The golf season is underway and just in time, as summer appears on the horizon! Now that the course is open for play, I wanted to address the differences in course and property management we have implemented for the 2020 season. A lot of time and thought has been put into what changes can be made to deliver a successful 2020 season, while also considering future years. Compared to last season, we are working with 55% of our operating labour. You will notice some differences but please rest assured, none of these changes from previous years will have any long-term effects on the quality and experience of playing at Credit Valley. The Greens department is still dedicated to providing you the best golf experience possible.
The areas which I will be highlighting are as follows:
- Gardens, Clubhouse Grounds and Aesthetics
- Driving Range Use
- Pest Control Products
- Divot Filling
Changes have been made for a variety of reasons including staff safety, member safety and financial responsibility. Careful consideration has been given to the safety of the staff. Our numbers have been reduced partly because we are limited by the number of vehicles we have with an inability to share carts. Just like carts for golf, we need to ensure only one person per cart to maintain proper distance and the risk to our staff. Ensuring that those currently working remain healthy is a number one priority.
The greens are comprised of two different species: poa annua and creeping bentgrass. Early in the season the different grass types grow at different rates prior to soil temperatures increasing. This can also be seen in the rough. As soil temperatures have now increased, growth will become more consistent and create a better putting surface.
Currently, the poa annua is seeding and creating a less desirable level of conditioning. This is a process that happens every year when the appropriate weather conditions occur. There is no set timeframe for the timing of seed head production. Hopefully, it does not last much longer, to allow the greens to improve with ball roll and consistency.
Typically, we would be completing a variety of practices at this time of year, on a more frequent basis than we are currently able. For example, daily rolling of the greens, which helps to improve the smoothness of the turf and increase ball roll quality, is a practice that we have significantly reduced this season. Last season, on a typical day, there would be three or four people involved on the greens daily with mowing, hand watering, hole changing, rolling and pest control product applications. This season it has not been possible to maintain this level of inputs with our staff reductions currently experienced.
Tees and Fairways
We have reduced the application rate of fertilizer on the tees and fairways. Doing so will maintain the playability of these areas but will result in minor changes to their aesthetics. This reduction also allows us to decrease our mowing to twice a week compared to three times, significantly reducing our labour inputs. By decreasing the rate of growth, we will not need to topdress the tees as often through the season. The reduction of topdressing will result in savings on aggregate supplies and mower sharpening requirements.
The fertility program for the season for the rough was applied last fall. The product we used allows application prior to the winter, when ground conditions are suitable, and reduces a labour consuming task in the early spring.
It may be difficult to remember but we witnessed snow just over two weeks ago! Now that the warm weather and summer seems to have arrived, the turf has exploded with growth. This is typical when the soil temperatures increase, and the grass begins to grow for the season.
Prior to opening, the rough was being cut 20% higher than normal. This was done to allow for less frequent mowing and better dispersion of clippings. Now that the golf course is open for play, we are working to return the height of cut to its regular height. Mowing will be completed at the same levels as previous years to control the growth rate and ensure suitable playing conditions.
Here is a trivia question for you. Do you know how many hours of labour it took to keep the bunkers mowed, raked, and ensure proper sand depths in the last week of May 2019? The answer will probably surprise you. It took 140 hours to maintain the bunkers to our standards. During a normal season, all sand depths are checked on a weekly basis, to ensure consistency, player confidence and safety while playing a shot. This, combined with raking and the mowing of the turf immediately surrounding the bunkers, is an intense aspect of golf course maintenance.
We are beginning to mow bunker surrounds and ensuring proper weed management now that the weather has stimulated growth. Although they are not currently in play, it is imperative to continue performing some maintenance to ensure their viability in the future when golf returns to more typical conditions.
Gardens, Clubhouse Grounds and Aesthetics
Credit Valley’s gardens are beautiful! To keep them looking their best, the upkeep in terms of fertility and watering is significant. To reduce maintenance levels around the Clubhouse and property, we will not be planting any annuals in gardens or planters this season. We will, however, be continuing to carefully maintain our perennial gardens and look forward to continuing with annual plantings in the future.
There will also be a reduction in the frequency of Clubhouse grounds mowing and aesthetic work around the course. Typically, we cut the Clubhouse lawns twice a week; this season it will be reduced to once. Typically, all trimming of trees, curbs, mulch areas and gardens on the course are completed weekly during the growing season. This season the frequency will be reduced to every two or three weeks in some areas.
Driving Range Use
Getting in some practice shots before hitting the course is something we all enjoy. Staying on the mats has enabled both the Greens department and Pro Shop to maintain lower staff levels and reduce our inputs.
The use of mats means that there is no divot filling to complete each day and fertility inputs have been reduced since the need to germinate new turf quickly is no longer necessary. The lower fertility rate has also reduced mowing of the tee decks from three times to only once per week. On a weekly basis, the Greens department spends over 30 hours of labour to maintain the tee decks, cut the target greens, fairway, rough and prepare divot mix. This does not include the work that the Pro Shop staff complete nightly by filling the divots and moving the accessories to the location for the next day.
Pest Control Product Thresholds
At Credit Valley we strive to be environmental stewards. One way we do this is by adhering to the Integrated Pest Management guidelines through the season. An attribute of this is developing threshold levels to determine when pest activity levels have exceeded a tolerable range. During this season we will be raising these threshold levels to make fewer applications and reduce the associated costs. None of these decisions will impact the playability of the course and like all other decisions, they will not have any long-term effects.
Using these techniques is a calculated process; there is no guessing involved. However, we are at the mercy of the weather and the potential summer heat and humidity that lies ahead. Any applications that are necessary for the success of the operation will be implemented as required.
As in the past, the preferred method for divots is to replace the divot that was taken during the shot. With the need to limit touch points, divot filling will look different for the safety of all involved.
Beginning Wednesday there will be a container filled with divot mix near the starter’s area. This container will have its lid open through the day and can be used prior to playing your round. We will be utilizing all our current inventory of divot bottles, both for electric and pull carts. When you take a bottle, we ask that you keep it as your personal container until further notice. Please do not leave it on your electric or pull cart, you are to bring it home to avoid anyone else contacting it.
This will be continued until further notice, which will allow us all to avoid touch points while also maintaining the upkeep of golf course conditions.
There is no doubt this golf season will look a bit different at Credit Valley. I hope I have highlighted how the changes that have been made will help us keep our staff, members, and the turf as safe and healthy as possible.
Some of these changes may be short lived and others may last longer depending on how things evolve during these uncertain times. All decisions made are very calculated and executed for the success of the Club and the golf course. I am confident that the hard work and dedication of the Greens department team will get us through this difficult season.