Monday, May 1, 2017

A Busy Spring

It's always hard to spend time making a blog update with so much going on with the course. With the recent stretch of rainy weather all of us at the shop have had a chance to get caught up with various odds and ends inside. It also gives me this opportunity to say a little about all that has been going on outside.

Fairway aerification was successfully completed on April 23rd and 24th. Everything went perfectly for us. The weather was ideal leading into Sunday night and continued into Monday, allowing the cores to perfectly dry before we ground them up. The rain that followed  later in the week was also perfect for washing in any remaining soil. The almost unrelenting rain we have been getting since isn't great for playing but it won't negatively impact the fairways in the long run.

We have been mowing the greens, tees, fairways and rough as needed. It has been a really good spring for root growth on most of the greens. Many times when I take a plug out while setting cups it looks like something out of a textbook. It's too early to tell what kind of summer we will have but we should be going in strong.

Dr. Williamson and Dr. Hogg have been out multiple times to monitor the bee hives on 3. The first few trips they supplied the bees with a simple mix of sugar and water to ensure they had a supply of food. On the most recent trip they also brought a frame with honey for each hive. They were very encouraged with the hive progress as the bees had already begun forming  some comb.

The bees aren't the only new wildlife at Blackhawk. Late one morning I spotted what I believe is a great horned owl on the ground at the back of the range.

I also snapped this picture of of a butterfly off the right side of 12 green.

My Google searching leads me to believe it is a Spicebush Swallowtail. The Blue Bird house on the back side of the bathrooms on 6 also has a resident pair of Blue Birds. It's amazing to see the variety of birds that call Blackhawk home.

We have already had a few of our older part-timers come in to help as needed. A lot of what we are able to get done is thanks to their help. In the coming weeks we will also see our summer roster filled out. We are happy to have a few people returning from last year and hope to have the new crew members trained before June.

If you have already had a chance to play this year I hope you enjoyed your time. If you haven't played yet now is a perfect time to enjoy a round; if you are anything like me it's the best time of year for golf as the trees don't have many leaves and my errant shots go a bit further. Thanks for reading and I hope to see you out and about on the course.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Honeybees at Blackhawk Country Club

The value and perception of golf courses can be enhanced by promoting their beneficial impacts on wildlife and ecosystems. Golf course managers can provide safe havens for a wide range of wildlife through careful planning and partnerships. They can also play a critical role in leading the initiative to promote and protect many wildlife species. The growing development of housing and commercial space, coupled with the high demands of agriculture, results in the loss or degradation of many natural spaces. Fortunately, golf courses are an excellent resource that can offer important places of refuge for wildlife.

Likely the most important organisms in our ecosystem are the pollinators, especially insect pollinators. They are critically important to the health and well-being of our environment. Nearly a third of the food that we eat has been made possible by pollinators. Insects are also crucial to the habitat and ecosystems that many other wildlife species depend on. Butterflies, flies, beetles and moths are important pollinators but bees (including honey bees) are the most industrious of all. A single bee can visit hundreds of thousands of flowers over its lifetime as it collects nectar and pollen.
Bees are a key indicator of the health and quality of an environment, unfortunately research suggests that their welfare is poor and continues to decline. Golf courses have an excellent opportunity to help redirect this trend by promoting and enhancing the ecosystem. Some relatively simple ways that golf courses can play an important role is by creating pollinator refuges, promoting pollinators and establishing honey bee hives. These simple endeavors offer an excellent opportunity to promote the tremendous positive benefits that golf courses provide to the environment. As for managing honey bee hives on golf courses, not only is it beneficial to the environment, but the honey harvested from the honey bees demonstrates the value of a locally produced, sustainable product. The honey harvested can be used in the clubhouse for food preparation providing a direct benefit to the members of the golf course.

Working with Drs. Chris Williamson and David Hogg from UW-Madison, we decided the naturalized prairie on 3 would be ideal for the honey bee hives. While honey bees can be very defensive of their hives, they are not aggressive while out foraging. The location chosen will be far enough from any regularly trafficked area that the bees should not feel threatened.

As we work on this project in the months to come we look forward to sharing what we learn and hopefully some honey.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Snow Melt, Rain and Frozen Soil

The recent Wisconsin weather has left a lot of water in the low lying areas of the course. At this point the only difference from a large summer storm is the frozen soil prevents any water from draining. This has allowed the water to pool more than normal. It's too early to predict what, if any, impact it will have in the spring. For now it has made for some interesting pictures.

3 Fairway to the green, it's worth noting the flag you see is in the fairway, not in the green

Between 3G and 4T's
Both front bunkers on 3 are submerged

There is enough water to form a small river from 3, across the front of 4 tee, towards the water on 6 and 7
6 Fairway
7 Fairway

Last but not least we finally got rid of the sand on 5 green. For now.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Bunker Removal on #9

If you've been on the course in the last week you've probably noticed and hopefully enjoyed seeing the change to the bunker complex on 9 green. The reason we removed the 3 large bunkers was two-fold and actually part of the bunker renovation plans.

First of all they were a maintenance nightmare. Almost any amount of rain caused massive washouts and even infusions of new sand did nothing to improve their quality. Secondly, they were considered as being extremely unfair to the high handicap golfer. Low handicaps rarely ended up in them but anyone who did was faced with an extremely daunting uphill bunker shot. After your shot out of them, you often ended up in one of the smaller remaining bunkers and were faced with more of the same.

Step 1: Take a picture of the bunker
Step 2: Remove sod as needed and begin filling
Step 3: Continue filling... and filling and filling.
Step 4: Irrigation and detail work
Step 5: Lay sod and the bunkers are gone.
Follow this link for all the pictures from the project.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Sunny Days

In my last post I predicted the grass would start growing. Call me Nostradamus because I called that one perfectly. Other than a few shaded areas and some north facing slopes the grass is well awake. Before our focus shifts to mowing next week, we have been able to take care of a few projects.

On Tuesday morning Dave, Omar and Angel braved the cold depths of Lake Mendota to hook up our intake pipes while the rest of us stood on shore sipping hot chocolate (also known as preparing the baskets, gaskets and nuts/bolts depending on which crew member you ask). Having the irrigation system ready to go is always a great feeling.

In order to minimize any problems we also spend time checking each head. It's much better to have a break while we are here to fix it. So far all the greens and tees have been run briefly and we did have a problem on 13 green.

A cracked sprinkler body led to this river across 13 green

Rather than letting this happen all night, it lasted only a few minutes until we got to the isolation valve to shut it off. After a quick repair by Omar it ran like new.

A few other updates include the yearly burn of the prairie on 3, the first tee mowing for 2016 and the opening of both bathrooms and the ice machine near 6 tee.

Burned prairie and bluebird nest box near 3

We've also started monitoring our bluebird nest boxes for the year. A few nests have been started and a few are still empty but it's too early to tell exactly who is moving in.

Looking forward, fairway aerification is scheduled to start Sunday April 24th and we should have everything done by Tuesday April 26th.

I hope everyone gets a chance to enjoy the great stretch of weather we are having with a couple rounds of golf!