|Jeffrey D. Brauer||
I have written about the importance of using a golf course architect for any design related problems on your golf course. However, I focused on experience and the likelihood of saving more money, not the feel and the like. What I failed to do was instill a sense of just how important golf course architecture is to your daily golf enjoyment.
Quite simply, golf course architecture is the arrangement of landscape elements that facilitates the human activity of golf. Without architecture, there is no golf! It follows that without good architecture, there is no good golf, and without great architecture, there is no great golf. It also follows that bad architecture results in… well, you can guess.
Golf course architecture stands along with the other fine arts of architecture: landscape, fine dining, theatre, etc. in being considered important enough to warrant its own critics, lists, rankings, and even coffee table books and monthly magazines.
It inspires nearly endless debates about what style, which architects and courses are better than others. It makes us question whether less is more, more is more, or if more is a bore. It creates both shouts of joy and cries of despair, creating the drama that makes us all love golf.
Sure, it’s not a matter of life and death to some, and to others it’s more important. All of that makes it sound pretty darned important to me.
But the real value in golf course architecture isn’t obtaining rankings and stunning photographs. It lies in creating the “magic” in your golf game, and avoiding anything less. With increasing time constraints and recreational competition, it is important that your time on the golf course is time well spent, and makes you want to return as fast as possible. Good architecture is the obvious key.
If you are a golfer, then golf architecture affects you directly on a very personal level. If you love literature, you can read voraciously, but never read Danielle Steel. Movie goers can avoid any genre they don’t like by not buying tickets. TV watchers can easily change channels. But, as a golfer, you won’t skip a hole. Even one bad feature can ruin a hole, and every bad hole reduces you golf enjoyment by 1/18th. Even a series of average holes turns a chance to rejuvenate your soul turns into drudgery. Who needs that from golf?
This is why every feature on your golf course should be designed, not just built. If a green dies, you might think you are simply rebuilding an “object.” Golf course architects think in terms of “creating a space” to maximize your enjoyment.
You think of your club (or church) as the people and experiences there. In both cases, the architecture is there to facilitate the religious experience (the comparison is apt for many golfers…). Good architecture is more than providing tees and greens, it is about creating satisfying shared experiences that enhance your experience.
Golf architecture starts by organizing nature sufficiently to allow golf, but that is just the first task. The architect simultaneously weaves artistic expression with that function. Every green, tee, bunker and even cart path is an opportunity to create naturalistic beauty and inspire a wide range of human emotions, inherent in golf, including delight, serenity and joy, as well as doubt, despair and anger.
Yes, architects think this way.
While golfers do intuitively know good architecture by whether a golf course inspires or bores them, even if not versed in the principles of the art, only golf course architects know how to create these magic moments, spaces and places and make every piece of ground the best golf experience inherently possible. They understand design, as most have inherent “design personalities” supplemented through the study of landscape architecture, (including balance, rhythm, proportion, etc.) other fine arts and even human psychology.
The fact is, if you want to create something of beauty that inspires golfers and is better than merely functional, you need an architect. If you seek only minimal function that is the most you will end up with.
Yet, some golf courses go it alone, in the name of economy or ego. Others hire architects but limit them, or tell them to “just draw up my ideas.” Those results are poor, usually for a long, long time. Poor results are hard to justify when almost any golf hole is an opportunity for a talented designer to create something vastly improved and satisfying for very little extra cost. While I promised not to focus on value, the old insurance salesman adage of, “Good architecture only cost pennies a day” applies.
Golf can range from deadly dull to inspiring. While everyone prefers the latter, they often preclude even the chance for the best golf possible by treating golf course architecture as less important than it truly is. Poor architecture usually ruins your golf, so when you have a chance, don’t shortchange your course when it comes to architecture.
Jeffrey D. Brauer is a veteran golf course architect responsible for more than 50 new courses and more than 100 renovations. A member and past president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects, he is president of Jeffrey D. Brauer/GolfScapes in Arlington, Texas. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The time will come when your turfhead days will draw to a close. And as you come to terms with the twilight of your career, will you look back at your time as a superintendent and see a collection of accomplishments and milestones? Or, will there be wants and desires left unfulfilled?
What’s on your bucket list?
For the uninitiated, the term “bucket list” is an individual’s wish list of things to accomplish before they, well, kick the bucket. You may also be familiar with the 2007 movie of the same name that starred Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman as two terminally ill men united to fulfill their personal bucketlists in the time they have left.
While I surely hope that golf course superintendents live long and prosperous lives, we must all face the reality that life is finite and we must prepare for the inevitable. So I approached a number of my friends and colleagues in the golf industry to gauge what’s on their bucket lists.
Superintendents are planners, organizers, dreamers and get-’er-done types of people, so I was not surprised to have received a wide spectrum of responses. Surprisingly, individual lists didn’t necessarily focus on work-related items, but included a fair amount of personal notes and everything in between. Some are actively working on their bucket lists while others could only see it in the distant future.
At a recent Midwest Association of Golf Course Superintendents meeting, I polled a few supers regarding their career bucket lists. With a wide array of ages and experience, it was interesting to hear their responses.
One individual dreamed of taking a sabbatical from his golf course so he could be mentored by the superintendent at one of the majors. Imagine taking a year off from your course and shadowing someone like Merion’s Matt Shaffer or Oak Hill’s Jeff Corcoran.
On the career path a few guys said they just wanted a chance to interview for a top job in the country to see what it would be like. With more than 200 applicants for such jobs, most believed they have no chance at all and would just like to experience it one time during their career.
There were a few who held the leaders of their organizations in high esteem and would love to serve their fellow members. I am not so sure how much of a bucket list item that is at local chapters as my experience tells me that most chapters are always looking for the leaders of tomorrow. Start on the committee level and through hard work and being engaged, this one can readily be knocked off the bucket list.
Some indicated they can’t manage the time off to volunteer at the Big Tournaments and commit a whole week. It is prime time in Chicago and hard to get away. For that bucket list item I suggest that supers pinpoint some regional events or even a member-guest of a peer to see how things are done. In my opinion there is great value in this and mimicry is the best form of compliment.
If there are no plans for a major renovation at your course and you have that on your bucket list then stop over and see someone else in the process and learn from them. If you can’t build your own golf course or do a major renovation, then live vicariously through the eyes of others. Amazing how you can watch the progress on superintendents’ blogs and even see some great video on renovations.
The general feeling was that superintendents wanted to aspire to greater heights in their careers. In order to do that they felt it was important to think big and dream big. Therein lies their bucket lists.
- Taking on more responsibility
- Working at a higher level club
- Hosting a big tournament
- Learning from others in the industry
- A shot at the big time
- Construction and grow in
- Volunteering at the Majors
Maybe some of their thoughts will inspire you to start writing your own “bucket list” and start checking things off while you can.
Superintendent Merion Golf Club
Matt just came off of hosting an extremely successful US Open and one would think he has fulfilled just about everything that can be imagined during a professional turf career. But Matt is a guy with forward vision. His list includes:
- Write a book
- Go on a fly fishing trip and fish so much my elbows lock up
- Go to Mongolia and see where Genghis Khan came from
- Bike across the USA with my brother
- Hunt in Alaska
- Retire and not get fired!
All I can say is what a book that would be, take me with you on that fly fishing trip and odds are that you will retire happily with one of the best careers in the industry.
CGCS Milwaukee Country Club
River Hills, Wis.
Pat says his list has changed over the years. At one point his focus was to have the dream job at a Top 100 golf course with hosting the US Open as his ultimate desire. But those thoughts pass over time when you have a home like Milwaukee CC. Pat is in the middle of pursuing his dream of starting a business and developing a product. From what I have seen, I believe he has something with his new Green Sweep Technologies. Without a doubt Pat is a strong family man and knows that the example his father set for him will hopefully be carried on to his children. He wants to leave a legacy for his kids that hard work, perseverance and dedication pay off in the long run. And yes if his new products are highly successful he might just want to climb Mt. Everest one day and he is in the right shape to do just that.
Assistant Superintendent Tam O’ Shanter Golf Course
Rodney is an enterprising young man in our industry who I met at Michigan State University. Rodney’s list wasn’t long, but it was meaningful. When he said he wanted to play the entire outer edge of Ireland’s golf courses it didn’t surprise me. His academic and scientific side hopes to find a cultivar of turfgrass that is disease resistant. He also wants to create something that will make superintendents lives easier. With that final item, he’ll join the ranks of many others whose creativity has spawned a half century of improvements for golf course superintendents.
CGCS, The Los Angeles Country Club
Russ Myers has a great sense of humor. He told me he only had one goal before he retired and that was to stop retraining the same employee on how to properly rake a bunker! Training, training and more training is what makes for perfection and LACC exudes that.
Director, golf courses and lab SKY72 Resort
Jim Prusa is a journeyman who’s travelled the globe and also had a career that has spanned several different disciplines. Yet he had a nice list to share that was quite imaginative.
- Write a book
- Become a Certified Club Manager
- Shoot his age
- Dive the Kwajalein Reef
- Build a resort in North Korea
- Start a new association that is purely professional
- Swim with whale sharks
- Drive the length of Hwy 1 in Viet Nam
- Fly solo from Manila to San Francisco
- Climb Mt. Whitney again
Wow, I am tired just reading that list. Jim has plenty of info to write several books and his ventures in Asia make him one of the most knowledgeable guys over there. Some of us just want to see places like Mt. Whitney but Jim wants to climb it -- again! Something tells me Jim will accomplish most, if not all, of the items on his list.
CGCS, MG Project/Facility manager Hinsdale Golf Club
Clarendon Hills, Ill.
Bob Maibusch from Hinsdale GC has already checked off a number of items on his bucket list including playing golf at Augusta National, Cypress Point and Pine Valley. He has been to all four majors in a calendar year, owned his own golf course and rebuilt Hinsdale GC. At one point Bob had dreams of hosting a major, but in retrospect his 28 years at Hinsdale GC were just the right thing for him and his family.
So what will the future hold for Bob? His bucket list includes:
- Visit Germany and explore his ancestry
- Visit South Georgia Island where Ernest Shackleton (one of his personal heroes) is buried
- Play Pebble Beach/St. Andrews with his children and brother
- Visit Antarctica
- Visit Alaska
- Climb El Capitan
- Design/build his own home with his own hands
- Fly a plane
- Receive total consciousness!!!! (Thanks, Carl Spackler)
With Bob’s drive and energy I he will accomplish all that is on his list and more.
Superintendent Green Bay Country Club
Marc Davison is a fortunate guy to be the superintendent at Green Bay Country Club in “Titletown USA”. What could be better than watching the local Packers win the National Football Conference and more than a handful of Super Bowls along the way? Raised in a family of golfers and golf course owners, it makes sense that Marc’s list would involve golf and golf course operations. Marc has a short list but one that any of us would like to pursue.
He wants to play golf in Scotland and Ireland, play the top 25 golf courses in the USA and just mow rough as his retirement job. Something tells me that will be the best looking rough in the country when Marc takes that job on at Green Bay CC.
Superintendent Nicklaus Private/Weiskopf at PGA West
La Quinta, Calif.
Jon Maddern’s travels and career have taken him to many parts of the country. However, he still hopes to see some sites and travel more in the years ahead. Jon wants to play St. Andrews, Muirfield and all the great courses in Scotland. When time permits he would love to drive to see all 48 states and then fly over and visit Hawaii. Like so many other hard working superintendents, Jon hopes to be able to eventually retire and then his primary focus will be to spoil his grand kids.
CGCS, MG Director of agronomy Oakland Hills Country Club
Steve Cook at Oakland Hills CC has a broad list. For a guy that has seen it and done it all (well almost) it is obvious that he keeps his list current and has a ball checking things off as he completes them. Steve’s bucket list includes:
- Seeing Tibet and the Himalayas
- Buying an F250 and an Airstream… and driving to each national park
- See a ball game at every MLB park
- Climb Ama Dablam
- Learn to fly fish
- Learn French
- Learn to type
- Build a vegetable garden
- Live in Paris for one year
- Stay in touch with former assistants and superintendents
- Mentor/coach future turf professionals
- Host a US Open
- See the Cubs play in a World Series game
As a lifelong Cubs fan I am on board with Steve’s final item on the list, but I’m not sure either of us will live to see that.
What a broad array of wishes, dreams, hopes and desires from people within our industry.
I am not surprised that many of us who love this game dearly would want to play some of the greatest golf courses around the world.
Similarly travel, recreation and leisure seems to hit many lists when the guys that work 70 hour work weeks finally have time away for themselves and for their families.
Some of the more exotic adventures, like climbing mountains, flying airplanes and scuba diving with whale sharks and off of the great reefs are enviable pursuits and I hope you take pictures along the way to share with the rest of us.
Time with family, friends and loved ones was a recurring theme.
In our industry it is all about the people we meet along the way, as well as the family, friends and peers that supported us in what is a very difficult and trying career path.
Almost everyone told me that if they had it to do over again they would have chosen the same career, as golf has been very good to all of us. I hope this inspires you to dream your dreams and fulfill your life’s pursuits. Almost anything is attainable if we plan ahead and set our goals.
Bruce Williams, CGCS, is principal for both Bruce Williams Golf Consulting and Executive Golf Search. He’s GCI’s senior contributing editor.
Maybe last year’s program was perfect but this year’s conditions were different, or maybe last year’s program was a total disaster and you need a new plan. Whatever the case, deciding how to fertilize your turf going into the off season plays a large role in maintaining your course for next year.
Most golf courses these days are using foliar products in at least some of their program, says Dr. Grady Miller, professor of crop science at NC State University.
“[They’re] going to use a soluble product for greens, where most attention is directed,” he says. “When you get into the tees and fairways, you still traditionally see more granular-based programs.”
When it comes to picking the fertilizer product that’s best for your course, Miller says there are some things to look at first.
“Look at your soil test. Have some knowledge of what your soil might be deficient in. You can replenish or provide whatever the turf grass is using or needing depending on what the soil can provide or can’t provide. Some people follow that up with tissue testing to see what the plant is taking up. That can be very useful for diagnostic purposes. Considering that, you’re going to look at various nutrients, various ratios of nutrients, and how you want those released.”
There are other important things to consider when deciding on your fertilization program, and to make the best decision you need to look at all of them.
| Key points
“There are certainly a number of factors,” says Kevin Frank, associate professor and extension turf specialist at Michigan State University. “One has to be, obviously what your entire program is. How you set things up throughout the spring, summer and fall. You can always talk about cost, and that is a factor that certainly weighs in the industry today. Another thing you have to consider at some point is how many times you have to apply.”
How many times you apply depends on what type of fertilizer you’re looking for.
“Control released products are often soluble products that, because of some membrane or protectant, release that product over time,” says Miller. “Slow release is often more of a homogeneous product. It kind of wears it away or microbial activity breaking it down. Stabilized is typically in some respect kind of like a control release. You have some chemical mechanism. In essence it’s kind of a controlled release situation.”
“There are soluble products, and those are going to impart an immediate release to the crop,” says Elizabeth Guertal, alumni professor at Auburn University. “They’re going to go into a solution rapidly, and the nitrogen and ammonia that the turf needs is going to be there. Soluble materials can either be sprayed as foliars, as liquids or as granular. Then you have slow released materials, and typically they’re slow released by one of two ways. They’re either slow release because there’s been a physical coating placed around a soluble material, like sulfur coat uria, or resin coat or polymer coat urias. Those are very big in the turfs marketplace. Or they’re slow release because of a chemical reaction, and those are the uria formaldehyde, methalene urias… those are also very popular and widely used in the turf marketplace. [T]hen you’ve got, kind of what I call naturally slow release, which are the true organics, which also have to be broken down by microbial activity, and those would be things from sewage sludges or bio solids, or manures; all kinds of different materials like that. Then kind of the other grouping is the stabilized nitrogens, and that’s sort of a trademark name, but they’re not really sold as, nor can they be labeled as, slow release, but they have something in them to extend the longevity of a nitrogen response in the crop; so those are materials with either a nitrification inhibitor or an ammonia volatilization inhibitor, or they have both.”
Despite all of this, most people agree that the right fertilizer for your course really depends more on the superintendent’s personal preference.
“I personally think you can use all of them,” says Frank, “it just depends on how you build your program. If you’re going into looking at what should I do in the fall, a lot of that obviously depends on what you’ve done to this point as you get into September or October. What did you do in the summer?”
It also comes down to what you want to get out of your fertilizer, says Guertal.
“The first thing is to look at what time of year it is,” she says. “What do you want that fertilizer to do? Do you want it to create growth? Or are you looking for maintenance of the turf area?”
Budget is a very important factor to consider, as well, she says.
“Soluble nitrogen sources per pound of nitrogen are often cheaper, but you have to consider that they may be too large,” she says. “They may not be what you want to create a long term greening response.”
“You can always talk about cost, and that is a factor that certainly weighs in, in the industry today,” says Frank. “Another thing you have to consider at some point is how many times you have to apply. The slow and controlled folks will say if you apply one time you save labor, fuel costs of driving around, etcetera. That’s something superintendents should consider. Do you want to frequently apply with a lower cost product or pay a little more and not apply as often?”
“The hardest [thing] is when you budget for a soluble program and the nitrogen doesn’t last as long as you thought it would,” Guertal adds, “and then you have to reapply.”
On the topic of budget, it’s important to develop your fertilizing program the same way you develop your course’s budget: with room for adjustments, Miller says.
“Truth be known, developing a fertilizer program is a lot like developing a budget,” he says. “You can make good plans but you’ll probably have to adjust it along the way. Fertilizer programs are a lot like that. You can put down on paper when you think you would fertilize and the amounts and products based on soil tests and your experience, but almost guaranteed along the way you’re going to have to make adjustments. [For example] the east coast this year has gotten so much rainfall; lots of adjustments. Things happen along the way so you can put down a plan, and I suggest everyone do plan their fertility program, but you’re going to be constantly tweaking them.”
And speaking of tweaking, what happens if you chose a fertilizer option, put it down on your turf, and then realize you made a mistake?
“You have the ability to make changes as it wears off,” says Miller. “You can make subtle changes. Once you put the fertilizer out, there’s not really a way to take it back up. If you put down too little you can add some. It’s just a matter of monitoring your plant.”
Something that plays a big role in learning to know how to fertilize your turf over time is location. Although the general consensus is that all fertilizer types can be used anywhere, it is important to take into consideration what kind of affect your layout and climate can have on the product.
“[A]s you move into different climates, some of the slow release products break down quicker, so you use them differently,” says Miller. “If you move further north you may not fertilize as late in the year.”
“We put [a controlled release product] out on a slope and we got some heavy rainfall and it actually moved the product down the slope and accumulated in an area,” says Miller, explaining why your course layout should also play a role in your fertilizer choice. “When you move them off site and they accumulate you have problems. Placement issues can come into play.”
Your location can also play another role; one you may not have given much thought to. Before you run to your distributor and pick out a type of fertilizer, it might be smart of you to check state legislation.
“There are 11 states that have some type of phosphorous rule,” says Guertal, “so now superintendents are having to make decisions with somebody else making some decisions already.”
The 11 states Guertal mentions are Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. Make sure to check the legislation however, because some of the states, such as Illinois, have exemptions for golf courses.
At the end of the day, it is always important to remind yourself that fertilizing your turf is a learned skill that takes time.
“Most supers get a feel within a couple years of how their greens respond to fertilizers,” says Miller.
Black Mesa Golf Club superintendent Pat Brockwell shares their fall fertilization strategy and why it plays an important role in the spring green-up. Enter the following url into your browser to watch it now.
Fall Fertilization aft Black Mesa Golf Club - youtu.be/odKamBd8RLQ
Katie Tuttle is GCI’s assistant editor.
The stormwater-retention capability of golf courses is something that golfers, the larger community and even course managers themselves often fail to appreciate. It’s not the most sexy, captivating notion in golf, but a project now racing toward conclusion in Appleton, Wis., may just change all that, and the details should be required reading for anyone who maintains or manages a golf course, public or private.
Sound like an outrageous claim? Well, read on and let me know if you disagree. Something tells me you won’t.
Reid Golf Course is a municipal facility in Appleton, lying entirely within the Lower Fox River Watershed. Surrounded by urban development, Reid GC for many years had already served a practical water management purpose in town: a concrete channel cut directly through a four-hole section of the course, gathering overflow from the course and also from the paved streets all around it, and ultimately delivering that water into the Lower Fox River, which flows into the Wisconsin River.
Two problems: First, not enough water was actually making it downstream efficiently, resulting in all sorts of localized flooding on course but mainly off course. Second, the water that did reach the Wisconsin River did not meet new state standards for water quality.
It took two years, but engineering giants AECOM and my firm, Lohmann Golf Designs, solved this issue and upgrade the four affected holes — at basically no cost to the Appleton Parks and Recreation Department, which manages the golf course.
“Two things drove this project,” says Kelly Mattfield, who works with AECOM from the firm’s Madison office. “One component was putting in ponds at the golf course and naturalizing the channel within the golf course. The other was removal of total suspended solids and phosphorus from the stormwater, for compliance with the MS4 permit, and also for compliance with TMDLs at the new state and federal levels.”
Allow me to translate: MS4 is a clever acronym for Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System. TMDL stands for “total maximum daily loads” of anything that “impairs” water quality, be they suspended solids, bacteria, phosphorus, or nitrogen.
Long story short, AECOM was hired by the city’s stormwater division to sort this problem, and these engineers brought in Lohmann Golf Designs as consultants, because a) the golf course would clearly play a crucial role in this effort and would require significant renovation as part of the project, and b) we’ve handled a half dozen different stormwater retention projects on golf courses and thus have experience with the process.
Together, in work that finished this summer, we naturalized the channel passing through the course and hugely expanded Reid’s retention capacity by creating four acres of new ponds – or for you engineering types, nearly 50 acre-feet of new storage, enough to handle a 100-year storm. The key word here is “naturalized.” By creating what is essentially a giant wetland, we also created a giant filtration system that cleans up that stormwater as it passes through the on-course system before heading downstream.
As indicated above, LGD has done a ton of large-scale, stormwater retention projects: at The Bridges at Poplar Creek in Hoffman Estates, Ill.; at Deer Path GC in Lake Forest, Ill.; at The Traditions at Chevy Chase GC in nearby Wheeling. In each case, we increased retention capability and improved water quality through introduction of natural, wetlands-reliant filtration techniques. We also took the opportunity to greatly enhance course design as part of the process.
However, in each of the above instances, it was the course management entity that instigated and ultimately paid for the project.
At Reid GC in Appleton, the city’s stormwater division was acting to comply with state statute, so it footed the bill. The city’s Parks and Recreation Department operates on a completely separate budget. In essence, the golf course played a crucial role in enabling this communitarian effort – AND received significant design/aesthetic upgrades in the process, with no budgetary impact, save a few thousand for some grow-in materials. The stormwater division even factored in compensation for lost rounds and other pro shop revenues!
“Given the history of the course,” explained Pete Neuberger, project manager for the City of Appleton’s Engineering Department, “it’s unlikely that these types of monies would have been available for course enhancement if there weren’t this stormwater project as a source of funding.”
Is there any reason this sort of situation could not take place on any course where the surrounding community is battling stormwater-retention and water-quality issues? Does it even matter whether that course is public or private? Not in my view, and Mattfield agrees.
“This is the first golf project I’ve personally done, and it was great working with Lohmann because they’ve got so much experience doing this sort of thing,” she says. “Wisconsin is kind of ahead of surrounding states in terms of water quality aspects. But the EPA is pushing TMDLs across the country. Some states have more TMDLs than others, but these and other new EPA directives will definitely result in this sort of situation [in other communities].
“If golf courses have the room, and they are in the right spot in the watershed, this makes sense. It’s a win-win for everyone,” Mattfield adds
What did we actually do to the golf course, aside from creating water capacity? Quite a lot, actually. You can’t drop four new acres of water hazard in a 4- or 5-hole stretch of golf course and not impact the layout significantly, visually and strategically.
“We couldn’t simply treat this as a typical pond project,” says Neuberger. “We knew we had to respect the golf course by doing a good job of fully integrating these stormwater ponds as golf course features. It was Lohmann’s job to find a way to enhance the course, and they did that.”
Here’s what went down, but first: A big shout out to course superintendent Doug DeVries, CGCS, and Ryan Inc. Central, the golf course contractor out of Janesville, Wis., who led the construction process. They did a fantastic job shepherding these changes through a very wet spring and summer in Appleton.
On the five directly affected holes, we rebuilt four greens and the equivalent of four fairways, moving them to maximize spatial relationships and improve risk-reward strategies at the edges of all these new water hazards. We also effectively preserved the original green contours thanks to a thorough mapping exercise prior to construction. We even recreated some coveted pin placements: On the front right portion of the original 11th green, for example, there had been a very steep back-to-front pitch. We duplicated that on the new 11th, while expanding the overall size of the putting surface. On the 2nd green, we more or less copied the original while again expanding its perimeters and making it tie in properly to the new surrounds.
Reid GC will never be lumped together with the Midwest’s collection of Golden Age Designs, but it is an older course with some fun, long-standing grooming traditions. For example, they mow a unique, 10-15 foot collar around their greens. Accordingly, when we rebuilt and reshaped the new green surrounds, we kept the features low profile and expanded the bentgrass collars to enable continuance of this style.
Agronomically, the notable thing about the Appleton project is how we rebuilt the greens. Testing on the original soil profiles revealed a 3-4 inch layer of top-dressing build-up. Below that were 6-8 inches of native topsoil. In short, we replicated that profile on the new greens, using a 6:3:1 mixture that matched the top-dressing mix – allowing these new greens to behave more or less like the old ones, in terms of required maintenance practices. We also grassed them to Putter bent, an older strain whose name superintendents are probably surprised to hear after all these years. But Putter’s color best matched the color of the hold-over greens and is expected to perform well at the higher cuts (.120 to .130), with the conservative top-dressing program that Reid employs. For these reasons, we purposely avoided the newer, more aggressive bents that tend to get puffy when left at elevated heights of cut.
An additional note on the greens construction: We’ve done similar soil matching elsewhere, deploying variations on this 6:3:1 theme. When watering in these new greens, however, we’ve found they are not equipped to absorb water like a USGA green might – after all, these greens are built with a heavier soil profile that retains moisture and has more limited ability to convey it like modern greens can, even with slit drainage installed in the subgrade. So the greens rely heavily on surface drainage, which exposes them to erosion potential while you’re waiting for seed to germinate. Bottom line: They are tough to establish.
At Reid, we followed the advice of the USGA’s Bob Vavrek, who recommended (several years back in a Green Section Record article: http://gsr.lib.msu.edu/1990s/1999/990901.pdf) that we use temporary, breathable covers for two weeks during germination. I know what you’re thinking: That will overheat and suffocate the young plants! Not the case. These covers are breathable and never raised soil temperature more than 2 degrees, and that was during 90-degree July heat. Once the covers were employed, Reid’s new greens came in like gangbusters.
The removal of the old concrete channel is the last step in the reconstruction process, and that takes place this month. We are literally busting it up and burying it nearby. Good riddance. This project boasts enormous environmental and agronomic benefits, but there’s no way around this fact: That channel was an eyesore. The aesthetic difference its removal will make at Reid GC – replacing it with an entire valley of wetland pools – cannot be understated.
The par-4 12th at Reid is a great golf hole whose basic routing was unaffected by all this work. You carry over the edge of a new pond to the top of a hill, then look right – across a valley – to a putting surface on the far hillside. Players used to fly that concrete channel with their approaches. Soon they will crest the hill and see a beautiful, winding, naturalized water feature. Yes, of course, that feature is part of a system that can now handle a 100-year storm, and the water exiting that system is 10 times cleaner. But the 12th hole will also be a more beautiful golf hole, and that should count for something. It’s already counting for something.
“I haven’t golfed for about 15 years,” Neuberger says, “but I’m going to play when the course reopens next spring. I’m excited.”
Bob Lohmann is founder, president, and principal architect of Lohmann Golf Designs and a frequent GCI contributor. Check out his blog at lohmanncompanies.blogspot.com.
In northern climate zones of the United States covers for greens and other winter weather-vulnerable areas of a golf course can be important tools with which a superintendent can protect his layout from the vagaries of the cold months of the year.
There are “numerous” benefits to using covers on turf during the winter months, says Dr. Paul Koch, associate researcher of Turfgrass Pathology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He cites protection from winter desiccation and early spring green-up as probably the most significant benefits. There may also be some protection from crown hydration when using an impermeable cover like a GreenJacket, although he says data is a little more mixed on that subject.
Robert Wolverton, greens superintendent at Edgewood Country Club in River Vale, N.J., has employed green covers with considerable success.
“I have used them in areas that were renovated or newly-established. The turf in these areas might not be ready for winter and need a few more weeks of growth. Likewise, the covers will give them a jump start in the spring.” He says the decision when and when not to cover greens and other areas is dependent on the environmental conditions surrounding the greens. “If there are shade issues where ice can build up, then a cover might be warranted or in an area of tremendous exposure in order to limit desiccation.”
Ken Smith has seen just about every winter weather condition during his 26 years as course superintendent at Eagle River Golf Course in Eagle River, Wis. For many years it appeared as though Mother Nature was treating his course kindly. Then conditions began to change.
“We always had very good snow cover but from 2005 thru 2007 I started seeing some ice damage on greens facing north,” Smith says. “It was minor, but I had never seen ice damage here before. Then in 2008 we had at least three inches of ice everywhere, on the greens, tees and fairways. But we had an early spring, which saved us from losing turf.” Okay, bullet dodged. But just to be safe, Smith used six Green Jackets in the winter of 2011-12 to prevent putting surfaces from potential ice damage. “In the spring, the greens covered with the Green Jackets did very well. I did have two greens where water got under the covers and did some damage. But the other four were perfect and these were greens that I was having problems with in 2006, 2007 and 2008. I’m planning on using six more this year for a total of 12 covers.”
Dave Van Auken, superintendent at Bass Lake Country Club, Upham, Wis., has employed green covers at a number of different facilities throughout his 24-year career as a superintendent in Wisconsin.“They were in use when I had my first experience with green covers and I became quite fond of the early green-up when the surrounding turf still held on to the dull brown of winter.”
Each facility Van Auken has been at has had its own unique circumstances and subsequent benefits from the use of covers. “Overall, the benefits outweigh the negatives,” he says. “ I have not had problems with increased disease pressure or substantial set back of the turf once the covers were removed and frigid temperatures returned for a spell.”
A nice plus for management? “The brilliant green color gets everyone excited about the upcoming season,” Van Auken adds.
Roger Stewart, director of golf course maintenance operations at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine, Minn., has used covers primarily on the facility’s practice tee to help divots recover, protect seedlings and have greener turf in the spring. “We have also used small pieces to cover a few specific areas on greens where we have a mound or an area exposed to winds in an open winter,” he says. “We do not cover greens on a regular basis primarily because we have very little Poa annua and we typically get enough snow cover to prevent winter desiccation.”
Dr. Jim Kerns, a turfgrass pathologist in the department of plant pathology at North Carolina State University, advises that covers be put on after the last mowing of the year and prior to snowfall or before the weather gets extremely cold. As for when they should be removed, he says it depends on the season.
“The best practice would be to remove them when the potential for winter injury is limited,” Kerns says. “However, there are circumstances when the covers may need to be removed early. In most cases I would suggest leaving them on until most of the winter moisture has dissipated.”
There are a number of companies making and selling green covers, which vary in size from 10-by-50-feet to 80-by-110-feet but can also be custom made to fit any amount of turf. Prices range roughly from $1,200 to $2,600 for each cover depending, of course, on size, and may have to be replaced every six to seven years because of use and wear and tear. Add on another 10 to 15 percent of the cost of the covers for fastening and hardware/supplies, and more if the cover is dammed with sandbags and edges trenched in.
The “trickiest time” for the application of covers comes in fall, shortly after they are put on, and in spring following snow melt. “Temperatures can soar under the covers when they are in direct sunlight, even in fall and spring sunlight,” Koch says. “But if you remove the covers and the temperatures fall well below freezing that night you can significantly shock and injure the plants.”
Ideally, covers should be installed as late as possible in the fall after foliar growth has ceased and removed as early as possible following snowmelt before growth has resumed to prevent the types of injury described above. “But variable fall and spring conditions, small crew sizes, and other extenuating circumstances make this more difficult than it seems,” Koch says.
Wolverton quips that the best time to apply green covers is “before you let the crew go for the season!” He adds that when to cover is weather dependent.
“Some guys will put covers on at a certain date and take them off at a specific time,” Wolverton says. “I always check the extended forecasts and allow the plant to go through a couple hard freezes before we cover them just to make sure they were asleep.”As for their removal, Wolverton adds that task is also highly dependent on the weather. “There were some warm days that we took the covers off and then needed to put them back on at night because of the extreme drop in temperatures,” he says. “This seemed to happen more times than we wanted to do it in the spring. The goal was not to have too much growth right off the bat to expend carbohydrates but also to protect the turf from hard freezes.”
Van Auken has “perfected” the application and removal process.
“Every cover gets unrolled from front to back right down the middle,” he says. “The corners are located and six of us can unfurl the cover and start tacking it down in a minute or two. We also have a tremendous amount of support from our membership and will have six or so volunteers helping out. I take a crew and tack the covers down and the volunteers come through and finish the job.” He says he uses the same process, only in reverse come spring. Volunteers pull 80 to 90 percent of the staples and the maintenance crew pulls the remaining few, folds the covers to the center and rolls them toward the front. Each cover is tied up and tagged for use again in the fall.
The biggest drawback to green covers is the cost and hassle of purchasing and putting them out,’ Koch says. Putting out covers in the late fall with a reduced crew is a significant task, and many superintendents are surprised by how much work they are.
“In addition, a study we completed last spring at the University of Wisconsin showed an increase in snow mold severity under an impermeable cover with the foam insulation but not a permeable cover (like an Evergreen cover),” he says. “The increased snow mold severity was manageable, however, when a strong fungicide program was used.”
Covers can stimulate growth, which, when they are removed, could present a problem in the spring, Kern says.
“We also found that snow mold severity was most severe under impermeable covers.” He also referenced the University of Wisconsin (where he was prior to taking the position at N.C. State) trial. “Although our snow mold treatment kept snow mold at bay, the non-treated controls that were covered with an impermeable cover had significantly more snow mold that any other cover treatment.”
Bill Stein, superintendent at Minnocqua Country Club in Minnocqua, Wis., says that despite his desire for additional green covers, the time needed to put them on in the right timeframe is a challenge with the number of covers he currently has, so more covers are almost out of the question.
“Covers also need to be replaced every few years also,” Stein says. “So there’s an additional cost to consider as well. I feel we are at the appropriate number of covers for our situation. We have minimized our risk and feel that we can get our covers on and off in an acceptable timeframe.”
While covers may be costly to purchase compared to seven temporary greens and angry membership, it’s a drop in the bucket, Smith says. He adds, “Basically, they are insurance because the weather here in the north woods has become so extreme over the last 10 years. I would say half the time we don’t need covers we will have good snow cover or a nice month of March. But when you go until late April without hitting 50 degrees and night after night of a freeze thaw cycles, the Green Jackets are worth every penny. I would say there is a learning curve for each course but it’s the best chance to have quality greens in the spring.”
Steve Sarro, director of grounds at Pinehurst Country Club in Denver adds covers can be labor intensive and he may not need them every year. However, he likes to think of them as an insurance policy.
“In my current climate it is all about water management, even through the winter,” Sarro says. “When Mother Nature gets the best of you, you better have a great relationship with the pro and the general membership.”
John Torsiellos is a Torrington, Conn.-based writer and frequent GCI contributor.