Friday, December 11, 2009

Blast from the past (part 2)

The second year we actually decided to make a few changes to the left side of #5 green. We had a few old trees that gave us problems and for a par three it really had no character. After hearing a rumor that we were thinking about digging a pond the the left of #5, we had a member (Gary Carr) offer us the use of a track hoe and a couple of dump trucks for a weekend along with operators. This was great and it was actually our first official project. We needed this pond to channel water from the area into as well as we needed the soil to do the project on the left of #5 green. What you see today was the culmination of that work.

I found at this point just how much I really loved doing renovation and construction work to the golf course and was fueled by just how cheap we could do it for with membership donations.

This year had it's share of good and bad but the really bad happened that coming winter when we ended up with a whole lot of rain throughout the winter, some of it weeks on end day after day. This was when I first noticed just how bad it was to not have a subsurface drainage system in our greens. I remember walking across #6 green for about 2 weeks where every step you took water oozed up under your shoes. I knew then that we had about 5 greens that were in for a very bad time the next spring. The longer the water stayed in the greens the more turf I seen dying away. I had several meeting with my chemical reps as well as Board Members about these greens fate. I made sure they were well aware of what would eventually happen. We even started taking steps in the early spring to re-grow them by taking 2" plug's from the back of our best green (#15) and transplanting them on 2' spacings. The greens got so bad that spring that I really thought I would lose my job. Because of the problem we decided to start installing drainage systems in our worst greens. Having done this at Chateau I knew just what to do and each green was down for 2 days. We ended up draining 5 greens that spring.

The Board decided that they wanted to get an outside opinion about the greens problems and I could not blame them they were losing 5 greens and it looked like it would be pretty fast. They decided to bring in the USGA agronomist to evaluate the greens and the course. I remember being very nervous since this was my first real set back as a Superintendent. As it turned out though, the USGA's report back to the club (which you can read under the USGA post) was advising drainage to the greens as well as them in dire need of being rebuilt due to the very old turf variety and the mutation of that turf. They had many other recommendations that our course needed to achieve to elevate itself to a respectable golf course. I commend the current Board at the time for actually using this report as a guideline for improvement. Most courses just look at it as costing too much money to make the change. This board took it to heart. Remember that this was the summer of 1997 and change was on its way.

Plans, Plans and more Plans

I was instructed to meet with our head pro, Rick Miller and start to build plans for the renovation of our greens as well as getting quotes on a new irrigation system to be presented to the board. This was not the decision to do the work but rather the information gathering to see if it was feasible for the club to do. I will say that I basically had no experience in rebuilding greens but I was well rounded in all irrigation aspects. I simply started doing research, forcing myself to learn what was needed and called upon other Superintendents, chemical reps and anyone else that could guide me in my search. Within a few months I had everything I needed to sit down with the Board for a preliminary meeting. The outcome of that meeting was that we had an idea of cost and time involved for our goals and the Board wanted to take the next step and present the idea to the general membership at it's January meeting. It took many more meetings before we was ready for the big presentation, but we felt confident in all of our research as well as our abilities to sell it to our membership.

New Greens

We actually brought in Max Maxwell a semi-local Golf Course Architect for discussions on rebuilding the greens under USGA specs. Needless to say his $40,000 fees as well as his higher then affordable standards fell well out of our price range and I was directed to do the designs myself with Rick Millers help. I think I remember my heart jumping into my throat then. I knew the basics of need as well as what we had to work with, but wanting to get new greens more then anything I just went right to it. Rick was very helpful in that I left him responsible for the putting surface while I was responsible for the internals and what it would take to get them right. WE had to stay inside the confines of the slopes and not get too far away from the original surfaces or at least within reason. Our first hurdle was with how small many of our greens were. I knew we needed to add about 30,000-40,000sq.ft. of putting surface overall to the greens. This was starting to get harder and harder with every turn and lets not forget I still had a course to take care of. We put together a plan that basically solved all of our needs but we still had one more hurdle to get over, and this was the added cost of the expansion to our greens. Back to my drawing board. While I could make an argument for the cost of the needed sand/peat mixture for the greens surface I still had to come up with an affordable way for the base and slop area of the expansions. The cost of buying soil would put us way out of our budget and probably be the dagger in the coffin to the whole project. This is where I came up with the idea of a new backhoe and taking the soil from the existing course in out of play areas by digging ponds and waste areas. It must of been destiny because our Club President come up with a great deal the following month on a 1 year old backhoe with 200 hrs on it for $38,000 or about $15,000 below the cost of a new machine. Now we had a plan, we just had to sell it to our membership!

The Big Meeting

I will be the first to tell you that I am not a public speaker, it just scares the you-know-what out of me. Regardless I was put on the spot to make the presentation on the biggest thing that would happen to Riverlands since 1965. I put drawings together that looked slightly better then a 5 year olds drawing compared to an architect's drawings and had the best deal around on a new irrigation system. I made the presentation outlining not only the new changes but the time frame in accomplishing the work. I could not believe the membership agreed on everything, it may well of been one of the happiest days in my life. Little did I know what I was actually in for though. I found out that making the plans are a lot easier then getting them done. The proposed price tag for everything to the membership was right at $550,000 or around the price of a complete irrigation system at most courses.

To be continued: