Archive for April 2012

This is the forth post in a multi-post series on golf course maintenance from an interview with Brandon Evans, General Manager & PGA Certified Golf Professional at Village Greens of Woodridge (and self-imposed “Director of Fun and Entertainment”).

In this post, we talk about ball marks, divots, and other golf course maintence issues.

CGN: Are there any other things you’d like to say in regards to what players can do (beginners and non-beginners alike) to help keep the course in good shape? What are some things players do that you [as a course manager] really appreciate? I’d imagine replacing divots or filling them in with divot mix is a major one.

BE: Most courses are ‘judged’ by golfers on the condition of the greens more heavily than other areas. If left unrepaired, a ball mark could take 2-4 weeks to resolve the damage on it’s own. In my experience, 1 out of 5 golfers repairs their ball marks. Therefore, I ask each of our regulars to try to fix 4-5 ball marks on each green when they play… I tell them the ‘Putting Gods’ will be watching and be more kind to those who fix ball marks. If a golfer only did one thing, replacing ball marks would be on the top of the list. The course benefits, but the golfers benefit more.

There are differing opinions on replacing divots. When you take a divot, you haven’t killed the grass… the roots will regenerate the foliage. Replacing a divot is beneficial in leveling the surface and may prevent someone else from having to play from a hole, but a ‘dead’ divot will sometime impede the new growth from the roots (divots don’t regenerate from the ground down). That’s why some courses offer sand or divot mix… it levels the surface and allows the new shoots to come through.

Divot mix is tricky, and some courses have stopped using it. Some courses have bent grass tees, blue grass fairways, and blue/rye roughs. When divot mix is filled in a portable container, it may contain blue grass, but an unknowing golfer may take a divot on the bent grass tee, fill it with blue grass divot mix, and think they did good. Instead, they just introduced an undesirable grass into an area it doesn’t belong. If there is divot mix on a par 3 tee box, using it is greatly appreciated, as the course will have mixed the right blend.

The other often overlooked maintenance issue most amatuers aren’t aware of… in a greenside bunker, the highest part is often closest to the green. After hitting a shot, golfers often try to climb out of the bunker at the highest point, closest to the green, often damaging the edge of the bunker along the way. Entering and exiting a bunker at its lowest point is not only more beneficial to the course, but more comfortable for the golfer (even though it may require a bit more raking).

This is the third post in a multi-post series on golf course maintenance from an interview with Brandon Evans, General Manager & PGA Certified Golf Professional at Village Greens of Woodridge (and self-imposed “Director of Fun and Entertainment”).

In this post, we talk about cart rules and the factors that effect general cart traffic.

CGN: Speaking of motorized carts, let’s talk about that 90 degree rule. Courses try to enforce it, but more times than not, players don’t adhere to it. How exactly does that rule help you? How long do the side effects of players not adhering to the 90 degree rule effect the quality of the course? What other motorized cart rules can you try to enforce?

BE: Cart rules generally fall into the scatter (go anywhere), rough only, 90 rule, fairway only, cart path only, or no cart rules.

Scatter and no carts are obvious. Rough only may be applied when a course doesn’t have continuous cart paths, wants some cart revenue, but it’s pretty wet and they don’t want golfers to damage the more important fairway turf. They’re usually acknowledging that some damage will take place in the rough, but the cost/satisfaction/benefit ratio is positive and the rough can be fixed. Some courses have excellent fairway drainage and/or divert the stormwater into the rough, so they’ll mandate fairways only because the turf there is drier and less likely to become damaged. Cart paths only means you could damage numerous areas of the course and the course invested in all of those cart paths so the golfers are going to use them and not damage any of the turf. 90 degree rule usually means it’s wet in the fairways, but severe damage isn’t imminent and we’re trying to keep satisfactions levels somewhat high. However, wet turf is more susceptable to compaction, and compaction is bad for turf… so the less traffic we have in the fairways, the better. 90 degree rule is the hardest to police because we’re not necessarily restricting fairway access… we’re simply ‘hoping’ to get as much cooperation as possible from our guests to minimize turf wear and tear.

Of course, there are other factors for each of the above than just stormwater… balancing traffic patterns to avoid overuse in some areas, chemical applications that need to dry or settle, high levels of play when grass is weak or susceptable, turf disease or conditions favorable for disease, recent aerifications, etc. could all have an impact on where the course would prefer carts to go and not go. For instance, pythium is a disease that can wipe out the turf on a golf course in 48 hours. If disease is present or favorable, having carts transfer the disease from one area of the course to another so multiple areas become infected isn’t in anyone’s best interest.

This is the second post in a multi-post series on golf course maintenance from an interview with Brandon Evans, General Manager & PGA Certified Golf Professional at Village Greens of Woodridge (and self-imposed “Director of Fun and Entertainment”).

In this post, we talk about water drainage and general course management in regards to the up-keep of the course.

CGN: What other things can happen that will change the normal activities that players do during a round of golf (in regards to the up-keeping of the course)? For example, I’ve played on courses that received a heavy amount of rainfall, and all that was done was not allow motorized carts. That’s understandable, as the course managers don’t want to turn the fairways into a mud pit. At what point do you make that call to not allow motorized carts?

BE: Every course is different, and every course has different drainage characteristics. For instance, some golf courses (typically municipal courses like Village Greens of Woodridge) actually serve as stormwater retention for neighborhoods and businesses surrounding the property. Therefore, when we get rain, we’re often taking water on 24 hours after the rain stops, and sometimes golfers don’t understand why the course is still closed or carts aren’t available even though it’s sunny and 80 degrees and the rain ended 24 hours earlier.

Some courses have very expensive and elaborate drainage systems to get water off the course quickly so as not to interrupt business operations. Private country clubs and high-end public courses (like Cog Hill #4 “Dubsdread”) have great drainage systems and you wouldn’t know it even rained 3-4 hours after a one inch rainfall.

Other things [that could change the normal activities] are aerification of greens, tees, and fairways, topdressing, chemical applications, and simply letting a course ‘rest’ for a day (like private country clubs do on Mondays).

Every course weighs those actvities which are required for acceptable turf conditions vs. budgets vs. rounds played vs. customer satisfaction, and tries to blend it all together at times when weather is favorable. It’s a delicate decision to weigh short term financial gain, customer satisfaction, and long term course damage/restoration, and there’s often no clear cut answer. Additionally, some courses allow different people to make the decisions… a grounds superintendent’s job is to keep the turf as nice as possible, and they’ll obviously be much more conservative in their decision making. Golf managers are charged with generating revenues and are the front-line for customer service issues, and they’ll be more aggressive in decision making. This is often why golf pros and superintendents don’t get along at some facilities… there’s always a ‘winner’ and ‘loser’… and this routine takes place 100+ times per year as conditions constantly change.

In my previous post, I mentioned that there was a long wait to tee off because of a frost delay. Being still fairly new to the sport (and usually only playing during warm weather), this made me wonder about the exact meaning behind a frost delay and the problems it could cause to a golf course.

I reached out Brandon Evans, General Manager & PGA Certified Golf Professional at Village Greens of Woodridge (and self-imposed “Director of Fun and Entertainment”). Brandon was kind enough to offer some insight into various topics of golf course maintenance, including frost delays, water drainage, and cart rules.

This is the first post in a multi-post series on golf course maintenance. In this post, we talk about frost delays.

CGN: It’s obvious was causes a frost delay, even though I didn’t really think it got that cold the night before my round. What’s the reasoning behind preventing play when there’s frost? What does the frost do to the course? How is this any different than playing during the winter or early fall? How often do frost delays actually happen?

BE: Frost is one of the most frustrating and somewhat unpredictable issues we deal with. Frustrating because nobody wins… the course has to delay golfers from teeing off, which only causes aggravation and irritation for the golfers, especially those accustomed to teeing off early and getting home early. In many cases, the golfers simply can’t wait and they cancel their tee times, resulting in loss of valuable revenue. Even if they do stick around there’s often confusion and chaos in getting everybody onto the course once the delay ends. NOBODY has fun on frost delayed mornings.

Believe me, there’s a very good reason we prevent golfers from going onto the course when there is frost present… it would be a lot easier to simply let everyone out to play than to try to mitigate our guests’ frustration if the consequences weren’t that severe.

First of all… frost is tricky. Without going into details, frost is obviously frozen water, but because the temperature you see on the Weather Channel is taken several feet off the ground and cold air is more dense and therefore ‘sinks’, there could (and often is) frost on the grass when the ‘temperature’ is above freezing. Additionally, it takes frost a while to melt, depending on the severity and density, so by the time you’re driving to the course it may read 37 on your car’s dashboard but when you arrive at the course the greens are frosty white. Lastly, frost will settle and be more severe on shorter grass, which is why your yard may not show frost but a putting green will. Alternatively, humidity levels and other factors are involved, so it’s entirely possible to have overnight lows in the 20’s without frost being present in the morning, yet other mornings when the overnight lows were 35 and there’s a heavy frost.

A blade of grass is 80% water and therefore very pliable or flexible. When that water freezes, and/or a layer of frost covers the blade, the blade of grass becomes rigid and fragile. When someone then steps on it or drives on it, the blade of grass will break, crack, or otherwise become damaged. In the short term, it will cause very bumpy greens (imagine walking through newly fallen snow leaving footprints… a putting surface will look just like it). A few days later, grass may show signs of ‘bruising’ from it’s injuries… we’ll literally see brown or black footprints all over the grass, and those areas won’t grow as evenly, resulting in poor playing surfaces. If the frost was heavy enough and the crown of the plant was frozen, the entire plant will die and the course has some serious problems at that point. We’ve all seen greens with dead ‘footprints’ all over the place.

Bottom line… as much as we hate frustrating the golfers and losing the revenue, the alternative of bruised or dead fairways and greens is less appealing and has longer term consequences.

We typically see frost in March and April, October and November. At some point, the grass goes dormant. Once it’s dormant, it’s more difficult to damage the blade of the grass, which is why some courses allow ‘winter’ golf. However, there are other ways to damage the playing surface in the winter and most course don’t see a positive cost/benefit ratio for winter golf.

Naperbrook Golf Club

Posted by cjsharp1 on April 12, 2012 in Courses 1 Comment

Finishing out the weekend of golf, I journeyed to Naperbrook Golf Course in Plainfield, Illinois, approximately 30 miles southwest of downtown Chicago. Naperbrook is part of the Naperville Park District, which also operates Springbrook Golf Course in Naperville. The course opened in 1991, and was designed by Roger Packard, who also designed many courses in Illinois, including Prairie Bluff Golf Club, Oak Brook Golf Club, and all 27 holes of Cantigny Golf Course.

The course features four par-3 and four par-5 holes for a total par of 72 at a length of 6,677 yards from the back tees. For my round, I played on the white tees, which dropped the length down to 5,942 yards. The course is designed as a “links-style” course, so the fairways are flat and wide, with small rolling hills, a few trees, and thick grass along the sides.  The fairways are mostly straight, with the exception of the 3rd hole (a 550 yard par-5) and the 17th hole (a 354 yard par-4) which are dogleg rights. Water hazards touch 12 of the holes, none of which you’ll absolutely need to carry over (how you play the hole will determine if you’ll need to shoot over water). Bunkers are found on every hole, either near the fairway, near the green, or both. The greens are of average size or slightly smaller, with challenging breaks and pin positions. The greens played a little fast during my round.

Susie joined me for this round, and we initially had the intention to play another course after this round. Though when we arrived at the course, the tee times were backed up due to a frost delay. On top of that, it looked like they were holding a tournament or large outing, so there were a lot of people waiting to tee off. Instead of delaying our start, the course managers started Susie and I on the back nine. Playing the back nine first was nice, because we only had a twosome in front of us, and there was no one behind us for at least two or three holes. When we finished the back nine, we checked in with the starter, who told us there was a 15-20 minute wait (we knew this would happen, because one of the course rangers told us a couple times during the back nine). So we got to take a little break and grab lunch. While we were eating, the course manager found us and offered to buy us lunch, which was a really nice gesture, but at this point we had already paid and finished eating. Nearly one hour later, the starter got us fit in to an open tee time. We played the front nine with another twosome, Ron and Martha (husband/wife). Near the end of the front nine, I mentioned to Susie that we should play the back nine again, since there wasn’t time to play another 18 at another course. At the turn, we talked to the course manager, and got the go-ahead to play the back nine again.

The troubles of my two previous round were still present in this round, as expected. I didn’t have any consistency at all with my drives. Some holes I’d push right, then follow up the next drive with a straight shot, but then only to slice it on the next hole. I could definitely feel that something is different with my back swing, possibly due to improper grip. My irons still gave me troubles, and I already know what I need to work on to fix that. I started using my 3 hybrid more, which is one club I’ve been avoiding ever since I added it to my bag, and it surprisingly didn’t give me any major issues. As expected, my short game was decent, which is starting to be one of the things I can count on to keep my scores somewhat low. My putting was random but generally better than the previous round. I 1-putted four times and only 3-putted once throughout the 27 holes.

I ended up shooting a 106 for the round (34 over par, 52 on the front nine, 54 on the back nine). This score consisted of three pars, four bogeys, four double bogeys, and all others worse. For the back nine replay, I shot a 54 again, but the scores on each hole were pretty different. This score consisted of two bogeys, five double bogeys, and two triple bogeys.

This round ends the weekend of golf (since Sunday was Easter). I ended up played 63 holes of in two days, and knocked off three new courses. Due to other plans, I won’t be playing for the next three weeks, then at the end of the break, the Windy City Golf League starts its season. I’m hoping this little break will give me a chance to go to the driving range and try to figure out what is going on with my drives and iron shots. I really need things to improve, or at least get back to the way things were. I hate feeling uncomfortable with my swing, and it messes tremendously with my mental game. The only way it’s going to get better is to practice, practice, and practice some more.

Naperbrook Golf Club – Scores & Stats
Course length: 5,942 yards (white tee boxes)
Course par: 72
Course rating/slope: 68.6/120 (white tee boxes)
My score: 106 (34 over par)
Replay score: 54 (back nine)

Naperbrook Golf Club
22204 West Hassert Blvd
Plainfield, IL 60585

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