Where did all the water go?

If your visiting the club today and notice that the pond on 9 is empty, have no fear, its been drained for irrigation maintenance reasons.

Foot valve replacement blog 001

The “foot valve” as we call it, is on the suction line to the pump station. This valve maintains the water level in the pipe to eliminate priming of the pump. It needs to be replaced and this annual process is usually conducting in early January weather permitting. The freezing weather didn’t permit it this year, so we have to do it now.

cant see the foot valve just yet, its under the "T"

cant see the foot valve just yet, its under the “T”

Hopefully this should be completed in the next day or two and we’ll be refilling the pond. Normally it takes a week to fill it up, with all the wet weather in the forecast, I anticipate it being filled in about 5 days.


Green Aerification

About 5 weeks from now, April 20 & 21 to be exact, the Green Dept will be conducting the standard procedure of green aeration. For our new members this process is completed twice a year, April and August with the only difference being the diameter of the holes. In the spring we use 1/2″ tines and 5/8″ ones are used in August. The smaller hole in the spring leads to a quicker healing time. This can be especially beneficial with the normally cooler soil temperatures. The normal recovery time is 10-14 days this time of year. You make want to look into other courses to play if these conditions are unacceptable to you.

If you have questions on green aeration or just want to learn about the process and its benefits
( this applies to home lawns too) please use this link to connect you to a great USGA article on green aeration.


My next blog will discuss the benefits of “deep tine green aeration”.

Spring is right around the corner……

But opening regulation greens may not be!
This time of year is the most difficult time to decide whether or not to open or close regulation greens!
Here’s the scenario. Right now the soil is frozen under the greens, and any moisture from rain and or melting snow just runs off. When temperatures rise above freezing, the thawing process begins. Excess moisture becomes trapped in the soil since it can’t percolate through the underlying frozen soil. Under these conditions, the potential for turf and soil structure damage is high. Foot traffic under thawing conditions can cause root shearing at the interface between the thawed and frozen soil, causing damage to the root system. Soil structure damage is cumulative depending on amount of play and soil moisture levels. Additionally, minor-to-severe foot rutting can occur, causing short-term and possibly long-term surface-smoothness issues. To me it makes no sense to risk damaging the greens at the beginning of the golf season. Luckily, its only about a two week time frame in which this happens, but keep in mind it’s the weather that dictates this time frame. On a more positive side, we pretty much know what greens will thaw first; full sun greens, ex. 4, 5, 6, 9, 10 etc. And those that take the longest 1, 2, 3, 7, 14 etc, which are shaded.
As in previous years, we will open the regulation greens when they are completely thawed to ensure they are not compromised going into the golf season.
I hope this explains the Green Dept’s March madness with your golf course!

Happy New Year.

I’d like to send out a generous thank you to the entire membership for your continued support of the Green Department. 2014 had its ups and downs for us, mistakes were made, lessons learned and new techniques applied in order to bring to you a well prepared golf course that we all could be proud of.  As always, we take all of our successes and failures with great optimism as we prepare for the upcoming season.

One of the highlights for me from 2014 was the member survey! In my opinion, it is the best tool to get a pulse of the course from our members. The overall results are listed below.

Course Condition Overall Ratings:
Fairways – 4.28/5
Greens – 3.97/5
Tees – 3.85/5
Bunkers – 3.71/5

Our goal for 2015 is to improve the green to move them into the first position for the next survey. I will explain how we’ll accomplish this in my next post. I will also address and explain the ins and outs of the maintenance of the other golf course features listed above in subsequent posts though out the winter.

Speaking of winter, you may be wondering what we do over the winter. Of course the weather and the budget dictates what we can accomplish. Here is whats on my list of things to do in no particular order.

  • Level the back tee on # 6.
  • repair damaged edges on bunkers
  • tree removals (3) and pruning
  • back-fill stumps
  • repair the drainage on 3 landing area
  • repair the stairs through out the course
  • tree root pruning
  • improve the short game area teeing surface
  • grade the rear of #3 green for surface drainage

Its a hefty list when you consider we have normal maintenance practices that we do this time of year, but it would be great if we were able to complete the list. Luckily you have supported the lease/purchase of two new pieces of equipment pictured below that will assist us in routine maintenance and working on the above list.

The Ven Trac is a multipurpose tractor that has over 20 available attachments for various tasks. I purchased 5 attachments with it including mowing decks and an aerator/seeder. We have aerated and seeded around all the greens in the last two weeks and we are currently using it to mow down all the naturalized areas!

Ven trac 003

Waiting in the wings for spring is a new bunker rake!

JD rake

This replaced the 14 year old rake that was purchased when I first came here! it served us well and exceeded its life expectancy by 9 years!! (average life expectancy of a bunker rake is 3-5 years) The rake will be an improvement to our bunker maintenance program for 2015.

Here’s to a happy, healthy and prosperous new year to the entire Bala membership and staff!

Green Dept. Scramble

A huge heartfelt thank you goes out to all of the members that took the time this past Monday afternoon to play (sic) golf with employees. All the departments were represented, except the business office ( lets all work on this for next years event, it would be great for the ladies to join us) and judging by the smiles and laughter in the grill room after golf, a great time was had by all!!

I’d like to congratulate the winning team of Honey Friedman, Dr. Herb Cohn,  John Ecclestone and Green Dept. employee Jeff ( I will be laying him off next October to prevent a three peat) Schmidt.

I also would like to thank Chris Barletta for setting up the event, Jennifer ( who will be joining us next year) Gravinese for help spreading the word, and Chef Dan for making the pizza and salad………… appear!

Green dept scram 14

Hope to see everyone again next year!


Please excuse my absent from the blog over the last 30+ days. As most of you know the golf schedule has been very intense with multiple outings and golf events filling the calender. This has required the Green Dept to focus on conditioning and not working on any projects. But that all changes today as we, well really our Arborist, will begin removing over a dozen trees throughout the golf course.

The two main reasons for these removals are tree health or lack of it and turf health. The largest impact that you will notice will be around the large practice putting green as 5 of the largest evergreens will be removed. The older white pines have reached their useful life but more importantly is their presence have created a less than favorable growing environment for the green. we constantly babysit the back and right side of the green every year. A few years we have been successful, most we are not. This has resulted in multiple attempts of sodding out the areas of turf lose, changing the grade of the surface, and other cultural practices that have made little or no difference. I feel we have exhausted all of our options with the exception of tree removal. The USGA agrees with us also on this plan.

PPGpines before

Removing these trees will also provide an added benefit of expanding the practice area in the future. Both the Green and Construction Committee’s have discussed the possibility of expanding/combining the practice putting green(s) along with adding a larger, multi-station warm up cage. Your thoughts on this idea or another use of this area would be much appreciated.

An other tree to be removed for putting green health will be the silver maple behind 16 green. This tree causes the back of the green stress multiple times per year. Its mere size causes shade and its aggressive roots draw excessive amounts of water from under the green. It has to go!! The removal will also benefit the tee on 17. Right now the right side of the tee is hardly used because the maple interferes with the line of flight of a ball leaving the tee. So its really a win-win situation for the both the tee and green.

silver maple on the left

silver maple on the left

From 17 tee

From 17 tee

All other trees to be removed are either in poor health or were severely damaged from the winter storms last year. The Arborist will also be trimming back trees along the left side of 3 fairway, at 3 green, 11 tee and 17 tee. This is all being done for playability reasons.

I thank you in advance for your patience while this work is being completed and welcome your comments on the work being done.

Broken mower on # 8

Unfortunately things like this happen from time to time. This 14 year old mower snapped it’s axle on Tuesday. We tried to get it back the the shop to make the appropriate repairs but determined that we would only be causing more damage to the mower and the golf course itself. The repairs will have to be made right in the rough.

We apologize for the unsightly appearance and the interruption of your game. Its our goal to have the repairs completed and the mower off the hole before the end of the day on Friday.

Thank you for your understanding of this unique situation.AR250 3 wheel

Thorn bushes on 15.

I have a concern about the thorn bushes on the 15th fairway. Left side against the fence where a hook will find the fence. It is possible for a golfer to have to swing into large sharp thorns. I would urge you to yank these tall bushes.

Submitted by Gary Ames On 8/25/14

Aerification update

The weather continues to be in our favor today which will enable us to complete topdressing of the greens. There are only 4 greens to complete: # 4, 5, 7 & 9. The topdressing is scheduled to be delivered at 10 am, so we should be completed by 3 pm.

Fairway aerification will be in progress today on holes 7, 8 & 12. The smaller section of 7 fairway along with the larger section of 8, and the bottom of 12 are aerated using solid tines. These tines do not pull a plug. This method allows us the firm up the surface of these normally wet fairways by filling the aeration holes with topdressing. If we used coring tines we would have to remove the cores by hand before we topdressed which would be very labor intensive and cost prohibited. These fairways along with # 3 landing area are the only ones that are topdressed.

We will resume core aeration on Tuesday August 26 on the back nine fairways, weather permitting of course. Thanks for everyone’s patience’s during the entire aerification process.



Dictionary.com defines the word “weed” as the following:

“a valueless plant growing wild, especially one that grows on cultivated ground to the exclusion or injury of the desired crop”.
This defines the Bermuda grass that is growing on the tees, collars, fairways, and roughs through out the golf course! This warm season plant (thrives in the summer) has a very aggressive and invasive growth pattern. Its spreads via rhizomes (underground horizontal stem, that produces leaves and roots) and stolons ( a prostate stem that produces new plants, usually found at the surface) and can be very difficult to control!
Bermuda 003
Bermuda 004
Bermuda invading the nursery green!!
In case your wondering how it got here at Bala, and other area golf courses, it was the turf of choice back in the 1950’s before fairway irrigation was the norm. This plant needs very little water to survive and is very winter hardy! So it made a good fit for the times.
Over the next couple of weeks, we will be attempting to control this weed though out the course! i say control because it is almost impossible to kill it without costly soil sterilization. And since it doesn’t even make a half decent playing surface, letting it grow is not an option either as it will eventually take over the playing surface!
Last summer I experimented with a new herbicide called Pylex, the results were very impressive although there is some discoloration of both the bermudagrass( it will actually turn white over time) and the desirable perennial ryegrass. Here is a pic from the18th fairway from last August.
Pylex 8-30-13
So there is no reason for fear when you come across these areas. The discoloration will subside with time. Please remember the game is played on a surface not a color! And as we over seed during aerification of these invaded areas,  the new seedlings will fill in the voids from the declining bermudagrass.
Oh and to show you how tough of a plant it is, this is the asphalt curb on #11!!
yes its growing through the curb!!!!