Thursday, February 12, 2015

Winter Update

This has been a milder winter than last year so far.  Not as much snow has fallen to date compared to 2014.  That has allowed our maintenance staff to get some projects done on the course. If the current pattern continues, we should be able to get a lot more done before Opening Day.  Hopefully we don't have a slow green up like last Spring.

A lot of our focus in the early winter months has been devoted to tree work.  We have cleared and removed over a dozen dead or diseased trees that were unsafe to our members and guests.  The debris pile from the previous two tornadoes and derecho of 2012 is finally being hauled away and turned into a wild flower orchard to promote pollinator and bird habitats.  This is a big deal in Montgomery County with the current legislation to ban pesticide use.  Showing supporters of the proposed law that we do care for wildlife and take steps to preserve nature can help debunk the myth that golf courses and landscapers are detrimental to the health of our environment.

Work has also been done to open up the canopy at #16 tee.  If you have played at RedGate in the last decade, you know how huge this step is to maintaining turf on a tee box that has constantly been a struggle and eyesore.  We have also been working with Crown Castle, the company that operates the cell tower, and The City of Rockville to make changes to the infrastructure from #15 tee to #16 tee.  We're excited about the changes and improvements it will make to those holes.  

There were some issues with the irrigation piping that was due to just age and general wear and tear.  Phoenix Irrigation has come in and started to repair the system by removing the old pumps and piping and replaced them with more efficient ones.  They are also doing some re-routing of the headers to make any future work on the system easier.  This should help by improving our irrigation coverage without increasing our water usage. After they are installed, we will be doing some in house repairs to the building. The work will be complete before we start the system up in early March.

This is also the time of year when many local, regional, and national meetings take place for turf managers.  Continuing education is vital to being the best Superintendent you could possibly be.  The technological, mechanical, and chemical advances that take place in this industry are numerous and rapid.  Toro, Jacobsen, Syngenta, BASF, etc., they all spend millions of dollars annually in research and development.  At every Golf Industry Show, they have some new products for professionals to salivate over.  

While a family commitment will not allow me to attend the GIS in San Antonio this year, I have attended some very beneficial seminars.  The Eastern Shore Association of Golf Course Superintendents had their Fall Conference in early November.  It was a 3-day event in Ocean City with golf and educational speakers.  The Mid-Atlantic Association Annual Meeting at Argyle Country Club and the MAAGCS Educational Seminar at Ten Oaks Ballroom in Clarksville were well attended and invaluable to me as a 1st year Superintendent.  In addition to the knowledge gained, the networking that is accomplished will prove to be extremely beneficial in providing the best conditions possible at RedGate.  

There is still plenty of work to be done.  Aerification, fertilization, and seedhead control applications are right around the corner.  As well as some bunker work we have planned, improvement to the irrigation at the driving range is in the works.  Stay tuned for dates on greens aerification.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Winter Rules Now In Effect

The last 6 weeks have been a whirlwind!   Not only figuratively but literally.  The winds in the Rockville area have been steady and strong for most of November.  The leaves are down and almost cleared, but it's been a struggle to keep up on some days.  Hopefully by this weekend we will have them all blown to the appropriate areas and out of play.  With the undulation at Redgate, there are holes that need to be completely dry to be blown off so we don't do damage to the turf.

At the end of October, we took advantage of the change in relationship between Horizon Distributors and Jacobsen Turf.  Horizon was kind enough to unload some of the equipment they had in their inventory at a very affordable price!   We were able to acquire a new GP-400 Greens mower, Ar-522 Rough mower, a Lely, Renovaire turf aerifier, Turfco top dresser, 2 utility carts, a tournament express roller, and most importantly, a new bunker rake.  These additional pieces of equipment will make it much easier to provide the conditions desired by the golfers that call Redgate home.
Horizon unloading new equipment

Unfortunately, it was late in the season when we got the equipment and can't "break it in" until spring.  We had already started prepping the course for winter and those tasks are now complete.  The water coolers were removed from the course after our Turkey Shoot-Out.  We will be inspecting them and making sure they are still suitable for use in 2015.  The same process is done for the ball washers.  In the winter months when work on the course is hard to complete, the staff will clean and repaint the tee markers, ball washers and trash cans.  There are no tees on the course but the yardage plaques are clean and visible to give golfers a reference point when teeing off.  We bring in half of the trash cans and paint them, put them out when dry, and repeat the process for the remaining cans.

We also have gone to the 2 cups in the green system to protect the turf from wear.  When the ground freezes, it becomes near impossible to change to pin location.  The idea is for the golfer to play to the pin location indicated by the flagstick as usual.  The golfer places the pin in the alternate location before exiting the green.  This minimizes the wear and tear for clubs and courses that do not cover the greens in the winter. 

We plan to do some work in the worst bunkers and also have some drainage projects planned.  Hopefully the winter will not be as harsh as last year and we can have the course in great shape come April 1st.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Rockville Open

The Annual Rockville Open at RedGate Golf Course was this past weekend and despite the horrible weather, the tournament was a great success!  About 40 players in three different flights competed in the pouring rain.  And while the Saturday weather to kick off the Open was not making it easy to score low, a couple 71's and 73's were posted (Net) to set up a fantastic finish on Sunday.

The finish came down to members Jeremias Cipriano and Dave Dustin playing 6 playoff holes! Dave holed a couple birdie putts to put the pressure on Jeremias and finished the tournament with a par on #18 to win the trophy.
Dave's putt on #16 puts pressure on Jeremias

The course was in great shape despite the 1.3" of rain that fell Friday night into Saturday afternoon.  Prior in the week we were able to groom greens and lightly top dress so the putts were true with some extra pace.  We would have liked to mow and roll on Saturday but it was too saturated to get overly aggressive with the turf.  But players were happy with the conditions and that's all we can hope for.

Now that another successful Rockville Open has taken place at RedGate, it's time to prepare the course for winter and the 2015 season.  In the next two weeks, we will be completing the overseeding and aerification of the golf course.  For daily updates on course conditions, be sure to follow us on Twitter @RGGCTurf

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Thanks A Lot Mother Nature!

As many of you are well aware, this has been a cool and wet summer.  The plans of many a superintendent in this region have been either postponed or cancelled all together.  The maintenance crew at RedGate has had to delay the Dryject aerification scheduled for the greens twice because of rain.  More on that cultural practice on October 14th. (hopefully, fingers crossed)

While that has been put on the back burner, there are still things we can do to prepare the greens for the upcoming winter.  A good method to help promote growth and enhance the turf is by verticutting.  That is when you mow the greens in a vertical motion with blades attached to a mower.  The benefits of this are numerous and can vary depending on your depth of cut.  More aggressive, as long as the turf is not under stress, more beneficial.
A Jacobsen Verticutting Unit

Other benefits include removing thatch build-up. Thatch is an accumulation of the organic matter that deposits and decomposes after mowing. Up to 1/2 inch of thatch is okay but anymore than that can affect water and nutrient uptake. The channels created by verticutting aids in the uptake of water, nutrients, and pesticides.  It also allows for better seed-soil contact when overseeding. Bentgrass and Bermuda grass greens have the ability to create new growing points when verticut. The golfers will love how it makes the surface putt true and fast when recovered. The practice is not as disruptive to the turf as aerifying so recovery should be in a few days if its actively growing.

Since we could not aerify this week, I decided to verticut the greens and "reap" some of the previously discussed benefits.  There are many ways you can perform the task but the steps we took are as follows:

  1.  Verticut greens at a depth equal to the height of the turf stand. (1/8th inch or .125)  This is not too aggressive but removes a lot of material. 
  2. Blow the material that was left on the green off to prepare the surface to be mowed
  3. Mow greens with heavy solid rollers attached to smooth out the surface
  4. Apply top dressing that further smooths the surface and also helps with thatch control
Typically you would either work the sand in with a drag mat or brush, but we applied the top dressing light enough there was no need. Plus you would have to add an extra step of rolling greens to smooth the surface again. You could also water in sand with the irrigation system but with over an inch of rain forecasted for the evening I let Mother Nature do it for me.  She owes me one...

Verticut mowing grooves in two directions
    Alex blowing off #7
Adding Top Dressing to #9 Green

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Be careful what you ask for....

Ever since I decide to pursue a career in golf course maintenance, I have been "chomping at the bit" to become Superintendent. Be it to show what I learned from The Institute of Applied Agriculture at UMCP or to improve and expand on what I took from the Superintendents I worked under.  The title is something I coveted more than a World Series for my beloved Chicago Cubs.  After my first week of being named to the position here at RedGate, I was re-thinking my life decisions.

I'm not short on confidence when it comes to my education and work experience.  I know how to maintain a golf course, manage a crew, and stay on budget, etc...  That knowledge has been acquired over my 15 years of working in this industry.  What I wasn't told was that my irrigation system will go down at the worst possible time.  No class prepared me for my sprayer(the most important piece of equipment in the fleet) not functioning properly in the month of July.... in the Mid-Atlantic Region, the most difficult to grow turf at greens, tees, and fairway heights during the summer months!!  The only saving grace has been the unseasonably mild temperatures for this time of year.

But what my education and some previous Superintendents have taught me is that everyday is a new challenge.  One of the reasons I chose this career is because nothing is scripted.  Look  at whatever obstacle you are faced with, decide how to conquer it, and execute your plan. That applies to all walks of life, not just golf course maintenance.

Until the irrigation system was back to functioning properly, I came in a couple hours before the first tee time (3am) to manually turn on sprinkler heads, for the fairways and tees.  Greens are watered by hand 90% of the time during the summer months so the crew is used to maintaining the proper moisture with hoses. An unfortunate by-product of that is that other areas of the course are not as manicured with a small crew already occupied.  But I would rather have to catch up on mowing than have to seed dead areas because we were aggressive when we shouldn't have been.

Any piece of equipment is expendable in a golf course maintenance fleet except for the spray rig.  We have two at RedGate. One is an older model Cushman used primarily for herbicide applications.  It broke down last month but I wasn't in a rush to fix it because of the cost and the newer Toro was operational.  My worst nightmare came true when BOTH were inoperable at the same time. We applied granular fungicides to try and help suppress any diseases that occur at this time but they efficacy is not as accurate as foliar sprays. Proper preventative maintenance is the key to avoiding anything like this happening in the future. $3500 later the Toro sprayer is finally functioning properly, I was able to make an application on greens today without the pressure going through the roof. Good thing, because the greens were definitely hungry for some fertilizer and fungicide to keep  going for these last 30 or so days of the "90 days of Hell" maintenance crews in our region endure. 

It's never easy to take over management of a golf course. There is the transition period affects everyone at the course. The new Superintendent and his new staff, the GM and Pro Shop staff, the members/daily-fee golfers, to the course itself.   But I was the Assistant Superintendent at RedGate for a year before taking over so at least I have that advantage.  Hopefully I can hire someone who was as anxious to become a Superintendent as I was so I can teach them.... Be careful what you ask for, you just might get it!

Welcome To My World!

Thanks for taking the time to visit our blog about turf maintenance at RedGate Golf Course.  One of my goals since recently being named Superintendent at RedGate is to keep the public and our members informed about current course events and conditions.  The best way to achieve that is through this new craze called blogging.  It's not new to me because I have a personal blog about my love of cooking.  But in the world of turf professionals, this is a somewhat new venture.  Most of us got into this career because we weren't sitting at a desk in front of a computer.

Postings to this blog will include information about all aspects of the tasks that we perform on the grounds of the golf course.  It will also include informative posts and links that other professionals have authored.  There will also be occasional bios of my staff in efforts to shine a light on the jobs they do day in and day out with little fanfare.  Any good Superintendent knows he can't survive the rigors of summer without a motivated staff.

So check back periodically to see what we're doing and why. If you have any questions or concerns, I can be reached at  The door to my office is always open if you want to chat but the best place to find me is on the course...