Summer is officially here, and it has, across the United States, been a very warm one to be sure. Combined with lower-than-average rainfall over the past several months, we have been hard-pressed to get enough water on the ground with an irrigation system that is simply inadequate for a 36-hole facility. That being said, we are fighting the good fight and doing whatever it takes to present the best possible conditions that we can under the circumstances. Another challenge to the creation of optimal conditioning has been a few hydraulic leaks we had in the past few weeks.
Probably one of the most annoying issues in golf course maintenance are hydraulic leaks that cause unsightly and, in some instances, long-term discoloration on playing surfaces. One such incident happened here at Nemadji in June.
Hydraulic Leak 15W Green
The usual culprit in these instances is a mower of some sort as they are hydrostatic units that convert power from an engine into hydraulic power to power both drive and cutting systems. The perp in this case, though, was a utility vehicle that utilizes hydraulic power to energize the pump for our spray rig. This problem was very surprising in that it occurred with a brand-new unit from Toro that came from the factory with the following O-ring:
O-ring Toro Workman 6-19-2021
Note the mangled edge of the part which resulted in a slow, hard to detect leak located deep under the machine and out of sight. This is one of the most diabolical leaks I have been around since it was in such a difficult to detect part of the machine. It can be frustrating when a $.25 part on a unit right out of the factory can be the cause of so much trouble but we did find it in the end and fixed it. Hydraulic leaks are usually the result of utilizing equipment well past its effective life span like the one below:
Hydraulic Leak from 2003 Toro Sidewinder 11W
Problems like this are, sadly, all to common when utilizing equipment nearing 20 years in age. While we do our best over the winter months to inspect and repair problems before they happen, sometimes problems like this elude detection. Fix it and move on. Speaking of fixing, we are currently in the process of trying to address the inherent poor internal drainage on many of the older, original greens located on the N/S golf course.
We had core aerified those greens this past Spring and while the process is always beneficial, I suspected that there were bigger issues with these greens than simple core aerifying can correct. In that spirit, we contracted out a special aerifying unit called a DryJect and experimented with it on the worst draining greens-1N, 7N, 15S, and 17S. See this link for more information on the process:
The DryJect process uses a very high-pressure water jet to make a hole anywhere from 4” to 12” deep depending on the setting of the machine. The suction from the blast then deposits sand into the newly created hole. This happens all in one process. The results of this action were very illuminating as the picture below illustrates:
DryJect 17S July 1, 2021
The use of a sample with yellow sand helps to show exactly what is going on here. This green has a serious layering issue located about 6” below the surface. The high-pressure water jet created by the DryJect was unable to penetrate it and instead broke off parallel to the layer. This layer is likely a thick organic mat created by the original putting surfaces many decades ago that has long since been buried by topdressing sand. The result here is what is called a perched water table that does not allow water to penetrate any deeper into the soil profile-creating a drainage issue. This problem may be rectified over time with the use of a deep tine aerifier this fall that can penetrate deep enough into the profile to punch holes through this layer and allow the downward movement of water and roots. The other greens we performed this work on showed a similar issue. All the older greens need remedial action but fortunately we have just the machine now to perform this work late this season and well into the future. I am confident that over time we can help alleviate this issue and improve both in season playability and winter survivability on these problematic greens. Part of making something better is first finding out what exactly the issues are in the first place. One final issue I would like to discuss is the annual pin placement complaint that usually surfaces once greens begin rolling over 9’ on the stimpmeter.
I sometimes really wish that all greens were relatively boring and flat since that way we could make them as fast as we like without any negative consequences. Sadly, this is not the case at Nemadji-particularly on the West Course. In some cases, the slopes are so extreme that once greens get speedier, we run out of easy pin placements on the green and must make some relatively difficult pin locations. The other option is to make greens a foot or so slower (more complaints) or to just keep the cups on West Course in a few (two or three) different locations on certain greens like 12 and 16. Not good for wear distribution on a busy golf course. That being said, I do know that there have been a few occasions with a crazy tough pin placement and for that we are sorry. Course setup can be a tricky business and it is something that we are always working to refine.
Thank you for your time and I look forward to seeing you on the golf course.
Lilium ‘Tiny Diamond’ (left) and ‘Tiny Double You’ (Right)
Nemadji Golf Course 7-1-2021