Happy Armistice Day to everyone.  As a reminder, this was the day to mark the signing of the armistice ending World War 1 on November 11, 1918.  While this might not seem like a big deal to many, for me there is a special meaning since my great grandfather-an Englishman-was killed fighting for the British in 1917 and I had two great uncles who were gassed fighting for the USA in 1918.  I feel that it is very important to remember and respect our history and the same respect applies to Nemadji Golf Course.

As I settled into the superintendent’s position at Nemadji, I was made aware of the following map in the old records:

Irrigation Layout dated May 5, 1931

Layout-wise, much has changed in the last 89 years but interestingly the South golf course has remained pretty close to the original plan.  The West and East courses were not added until the 80’s and 90’s, respectively, while the North course has undergone numerous changes over the years as well.  Overall, I think that the current layout at Nemadji offers something for everyone.  Dramatic elevation changes on the North and East golf courses coexist with the flatter, easier to navigate South and West courses.  A very interesting facility to be sure and over the past year we have done, and are currently doing, numerous projects to enhance the experience for our players.

From an agronomic standpoint, the biggest issue at Nemadji is the poor drainage inherent with the site.  Heavy clay soils combined with vast expanses of flat terrain make removal of excess water from rain and snow events a real challenge.  Modern golf courses properly built attempt to mitigate these issues with both shaping and installation of drainage systems working together to move water off the playing surfaces.  Much of Nemadji-especially the North/South golf course-was built a long time ago when the ability to move large quantities of dirt was not as doable as it is today with modern technology.  The courses were built with minimal changes to the existing flat terrain and so drainage issues will be a thing during wet periods-though there are ways that we can attempt to address these issues over time.  We have indeed begun to address some of the worst drainage issues on the West and East golf courses.

The West Course was built in the 80’s on an inherently flat/wet site and without sufficient drainage systems on some areas.  Notably, the 11th and 12th fairways turn into water-logged areas staying that way for days or even weeks after rain events.  It is no wonder that those fairways are usually full of weak turf and broadleaf weeds.  We chose to make an attempt to correct these issues with the installation of drainage tile and surface drains.

18” surface drain and 6” double wall tile dug in with mini excavator-12W

Surface Drain-11W.  Note tie in to old 4” drainage tile on left.

To create grade, tile needed to be dug in under irrigation lines-12W

Lines backfilled with pea rock.  Dalton Derosia, Gabe Anderson, George Bibeau, Jarod Meyer.  11W

After the lines are backfilled with pea rock to roughly 3-4” under grade, we will leave them over the winter and finish the work by capping the pea rock with a sandy greens mix, fine grade, seed, fertilize, and futerra blanket.  At that time, we will also install the drainage grates to grade.  In addition to these areas on 11W and 12W, we installed bunker drainage on 7E, 8E, and 16W.

Layout on bunker drainage 7E.  Note circled number showing 2.8-foot-deep cut on edge of bunker.  Use of a level very important for this work.

Dalton Derosia operating mini excavator used for all drainage work.  Here working on 7E bunker.

8E Bunker drainage after excavator work and before tile installation.

We also began to replace some of the worst issues we have had with old drain tiles crossing under cart paths.  This work will be ongoing for several years since there are several of these on the golf course.

Tile Crosssover-6N

Removing old tile.  6N

All told, we were able to install well over 900 linear feet of drainage tile and bedded it with over 90 cubic yards of pea rock (about 4 semi loads).  Drainage is messy, labor intensive work and much credit should be given to all the staff who had a part in performing this work-Gabe Anderson, George Bibeau, Dalton Derosia, Jarod Meyer, Brian Wallin, and especially Brad Little for keeping the equipment going while doing such heavy work.  While we had the excavator, we also did a few more projects:

Removed dated landscaping from entrance sign in preparation for new landscaping next year.  We also removed other plants around clubhouse for similar work.

Removed crumbling block wall in 10S tee and used spoils from drainage work to regrade, seed, fertilize, and futerra blanket area.  This dormant seeding will grow in next year like a Chia pet.

In addition to this work, we also built a turf nursery next to our maintenance building for use in future years, added a sprinkler head to the improved practice tee and to the new nursery, and used the spoils from our drainage work to build a berm to screen the maintenance area from the golf course.  The Parks Department of Superior was very helpful in helping us to shape the new berm which will grow larger each year as we perform this work.  All told, a very solid fall for project work but there is other, more routine work that needs to be done as well.

Winter preparations on the golf course include applying a fungicide application before winter to protect against a winter disease named, aptly enough, snow mold.  This was done on October 19 and 20 on greens and tees.  We also added a pigment to the application to give the sprayed surfaces such a green color.  This pigment should last through the winter and, in theory, will help the turf respond quicker in the spring by absorbing radiant heat from the sun.  Plus, it looks cool.  We also experimented with very inexpensive fungicide applications on a few fairways the first week of November to see how well those treatments will work and if we are happy with them work them into our programs on a regular basis in the future.  After application of winter chemicals, a solid practice is applying a heavy topdressing layer on greens.

Brian Wallin topdressing 16S Green using loaner vehicle from MTI.

Immediately after topdressing.  Note uneven application from ancient topdresser.  Need to replace brush over winter.

Gabe Anderson dragging topdressing sand with brush to even out distribution of sand.  5N

After Dragging.  More even distribution.

We finished this process on the entire golf course on November 10 and the next day we had 4” snow on the ground.  Staying open so late in the year forced us to cut things pretty close in finishing this kind of work on the North/South golf course.  This layer of sand on the greens functions as a “poor man’s cover” in that it does insulate the turf from the stresses of winter.  In addition, this practice smooths the putting surface by levelling ball marks and helps to make a firmer putting surface in general.

One final practice that has merit is the cutting of shallow trenches in collars next to parts of greens that historically collect water and form ice that in some years kills turf.  Ice is bad and can kill turf after remaining in place for greater than 60 days or so depending on the type of turf you have.  Bentgrass can live under ice much longer than annual bluegrass (Poa annua).  Nemadji greens are a mixture of the two species.

Collar Strip on 1E to drain surface water from greens

As I look outside at the snow on the ground, I get the feeling that this season is near the end.  It has been a great season for us as a golf course maintenance staff and I cannot stress enough just how proud I am with the group that we had this past season.  On a personal note, Nemadji has offered me a great chance to use my experiences over the years to help improve the facility for years to come but this would mean nothing without the solid group that we had this year.  The group pictured below deserves not just my thanks but the appreciation from all who have enjoyed Nemadji in 2020.

Crew 2020

Front row left to right:  Jarod Meyer, Alex Hughes, Vincent Dodge, Boomer, Chopper, Brian Wallin, Brad Little, Bruce Carignan

Back row left to right:  George Bibeau, Gabe Anderson, John Wallin, Scott Johnson, Paul Reder, Ethan Christopherson, John Hack, Daylyn Derosia, Dalton Derosia, Mike Vatalaro, Brady Arneson