Winter workout

What can you do to improve your golf game in the winter? Like many great questions, it can’t be answered in one or two sentences, but I will give it a try. A lot of research has gone into the effect physical fitness regimes have on a person’s golfing ability. Beyond the obvious benefits of being fit enough to walk 18 holes comfortably or strong enough to carry a set of clubs, some interesting facts were discovered in which muscles are actually used while swinging a golf club. _67J9466

A research team at the University of Calgary has done extensive testing on golfers of all levels and has identified the primary and secondary muscle groups used in a golf swing. One of the most important muscle groups is the abdominal muscles, especially the obliques (otherwise known as the side muscles). This explains why Tiger Woods can hit the ball 350 yards, but it doesn’t explain why a fellow like me with a large attachment of “Molson muscle” can hit the ball 300 yards. The fact is that even though a fellow like me can look out of shape, I can also possess fairly strong and efficient abdominal strength. So if this is possible, I suppose it is also possible that a thin person may have weak abdominal muscles. Either way it seems that part of a golfer’s physical fitness program should definitely contain some abdominal exercise. Experts will also tell you that regular abdominal muscles can take strain off of the back muscles, which for some golfers, is a chronic problem.

The golfer can go on to more specific training techniques like the basic motion of swinging works the abdominal muscles so by simply swinging a golf club, or a medicine ball for that matter, can exercise the abdominal muscles. Of course, the gym always helps too.

So what can you do to improve your golf in the winter?

-Ward Stouffer, Director of Golf

Fairwinds offers a variety of fitness classes throughout the winter, including Golf Fit, a strength and conditioning class focusing on golf specific muscles and movements designed by Brett Standerwick, Fairwinds’ PGA of Canada Professional.  

New season, new projects

With the approach of winter in many places throughout Canada, golf courses are closing or indeed closed. On the west coast and at Fairwinds, golfers continue to golf and work continues to improve the golf course.

The fourth hole is coming along nicely. With the warmer climate, we were able to lay down some sod and seed the new approach. The tee is in as well and when the timing is appropriate, the fairway grooming will coincide with the overall adjusted layout of the hole. These alterations were completed with our neighbours on the fourth hole in mind and, of course, players of all levels will be able to enjoy the new layout of this beautiful hole. IMG_blog1532

One of our next projects is actually a sad one. It has become necessary to remove the tree on the seventh fairway that guards the right front portion of the green. The tree is dying and is dangerous to golfers. Once the tree is removed we will expand the pot bunker to provide some protection for the right side of the green.

Stay tuned for upcoming projects and changes that we hope to accomplish during the off season. Yeah, right, there is no off season on the west coast.

- Ward Stouffer, Director of Golf

4th hole alterations

The fourth hole at Fairwinds is rated as our #1 handicap hole and could be considered our toughest. It is a longer par 4 with a slight dogleg to the right. There is a pond in front of the tee that shouldn’t pose a problem, but you never know. There is an out of bounds to the right and a couple of fairway traps to the left. It has a fairly demanding tee shot with an approach that is no less challenging. The raised green is fronted entirely with a creek, and the right side and at back left are guarded by bunkers. This design would challenge even the best players in the world.

So what changes are we making? Two things: increasing the dogleg to help minimize the chance of tee shots conflicting with our residents, and reducing the challenge of the approach shot coming in from the left side.  IMG_tee4

The white tee will be moved further to the right to produce a bigger angle on the dogleg. This should move the centre of the fairway further to the left and help to buffer our residents. However, this change will not reduce the length of the hole.

We will also be creating a path for those golfers that play the hole from the left side. It eliminates the forced carry and provides the extra option of a run up shot. The right side will be untouched and the challenge that exists today will remain, creating a risk/reward situation. A player will now have the option of taking this route along the ground and take the extra stroke, or they can risk losing their ball in the open part of the creek in hopes of attaining a lower score.

As our market changes, our golfer changes and modifications are necessary to the golf course. Our members and regular players can be assured these changes are not intended to alter the integrity of Fairwinds Golf Course.

- Ward Stouffer, Director of Golf

Aeration: a necessary evil

Sometimes things have to get worse before they can get better. This can be said for a lot of cultural practices performed by golf course superintendents.

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Aerating the greens is a short-term inconvenience, but necessary in order to maintain the health of the greens long-term.

Cultural practices are techniques employed by superintendents too not only improve the condition of the golf course, but are vital to ensure the health and survival of the turf. Contrary to popular belief the yearly, monthly and sometimes weekly practices are not done to get under the skin of golfers.

The most dreaded of these necessary tactics is core aeration. Core aeration is the act of pulling plugs of soil from the green leaving the playing surface bumpy, ugly and generally difficult to putt on. Unfortunately, for the golfer and superintendent alike, core aeration plays a vital role in turfgrass health. The purpose of aeration is to reduce compaction, remove thatch, release trapped gases, allow air and water to infiltrate into the green and essentially help the turf to breathe. Without aeration at least once per year, golf course putting greens will eventually suffocate and fail. The holes left by the aeration process allow the superintendent to apply fertilizers or other amendments right down to the roots.

Along with core aeration comes possibly the second most hated cultural practice, topdressing. Following the aeration process, the next step is to fill the holes with topdressing sand. The topdressing process will help bring the green surface back to an acceptable level of playability. Without re-filling the holes the roots of the turf that are exposed to the air will dry out and die. Enough topdressing material should be added to completely fill the holes.

Topdressing without core aeration is a practice that most superintendents strive to perform on a monthly basis if not more frequently. The purpose of this form of topdressing is to smooth the putting surface and breakdown the thatch layer that sits directly beneath the turf.

Thatch is defined as an intermingled organic layer of dead and living shoots, stems and roots, which develops between the zone of green vegetation and the soil surface. Too much thatch can inhibit fertilizers, water and other inputs needed from reaching the turfgrass root system. Thatch is where many disease spores and insects live.

The process of topdressing a green is simple. The first step is to load the topdressing spreader with topdressing material, usually sand or preferably the same mixture that the green is built with.

Secondly, the operator drives the unit onto the green applying the mix via a conveyor set at a predetermined rate. The sand is then left to dry, after which it must be dragged into the green surface. This is typically done using a golf cart pulling a series of brushes or a dragmat. Once the sand has finally been effectively dragged into the green it is ready to be mowed and is ready for play.

One of the biggest problems faced by superintendents when it comes to topdressing is timing. Most often a golf course is able to close for about a half day to allow for the process. Problems occur when the procedure is performed in the evening and the sun begins to set. The sand will not dry and cannot be dragged into the green effectively.

Often times when the topdressing process is performed in the morning the sand becomes wet from the dew on the greens. With paying customers waiting to tee off, the superintendent is forced to hurry the process and attempt to drag mat the greens when the sand is still wet. The wet sand will remain on the green surface causing issues with puttability.

Aeration and topdressing are just two of a multitude of cultural practices employed by superintendents. These ones just happen to raise the ire of golfers more than the others. By performing cultural practices on a regular scheduled basis the superintendent is able to not only keep the turf healthy for excellent playing conditions but is also able to keep the amount of inputs (water, fertilizers and pesticides) to a minimum.

If you think golfers and superintendents do not like topdressing, speak to a golf course mechanic about the damage it does to mowers.

Rick Munro, Assistant Superintendent at Fairwinds Golf Club
Rick blogs on a regular basis about golf course maintenance and construction. Check out his blog From the Green Side.

Aeration is scheduled for October 6 and 7 at Fairwinds. 

Busy mason bees

Our first mason bee hatching project was a great success! Back in April, we hung two mason bee boxes along with several hundred cocoons ready to hatch. The bees soon emerged and were as busy as bees throughout the spring and early summer, collecting pollen and laying their eggs in the cardboard tubes lining the bee houses. All of the tubes were eventually filled, creating dividers between each egg and neatly sealing the ends.  Mason Bees

The cardboard tubes were collected in July to protect the developing larvae from predators such as parasitic wasps and woodpeckers, and are being stored in a safe, dry place through the fall and winter. Early next year, the cardboard tubes will be opened and the cocoons will be given a quick cleaning with a soft brush to remove the dried mud and any mites.

Once the weather begins to warm and the early trees and flowers begin blooming in the spring, the cocoons will be moved outside and a new generation of mason bees will emerge. Each tube holds on average 8-10 cocoons, so we are hoping that over 1,000 new bees will hatch next spring and help pollinate the local trees, flowers, and gardens.

A few tips in chipping

Improving chip shots requires a few basic adjustments to your body and stance, and with the help of a golf instructor and a little practice, you can perfect your chipping. photo_wine (4)

  • Put your hands lower on the grip and your feet closer to the ball.
  • Your ball position is best two inches behind the middle of your stance. Stand close enough to the ball so that when you raise the heel of your club, the toe is down.
  • Use an accelerating swing by making a follow-through about 20 percent longer than your back swing and using a rhythmic, smooth and steady swing.
  • Keep your wrists firm.
  • Put more weight on your front foot (left for right handed golfers) and keep your hands in front of the club face.
  • At the end of your swing you should be able to hold a glass of wine on your clubface.

Don’t be overwhelmed – chipping takes practice and if you hit the greens on a regular basis you should see improvements over time. If not, you may want to set up a lesson to find out how you can improve your stance and swing.

Hélène Delisle, PGA of Canada Professional
Fairwinds Golf Club

Fast and firm fairways

There have been a lot of questions about the condition of the fairways this past week. The main concern is the appearance of the dried outlines on the fairways and why the fairways are so dry.

First, it’s important to understand that the lines that you can see are not from the irrigation project. They are from 25 years of drainage added to the course after the initial construction. When Fairwinds was built, it was done without drainage in the fairways or rough. The fairways and rough were grown in on the native ground, which is primarily soil and clay. Over the last 25 years, the maintenance crew has added drainage as needed; a process which includes digging trenches approximately one foot wide and two feet deep. Drain tile was then added and topped up with some drain rock and finally sand, before the sod was placed back on top of the drain lines.  IMG_0298

While we are still irrigating the fairways, the drain lines quickly absorb the water through the sand, leaving the turf on top to dry out. The rest of the grass that is growing in the native soil or clay are receiving adequate amounts of water as the moisture holding capacity of these areas is much greater than that of the drain lines.

To put some perspective to this, as of June 21 we have used approximately 1 million gallons of water more than we had at this time last year. In 2013, May and June brought us nearly 4.5 inches of rain while in the same time frame this year we have had 1.4 inches.

If we were to irrigate to the extent that the drain lines were green it would leave the other areas extremely wet. Basically, the drain lines would be green while the rest of the turf would be mud or at least soaking wet. There is also the fact that we have run out of water available from Enos Lake – our prime source of irrigation water. During the spring and summer we pump water from Enos Lake to Dolphin Lake, behind the 14 tee, and then syphon it through the creek running along the #13 fairway until it eventually makes its way to the irrigation pond between holes 11 and 18.

As stated in our water use license, we are allowed to draw Enos Lake down to a certain level before July 15 to permit the spawning of Stickleback fish in Enos Lake. This has nothing to do with our Audubon certification, it’s the law. After July 15, we are able to draw Enos Lake down further in order to accommodate our irrigation needs on the course.

By mid-July, if there is not enough rain to help replenish Enos Lake, then Dolphin Lake and our irrigation pond may still be under a watering restriction as the supply may not be there to draw from. By that time, we will have at least two more months of irrigation season left, and would not be wise to deplete the source as we will need to ration it to get to the end of the season.

I have also been approached by a couple of concerned members about the possibility of adding some moisture holding material to the drain lines so they will stay wet enough to grow healthy turf. While this may seem like a sound solution now, it would cause problems in the winter months when our drain lines are holding water rather than draining it.

Rod Siddons, our Superintendent, and I have had several discussions about our irrigation priorities and agree that we need to ensure we have enough water to get us to the end of the season. As you have likely noticed we have stopped irrigating the rough and backed off the fairways. We are doing our best the keep the tee decks in the best shape possible. The greens will continue to receive the proper amount of water needed in order to keep them in excellent playing condition.

If you have any questions or concerns about our water issues please do not hesitate to contact me or stop me on the golf course to talk. In the meantime, enjoy the fast and firm conditions.

Rick Munro
Assistant Superintendent
Fairwinds Golf Club