Saturday, January 1, 2022

The Future, The Past, The Present


 

This time of year brings about a time to be reflective on one's work and life. Immersed in the day to day grind of keeping the property at Glen Echo CC in the best possible shape during the main growing season, reflection gets put to the back burner until we get to the non growing months of winter. 

The Future

The past month or two I've reflected upon my career and the future here at Glen Echo. At the November Green Committee meeting I discussed with the committee a plan I envisioned for my future. Needless to say, these plans of course are at the discretion of my direct report General Manager Tim Grossman and the Board of Directors. Let's assume they continue to be for the most part pleased with me and our Grounds Department efforts. I discussed with the committee my desire to stay at Glen Echo until I reach full retirement. I enjoy the day to day grind of managing a course and everything that goes with it. I do not desire to find another type of green industry job selling or some other type of work. My intentions are to be at Glen Echo through the next three summers 2022, 2023, 2024 and then plan to retire by late fall/early winter of 2024 when my replacement has been chosen and is in place. Of course the particulars for this transition are a bit fuzzy but I believe a plan is important for all concerned.

In the meantime, we will put the pedal to the metal and continue at full speed. We have a great deal of  new projects that need to be accomplished to put the next Superintendent in position for success from an infrastructure standpoint.   

The Past

Since arriving at Glen Echo on August 18, 2008, there has been a tremendous amount of work completed on our beautiful property. From the first project documented, First Blog Post through 1146 posts later to this post. 

First and foremost, I wanted our membership to be the most informed and knowledgeable regarding what was taking place on their property. Ultimately the choice was theirs to read or not but I think I accomplished my goal in keeping our membership informed.

No doubt we've had some tough times on the business side but I take great pride in what work we have accomplished and the overwhelming support our department has received from our members and guests. Even during these most difficult times with the pandemic, a great future for our long standing club is happening as I type this message

The Present

There is a great deal of infrastructure work that is ongoing at Glen Echo. Old bones require rejuvenation and at times renovation. 

Probably most important is a Master Plan that is not Joe's plan but a plan that can be used as a guide for the future. A realistic document that prioritizes work, sets the financial requirements and lays out a plan for the future. This type of work does not come free and requires the input of a Course designer working in coordination with the grounds staff, Green Committee, Board of Directors and the Membership.

 From my perspective as course manager, there are key elements that should be a part of this discussion in no particular order of importance for this blog post; greens drainage, tee renovations, practice facilities, tree management plan, course drainage especially the 3, 4, 11, 12 ,13 corridor, lake dredging, maintenance facility renovations, bunker drainage and continued equipment replacement. Already a part of the discussion and in the plans are continued cart path renovations.

 On a personal note, I've joined a Weight Loss Challenge that came about on Twitter from a group of turf managers. We have some skin in the game but in the end for me its not about the cash. With my future lined out above, I need to make some physical changes for my current and future health. As you know I've been pretty active as a superintendent but the activity level can be affected by the dining table and some pretty horrible decisions being made in regards to what I put into my body..

I've decided to remove wheat from my diet which is a high impact on my current grazing habits. Of course with that comes the leaving behind of daily cookies, donuts, sandwiches, cakes, most pasta and pizza. I have medically controlled high blood pressure I've developed over the last few years and arthritis is beginning to say hello. My hope with increased exercise I can eliminate the high blood pressure and slow the effects that age and arthritis have on my body. My goal is to reach a weight of 170 pounds which I haven't seen  since 1999-2000. 

My Superintendent Challenge is for 8 and 12 weeks so hopefully the transition will happen throughout the winter and into the spring. The most important thing of course for me is to make this a permanent change in my life style.

Thanks for your time and I look forward to another year of making every attempt to kill as little grass as possible.  Happy New Year.

 

 

Monday, October 25, 2021

Aeration, Germination, Hibernation, Foundation

Its been a while since I've made a blog post. I'm making daily posts regarding course opening, carts and practice range restrictions or lack thereof on social media. Allow me a few moments to expand upon the work we have completed this fall so far and what there is to come.

We attempted to delay any aeration of main playing sources until we've gotten through most of our calendar of events in September and October. We began the aeration work around our greens using a 1/2" coring tine after slit seeding fescue around the greens to improve our coverage of turf grass. Our process included slit seeding, then aerating, spreading seed with a rotary spreader and then dragging in the material to make good soil contact and mowing. We should get seed germinating in the areas over the next couple of weeks and will then mature in the spring. We plan on using our rough aerator that makes a little bit larger hole a further out on the green surrounds over the next week or two which will improve its overall health as well.

We will begin to use our pull behind rough aerator in our rough soon as time and weather permits. Cores or plugs are pulled and we use a metal drag to break them up. This assists in reducing compaction and helps with stimulating new growth in our rough plants.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a4cVFB2DlRQ


Greens aeration will begin on Monday, November 1st. Depending upon conditions for the first day, it might take us a 2nd day or so to finish up the last few greens. We will use our deep tine verti-drain aerator and go about 7-8" deep. The holes will be filled with sand and surfaces brushed to smooth them
out.
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQ0xEew0b9I


Our warm season turf grass zoysia was fertilized with potassium in September to assist it with winter hardiness. It thickens the cell walls and improves water and energy uptake. As zoysia goes into dormancy, it is storing energy which assists it in fighting off excessive cold temperatures.

We applied fertilizer to our cool season rough grass in the past couple weeks which will assist in providing new energy for our turf. As temperatures begin to fall, it utilizes less energy and begins to store energy for the next season. Once cold temperatures arrive in late November and early December it goes into a form of dormancy even though it is fairly green. The stored energy then allows the plant to green up a little earlier than non-fertilized turf.

A couple of weeks ago, I asked our contracted tree expert Tim Gamma to come out on property and assist me in evaluating trees that have been damaged by the gall over the past year or two that should be removed. There are 35-40 trees that were identified for removal in which 21 are Pin Oaks. There are a few Ash, Siberian Elms and Maples in which some were damaged by this summer storms and or have been scheduled for removal over the past year which make up the total number of trees. Some of these trees will be removed completely by our staff but others will require assistance from our contractor. They will top them leaving a stub and we remove the large limbs that can't be chipped and the log. Our budget does not have the funds in it to remove all the trees. GM Tim Grossman and the Board are working through the finances to determine the number of trees we can remove with the available finances. 

We made our last mowing early last week on our zoysia tees, approaches and fairways. They might grow slightly over the next week or two and will then go into dormancy as our temperatures get cold enough for frost. We have also made our large patch zoysia fungicide application over the past few weeks to reduce the effects of the disease. The fall application of the fungicide assists in reducing the severity of the disease in the spring but we also must make another application in the spring to keep the disease under complete control.



Thanks again to the Foundation for the recognition of the work accomplished over the years here at Glen Echo by our staff.     


Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Part Deux, Puffy, and Overlayed



 As meteorological summer began in June, we thought we were in for a hot and dry summer. The end of June and into July brought copious amounts of rain.(As wise men once said it never rains in July). Along with the rain storms came tremendous damage to THEM things which created some issues for our staff but they stepped up and handled the situation as best could be expected.(As seen on Social Media I will not use the word Trees as I now refer to them as THEM. Its a coping mechanism so work with me here)

Well, Part Deux happened again last week but luckily to a smaller extent.We struggled a bit through some horrific weather last week but have made it through to the other end. We hope to have the rest of our mess cleaned up for the holiday weekend including getting some support posts put back up on the tennis courts to stop any further damage. The new wind screens are being removed for the season to reduce any further damage to the existing structure until we get it shored up and strengthened for next year.

 1 green after tree fell on irrigation system causing 2 heads to come on. I came back to turn off irrigation not knowing this had occurred. Happy I came back.

 Over the last few weeks, our greens have struggled from soft and puffy conditions. Temperatures have averaged more than 3 degrees above normal including that all important night lows which has not allowed recovery time of our turf. Consistent and regular rainfall on our greens which do not have drainage has led to soft surfaces and fat/lazy grass plants who do not like to give up additional ball roll out. We have been forced to not mow greens on a number of days because of the rain or damage which has occurred on the course. We have also had issues with scalping out in the middle of greens and over the top of our hole locations. We use a plate that we stand on which reduces the heaving of the greens as we pull out the 8" plug from the green but we continue to have issues. Also, with an inch or two of soil at the bottom of our hole this creates great suction when the greens are wet. We attempt to reduce this suction using various techniques but sometimes to no avail.

                              This has been experienced many times this summer at Glen Echo
 

 Heat and moisture leads to high microbial activity in our sub surface's and the release of additional nutrients for plants. We attempt to control this growth by the use of regulators but that has been very difficult for us to accomplish over the last few weeks. High heat shortens the window of the chemical's useful life and then chaos hits the course either in 1-2" rainfall and or high wind conditions and we've missed some of our windows for spraying. One of the chemicals is a product which has to dry on the greens and the other must be watered in which also creates its own set of issues. When you are already wet do you add more moisture and possibly make your greens sick just to control growth. Sometimes you just have to do nothing until the environmental conditions change. We anticipate with cooler weather the next 7 days to get back on track with sand topdressing, brushing mowing and rolling. 

We are looking forward to more of this!

  We had hoped to have some cart paths back filled with soil and sod added in the worst areas between 1 tee and 4 but have not been able to accomplish this to date. We hope to begin this process as time allows. To a man and women, we are much appreciate of the effort to clean up our cart paths. You can do all you can to have great turf but having your equipment banged around with heights of cut set at thousandths of an inch can lead to issues on our best surfaces. I see staff members driving down the middle of a fairway to avoid the rough nature of our paths. Some have mentioned, why not concrete? Well, if we had a choice of course we would go with concrete but the cost is astronomical in comparison. Our local superintendent has a text thread where we throw out questions or look for guidance. Been told by a reliable source that has been doing concrete over the years that replacement of asphalt and going to concrete would be easily into 7 figures. I would like to have the most modern bent grass on our greens and complete drainage in each green but it can't happen right now. 

                                                                 The old and the updated!

From November through March, we have a tendency to have some large equipment on our paths.Our dump truck is 7'10" wide. An 8' cart path leaves you no room for error. An 8'4" cart path basically the same but does give you just a little wiggle room. Our backhoe is over 7' wide and our lift is nearly 8' wide and heavy. We work in the winter during freeze and thaw conditions which is the norm around St. Louis since we don't stay nearly as cold. As we are driving on our existing roadways you literally see them flex up and down.creating more path repair work the next season. Kind of makes you sick to your stomach knowing to accomplish your work you have to tear up something and create more work. Over laying these paths will help to strengthen our existing surfaces and allow us the time to continue to improve our facilities to the best we can make them.


We of course focus our efforts on our daily work but our biggest event of the season if coming up rather quickly. The Invitational 2021 opening round is about 403 hours away. I anticipate you will see some ever changing conditions over the next 16 odd days. I hope you have pleasant day.

 

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Cart Path Update

 Good progress on the cart path overlay today at Glen Echo.

The clubhouse circle was completed this morning and the operation was moved to the area of 3 tee and our contractor brought us to within about 200 yards from the first tee.

Thursday play will begin from the 10th tee to allow us some extra time to get through #1 tee. We will be asking members to go through the maintenance area to get to the driving range since we will be stacked with trucks along 1 and into the range area. Our road begins at the guard rail near the cart garage. We will then complete the long range road and parking area and then move out to #3. I anticipate 4 tee to the field bar road behind 7 green off of #4 completed on Friday.

The asphalt that is currently laid is ready to be driven upon. Once the asphalt is rolled a few times it will be ready to drive upon. In the meantime, if you are out on Thursday or Friday, we will provide some guidance in the area that we are working. I Thanks for your patience as we work through this project.

Areas ground on parking lot as contractor prepared to fill with new asphalt.

Rolling the newly patched area.

Laying asphalt in clubhouse circle.

Rolling the area smooth.
                                       Contractor using a paving machine to lay the asphalt. Staff firming up
                                        sides and smoothing out imperfections.


Steamy hot.
                   
Finished product after rolling from 2 tee to 1 green.

From 2 tee onward and up!

Asphalt on the high side of 1 will need some back bill and sod.


Area near the upside but on the low side with the same issue. Soil and sod to smooth out.
 This will prevent damage to equipment and reduce hazardous situations for carts and our members operating them. 

Monday, August 2, 2021

Cart Paths and Fairways

Over the next few days, there are a couple of large scale projects taking place on the grounds of Glen Echo CC.

Sunday evening we began to aerate our fairways. Skip and I came in once the last tee times went off and started pulling cores and then busting up the cores with a Flail mower that has spinning blades and chains and pulverizes the plugs. Today we will begin to drag the fairways with metal drags which breaks up any plugs that made it past the grinding. It will also help work the soil back through the zoysia canopy. We blow the remaining thatch and residue into the rough where it can be chewed up by the rough mower. Earth to earth and dust to dust. The fairways are then mowed. We anticipate this taking more than one day to complete all of our fairways. We normally have 3-4 fairways to complete usually on Tuesday and or Wednesday depending upon the weather conditions and anticipated play. 

Asphalt work will begin in earnest on Tuesday with the front clubhouse circle getting an overlay, Grinding along the edges of the crosswalks in the Pearson Plaza and near the portico will be completed and then a layer of asphalt will be laid in the circle area.We will begin asphalt on the course on Wednesday. The first work will be from the bottom of 3 hill all the way into the first tee and also the path that goes to the range.

Large dump trucks will be taken by our staff out into the field to assist in navigating through play. We will stage them in the parking lot and they will be brought out from there. They will also be brought back in once empty. Once the first section is complete, they will proceed to the second section which will be from the lowest point on hole 3 going forward through 4 tee to where it ties into the path behind 7 green. Those trucks will be staged  in the main entrance area, The new overlay will be 2" thick and we have a total linear footage of about 5,700' at an average width of about 8'.  

We anticipate this work to be completed by Friday. The asphalt will be able to be driven upon the next day. Depending upon weather, we will begin the process of back filling dirt in along the path and sodding fescue to help make a smooth transition with the new grade. We will do sections at a time to give us the best chance at growing the turf in properly since we are still into summer heat. I would not anticipate all the sodding to be completed before winter is upon us in December. Some areas might not need any back fill which will be helpful.

 

 

The sealing and striping of the parking lot is scheduled for Monday August 9th. Once the delays in the parking lot moved closer to our open window for the cart path overlay, the two projects were switched around so the sealing would not be damaged by the large asphalt trucks. This work should take 2-3 days next week.


We appreciate  your understanding during this time.Check you emails for updates and or social media for both the club and my personal accounts.

Instagram joewachter

Twitter jdwachter  Joe Wachter

Facebook  joewachter4


 




Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Spread It, Vertical It, Trim It, Fill It and Please DON'T Step Through It

 What a rollercoaster its been over the last few weeks with our work here at Glen Echo. This week we're reaching the peak and heading down the biggest drop. All of our grounds responsibilities are coming together to start all at once but our staff along with some pretty good weather I must say are knocking it out of the park with a couple twisty loops in between.

SPREAD IT

The pandemic has created some shipping issues with parts in repairing some of our needed pieces of equipment. Our spreader is down and with the onset of warmer weather our zoysia is hungry and ready to move a bit so we borrowed a spreader from the best Super I know, my brother and spread a couple tons on our fairways over the past couple of days. Little more spreading to do as well with a little nitrogen to go into the roughs to push a little energy into them for the summer stress period. Oh what a challenge it will be playing from it over the next few weeks! Hit em straight.

https://youtu.be/pXnd4mWMpLg


VERTICAL IT

Did a little vertical mowing on our greens the last couple of days. Its normally completed a little earlier in the season but timing has not been where I wanted.  You say vertical, what do you mean? Well, allow me a moment to explain. Greens mowers have a piece of metal that stretches across the ground and stands the turf up and the blades then come through and cut it off. We are talking about a setting of about 1/8" maximum which is about 30 sheets of typing paper. Pretty thin. Below are pictures of a normal mowing reel and a vertical mowing reel.


Regular mower with a straight bar across the bottom that stands the blades up and anything above the top of the bar gets cut by the spinning blade.

The vertical mower cuts down into the surface of the green. 37 blades across 20" spaced at about 5/8" apart. Its purpose is to cut any bent grass in its line that have bent over and grown laterally which is its nature.


Our vertical mowing only goes about 3/8" deep helps to manage the bent grass in the manner that I anticipate. We went front to back on Tuesday and today we went the opposite direction and made what appears to be a checker board pattern across the greens to insure we could cut many of the longest blades. Tuesday we did a light sand topdressing behind the vertical mower than brushed and mowed. Today we only brushed behind the vertical cut and mowed. The disruption of the surface lasts a few days but I would anticipate by this weekend the greens should be at their normal roll out.

https://studio.youtube.com/video/eIUkyFNgzjw/edit






  The arrow on the left is pointing to the shorter lime green poa annua.We have reduced its competitiveness with a growth regulator called Paclobutrazol in an effort to encourage the bent grass to out grow it. The arrow on the right/middle is pointing to bent grass plants which if you look at the length of their overall leaves are 3 to 4 times longer than the poa and much wider blades as well. We don't vertical very often because it can reduce the competitive advantage bent grass has over poa but a cut like this can stimulate growth of the bent and force it to push out more leaves from the crown(growth center of the plant). Ultimately it improves ball roll out for future rounds of golf. Now you can go to a depth of an inch or more but that's usually done much earlier in the season to allow for proper healing. Scheduling had not allowed us to get this process completed in the last few weeks but the timing of the cool down over the next few days works perfectly for this cultural practice. 
 
TRIMMING IT

The staff have been hitting the property with trimmers attempting to get all trees, fence lines and other structures trimmed up over the last couple of weeks. They are weekly trimming and hover mowing our bunker banks which is usually a 6-7 hour job for 3-4 people. Once the heat of summer arrives, there is a bit less growth which saves some time. 

FILL IT

Our grounds detail work as we've mentioned in the past are our tennis courts and pool. Continued clean up including painting the asphalt  area and getting the shade structure painted and cleaned. Cleaning  stored away furniture and existing furniture that overwintered at the pool. Becky's been hard at work getting the urns filled and the giant hanging baskets placed at the pool. Touch up painting of the pergola and attaching the sunshade to its roof all in a days work for our staff. 


 We removed some hanging baskets from the Pro Shop front area and have added some new baskets to the Field Bar. Becky planted those last week with Caladium, Sun Patiens, Asprargus Fern and Coleus. Six in total. Should be a good look this season.


 
Please DON'T STEP ON IT

Speaking of Becky and the work she does comes the last but not least of our blog. We have a couple of ornamental plantings that are in some high traffic areas, especially around the pro shop. They were put in place over the years to give a great back drop to our closing hole and to give cart and walking traffic a defined area to walk and or drive around. Last weekend, I happened to be up around the pro shop and saw with my very own eyes people walking directly through the bed area. 
Our walk on and walk off area at the practice green was an embarrassment for me and we have made great strides in improving this area. We improved the soil structure and increased the irrigation to small directed heads for this walk off area. We also placed stakes and roping that can be moved to spread the wear and tear. Every foot print through the ornamental bed compacts the area and does not allow water to penetrate properly and damages plants. We appreciate you walking a few extra feet to protect the work our staff has spent many hours completing.
     


Thanks for your time and hopefully you get out and see  us over the next few days.


Thursday, May 13, 2021

Yep its Weather, Getting Dirty/TIlling Deep, Zoning Out, and Early Range Shutdowns


 Its been a while since I've made a blog post. If you follow me on other forms of social media you've seen a regular plate full of details regarding the work our hard working staff are accomplishing on a daily basis.

Weather

First and foremost, lets talk about the weather, especially the colder than normal temperatures we have experienced in late April and May. The average temperatures in April were a couple degrees above last season. Now, May 2021 is a different story. We are currently 8 degrees behind average in both daylight highs and night lows. Last May we were actually a degree above normal. More importantly, our soil temperatures have dropped since the first of May to 63 degrees.

Soil temperatures at this level are excellent for our rough grass(cool season) and greens. Our bent grass likes temperatures to be slightly warmer, especially at night but they are in full production of energy which contributes to root growth and adds to storage within the plants. 

It is most difficult for our dominant short grass zoysia, especially our tees and areas of fairways with heavier cart traffic and additional shade. We've cleaned up our zoysia mowing only weekly at this time due to the lack of growth. Some of our weaker areas we will keep the mowers away completely. It appears we might begin to see some increases in heat over the weekend and into next week. We can't force the plants to grow. The systems within the plant currently are slowed because there is not enough energy to produce growth.

It is very important during this time that membership operating carts reduce traffic in fairways as much as possible. Using a 90 degree angle from the cart path to your ball in the fairway reduces traffic in the fairway. Once the ball is struck, move the cart back to the rough and cart path when possible and proceed to where you ball is located. We are still seeing a tremendous amount of traffic going from the teeing ground area directly through the rough off of the tee and into the fairways and then driving another 50 to 100 yards down the fairway. Your assistance is greatly appreciated to reduce this type of activity.

Soil and Sod 

Stumps from a few trees removed were ground a few weeks ago, remnants cleaned out and this past week they will filled with soil. Yesterday and today, our staff edged the existing filled areas and laid sod to cover the spots. Six in total were cleaned up. Our contractor will be out in the next couple of weeks to grind the remaining stumps that we have on property so we can get them cleaned and covered for the summer.

Sycamore and Sweegum that were in the club lawn to the right of 9 cart path were covered with sod. Also, 9 tee, a pine tree in the club lawn and in the triangle between 5/7/main drive. 

Some additional soil work was completed along some seriously compacted cart path edges behind 11, green, at 13 green and at the curve just short of 15 green by the 16th tee. We used a heavy duty tiller going as deep as 6-8". We added some black gold compost from St.Louis composting and covered with fescue sod. These areas will be kept very moist over the next week or two so it is important that we do not step into the 20" width of sod that are next to the path. Access to the green areas are still available at the top end of these renovated areas.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=No8JNhqkE78




From the 11th cart path going up the hill to 12 tee. We have this section roped off and are asking cart to proceed to the top of the hill at the circle turn for the 12th tee to enter the 11th green complex. This area has been very problematic because of the severe slope and the large Pin Oak that keeps this area  depleted from moisture and into heavy shade. Hopefully this extra work will finally keep this area in better shape.

This area leads up to 13 green. We tilled from just above the left tee up to the top of the hill in the bottom picture. You can access the green from below or above the section. Some can step across the sod without issue but please be reminded this area will be kept wet for a week or two to help it root properly. We will also keep the tees up on the upper tee of 14 for a week or more so more the reason to pull up to the top of the sodded area.


No pictures of 15 but this area will be roped off and will be obvious for our golfers. Carts can stop short of this area and or proceed to the circle for 15 green/16 tee.

Drop Zones

We have one established drop zone at the club which is the red teeing area of hole 9. As play has increased, so has the wear and tear to this teeing ground. It is also a fairly small tee with an extension that was added a few years ago that frankly speaking needs to be renovated. Teeing grounds are not the best locations for these drop zones so a couple of changes will be occurring over the next couple of months. 

On hole 9, we have rough graded in a new drop area beside the 9th red tee. We will be covering this with zoysia over the next week. Later this summer,(after July 4th, we intend to close the red tee and blue tee on #9. We will strip the sod from the tees, enlarge the red tee forward, to the right and a little off the back. We also will strip the blue tee and will extend its teeing ground to the right. We anticipate these tees will be ready for play by August 1st with the heat of the summer pushing a quick grow-in. In the meantime, we will utilize the new drop zone for the red tee/drop zone and the white tee will have the blue tee added.

New drop area to the right of 9 red tee. We still have some work to complete on the slopes and some leveling but its roughed in. We anticipate the red tee to split the different between the existing tee and the new drop zone.


        

The golf committee and green committee has been in discussion regarding a potential drop area to be established for the 15th hole. We will be placing a drop zone about 35' from the cart path about 10' from the Egan's Lake. It will be mowed at a reduced height of cut and a circle designating the area will be put in place. 

Driving Ranges

There are signs at each driving range that mention the range will be closed early on Thursdays. This must occur so that all balls can be removed by the pro shop staff and readied for our staff to mow before the first golfers whom arrive on Friday morning at 7 am. This program is usually implemented in late April and runs into June and or until the grass begins to slow its growth. Its important that the grass be cut twice a week so staff can see the balls and remove them so they are not chopped up by the mowers. 

On event day Mondays, our staff usually picks the ranges clean and mows after the groups begin play. The pro shop staff assists us with as much removal before dark on Sunday evenings. We do not close the ranges early on Sundays so our membership are not inconvenienced by our necessary operations. We appreciate your understanding during this time.


I hope you get a chance to get out and see your golf course over the next couple of weeks. Ball roll out has been pretty good I hear and hopefully the rain starts falling at night and leaves our weekends free to play golf.