Looking back on the 2018 golf season at WCC, it is difficult to overlook the level of influence Mother Nature imposed on our plans.  Starting off slowly with a delayed spring green-up, a summer full of oppressive humidity, followed by two and a half straight months of non-stop rain events, the cumulative effect of these elements has significantly challenged our overall goals of presentation and conditioning for both golf courses from that which we have established as our standard.  Approaching the overall results of these hopefully uncommon conditions in another light, the difficult weather patterns we endured proved consequential in exposing areas of course infrastructure as well as agronomic programs in need of improvement or adjustment. We have now consolidated those evaluations, set priorities of importance, are evaluating solutions, and will proceed with planning to mitigate these issues to the best of our ability. With that in mind, we’d like to talk more about a few of these areas of concern. 

The most obvious area of struggle this year has been our practice range tee.  A dwindling population of Bermuda grass on the tee surface from back-to-back years with less than favorable weather for Bermuda, coupled with extended periods that did not support new seed germination left much to be desired with the availability of grass teeing surface.  Plans are currently in progress for improvements in this area to be implemented next year that will include re-sodding both back tees in June, covering said tees in following winter and early spring months, and future considerable expansion practice tees at the far end of the range. This final element may well be a significant project but it can be clearly justified.

 Weed populations on both golf courses, particularly crabgrass, were at an alarmingly high level.  This can partly be attributed to the late start of spring weather that created challenges with proper timing of pre-emergent weed control applications.  The frequent high humidity also limited control of post-emergent weed applications and limited opportunity for safe applications without injury to desired grasses.  An additional fall pre-emergent application this year is expected to strengthen our annual spring pre-emergent weed control which would prove even more effective with more normal weather.  

The wet months of August and September were particularly effective in highlighting many weaknesses in our drainage infrastructure as we had an uncomfortable number of days of restrictions.  What really stood out was the frequency of multiple days with golf cart restrictions, something we have not had to endure for several years as our installation of sand channel drainage has expanded on the South fairways.  This situation will continue to improve year to year as more drain lines are installed.  It is encouraging to note that the sixth fairway on the South course, which underwent sand channel installation last fall, was one of our driest fairways on the property and is no longer a limiting factor for lifting of golf cart restrictions.  

While this year will not go down as our most difficult year in finding seasonal labor, it does qualify as the third year in a row in which we have failed to locate the full number of employees we intended to.  Of particular concern is the decline in quality of potential candidates overall.  This is certainly not an isolated issue as nearly all of our peers in the industry cite similar struggles.  For our part, it continues to push us to create more efficient ways to accomplish the same amount of tasks without sacrificing quality of conditioning.  One of the new practices we will be implementing at the start of next season is the use of trailers for our walk-behind greens mowers.  Currently, it requires the use of twelve employees to mow all of the greens on property before play.  The expected result of this change is that number will be reduced to eight individuals.  A side benefit of this program will be the elimination of the grass piles on blue plastic tarps, which sometimes remain on green surrounds after play begins for the day. 

Dan Pierson
Director of Grounds