Monday, June 10, 2019

Bill Bergin's "Mobile Office"

  With a tight schedule for adequate planning, we have been setting the groundwork as though there will be a positive vote on June 26th for the renovation of the golf course.  We still have to interview construction companies, define contracts, submit bids for materials, and much more.  To this end, our course architect, Bill Bergin has been a huge asset.

Bill and Matt Bergin
 While our project is just one of many that Bill has active now, he has made himself available for meetings, phone conversations, and changes to the plan.  It is not uncommon for Bill to drive 2000 miles per week, which makes his availability to the club even more impressive.  It has been important for him to have his personal attention on every detail up to this point. 

Bill in front of one the work stations
   In an effort to keep up with his commitments, Bill recently purchased a "rolling office" in the form of an Airstream Interstate.  According to Bill, the mobile office allows him to work on plans and conduct business while he is on the move between projects.  His son Matt does most of the driving while he works in the back.  The office has two work stations, a restroom, a kitchenette, and room for survey equipment and of course, golf clubs.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Smooth Greens

  Smooth greens do not happen by accident.  Good agronomic practices, equipment, weather, and turf type all play major roles in how well your putt rolls across a green.  

  On the agronomic side of the equation we regularly apply sand to the greens.  This helps to manage thatch but also helps to fill-in imperfections on the green's surface.  We also apply growth regulators to the greens.  This helps to manage the different growth rates between the varying types of grass we have on our greens.  The result ends up being less "bumpy" turf.

Rolling helps to smooth green the surface.
  Having the right mix of equipment to manage the surface of a green is very important.  While a good mower is obvious, attachments to the mowers can make a greens surface even better.  A product that we have started using this year is the Turf Trainer.  Developed by golf course superintendent and friend Rodney Hine.  The Turf Trainer is basically a piece of artificial turf that is drug across the green to stand the turf up before being cut.  It also helps to push sand into the turf canopy which is a desirable trait.  It punches well above its weight and continues to impress.

Turf Trainer is being used regularly on our greens.

Turf Trainer simply attaches to the bucket of a mower.
  On the weather side of the equation we tend to want to have relatively warm, dry days.  Dry weather gets rid of unwanted moisture at the surface of the greens and allows the ball to roll quick and smooth.  While dry weather forces us to work harder (hand watering), the condition allows us to more accurately manage the green's surface.

  Turf type is also a major consideration for smooth greens.  New turf varieties tend to be dense and upright which results in better ball roll.  New courses and renovated ones generally have one or two varieties of turf on their greens, while older courses tend to have a mix which is the result of mutations and infestations of weeds such as Poa anua.  Its very hard to make greens that have many different turf types to be consistent hence the use of growth regulators.  

Monday, May 6, 2019

Firewood Donation

  Over the winter we do so many projects that I sometimes forget that some of our work has real meaning outside of the club.  As part of our tree removal project, we generated a LOT of firewood, far more than we would use in a season.  Onifer Wilmoth our fitness director, put me in contact with Eddie Wells and Leonard Holden of the Jackson County Department on Aging.  As part of Project Fire, these gentlemen along with many volunteers provide firewood to the elderly who struggle to heat their homes during the winter.

Our staff loaded 10 dump truck loads of firewood.
  I was reminded of the donation of firewood because I just received this letter from the Jackson County Department On Aging thanking the members of Highlands Falls Country Club.  It's nice to know that some of our projects on the course have a far greater reach than just the boundaries of Highlands Falls.

Monday, April 29, 2019

HFCC Community Service

Even though it is our busiest time of the year, we made time to give back to our community.  Today part of our staff is busy helping out at the Peggy Crosby Center.  They are spreading mulch and planting perennials in an effort to improve the landscaping.  The Peggy Crosby Center provides affordable office space to organizations offering community services.  Their tenants provide much needed assistance to those living in Highlands and in western North Carolina. 
Team effort planting
Planting perennials
Blowing the parking lot
Hauling mulch

Friday, April 5, 2019

Recycling Trees on the Course

This winter the maintenance staff removed approximately 1000 trees throughout the course.  This included small diameter trees along with large white pines and dead hemlocks.  While most of the trees were reduced to chips by way of the chipper, we were still saddled with what to do with the large trees.  Hauling these to the dump would get expensive as we would incur the cost of hauling plus the dump fees. We also asked several saw mills if they wanted them but none were interested.


We decided on another plan and contracted a portable sawmill service.  Knowing what we know now, this probably should have been our first plan. We have had most of the logs milled into boards and beams that we can use for future projects.  This has been a great opportunity for us to recycle what would otherwise be waste.   Two possible future projects that we may use this lumber for are a privacy fence along the property line on hole #5 and a simple pole barn for storing equipment.

Monday, March 25, 2019

The Future Looks Bright - Millennials

The future looks bright, not just as it relates to the golf course, but also with the young people we have working for us on the golf course, Millennial's.  We have all heard the stereotypes of Millennial's; their entitled, their lazy, their snowflakes, they all want trophies, they want special privileges, etc.  I've even been guilty of believing some of these stereotypes.  However my experience with Millennial's has been anything but the typical stereotype.

Gonzalo, Mark, Nick, Levi, Davis, Cole, Chris, Aaron.  Not pictured Jason & Adam.
Approximately two thirds of our staff is classified as Millennial's, those born between 1981 and 1996.  These are some of the hardest working people that I have ever had the pleasure to lead.  I have had my challenges with this group, mostly because I don't always understand what motivates them, but they continue to make me believe they are worthy of my generation's admiration.

As hard of work as there is, tree removal in a ravine.  All the trees had to be brought out by hand.
A few take-aways for this group;
  • Millennial's like teamwork.  Time and time again I have watched more experienced employees reach out to teach a less experienced employee how to do a task.
  • They like flexibility.  Millennial's want time off and they don't want to do the same job over and over again.  The time off thing has taken some time to get used to but I have embraced it and have been rewarded for it with dedicated and hardworking employees.  As for doing the same job over and over, I have always preferred cross training employees and this group loves it. 
  • Millennial's are glued to their phones.  No arguing this one as most generations today are glued to them.  I gave up the fight to listening to music on the course a long time ago and the phone falls into the same category.  I have seen no downturn in crew productivity by allowing the phones.  In the end, our employees are happier at work and I can call them on the course if I need them.
  • Millennial's will work hard if they believe in their leaders and the company they work for.  You have to engage this group.  Let them know what the big picture is and what their role is in it.  I am always trying to let them know why they are doing something on the course and why it is important to the membership.  I also share all the comments I get from members sharing their gratitude for the staff's hard work. 
A break from work.  Camaraderie at El Manzanillo
By focusing on all of our employee's needs, we have been able to create a multi-generational staff that's able to punch above it's weight, and thanks in no small part to a bunch of Millennial's.  

All Millennial's need their phone.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Sink Hole on #18

When it rains it pours and as of today, we have had 30 plus inches of rain this year.  That rain has highlighted some deficiencies on the course, most notably rusted steel culverts.  While we have replaced most of the steel culverts, there are some that remain such as the one that travels across the fairway on #18.
Sink hole on #18
After our last major rain event, we were welcomed by a large sink hole in the middle of the fairway on #18.  At the surface was what looked to be about a 5 foot hole, but upon further inspection, there was a much larger cavity below the sod.  We immediately closed the hole for safety reasons.  It did not take long to figure out what the problem was, a rusted 18 inch steel culvert.
Digging out the old pipe.

Front of #18 green
Since the pipe was too deep for our staff to safely replace, we solicited bids to have the pipe replaced with double wall plastic pipe.  This pipe will last for well over 50 years.  While the job seems simple enough, there are electrical wires and irrigation pipes that have to be avoided.  Additionally, all subsurface drain lines need to be connected to new pipe.  With good weather, I expect this work to be completed by the end of this week.
New pipe extends all the way to the lake.