April Showers bring May Members

Welcome Back!
Along with all the changes required for you to come out and play, I’m gonna add to the list and share with you two significant changes we have made this spring and update you on projects in this blog.

Fairway aerification. This process has always been completed in August and occasionally the fairways have been compromised due to the inefficiency of the irrigation system. So this year we have moved it to the spring, which has presented us with other challenges. Aprils cool and wet weather has slowed recovery from the aerification process. The new seed applied has been very slow to germinate and growth itself has been slow. All of the back nine fairways have been aerated along with # 2, 4, 5, top of 8 and 9 on the front nine. You will find the turf on these on the thin side. Fairways that were not aerated are denser and we have ceased fairway aerifcation until next spring.Warmer temperatures are in the forecast for the weekend and early next week and should help with recovery. 

Green aerification. We are gonna try and hold off aerification until the normally scheduled date in August. We had backed off grooming during the shutdown and combined with no play should make it possible to make it through the summer without aerification. We do have other tools to open up the putting surfaces with minimal disruption should the summer weather turn hot and dry. But let me iterate that these other methods of opening up the putting surface are in no way a permanent replacement of core aerification.

On to the projects. 16 tee will be ready for sod next week. The irrigation contractor has assisted us by installing the new system for the tee. This was completed yesterday. We have to remove the leveling wood from the tee, back fill the groves and touch up the perimeter to be ready for sod. Assistant Superintendent, Micheal Crane is pressuring the irrigation system as I type this and if all is good, we’ll be placing an order for sod early next week.

                            16 tee


Along the irrigation line, all of the new isolation valves have been installed. You’ll be hard press to find where the contractor installed them. They did an awesome job repairing the areas of disturbance. Today they are installing supplemental rough irrigation along the right side of 4 green and bunker. When completed which should be today, if the rain holds off, will wrap up the project for 4 green!

The photo below of 4 green was taken in early April. Ready for play!

                                  4 green early April 20

The irrigation contractor will be working around 15 green next week installing the new pipe and heads as part of the green complex renovation. Should only take a couple of days to complete. We are also making progress on the right side bunker. Tie replacement has been moving along with half of the ties replaced at this point. Some of the soil piled behind 15 green will be needed to finalize the bunker cavity. Once the cavity is finalized, we’ll move the remaining soil to the recycling center, fine grade and finish installing rough sod around the green. The asphalt contractor has resumed working last week. Needless to say, their schedule is backed up and the path and curb at 15 green will have to wait until early June at the soonest to be installed. 

We are still waiting for new bunker sand. I’m checking on this daily. Now I’m being told that the quarries are overloaded with construction materials from the quarantine limiting production and storage of bunker sand. As of today, I don’t have an answer on when we can expect to see any. I will let you all know when we receive it and it will become the priority for us to get it installed and have the 2 or 3 bunkers up for play. In the meantime they will be marked as “ground under repair”.

Please keep in mind that we are working with a reduced staff and our interpretation of the Governors virus mandate suggests maintenance only:

“No employees are allowed for purposes of facilitating play; however, operations such as landscape maintenance and other “services to building and dwellings” may continue as necessary to prevent deterioration of property condition. “

That said, we will continue with completing these projects with the goal of wrapping them up very soon and increased grooming of the golf course!

We do have to clean up some areas on the course that we use to loose excess renovation materials. The area to the left of 6 tee and behind 8 tee need some attention. Of course I thought we would get more than 3 days notice on opening so my plan to have these area addressed before you returned has been foiled! We will address these as I attempt to bring staffing levels up to normal.

The rest of the golf course is ready for play although the weather forecast may limit mowing and washout bunkers before the weekend. Lets all hope the forecasters are wrong this time!



Times Are A Changing and So Is Your Golf Course!

We have never seen such uncertainty in our lives like we’ve seen over the last 2 months! One certainty we have had is the Green Department has been functioning everyday through all of the changes! We are now operating with a reduce staff, social distancing, budget conservation and hand sanitizer located through out our buildings along with other CDC guidelines. Even with all the changes, the amount of work we are accomplishing is impressive! I want to thank the entire Green Dept staff for not wavering and for coming to work daily to support the golf course! Here’s whats happening….

The golf course in general came through the winter just fine. The turf has come out of dormancy and is growing according to current weather conditions. We have been able to aerate the new green sod installed on 1 & 4 along with rolling and topdressing these areas with the goal of blending the two putting surfaces. Fairway aerification is also in progress. This process has been moved to the spring with the hope of adequate soil moisture to support the process both before and after. I’m happy to say mother Nature is cooperating. The golf course being closed has allowed us to test the many different options of equipment, tine style and clean up process under different weather conditions without interfering with play. We are recording all the details to build a database for future reference as this process in the spring is new to us.

Wet start to 17 fairway aeration.

17 fairway after clean up on a sunny day.

The winter projects are also moving along. Two bunkers have been rebuilt and are ready for new sand in which I’m being told should be available next week. If you recall my last blog stated the new company shuts down for the winter. Going forward we may want to stock up on the material in the fall based on scheduled winter projects.

Waiting for new sand on 15 & 16.

Railroad ties for the right side bunker on 16 were delivered yesterday. Work will resume on this bunker next week.

The new double wide office trailer has been moved into place. We are currently using it for social distancing as the supplier has been working with us on resolving a couple of issues that happened in transit. This will be resolved in the next two weeks. A greater problem is we have is no electric in it until the “shelter in place” has been lifted. The utility pole contractor is unable to install a new pole until that time and that is the next step in supplying a new service for it. We were able to install 7 of the 9 new trees in front of it. The other 2 will have to wait for the pole to be installed.

We didn’t waste anytime planting 4 new trees on the left side of 11 and adding 7 trees along the left side of 13 cart path. We are waiting for 24 laurels to be delivered for behind 11 green to complete all the years plantings.

Leveling of the new 16 tee continues. The base grade has been set and we have begun installing the top mix with a goal of laying sod at the end of next week. We’ll also be adding new irrigation to efficiently water the tee.

16 tee leveling

And to finally wrap up project season, the irrigation contractor will begin installing new isolation valves throughout the property along with new green-side irrigation at 15 and some supplementary rough irrigation along the creek at 4 green. 

Waiting patiently for their new home underground.

We are sticking to the original completion date of May 1st to have all this completed. As you just read, some things are out of our control right now and with a reduced staff, this is going to be a challenge! Either way, you golf course will be in better shape when you return, lets hope its sooner than later.

Stay healthy! 


Winter ( hasn’t arrived yet) Update

Not much of a winter yet especially when you consider we have already hit 60 degrees 4 time this month! Oh, we are not complaining as this has allowed us to move forward with the “winter” project list and complete some weather related tasks like repairing bunker washouts from the rains on January 25th. Some tree work came out of the same storm with a large pine tree coming down on #14. We capitalized on this and removed 3 smaller trees along 14 while cleaning up the pine tree. Last Fridays storm brought down additional large limbs that will require clean up at 13 tee & green and we will parlay this into clearing out the hedges and shrubs on the left side of the cart path at 12 green so we can relocate the path further away from the green to along the fence later this year. This is part of the green renovation project.

In addition to the storm damaged tree work, the arborist will be removing 30+ trees over the next two months. I will give you more detail on this in my next blog.  We have begun removing the large green side stumps like this one at #10 green.

a little heavy for the trailer

And we will be digging out the stumps at 15 green, 16 tee and green. I would like to note that the back bunker at 16 will be taken out of play do to the close proximity of a stump to the bunker. Once the stump is removed, we’ll have some rebuilding to do the restore the bunker. I’ll touch a little more on this bunker further in this blog.

We are currently preparing the site for the newer office trailer by demolishing the old trailer.  Once clean up is complete, which should be this week, the trailer supplier will move the new trailer into place, shore it up and seal the roof. We’ll then be able to move in and wait for the new electric service to be hooked up.

Even though this was suppose to happen in January, I decided to capitalize of the warmer weather to finish up most of the sod and bunker work on #4. The green and approach expansion, stepcut addition and installation of tall fescue rough sod is complete, with a small exception in front of the larger right side bunker that we’ll tackle under drier conditions.

Rebuilding of the bunkers on 15 has begun. We have stockpiled the old sand in the bunkers. This will be used to back fill the stump holes behind the green and at 16 tee and green.

The railroad ties will be replaced in the right side bunker along with reshaping, drainage and new sand. The left side bunker will see some minor shaping, drainage and new sand. The Greens Committee and myself are requesting your patience with the bunker work as the new sand wont be available from the quarry until late March/early April. We will move ahead with the all the required work and will have the bunkers ready for the new sand when it becomes available. This is where the back bunker on 16 comes into play, so to speak. The sand we remove from it for stump removal will be used for the drainage system in the bunkers on 15. This will also take the bunker on 16 out of play until the new sand arrives. Let keep our fingers crossed that winter skips over us this year!

Moving Forward

2019 was an exciting and productive year! From the tree removals, bunker rebuilding and new equipment purchases and everything in between, it feels like it was the year 2000 when I first started working here!

left side 17 bunker

New Toro Equipment

Logs at 16 tee

The Green Department is looking forward to the projects lined up for 2020 but first have to wrap up some 2019 projects. Decembers rains had delayed the sod work on 1 & 4 and the electrician wrapping up the fan installation. But I’m happy to report both projects are in progress this week and should be completed before the middle of the month.

New tall fescue sod surrounding 1 green.

2020 Projects

There are 5 improvement projects slated for 2020.

  • Irrigation isolation valve replacement.
  • Surface drainage/cart path relocation on 13.
  • Green expansion and surround enhancements at 12 & 15 greens.
  • Tee leveling/enlargement on 13 and 16.
  • Green Dept office trailer replacement.

Installing the newer, wider office trailer will be the priority for January. This involves disconnecting the utilities including the irrigation system controls. removing the existing trailer and setting the new unit in place and reconnecting the utilities. We’ll also be removing stumps from the recent tree removals and begin enlarging and leveling 16 tee.

Bunker renovations on 12 & 15 will begin in February. The bunker on the back left of 12 green will under go a complete renovation and we’ll be adding additional drainage to the right side green bunker to reduce the washouts. The front left bunker was rebuilt in 2006 and is in good condition. Both bunkers on 15 will be completely rebuilt including replacing the railroad ties in the right side bunker. Tree removals at 13 tee should be complete so we can begin rebuilding the back tee. The irrigation contractor has us scheduled to install new irrigation isolation valves through out the system. The new valves will allow us to isolate irrigation leaks and still have most of the system operable versus shutting down the entire system which we currently do.

Irrigation work will continue into March with the contractor installing new pipe and heads around 12 and 15 greens similar to what was done around greens 1 & 4 this year. The new loops will allow us to water green surround rough separate from the putting greens. We also be engaging in the surface drainage project at 13 green. This will involve relocating the cart path at the green and contouring the rough between the cart path, left side bunker and approach to gather runoff and direct it to the driveway instead of into the left side bunker. The new cart path will have to be completed first before the ground work. We’ll also be have the contractor resurface the paths at 12 green-13 tee along with the path at 15 green.

The green surround project on 12 & 15 involve green and approach expansion and rough sod installation. This will take place in November.

We’ll be providing updates as we make progress.

Happy New Year from the Green Department.


November’s Golf Course Update

Mid-way through November and winter has reared it’s head( I’ve left out the term”ugly” because a break in play is beneficial for your golf course and I’m a skier/snowboarder). This cold snap will allow us to remove the trees behind 15 green and the one between the tees at 16. This work is scheduled for tomorrow Friday, November 15th. Play on Friday will be using an alternate green on 15, and a alternate tee on 16. Once the trees are removed, we will then excavate the stumps and begin construction of a new 16 tee along with making the required repairs to the green side roughs.

Bunker work is in progress with the rebuilding of the right side bunker on #17, and today we started to enlarge the right side bunker on # 1 in accordance to the Morrison restoration plan. We will also be enlarging the right side bunker on # 4. before the end of the year which is suggested in the plan also.

Drill n Fill aeration on greens went very smoothly despite frost last Friday morning. The colder weather has slowed down plant growth which is resulting in slower recovery of the greens. In an effort to induce continuing growth while insulating the grass plants crown areas, we have left slightly more topdressing on the greens than in the past. Should normal November temperatures return and leaf growth resumes, we will remove some of the excess topdressing off the greens.

Dryjecting aeration of approaches and collars was scheduled for yesterday and is now scheduled for tomorrow also. We have expanded the aeration into the collars and will be aerating the new green expansions on holes 1 & 4. Hopefully we’ll have enough thaw to complete this on Friday.

Speaking of the green expansions on 1 & 4, as soon as we can Dryject these areas, removing the existing grass, grading and installing new sod on these areas will take place. This work will also include expanding collars and approaches along with adding a step cut around the greens. Once this is completed, an outside contractor will be striping off green surround rough and replacing it with a high quality tall fescue sod.

Fan installation at 2 green is in progress. a new utility poles was installed and is awaiting PECO to extend service to it. In the meantime, we have begun installing the concrete mounting base. Looking at the weather forecast, early next week looks to be the soonest we can proceed with pouring the base.

We have engaged an asphalt contractor to make the necessary cart path repairs on holes 5, 6, 10, 12 & 14 along with patching potholes in the driveway . The work is scheduled to begin next Tuesday, November 19.

And lastly, leaf clean up! As temperatures moderate, we’ll resume mulching and picking up the leafs. Mulching in place is the most economical way of handling the leafs but some areas get so overwhelmed with them that we have to breakout the vacuum and move them to the recycle center on #3.

That time of year again! Frost season.

As many of you are aware the Green Department will issue frost delays this time of year to protect your golf course. These delays can vary from day to day and in length due to current weather conditions. The Green Dept will continually monitor conditions during these delays to expedite opening of the course to play. Please check the website for up to date conditions.


Repeated traffic on frozen grass blades can lead to terminal damage of the grass plant resulting in thin and or bare areas though out the golf course. Going into the winter months, recovery from frost damage may not occur until the spring. Once the turf enters into winter dormancy frost delays are lifted.

From the USGA:

Frost is essentially frozen dew. Ice crystals visible on the outside of the plant can also form on the inside of grass blades. The grass plant, normally resilient to footsteps or cart traffic, becomes brittle and fragile when ice crystals form. Under the pressure of traffic, ice crystals puncture living plant tissues and rupture plant cells. Damage will not appear right away, but it will show up in footsteps and tire tracks the following days as the plant is unable to repair itself and begins to die. Frost damage can occur on any turfgrass mowed at any height but it is amplified when the plant is mowed low, as on a putting green. In a best-case scenario, damage will be limited to leaf blades only, which will eventually disappear once active turf growth resumes. However, if the plant crown, or growing point of the plant, is compromised, damage will be more severe and recovery could take months.

Keep in mind, a foursome typically takes several hundred footsteps on each green, so even allowing just a few groups to play when frost is present can be very damaging to the greens, and the rest of the golf course for that matter. It is not completely understood when frost will cause damage, so the decision to keep traffic off the golf course must be made conservatively to protect the condition of the course. For this reason, golf facilities are wise to close the course to play or delay starting times until frost has completely melted.

Tree Work Alert

The dry weather pattern were in is going to allow us to resume tree work. Tomorrow October 3rd, the Arborist and crew will be on site on holes 7, 16 & 17 to prune and remove trees that are part of the Tree Management Plan.

You can expect some disruption in play on holes 16 & 17. Worst case scenario will be # 16 is closed at times throughout the day and #17 will be playing from the front tee on top of the hill. All work should be completed before 2:00 pm.

If the dry weather prevails into the week of October 21st. The 3 large trees at 15 green and 16 tee will be removed. This work will also require hole closures and possibly take two days to complete as a crane will be necessary to facilitate the removals. I will keep you updated on this plan.

Please check the “members only” section of the web site for updates.

Thank you for your patience while this work is being completed.

Got weed(s)?

The golf course sure does! Its been two banner seasons in a row for weeds and the Green Department has had enough! And I’m sure some of the membership is too!

The definition of a weed is a plant that is growing out of place. A marigold growing in a bed of petunia’s would be considered a weed by some but probably not every one. Our personal preferences can closer define what a weed is. In the golf course maintenance world, annual bluegrass or “poa” for short, is considered a weed by most superintendents but not all of us, just ask the Superintendent at Pebble Beach and other fine courses across the country as many of them have solid poa greens.   Bala has a fair stand of poa in its greens, tees, approaches and roughs but this blog is about the other weeds on the course.

Weeds like clover, spurge, yellow nut sedge, crabgrass, goosegrass and bermudagrass. Some of these are annual weeds, they only live one year i.e. spurge, crab and goose grasses. Others are perennial, live more than one year, bermudagrass, yellow nutsedge, clover. Some are broad leaf weeds, clover and spurge, others are grassy weeds, nutsedge, goose and crabgrass, etc.   Why am I explaining this, these two factors are just many of the considerations to consider when developing a control plan. Other environmental factors that have to be considered are air temperature, applying a herbicide with air temperatures above 90 degrees is risky business but there are certain herbicides that work better under warmer conditions than cooler. This is especially true when treating board leaf weeds. Soil moisture must be adequate for the weed to take up the herbicide  and for the surrounding turf  to be able to resist damage from the herbicide. There should be little or no wind as most of the applications are just a spot treatment versus a blanket application. Little or no wind will reduce the chance of the herbicide missing its target and or creating an over application of the herbicide on the desirable turf.

Location of the weed and what type of turf the weed is growing in also plays a role in determining the corrective actions. When treating weeds in greens, tee, approaches, fairways and roughs, mowing heights can effect the rate of herbicide application. Usually the shorter grasses can only take a low dose of herbicides which may take multiple applications to kill the weed. Fairway and rough height turf can withstand higher dose and usually only require one application. We also have to consider what type of grass the weed is growing in. Treating goose grass in bentgrass requires a different herbicide than treating it when its growing in rye grass. I don’t want to bore you with the many combinations that exist at Bala, instead I will show you pictures of trials I have been conducting since August below. If you don’t think the above condition’s were enough to consider, we can add to the list, no precipitation 24 hours after application. Not mowing the weeds to be treated 24 hours before and after applications, over seeding restrictions once the weeds die and lastly, the golf schedule!

clover in ryegrass fairway

treated clover in ryegrass fairway # 9

Bermudagrass patches in ryegrass fairway

treated bermudagrass in ryegrass fairway # 12

yellow nutsedge in ryegrass fairway

treated yellow nutsedge in annual bluegrass tee # 9

crabgrass in bentgrass fairway

treated crabgrass in bentgrass fairway # 8

As you can see from above, our trials have been successful. Starting this week, we will be treating all of the weeds mentioned above, and some not mentioned above, on all feature areas (tees, collars, approaches and fairways, except greens) and some additional areas of rough in order to have adequate time to aerate and over seed and or sod the bare areas that will become visible once the weeds thin out or die. I would like to point out fairways 7, 11, 12, 14, 15, 17 & 18 and collars around greens # 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, & 18 have a fair amount of bermudagrass in them. You will see the bleaching effect, similar to # 10 & 12’s approaches.

treated bermudagrass in 12 approach

In upcoming blogs, I will discuss what our plans are to prevent the weeds from returning along with an update on the 2019 golf course improvement projects that will be completed this fall. The one item I’m going to mention now that is part of this years golf course improvement project is the herbicide application(s) made to eliminate the bermudagrass growing around #4 green. This is part of the overall plan to renovate the green surround on this hole. Successful bermudagrass elimination with a non selective herbicide must be completed under warm conditions for many of the reasons stated above. The plan is to expand the putting surface, collar, step cut and approach over the next 3 months. This is the first step in converting the areas to more desirable, uniform turf.

Treated area of bermudagrass at 4 green

I thank the entire membership for your patience’s while we go through this renovation period. You will see steady improvements as we go through this weed elimination process.

All was going well when……

Aerification was going well, all greens had been aerated, 3 of them topdressed, dragged and ready for play, #10 fairway aerated and we had started #11(getting the biggest ones completed first). And then the only rain shower around for 100 miles decides to camp out over the course and drop over a half inch of rain! Game changer, actually, game over!

So today we will try again. topdressing greens and aerating fairways. Topdressing the greens will be the priority.

Another limitation we’ll face today outside of the threat of showers will be the temperatures. Applying hot sand to dry putting surfaces is always risky! Once applied, the sand is blown into the holes in two directions using an hover mower, then dragged with a brush mounted on a utility cart. If we are not cautious, the greens surface can become damaged. So throughout the day we will monitor air temperatures and may have to take a break from topdressing in the afternoon till temperatures lower enough for us to continue in the early evening. We will focus on full sun greens this morning and save the shaded greens till later in the day. I will keep the “members only” section updated throughout the day with our progress.

WOW! Time flys when your……… busy…….. and having fun!

Five months since my last post! Way to long but when you look at all the work that we completed this spring, up until Presidents Day, I hope you’ll be able to understand why I haven’t had the time to sit and blog.  And as much as I’d like to review all the completed projects, I’m going to focus this blog on whats in store for the golf course in the next couple of weeks.

Its aerification time. Last week we completed the process on tees. It went well despite some marginal weather. This week, we’ll be aerating greens, approaches, fairways and if all goes well, some roughs. With some seasonal weather we should be able to complete most of the aerification on a timely basis. We will be focusing on greens on Monday and Tuesday, approaches on Wednesday and Thursday, and fairways will be worked on all week. Please check the “members only” section of the web site for current course conditions and updates.

We will be using different processes than in the past to compensate for weather, aide recovery of the turf, and reduce player interference. The largest change being closing the golf course on Monday August 19 to allow us uninterrupted time in completing as much as possible without having to wait on play. I’m anticipating using smaller tines on the greens to expedite healing and solid tines on the fairways to eliminate clean up. We will making the same size holes on the approaches as we have on the tees. After topdressing, the greens and approaches should heal rather quickly.

Here is a link to a brief USGA video that explains green aeration. This information also applies to tee and approach aeration.


When you play over the next couple of weeks, conditions will be sub par while the turf is healing and a few of the processes may be still in progress. There are a few variables that can alter our plans, like labor, equipment failures and last but not least, the weather! But we are prepared to deal with anything that comes our way. I ask everyone for their patience during this time and please check the website before coming out to play.

In closing I’d like to thank the Board of Directors, the Greens Committee and Chris Barletta for their continued support along with Mike Lawrence, equipment technician, Joe Liebsch, interim assistant superintendent, newly hired 1st assistant superintendent Micheal Crane and all of the Green Dept staff for their dedication, hard work and their patience in dealing with me over the last five months. It hasn’t always been easy, but its been fun! Thank you all!