We get questions every single day asking what we are doing next to the course, or why it is taking so long to come around, or when we are going to start working on it again. So, I figured the best way to go about answering all of these questions is to explain our process we have been going through this summer.
First of all, yes we are well aware nobody expected the course conditions to deteriorate this quickly this summer compared to how good of shape we had the course this past winter. Unfortunately, we did know this could happen. We tried to explain to everyone that we came in too late in the season last summer to grow in any Bermuda on the fairways or really strengthen up the greens. We were however able to over seed properly and make the course look and play very well all winter. So, when this summer rolled around and the 95 degree heat began to kill off all of the winter rye we planted in the fairways and the Poa Triv we had on the greens (as is expected with over seeded grass), we got to see again how much the previous ownership let this course go.
I have heard people say that the course is in worse shape this summer than it was in years past. While I wholeheartedly disagree and know that it is much better than it was last August when we got here, I understand why people may say this. They saw how good we got the course in the winter so quickly and expected that to continue. However, summer and winter are two different animals and the course needs to be treated differently depending on the time of the year. Please try to keep in mind that in order for us to properly bring this golf course back, we need to treat things a certain way. The old ownership's method was to put bandaids over hemorrhages out there to slow the bleeding. We are now attempting to rip those bandaids off and properly stitch up the wound so to speak. This is why things seem to not be as good as many people seem to have expected. We are trying to do things the right way, which take a little more time and a little more patience from our customers.
Here is a little more detail on what has happened/will happen out on the course this summer:
Our greens are old, that is no hidden secret. Tifdwarf Bermuda greens only have a 15-20 year life span, and these are original greens to the course, built in 1988. However, we are confident they still have a few good years left in them. We had a great plan going into the summer. We would spray them out with a chemical to kill off the remainder of the Poa Triv we over seeded with for the winter, which would allow all of the nutrients to go to the Bermuda we are trying to grow back in. Then we would aerate them, promoting new growth and hit them with a granular fertilizer to give them the final kick to grow back in. The only issue with this plan, is that when it came time to put the granular fertilizer down after aerification, we ran into major, major issues with the irrigation system.
It is no secret that the previous ownership jimmy-rigged and finagled this irrigation every time they had an issue with it. Every single issue they ever had out here was fixed the cheap and quick way instead of the correct way because they had no intention of ever staying here. Now we are suffering the effects of their neglect. Over the past 5 weeks since we aerated, we have never had the irrigation up and running for more than 2 or 3 days at a time before another issue surfaced. Since we didn't have reliable irrigation we couldn't put down the granular fertilizer without fear of the system breaking down again at night and not watering it in, causing a burn out effect on the greens. This has caused the holes from aerification to take a little while longer to grow back in and kept some of that new growth from happening as quickly as we would have liked.
We have made great headway with the irrigation over the last week and at the current moment it is working properly. However, we can't put the granular out right away because during the time the irrigation was down we had a lot of goose grass (the clumpy weeds) pop up on the greens. So, we have sprayed the greens once to try and kill that weed off, but it will need it again in a couple days. Then there is a certain waiting period of a week or 2 depending on amounts of rain and some other factors before we can lay down the granular fertilizer. We are treating the greens as quickly and effectively as possible, but when there are multiple issues going on with them because of lack of care from the previous owners and the age of the greens, we have to lay down the certain chemicals and fertilizers in a certain order which takes a little longer than anyone would like.
We are confident that within the next couple weeks, the greens will start to turn back into the great roll we had on them last fall and through the winter and stay that way through the summer. Honestly the greens just need time and they will be just fine all summer.
I am probably much happier with how the fairways look than the average golfer. Even though there are still a lot of weeds in the fairways, there is exponentially more Bermuda growing in them than we had last summer out here. The only issue is that we are also fighting against a par-acidic worm currently in the soil called a nematode that feeds on the Bermuda, causing new growth to be very difficult. We got our shipment of the chemical used to combat these pests in last week which is what we have sprayed to kill those nematode's and allow more Bermuda to grow in. Once the Bermuda is a little more stable, we will also go out in the fairways with the same chemical we will use on the greens to kill off the weeds. However, we are holding off on treating the weeds just yet because if we treated it now, we would once again be left with bare areas where the Bermuda has not yet come back. We are still mowing the fairways 3 days a week, but the goose grass (tall wiry grass) does not get cut by the fairway reel mowers. They simply roll right over the weed and it pops back up. So, until we get past the waiting period to spray for the weeds, please bear with us and feel free to roll the ball in the fairways to get a good lie. Also, try to notice that this summer we are only having to roll it a few inches to get a good lie in the fairways instead of 10 feet like you had to in summer's past. The Bermuda is coming back in the fairways. Progress is absolutely being made out there.
In some places the rough is getting a little long at times, I get that. Unfortunately, when you have the amount of irrigation issues we have had, we had to pull someone from taking their time mowing the roughs, to help get the irrigation back up and running because obviously getting water down on the course is the most important thing in the summer Florida heat.
The other issue we have had with the roughs is that our new rough mower (the big orange machine you see out there mowing) went down on us for several days before the technician was able to get the part in to get it running. This set us behind greatly in keeping up with the fast growing grass in the roughs. We now have that unit running perfect and are getting caught up. We have someone out mowing the roughs every day and will continue to keep up with them now that the rough mower is back up and running.
Many of the bunkers look like we are growing them into grass bunkers. I get that. I am also a golfer and I know how frustrating it can be to hit it in a bunker and then try to hit it out of a clump of weeds. I promise you we are working on that as well. We have tried to spray them out multiple times, but weeds keep coming up. We recently made an alteration to our sand grooming machine that digs down into the sand a little deeper and we have a much more potent weed killer on the way to spray them out with. We will continue to work on them over the next month with as much time as we have that isn't being taken up by the irrigation system and will get them back into much more playable condition.
As of last Monday, we have hired on another full time golf course maintenance worker. With the immense amount of work that needs to be done this summer, we needed another set of hands to help keep up with everything. Having an extra worker out there will help us get the chemicals down, irrigation worked on, bunkers raked, brush cleared away, rough mowed down, and everything else that needs to be done just a little it quicker.
Why Am I Telling You All This?
When I go out to play on this course lately, it hasn't been fun. I had grand plans for the course. We had a great plan for the summer that I believed in, and it simply has not went as planned due to everything else that has happened with the irrigation, the weather, and simply finding out more issues the old owners caused by not fixing things the right way in years past. I want everyone to know that we aren't giving up. We are still busting our you-know-what's every day to make this place better, it is just taking a lot longer than we would have thought. Please bear with us while we get the greens back and roughs and bunkers under control over the next several weeks. We have the right people in place to get these things done, we just need time to make it happen. Things will get done, we just need some more time and hope you all continue to support us as we work to get the course back in better shape over the next several weeks.
Also, please try to keep in mind that we told everyone from day 1 that this was a year and a half to two year process to get this course back. As of today, we are less than 10 months into that process with 6 of those months not being growing months where we could truly get done what is needed out here.
Thank you all so much for taking the time to read this.
Paul D'Anna, Owner & Nate King, General Manager