June, 1, 2019
Golf Course Update After A Challenging May
May proved to be the most challenging month that the Grounds Department has experienced in quite some time. Unprecedented rainfall and a Memorial Day tornado proved to be too much for the property to handle. While we remained open for play for the duration of all of this, it has been a struggle to provide satisfactory conditions for our members and guests.
The month of May has brought over 15 inches of rain to Cog Hill. This total is well above the average of about 9 inches for the month. 21 separate rain events kept conditions soggy on the golf courses as it was a rare instance to have enough time and proper conditions for drying. The icing on the cake came on Memorial Day as we were hit with 80+ mile per hour winds, a 3” rainfall in a matter of 30 minutes, and tennis ball size hail. Not only were the courses flooded, but we lost over 20 significant large trees and the bunkers on all four courses were destroyed. The property was littered end-to-end with debris.
Obviously when a property takes on that much water, even tasks as simple as mowing become a major challenge. As I write this letter, there are areas in the rough that we haven’t physically been able to mow in over two weeks! It is an unfortunate circumstance when we would cause more harm than good by simply attempting to mow grass. It’s also unfortunate that we cannot allow cart traffic to leave the cart paths under these conditions as well (but we appreciate everyone’s understanding and cooperation!).
The next few weeks will be spent recovering from these endless rains and the Memorial Day storm. Thank you in advance for your patience as we clean debris, cut and chip downed trees, repair bunkers, and (hopefully) start working toward a normal maintenance routine. Until then, we appreciate your patience and understanding of our situation. Our number one goal will always be to provide the best conditions possible for our members and guests. It will take some time, but we will get there.
May 1, 2019
Why are there native and no mow areas on the golf course.
April was a productive month for the Grounds Department as aerification on Courses 1, 2, and 3 were completed, to varying degrees, and are well on their way to recovery. Course 4 is scheduled for the week of May 6th. Bunker work has been extensive with edging and sand depth adjustments following a wet and frozen winter. We were also busy starting up the irrigation systems and drinking fountains and making any necessary repairs. At this point all turf has greened up with the warmer weather and is growing well. We are happy to be back to performing our agronomic practices on a regular basis and conditioning the courses for a great season!
This year, as we have done over the past four seasons, we will continue to promote our “native” or “no-mow” areas on the golf courses. There are many reasons for this, but primarily we hope to reduce inputs in regard to fuel, water, pesticides, fertilizers, and labor hours; as well as to create habitat for wildlife and to add aesthetic value to the property. These areas were chosen according to what could offer Cog Hill the greatest benefit while not having a significant effect on how the golf courses play (although, at times, a golf ball or two may find its way to them).
We began this process by simply not mowing the areas that were identified to be “native” and as these areas continue to mature, quality continues to improve. We look to promote wildflowers, forbs, native grasses and oaks. We also discourage noxious weeds and invasive species. These are not just areas that we allow to grow up and go to waste. Again, we hope to culture these areas to accomplish the above goals. For this reason, we ask our customers and employees to avoid driving through these areas. Paths are mowed through the areas for cart traffic, so if you need to cross through, please use the path.
We’ve taken several steps during the off-season to further our initiatives in this native areas. Angelica Carmen, our sustainability specialist, has enrolled Cog Hill in the Monarchs in the Rough Program. This program was developed by Audubon International and the Environmental Defense Fund to promote and restore habitat for the worlds declining Monarch butterfly population as well as other pollinators. Our native areas are a perfect opportunity for us to contribute to this cause. In addition, three members of our staff were able to complete the Chicago Wilderness Midwest Ecological Prescription Burn training class, and we are in the process of developing a plan for the property to use prescribed burning techniques to promote native prairie plants, natural oak savannahs and productive habitat on the property and to further reduce inputs. We also partnered with Lockport Township High School’s Project Lead the Way program. Students in the program are in the process of constructing over 60 bird and bat houses that will be installed on the property to help promote our populations on the courses. Keep your eyes open for future installations!
April 1, 2019
As it is April, the topic of conversation at many golf courses is the dreaded aerification events that will be happening. Although the goal here is to help our customers understand that aerification is nothing to be dreaded, but something that should be welcomed! Wishful thinking, for sure, but the reasons why we aerify the turf and what you can expect are important as well. Please remember, we certainly don’t like to aerify or want to spend the additional money on aerification (and we ALWAYS want to provide good playing surfaces), but we do because it is extremely important.
Obviously the turf needs four basic items to survive: soil, water, air and sunlight. Soil and sun we have plenty of (in most cases), but air and water are essential and getting them to the roots of the turf plants are a big reason why we punch holes in the ground. Water and air movement into the soil gets limited over time for a few reasons and our goal is to combat that to give you healthy, well-performing greens.
One reason is that. If you’ve ever played on a fairway or green that feels spongy under your feet, this will help you understand what thatch is. It is made of the dead and decaying parts of turf plants, and it accumulates as the grass grows. If it is not removed, it forms that spongy layer that you feel and doesn’t let air and water into the ground for the living roots. So…we need to remove it, or at least poke a hole through it.
A second reason is compaction. The soil under the turf gets compacted from all the foot traffic of golfers, as well as the constant mowing and rolling equipment that prepares the surfaces throughout the season. As soil compacts, it loses its ability to hold enough water and air to keep the plants alive. Aerification loosens up the soil, and allows for room for roots to grow and capture this air and water.
The third main reason is soil modification. You’ll notice that following an aerification process the holes on the greens are filled with sand. Sand provides a good growing medium for the turf and improves playability for our golfers. It improves the way the surface drains and also provides for a firmer, smoother putting surface.
We are often also asked why we do it twice per year. The reason is that to provide healthy, sustainable, high quality putting surfaces greens need to be aerified to a measureable amount, which is very difficult to achieve in just one aerification process. So, in simple terms, we perform it twice to add up to our annual goal of surface disruption.
This year, our processes will vary depending on weather conditions. Last year the cold temperatures that endured through April drastically hindered the turf’s ability to heal from aerification. We are hoping we get more “normal” temperatures and sunny days to help recovery; but we are planning on a traditional coring aerification process on Courses 1 and 2 and some more benign processes on 3 and 4. The aerification schedule is available online or in the golf shops. Thank you for your time and we will look for you on the courses this spring!