Monday, July 28, 2014

Fiduciary Management

As the golf course superintendent, I am often asked questions regarding our fiduciary management practices.  More often than not, the most common question is; "How can we save money?"  With today's economy, that's a question that we take very  seriously and one that we ask ourselves continuously.  We spend our departments budget as if the money were our own. 
Chemicals and fertilizers make up a large part of our budget and it's a place where we can stretch the dollar.  By bidding out our purchases and requiring vendors to guarantee pricing for a season in exchange for our business, we have been able to save the club many thousands of dollars each year.  Believe it or not but many clubs do not do this.  Another way we spend wisely is by participating in silent auctions through our professional organizations.  This year alone we saved over $4000 by bidding on a group of products that we ultimately won.
We purchase many other types of products such as irrigation supplies, electronics, uniforms, equipment parts, etc.  By regularly doing computer searches and using services such as ebay, we continually get products for far under normal retail.  We purchased a large amount of used sprinkler heads this winter and reconditioned them with new parts for pennies on the dollar compared to new heads.  This one purchase has relieved some of the shortfalls of regular irrigation maintenance costs and has allowed us to spend more money on higher priority items.
Another way we spend wisely is through purchasing equipment.  While we all like new, many times a used piece of equipment will do the job just as well and help relieve the pressures of capital purchases.  There are many places that we can search for used equipment such as online forums and professional organizations. An example of this happened recently when a 20 year old utility vehicle had a catastrophic break down which rendered it useless.  Instead of purchasing a new vehicle, we purchased a used one in excellent condition for one third the cost of a new one and this vehicle will do everything we need it to do for many years to come. is one place we look for quality used equipment.
While our operating budget is considerably lower than competing area clubs, we are able to close some of that gap by spending smartly and operating more efficiently.  We take very seriously our fiduciary responsibilities and will continue to in the ongoing effort to provide one of the best conditioned golf courses on the mountain.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

HFCC environmental practices

Did you know that your golf course is environmentally friendly?  There are many practices that we do to both protect the environment and also enhance it.  While many of these practices cost more to do, they are the right things to do.  Some of our practices are as follows:

-          HFCC uses slow-release fertilizers on all of the turf on the course.  The use of slow release fertilizers regulates the release of nitrogen so that the plant only gets what it needs at that time, therefore very little is wasted or washed through the soil.  We also use natural organic fertilizers that are composted from the poultry industry.
Chicken manure being composted into organic fertilizer for use on golf courses
 -          The chemicals that we use on the course are of the highest quality and the most environmentally friendly to do the job at hand.  The products that we have at our disposal are highly regulated for safety and application.  Most products are broken down in the soil, by soil microbes within a week or two after application.  Additionally, we choose products that chemically bind to the soil or the plant therefore reducing any chances of runoff or leaching

Otter on the bank of one the lakes at HFCC
-          All of our lakes are monitored monthly by Aquascapes Environmental.  Their job is to sample all of the water entering the property, on the property, and leaving the property.  They sample for fertilizers and pesticides so that we can better manage our practices throughout the course.  To this date, we have never failed a test, in fact sometimes we tend to be too clean.  What this means is that all the fish caught at HFCC is safe to eat and your pets are safe to enter the water.

-          As we have been replacing aging drainpipe, some areas have been converted back to natural streams.  This has provided habitat for fish, salamanders, crayfish, etc. which supports larger wildlife.  Additionally, these streams are far better at controlling erosion than pipe as the streams slow the velocity of water whereas the pipe tends to increase the velocity which leads to more aggressive erosion.

-          Since most of our equipment is run by hydraulics, leaks and broken hoses are a fact of life.  While the hoses are inspected daily, breaks still happen unexpectedly.  Since regular hydraulic fluid is petroleum based, it will kill the turf and contaminate the soil should a leak occur.  As a result, we use a “vegetable based” hydraulic oil in all of our hydraulic equipment.  It costs almost 3 times more than standard hydraulic fluid but does not contaminate the soil and does not kill the turf. 

-          Speaking of equipment, we have been some of the earliest adopters of electric mowers.  We mow the greens with a hybrid walk mower that uses a small gas engine to run a generator.  The generator produces the electricity needed for both the reels and the "wheels".  This type of set up is very efficient and uses half the fuel as traditional all gas mowers.  Better yet, the quality of the cut is superior to traditional mowers.
Electric hybrid walking greens mower
These are just a few of the things we do at HFCC to protect our environment.  The G&G committee and the maintenance staff understand the value of our wonderful environment here at HFCC, its one of those features that make HFCC such a special place.
Flower bed at HFCC which provides food (seeds) for birds in the winter

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The American flag at HFCC

It has become a tradition at Highlands Falls to celebrate the 4th of July with a huge American flag painted on the 17th fairway.  As we have just finished painting the flag, I thought it would be nice to give a brief history of how the flag came to be.
Painting the flag
On January 1, 1776, the Continental Army was reorganized in accordance with a Congressional resolution which placed American forces under George Washington's control. On that New Year's Day the Continental Army was laying siege to Boston which had been taken over by the British Army. Washington ordered the Grand Union flag hoisted above his base at Prospect Hill. It had 13 alternate red and white stripes and the British Union Jack in the upper left-hand corner (the canton).
Painting the flag
In May of 1776, Betsy Ross reported that she sewed the first American flag.

On June 14, 1777, in order to establish an official flag for the new nation, the Continental Congress passed the first Flag Act: "Resolved, That the flag of the United States be made of thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation."
Painting the flag
Between 1777 and 1960, Congress passed several acts that changed the shape, design and arrangement of the flag and allowed for additional stars and stripes to be added to reflect the admission of each new state.
  • Act of January 13, 1794 - provided for 15 stripes and 15 stars after May 1795.
  • Act of April 4, 1818 - provided for 13 stripes and one star for each state, to be added to the flag on the 4th of July following the admission of each new state, signed by President Monroe.
  • Executive Order of President Taft dated June 24, 1912 - established proportions of the flag and provided for arrangement of the stars in six horizontal rows of eight each, a single point of each star to be upward.
  • Executive Order of President Eisenhower dated January 3, 1959 - provided for the arrangement of the stars in seven rows of seven stars each, staggered horizontally and vertically.
  • Executive Order of President Eisenhower dated August 21, 1959 - provided for the arrangement of the stars in nine rows of stars staggered horizontally and eleven rows of stars staggered vertically.

Today the flag consists of thirteen horizontal stripes, seven red alternating with 6 white. The stripes represent the original 13 colonies, the stars represent the 50 states of the Union. The colors of the flag are symbolic as well: Red symbolizes Hardiness and Valor, White symbolizes Purity and Innocence and Blue represents Vigilance, Perseverance and Justice.

The American flag at HFCC

The Bears at HFCC

  Its that time of year again when its not uncommon to see black bears on the course.  While they may look cute, bears are wild animals that can be dangerous and unpredictable, especially if they have cubs.
  If you see a bear remain watchful. Do not approach it. If your presence causes the bear to change its behavior (stops feeding, changes its travel direction, watches you, etc.)-you're too close.
  The video below was taken yesterday on hole #8.  Momma bear had 3 cubs and was quickly looking for a way into the woods.