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!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Employee Day

  With a difficult but very successful season nearly behind us, it became apparent that the maintenance staff needed a little break from the hard work needed to keep the course in top notch condition.  This past Thursday, we quickly came in and set the course up for play and immediately headed to Lake Glenville for a day of boating, food, and relaxation.  The goal was to bring us closer together as a team and to recognize everyone's hard work on behalf of the members.

The staff at the pavilion.

Fun on the lake.
  We set up at the pavilion at Andrews park on Lake Glenville and had a huge cookout.  After the food, some of us headed out to the boats for joy rides, tubing, and fishing.  Several others stayed at the pavilion and played corn hole.  Overall, it was a relaxing and fun day that everyone enjoyed.

Two bald eagles on the shores of Lake Glenville
  On behalf of all the maintenance staff, I want to thank all the members of HFCC for giving us this opportunity.  It won't soon be forgot.

Monday, September 25, 2017

"Australian" Bunker Raking

It has been a full season now with the bunkers being raked in the "Australian method".  This method consists of a smooth and firm 2-3 foot edge inside the bunker with the floor being raked regularly.  It has a lot of advantages over raking the entire bunker including play-ability and maintenance costs.
A 2-3 foot ring of smooth sand rings the inside of the bunker.
On the play-ability side, it nearly eliminates the fried egg lies on the high sides of the bunkers.  Since the high sides are left firm and smooth, the ball more often than not rolls down to the floor of the bunker.  This has allowed players to have a better shot out of the bunker and it speeds up play.

On the maintenance side, less people are needed to maintain the bunkers throughout the season. This has allowed us to reallocate that labor to other areas of the golf course. The method also maintains the visual appearance of the high faced bunkers while also making it easier to physically maintain.
Balls roll down the high side of the bunker face.
The "Australian method" for raking bunkers has been one of those changes to our maintenance regimen that has been a win-win for golfers and the bottom line.