolerance of winterkill mechanisms. For example, USGA-funded research has resulted in the release of cold-hardy bermudagrasses such as Latitude 36™, Northbridge™ and Patriot.

Golf course superintendents are not able to prevent winterkill, but they can implement a variety of programs that give turfgrass playing surfaces the best chance of surviving winter. Common strategies in northern climates include converting to cold-tolerant turf varieties, implementing proper fall fertilization, raising mowing heights during fall, reducing shade, improving drainage and covering putting greens during winter.

What are the most effective recovery programs?

Winterkill damage can range from minor to severe, and golf course superintendents use a variety of methods to repair the damage. Weak areas of turf may recover with fertilization and traffic restrictions, but dead areas must be re-established with seed or sod. Repairing an area that has been severely damaged by winterkill is an opportunity to make improvements that may help avoid future damage. Correcting shade, drainage or traffic issues will improve turf conditions during the golf season and winter hardiness. Re-establishing a severely damaged area also provides an opportunity to use cold-tolerant turf varieties that will be less vulnerable to winterkill in the future.

Winterkill is a seasonal visitor that no golf course wants to see. It often arrives quickly, but the impact on playing conditions can last for weeks or months. Golfers can take comfort in the knowledge that golf course superintendents and scientists are working hard to understand and overcome the age-old problem of winterkill. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Tu - Dog Park & Geese

We are about 7 months into our training and relationship with Tu.  While she does not possess the verbal and hand signals and commands of a $4,000-$5,000 highly trained border collie, she does chase geese and that is what the club wanted.  There are only a few times of the year when geese are an issue for us.  

No matter the training level and skills of a border collie, they command a significant amount of time.  They are not your normal house dogs that will sleep all day.  They are high energy and need to have lengthy exercise sessions each day to expend their energy.  

Tu has definitely influenced and affected my daily life and schedules.  I wasn't planning on having to care for her 24-7.   We didn't plan for her to live in our home.   I didn't plan for her to wake me up every morning at 3:45 - 4:15 am ready to go to the course.   But that is where we are.  She has come such a long way in 7 months and we still have miles to go.   As her caretaker, I am obligated to help her and train her to be the best she can be.  The  abuse and  neglect she suffered during her first 3 years of life are not displaced easily.  And for all the frustration and inconvenience she has added to my and Lorrie's lives, I know she was brought into my life for a reason.  I was told that I was her last chance to live.  No matter the time, the trials and attention that she needs, she has a forever home with me and Lorrie.  It is just what you do.  It is the right thing to do.

Below you can see how she enjoys the dog park.   Much better than a humane shelter cage for sure.