Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Hillcrest Golf Center Open and Back On Course!!

Seven months after a direct hit from a fatal E-F4 tornado Hillcrest Golf Center in Washington, Illinois has reopened.  It is remarkable to see and it would not have been possible without the  help from hundreds of volunteers and donations from around the state.  From cleaning up debris to growing in damaged turf owner Brian Brubaker and Superintendent Chuck Bishoff have put in countless hours along with their small part time crew.  The recovery has been incredible and to be involved and see it first hand has been nothing short of inspiring. 

Two days after the Tornado, when I made my first visit to Hillcrest, the look ahead toward the road to recovery was daunting.  The scope of what had to get done was immense and it took several hundred volunteers to pull it off.  From church groups, civic organizations, golf teams and friends of Hillcrest the tasks at hand were completed.  Golf courses and vendors from around the state came together to get Hillcrest what they needed to get back on their feet. Golf Course Superintendents from Chicago and across the state organized to provide equipment, seed, chemical and tools to help in the process.  Vendors donated everything from top soil to consulting services in order to expedite the process.  This was true collaboration among the golf industry and one that I can say I was proud to be a part of.  That is how our industry works, we willingly help those in need and that is a beautiful thing in a highly competitive industry!  No one looking for recognition or an advertising opportunity they just wanted to help.       
18 Green 2 days after the Tornado
18 Green Today after grow in
The goal from the beginning was to get Hillcrest back up and operational during the 2014 golf season.  Early on the thought was that the reopening could occur sometime in June or the 1st part of July.  On June 11, 2014 Hillcrest opened for the season on Junior Day with 20 excited Jr. golfers.   When I asked owner  Brian Brubaker how the day went he said, "It was quite a day.  One little boy was in tears thanking me for being open. He did not think Hillcrest would be back and now he had somewhere to play golf this summer."  Stop.....Wait, that is what it is all about!  Bringing back one little piece of "normal" to a community that has been surrounded by so much uncertainty.  That little boy knew his summer could be just like summers past and that his town was going to be OK, they were recovering. 
June 11, 2014 Hillcrest Opening Day...Jr. Day!
Many people have shared their stories with me of what Hillcrest meant to them or a family member.  I had numerous people who live in Washington say, "We need Hillcrest as part of our community, it has always been there"  The number of people who have learned the game of golf at Hillcrest Golf Center is staggering.  Since opening it's doors in 1958 it is hard to imagine how many people have had their lives influenced by the folks at Hillcrest and even harder to imagine Washington, IL without Hillcrest Golf Center!           
A look across the course 2 days after the tornado

       
A look across the course today
   
There is still plenty of work to be done and it will get completed in time but for now Hillcrest is open and back to introducing people of all ages to the great game of golf.  It has been a very rewarding experience for me personally.  Having the opportunity in getting to know Brian and Chuck has been great.  I do not know of two better men who could deal so well with the plethora of challenges that they were faced with.  They completed each task while looking for the next challenge ahead. Out of this terrible tragedy I have been rewarded.  I have 2 new friendships in Chuck and Brian and I am the lucky one! 
 
The driving range should open soon and step by step Hillcrest Golf Center, like the rest of the community, is getting back on course!  GOLF STRONG 
 
P.S.  I would like to thank my intern from Michigan State University, Brett Vander Heide, for his efforts at Hillcrest.  He had one of the most interesting internship projects I have ever seen.  He worked with Superintendent Chuck Bishoff in getting the course repaired for the 2014 season.  Thanks Brett!  

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Let the Summer Begin!!

With the passing of Memorial Day weekend we are now heading into the season full steam.  Summer conditions feel like they are happening right now but some cooler weather will surely return.  The course is playing well and in good shape currently.

The spring agronomic practices have been completed and recovery of the areas has occurred.  It is important to recognize that it is what we do in the spring that prepares the course to survive the rigors of summer.  Aeration of all bentgrass areas is vital in helping the turf be as healthy as possible heading into the major stress period of summer.  It is always our goal to get the turf as healthy as we can going into the summer season.

What will the summer of 2014 be like?  With the variability of weather that we saw this spring it is hard to forecast what the summer may bring.  Currently we are dry and are already seeing some slopes and traditional "dry spots" show up.  Usually we would see these conditions occur in mid to late June.  We are fortunate that we can irrigate and hand water to help with this challenge but being this dry this early in the year can be problematic down the road.  It is very similar to the conditions we saw in 2012 with drought and heat being the dominant weather pattern through the summer season.  Let's hope that is not the case this year and that Mother Nature helps us out with some precipitation and milder temperatures.   

Come out and enjoy the course as it is playing well and the truly hot weather has not yet arrived.  It won't be long and we will be looking at the 4th of July and that can be when the real heat shows up.  Remember, if you have a chance to introduce the game of golf to a young person please make that effort.  They are the future of the game! 

See you on the course!      

Friday, April 25, 2014

Aeration Dates Changed


The aeration of greens and tees was scheduled to occur next week on April 28th and 29th.   After evaluating current conditions and discussing options with Pro Shop staff, Club Management and the Green Committee Chairman the decision was made to hold off on aeration of greens and tees.  Due to the cooler spring, current turf conditions and next week’s colder forecast we are moving the dates to May 7th and 8th.  We will be closing the front nine on the 7th and the back nine on the 8th. 
Efforts to spur the greens into growing by applying both granular and foliar fertilizers have been met with little to no results.  The greens need to be actively growing in order to recover from the aeration process.  Currently the greens are not growing due to the cooler temperatures and current soil temperatures around 50 degrees.  This is almost 10 degrees lower than our soil temps last year at this time.   
Aerating the greens could actually result in setting them back a few weeks with next week’s lows being in the upper 30”s to low 40”s.  Highs next week after Monday are in the 50”s and mid 60’s.  These temperatures are not conducive to any type of recovery for the A1 and A4 bentgrass on our greens and could potentially lengthen the time required for recovery.  In a year like we are experiencing it has been decided to error on the side of caution.   
As always it is our goal to provide the membership with the best playing conditions possible.  Aeration to the greens is vital in providing healthy playing surfaces through the summer stress period.  We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and as always we appreciate your understanding and patience with these date changes.
 
For current information regarding the golf course follow the Golf Maintenance Department on twitter at: @amorris_andrew.  If you have any questions feel free to contact me at 309-682-9432.  See you on the course!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Is It Spring Yet?

As Spring is plodding along slowly so is the turf.  We have mowed all areas of the course except rough.  Greens and fairways have been mowed twice.  The turf is slowly responding to some warmer sunny days only to be set back by some lower temperatures that are below freezing.  Consistency in temperatures would go along way in helping the turf begin to really flourish.  Next week does not appear to be helpful as we have 2 mornings with lows around 30 degrees and highs in the upper 40's.  This may be consistent with the winter we experienced but not what we are looking for to promote turf growth.

As things have warmed up slightly the course has begun to green up.  We can see areas that were damaged by the harsh winter we experienced.  The damage is primarily in the fairways with greens and tees unaffected.  There are a few spots scattered around the course on fairways but #1 and #4 experienced the most damage.  This makes complete sense as these 2 fairways carry the most surface water and had the most turf that was covered under ice.  There are a number of courses throughout the state that are dealing with winter damage and in the big picture we came out of the situation better than most.  The reason being, we have higher populations of bentgrass and it is the Poa Annua that was most effected by the harsh winter conditions. 

Winter damage on #1 fairway.  Some areas are already recovering.
The turf for the most part will slowly recover but in a few spots we will be seeding into the damaged area.  We have already seen some areas begin to recover without having optimal growing conditions or temperatures so that is encouraging.  Patience will be required as the turf will need some time to recover.   Warmer temperatures will get here and the turf will ultimately recover with time. 

The course is getting cleaned up and is ready for play.  It continues to play "soft" but the greens are smooth and will only get better as we continue to mow and roll them.  Come out and enjoy some golf as carts are now available, weather permitting.  The clubhouse is open with some fantastic improvements so a lunch or dinner after a round of golf is a great option! 

Remember, for the most current course conditions and cart rules follow me on twitter at: @amorris_andrew  It is a great way to keep up on what is happening and the number of followers is growing daily.  I would encourage you to follow if you are interested and want real time information on the course. 

See you on the course,

Andy 



Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Course Open to Walkers!!

We have opened the course to golfers who would like to walk.   Currently the conditions are very soft and the bunkers have not been raked or repaired from the winter disturbance.  We brought back 3 crew members this week to begin picking up the course and will have some other crew returning on Monday April 7th.  Our first goal is to clean debris off the greens and tee boxes.  The turf has still not broke dormancy but there is a very slight green color beginning to show.

We have not mowed any areas at this time.  Once we see the turf green up and begin to grow we will begin mowing.  It should be in the next 7-10 days depending on the weather.  Warmer temperatures and some sunny days will assist in getting the turf to "wake up."  Hopefully we will see some better temperatures start to come our way soon! 

Golfers can now follow me on Twitter.  I will be using this social media to inform our golfing membership about course conditions, cart availability, course projects that may impact playability and other information.  "Tweets" are very short and informative and will be done throughout the week.  I would encourage you to follow me at:  @amorris_andrew if you have a Twitter account and if you do not you can easily sign up for this free service.  It is the best way to have the most up to date course information and stay informed as to what is happening on the course.  As I said, Tweets will be one or two sentences in length so an extremely quick read. 

Hope to see you out on the course and we will continue to evaluate course conditions in order to get carts out as soon as possible.  It should not be too far off!  Follow on Twitter at: @amorris_andrew for the most current course information.

See you on the course,
Andy

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

One Last Snowfall......Maybe?

After what has been a winter for the record books could we be seeing our last snow event?  The winter of 2014 provided record breaking snow accumulations and low temperatures.  The question being asked by many right now is, "How did the course fair through the winter?" 

It is a little early to fully assess how the turf did over the winter but preliminary observations are relatively good.  We know there are some low areas on the course that were under ice for most of the winter and that is where our concerns are focused.  Bentgrass has exceptional cold tolerance and we are fortunate to have bentgrass as our predominant grass type on our playing surfaces.  Our roughs are bluegrass and it also has good cold tolerance. 

The issues that are created when a turf plant is exposed to the type of winter we had this year can be devastating.  Dr. Kevin Frank, Turfgrass Extension Specialist with Michigan State University, reports the following,"Winterkill is a general term that is used to define turf loss during the winter. Winterkill can be caused by a combination of factors including crown hydration, desiccation, low temperatures, ice sheets and snow mold. Because of the unpredictability of environmental factors and differences in other factors such as surface drainage, the occurrence of winterkill on golf courses is variable and can vary greatly between golf courses and even across the same course." 

Over the last few weeks we have been scouting the course looking for this type of damage.  We can see a few areas where the turf appears to be damaged but until warmer temperatures arrive we can only speculate as to whether or not there is any winterkill.  Many areas are showing some very slight "green up" which is a good sign that the turf is fine. 

Could this be the last snow event of the year?  It is March 25th!!
Being one of the coldest winters on record we had a frost line that was almost 2 feet in depth.  Typically we would see frozen soil to a depth of 10 to 12 inches and in many years even less.  How does this effect the course?  As the soil thaws the moisture that is created makes a very soft surface.  We are currently thawed down to around 12-14 inches which leaves another foot to thaw.  As temperatures rise and some warmer rains fall the last foot of frost will thaw but surface conditions can still be very soft during this process.  Once again Mother Nature is the one in control.  When conditions improve we will get golfers out as soon as possible.  Initially walking and then the carts will come.

So, dust off the clubs and take a swing or two to work out the cob webs.  The season will get here sooner or later. Let's just hope it is sooner rather than later!!       

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Just a quick post to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving.  The Holidays are always a welcomed time of year so enjoy your families and eat plenty!  Have a great day.