Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Fresh faces

     It's been a long time since I've been able to publish anything to this blog and I apologize.  The growing season was crazy hectic last year with projects and to put it gently, an unfavorable winter. With the help of Xingyu, last year's architect intern, we designed 4 flower beds, a rock retaining wall and a newly designed and finished black tee box for #1, and a wildflower establishment area located by the tunnel entrance to Fair Hills Resort.  These projects were completed and look fantastic; a job well done by all who helped.  A special thank you to the Schupp family for providing extra hands to plant the native wildflowers just before the 4th of July.We also completed construction of the chipping green located adjacent to the driving range tee box.  We are still growing this in and plan to open it around the fourth of July.  We also began construction of a 6800 square foot bentgrass nursery as most of you are aware.  Last fall we pressurized and checked the irrigation system addition and are very pleased with the in-house design and installation.  This spring, we will finish the final grading and amending, and will plant bentgrass soon after.  This addition to the facility will prove beneficial two-fold.  It will allow us to harvest bentgrass for damaged areas on our tees, greens and collars; and provide a "test plot" for maintenance practices that we will employ on the rest of the playing surfaces. 
      Now that this is all behind us and we are once again looking forward to the upcoming season, I thought I would post some information on Wildflower's two newest additions to our crew. 
     We were fortunate enough to hire two assistant superintendents to add to our experienced staff who have more than 30+ years in the golf course maintenance industry. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Course Update April Fools Day!

A few weeks back the temperatures were getting into the 60's and I was debating on pulling covers. It was beautiful, the sun was shining and birds were chirping; spring was for surely here. Then the next two weeks brought cold and some really nasty winds... I am really glad I listened to my instinct and relied on my experiences with Minnesota weather and decided to wait and pull covers. There is a game to play each spring when dealing with greens covers. Do you pull them early because you are getting into a warm spell? Do you leave them on and gamble through the warm spell? You can literally get burned if you do the wrong thing!!!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Snow Melt Field Trial and a small course update

With the coming of warmer temps, I am starting to shift my thinking from shop work to getting back out on the course.  I am so excited for these temps, as I'm sure everyone else is too!  I am going to warn you, this post is long and somewhat boring if you don't like melting snow!!!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Metrics of success, to measure is to know.

This winter, like the last three I have had at Wildflower, have a few different phases.  There is the initial phase, I like to call it the 3R's. Relax, recuperate and reflect.  This usually starts around the first of December when the majority of golf course work ceases and I begin my move indoors not unlike a large brown bear to await spring.  This is the time that I get caught up on a lot of the paperwork that was pushed aside when we are scurrying around the course in the last month getting ready for the arrival of winter.
    The second phase, I would call it the transitional period, largely due to some time spent out on the ice and a slower than usual work ethic in the shop.  Without the pressure of the "need it done now" mentality that keeps us running in all directions in the peak season, it is nice to be able to work on equipment and get some more CEU's. There is reel grinding, major work done on the equipment, and book work and planning that is done in this phase. I would believe that I am at the tail end of this phase right now, getting ready to transition into the third and final phase of the off season.  I like to call this phase the calm before the storm.  You know what's coming just around the corner, so you take stock and plan out what you want to get done in the upcoming season.  This is the time to get your chemical applications in order and reflect on what worked and what ultimately didn't work the year prior and compare it to years past.  I wish spring had a concrete date each year, so I could plan out when to have all the reels ready for the first mow, but that's the thing with my job, you just never know.
     As I transition into the calm before the storm phase, I have decided (although we'll see how staffing levels, environment and equipment acts) that I am going to take a different approach to my management style.  In years past, I will admit that I was a rely on my previous experience kind of manager and not take into consideration hard numbers of what I am doing.  I read a great quote online tonight, and that is partially why I can't sleep so I'm up writing this blog post.  I am sorry that I can not give credit to the author as I have tweaked it and added my own spin on it.
           "You can't manage what you can't measure, so measure everything you can."
Pretty deep.  When you think about it, the reality of it, to me, is the very thing that a golf course superintendent strives to do.  You can't manage green speeds without measuring it weekly.  You can't manage surface drainage if you don't measure percolation rate.  You can't manage the efficiency of your crew's day to day without measuring how long it takes them in relation to the quality of work as the end result. 
      Now there are all sorts of fancy ways to measure this, but to me, finding the point of diminishing returns seems the most viable.  I.e., let's say I send two laborers out to hand rake greensides and it takes them 4 hours to do the whole course.  That would mean that it took 8 labor hours to perform the task, but the hidden variable in the equation is the quality of their work.  If we were to give an un-biased view to the quality, say, from a pro shop employee or golfer's viewpoint, we could ascertain a rating from 1 to 5 and figure out the point of diminishing return.  The point at which it takes the 2 laborers too long to do greensides, and we don't see the quality improve.  This is the point in which I am interested in, largely because we are always trying to find ways to be more efficient at the course.
     This year, we will be logging the hours it takes each employee to perform each task, and trying to assign an un-biased rating to the quality of work.  This will not be a one season study, but I feel that in the end, we will be able to get a solid grasp on our point of diminishing returns for each and every task that we perform on the course.  There is one variable in this equation that would be very hard to measure, and would make for a very complicated data; the differences in laborers and the work ethic that they show.  This means that not every laborer is capable of doing the job in the same way as the next laborer.  There are some guys out there that can dig an irrigation leak, do it well, and be done twice as fast as the next guy.   This is where we will have to find out who is best suited for each specific task to get the best data for this study.
     This approach to business is not new by any means.  When you think about it, you can use this in every single industry if you tweak some of your thinking.  Imagine the golf course as a gigantic assembly line, churning out great rounds for the golfers every 7 minutes ( a standard tee sheet interval for those of you that wonder why the random tee times!!!)  There are laborers assigned a task which fits into the overall assembly of a set up and ready for play golf course.  I like to look at the course in this way, because it's fun to think about your job in a different light sometimes.
     If things go according to plan, we will have a boost in our labor hours this year.  We have done some asking around and realized that we were grossly understaffed last year.  Talking with some other superintendents through the GCSAA, a comparable golf course in size, (because without knowing everything about the two properties you could never get a true comparison) usually has around 17 to 20 staff in the peak season.  We had 13 including me last year, so this leads me to believe that we were way under staffed.  There is no one to blame here, except for me.  I thought that we could just work more hours and still get a quality product off the assembly line each and every day; some people were just going to have to run two machines at the same time.  Going back to the assembly line analogy, last year we had machines to do the work, but no one to oversee and run those machines.  This year, if we are able to get into that 17 to 20 range, this is where the metrics of this whole thing will prove or disprove my idea that more is better.  I wish I would have had this idea last year, to document each person's hours per task.  That would have given me the proper benchmark to base this whole thing off of.  Instead, this coming year will be the benchmark going forward, and we will be able to base other seasons off this season.
     I am trying to purchase a new topdresser for the golf course.  We do have a topdresser that works, but to be more efficient AND a higher quality application of sand, I am looking into a new piece of equipment.  I could have thrown out some numbers to make it look like we will be saving tons of money, but there is no merit in those numbers until I can explain exactly how we came up with the numbers.  We will be demoing two different manufacturers and logging the time it takes in comparison to the older model we currently have.  There are many factors in just this piece of equipment, so taking my time and due diligence should pay off for the course in the long run.  Looking into not only the reduction of time spent topdressing, but the reduction of wasted material, labor time to incorporate the sand, mechanical wear and tear of the greens mowers after the application, the physical stress to the plant while incorporating the sand all have to be factored into the purchase decision.  Maybe I'm over analyzing, but I would rather be right that wrong.
       Now into the nuts and bolts of my plan.
            I have been working on a SOP, which is a standard operating procedures document for the golf course.  Something that is a great tool to have if everyone in the organization can agree on it's content.  So far, I have 6 pages just on equipment operation and will hopefully get it done in time for the 2015 season.  I will provide a link to the document once I am finished, so if anyone wants to see it they are more than welcome.  A brief outline of the intention of this form is to standardize what we do to maintain the golf course to a set expectation of the members, owners and the ultimate consumer, the returning golfer.  Taking into consideration the labor force, capitol, and hours in the season, we will decide what practices best suit our needs and implement them on a yearly basis.  This document will change, be amended and modified from year to year, but that is where the metrics come into play.  We will be able to have a better understanding of the time it takes to perform each task, and where we need to focus more of our time or less depending on the importance of the task.  I am really excited about this, because to measure is to know... maybe

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Christmas Update

4 Fairway looking towards 8 Fairway
     As you can see, almost all of the snow has melted off and we are just getting into the coldest part of the winter months.  Now, this is definitely not ideal because we welcome a thick blanket of snow to help insulate the turf from the winds and cold temperatures we receive from December until March.

Friday, November 21, 2014

make new again


Here is the new look at the wildflower golf course tee markers.  Obviously, these are the yellow tees, but I decided to do one with black and one with white to look at the difference.  Hand painted by yours truly, I think we will go forward with the white border to make sure there is no confusion what the tee marker is designating.  

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Looking ahead

I feel as though I have not done my part in keeping this BLOG updated.  Considering that I am the sole author, I can see how I feel this way.  I wrote a post a few days ago, but before that, it was early in the spring as everything was coming out of dormancy.
     The thought of writing articles and updates for the loyal Wildflower members as well as anyone who will listen to me upon my soapbox gives me a great feeling; like I am doing some sort of a public service.  I know most of you may stumble upon this site looking for something else and just mindlessly read along, but it is my hope that you find something of relevance and something to take away with you to think about.