Friday, December 8, 2017

A Visit to the Quarry

  Working in the mountains, rock is an everyday occurrence that you get used to and sometimes take for granted.  While planning for the croquet expansion, I did not put much thought to the rock that we would need because its everywhere and we had a supplier that I knew could provide the necessary boulders.  However, at the insistence of our rock supplier, I visited the quarry where all of our boulders are coming from.

Sheer wall of granite at The McNealy's Company quarry.

Granite quarry.  Note how small the VERY large bulldozers are.

Drill machine drilling holes for explosives.

  With the rock wall for the croquet expansion reaching 20' at the highest point, just any old rock would not work.  The boulders for the wall need to be relatively flat and very large.  As I found out at the quarry, large flat boulders are actually a mistake in the blasting process and need to be individually picked out of the rubble.  It's a time consuming process that yields the best boulders for our situation.

Each large flat boulder must be individually picked out from the piles of blasted rock.

The new wall for the croquet expansion.

  With about half of the boulder wall now finished, I feel good in that we have selected the best supplier for rock as they are taking the time to give us the best material for our job.  After, viewing the mining operation at the quarry, I won't be taking rock for granted anymore.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Golf Course Update 12-1-17

 So far the weather during the off-season has been very mild and that has helped us focus on our winter projects with little distraction.  The only thing that has slowed our progress has been our staff taking their much needed vacations.

Trimming at #2 White tee.
Chipping the limbs.
  Trimming rhododendrons and tree removal has been a major focus for our staff.  We have completed a thorough trimming of the #2 tee complex and are currently working on the #6 tee complex.  Once we finish at #6, we will be focusing on the #3 and #5 tee complexes.  This trimming is long overdue and will help to open the holes up for play while also improving the turf by allowing for more light.

Widening #9 approach.

A widened #9 approach.
  We have also completed a couple of small but necessary projects.  First, we added additional drainage along the cart path on #2 and also replaced a main drain pipe that had been crushed by a boulder.  The second project was the widening of the approach at the ninth green.  By removing the rough sod and hauling in several loads of dirt, we were able to double the size of the approach. 

Drainage along #2 cart path.

Preparing the catch basin on #2.
  In addition to the course projects, we have been busy with the croquet expansion.  After all of the blasting was completed, our staff spent several days collecting rock for future landscaping projects.  We have also removed some of the sod from the old lawns and used them on the course.  As for the rest of the project, it is going very well.  Boulders and fill dirt are now coming in at a steady pace.  About 25% of the new rock wall is complete.  The footers for the pavilion have been poured and some of the utilities have been installed.  With good weather, I expect the slab for the pavilion to be poured by the end of next week. 

Croquet expansion before starting the rock wall.

The rock wall is currently around 7' tall.  It will be 18' at its tallest point.

Preparation for the footers.

Forms for the pavilion slab (floor).  Several utilities will be installed under the slab.


Friday, November 17, 2017

Dryject on the Greens

  Its been a busy week at Highlands Falls. The croquet project is well under way, we have been working on drainage projects, and we are finishing our aerification program on the greens.  Two weeks ago, we completed the traditional "core" aerification of the greens.  This process is where we pull plugs from the greens and follow that up by a heavy dose of sand.  We are now finishing up an aerification process called "Dryject" where we inject sand into the root zone of the greens.

Dryject on the 17th green.
  Despite what the name might imply, "Dryject" actually involves high pressure water injecting sand into the green.  While traditional aerification only works to a depth of about 3 inches, "Dryject" can penetrate up to 8 inches, however we prefer to inject the sand to a depth of about 4 - 5 inches.  The "Dryject" process has several benefits that make it unique.  First, it is minimally invasive in that play can resume when the process is finished.  Second, we can calibrate exactly haw much sand we want injected into the green.  It can also shatter any soil layering that may occur over time.  Additionally, it has many of the same benefits of traditional aerification.

A soil profile showing the sand injection.
  The process can be a bit labor intensive as two crew members need to be with the contractor to keep the sand bin full.  Once finished, we will have injected over 22 tons of sand into the greens.   Along with traditional "core" aerification, the "Dryject" process has helped our greens perform at high level.

Two men per machine are needed to keep the hopper full of sand.

Once brushed in, the green will be ready for play.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Reel Maintenance

One of the many jobs that is essential that we perform during the off-season is the maintenance of our vast collection of reel mowers.  These are the mowers that cut the greens, tees, and fairways.  It is a monotonous but technical job that includes oil and filter changes, replacing worn bearings and cables, sharpening reels, and a lot of precise adjustments.  While this sounds simple, in practice it takes a lot of time and care to do successfully.
A triplex mower on the lift getting ready to go through winter servicing.  This mower has 3 sets of reels.
Reel mowers require a lot of maintenance and care to perform at the level that we expect.  Every year, all of the mowers are torn down and built back up to "factory specs".  Each reel on a mower takes a full day to have it fully ready for the next year.  To put that into context, we have approximately 45 reels in total on our mowers and each has to be made ready for the next season.
Equipment manager Aaron Brown, sharpening the reel of a triplex mower.
Aaron is preparing to sharpen the "bed knife" of a reel mower.
With course conditioning being of the highest level at HFCC, this maintenance is essential if not glamorous.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Pump Replacement

  Every piece of equipment needs replaced at some point no matter how well you take care of it.  Such was the case with the main pump station.  After nearly 19 years of trouble free service, it was finally to the point of needing replacement.  The pump shafts were bowed and the impellers were worn and no longer efficient.  Additionally, the computer that runs the station was not running the pumps properly anymore.  We solicited several bids to replace the pumps and the computer and eventually contracted with the company that originally installed the station. 
The roof at the pump station being prepped for removal.

Roof removal.

Old pump being removed.
  While overly simplified, we replaced the two main pumps, two 60hp electric motors, and the computer system that runs the pumps.  Technicians first replaced the computer and display which actually took two days.  In order to replace the pumps, a crane had to first remove the roof of the pump house and then remove each pump and motor.  Next, the new pumps, motors, and roof were installed in the same manner as the removal only in reverse.   After the crane left, the technicians made all the necessary mechanical and electrical connections.  Lastly, the pumps were run to fine tune their operation.
One pump removed.

The new pumps and motors waiting to be lifted into place.
   Every year we have preventative maintenance performed by professional pump technicians on all three of our pump stations.  We are regularly told that we have some of the best maintained pump stations that they see.  With continued care and maintenance, I expect our new pumps to last as long as the old ones did.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Croquet Expansion

  On October 16th we officially closed the croquet lawns so that we could begin the long anticipated expansion of the facility.  As many of you know, we will be more than doubling the lawn size so that we can accommodate two full lawns or three 3/4 size lawns.  In addition to the lawns, we will be doubling the size of the pavilion so that members have more covered space while waiting to play. 
New croquet complex.
Top layer of soil needed to be removed before the drilling could begin.
  In order for either one of the two projects to get started we must first blast a good portion of granite.  This has already begun with the drilling of holes into the rock.  The contractor will then fill the holes with water and set of a charge which will then fracture the rock.  This method is slower than traditional blasting with dynamite but far more controlled.  This is crucial since we do not want do disturb the foundation on the pavilion.  With good weather, I anticipate the blasting to be completed this week.
Hole locations are marked prior to drilling.

The drilling machine.

Holes were drilled 8' deep and about a 1.5' apart.

Other work to prepare for the project was removing the old irrigation heads.

  As the second largest croquet club in America, this is an exciting project that continues to show HFCC's commitment to the sport.  Please come back for updates as we work on this through the winter.

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Foundation Beneath

  As most people know, a key to success is to have a sound foundation and on a golf course that starts with the soil.  Without at least decent soil, turfgrass cannot be regularly maintained to typical golf course standards.  Even with decent soil, most courses do not benefit from uniform soil throughout the property either because of construction disturbance or just through nature.
The different colors in this field are all different soil types.
  Highlands Falls has a smorgasbord of different soil types.  While most of our soils are conducive to growing decent turf, some cannot even be classified as soil as they are mostly rock.  Such is the case on a few areas on the 6th fairway where we recently replaced several areas of dead turf.
Granite with a small amount of soil is very representative of the soil substructure on several holes at HFCC.
  These areas could be classified as concrete quicker than they could be classified as soil.  They do not drain, roots cannot penetrate, and the areas are as hard as a rock.  Short of digging up the fairway and hauling in at least a foot of decent soil there has not been much we could do other than re-sod the areas after the turf died.

  We have decided to try a technique that an arborist once showed me to improve the rooting of trees and that is to drill into the soil and fill the holes with compost and sand.  The filled holes hold moisture and provide a good medium for turf to grow.  Additionally, during the winter, the moisture holding holes will freeze and thaw and fracture the adjoining soil allowing the turf to penetrate the bad soil.

4" holes are drilled into the soil on the 6th fairway.

The holes are approximately 6" - 8" deep.

Each hole is filled with compost and sand.
  While we do not yet know long term if this process will work, I feel it will have a positive affect as it is just another way of aerating the soil, and we do know that aerating the soil works!