dodges dirt

Friday, December 15, 2017

December 2017

I would like to say thank you to all who presented feedback regarding our future direction with golf course ball washers.  Most were of the opinion that they rarely, if ever, used the existing ball washers and that washers on carts or simply a damp towel issued by the starter is a more practical solution.  With this in mind, for 2018 we will be reducing the number of ball washer locations adjacent to tees.  We will place them on the Par 3 holes and the 1st and 10th tee.  This will allow us to gradually condition players to this change over a period of years.  Indeed, change is something that I think is needed in many facets of the golf industry.  What has worked in the past is not what will necessarily work in the future.


To provide a little background regarding my own experience on golf courses, I started out working on a private club in 1984 when I was 16 years old.  I was a superintendent by the time I was 25 years old and have been at private, municipal, and resort golf courses throughout my career.  I can say that I have seen a steady change in the way players view their responsibilities on the golf course. 


As an example, let us look at divot repair.  Seed/soil mix used to be a given on all Par 3 tees at most golf courses throughout the 80’s, 90’s, and into the 2000’s.  Players actually used these boxes for their intended purpose.  This has, sadly, changed as the picture below illustrates:

7 Tee 2014-Typical Divot Repair by Players


In response to this, we removed these boxes from the Par 3 tees and used the time and energy we saved by not servicing the boxes anymore to do a more thorough job of making the repairs ourselves.  This has worked very well for the golf course-our divot program on tees is working better than ever.  I now wonder if we could apply this same principal to bunkers.


Before reading on, please visit the link below from Golf Digest explaining a point of view that actually makes a lot of sense:


Bunkers at the Wilderness consume huge amounts of man-hours in routine maintenance.  As I contemplate how we are currently doing things and ways in which we can improve our efficiency, I begin to warm to the concepts posed by the Golf Digest article.


Bunker rakes, I have noted, are becoming less and less a functional player aid and more and more unused tools that just get in the way for both players and maintenance-interfering with playability and adding to golf course clutter.  After the first six groups of the day, the rakes are pretty much scattered everywhere both inside and outside of the bunker.  I know that many players simply do not bother to rake after themselves at all.  Applying the same principle as with divots on tees, I wonder if instead of expending the energy/man-hours placing or replacing rakes to bunkers each day, we simply use this labor to rake bunkers with greater frequency-or use the labor savings for other tasks.  Another option might be to add a rake attachment to our carts:

This, to me, might be the way to go.  Players so inclined have the opportunity to rake after themselves-without the disorderly mess of 2-8 bunker rakes strewn haphazardly around a typical bunker.  Whatever your opinion might be, I welcome your feedback on how we should proceed in the future.  Please e-mail me at with your opinions.   


Have a wonderful Christmas season and I look forward to seeing you all in 2018.


Vincent Dodge



Thursday, November 16, 2017

November 2017

2017 was a year full of extreme weather fluctuations.  This pattern did indeed continue in the month of October.  We recorded our first hard frost on October 6 (close to a month later than usual) and honestly we enjoyed some of our best weather of the year in October.  This is a great thing as we were able to really get a great deal of work done in the two week window after closing and before winter conditions.  This nice weather left on October 27 when we received 4” of snow and temperatures in the 20s that made sure the snow did not go anywhere.  Needless to say, winter settled in about three weeks earlier than “normal” this year.  While I wish that we could have been a little more active outside continuing with some of our cultural practices on fairways this fall, I feel pretty good about our winter preparations and expect to come out of the winter in good shape.  Unlike some of our golf course accessories which in some instances need replacing.

As many of you know, we try to make accessories for the golf course that look like they belong by using materials that the site offers us.  Things like the custom made engraved rock tees signs and the blast rock/chain cart barriers on holes 1 and 4.  These are things unique to our golf course/part of the country and fit in better than a “store-bought” piece of plastic that is probably used by other courses somewhere.  Another such item for us is the cedar posts we use for rope posts.  We scavenge the materials to make these posts from the golf course, strip the logs using a draw shave, and then cut them to the appropriate lengths for fabrication into posts.  


Cedar posts after stripping

Ready for routering, sanding, spike mounting, and finishing

November 17, 2017


We are excited to be replacing our “going on 15 years old” posts like the one below:

Needs replacing due to staining and rot

November 17, 2017


Creating the 200 or so cedar posts that we plan on adding to the golf course next year (replacing old ones) is a time consuming chore from start to finish but in the end, like much of the custom work that we do for the golf course, well worth it.  I think that it is this sort of unique, ambiance creating item that gives our golf course a more polished and distinctive look.  Another accessory that I would like to briefly discuss is ball washers.


Much like seed boxes on Par 3 tees, I am starting to question a bit the need for stationary ball washers by golf course tees.  They are, like everything else, an expense to maintain and I wonder, frankly, if they are really necessary.  Or do they just get in the way and add to golf course clutter.  I myself would prefer to just install a ball washer on each cart or do away with ball washers altogether (or maybe put one on every third hole).  I am not really sure at the moment about how we should proceed in 2018.  I would appreciate feedback from any of you regarding this topic if you care to offer an opinion-contrary, in agreement, or somewhere in between the two.  My e-mail address is:


Thank you for both your time and your patronage and I look forward to seeing all of you in the spring.


Vincent Dodge

Thursday, October 26, 2017

October 2017

The golf course closed for play for the year on Sunday, October 8.  Our experience has shown over the years that remaining open really does nothing except lose money since the few players we get after the first week of October are not enough to cover the extra costs of staying open.  We are truly a destination resort-the area simply does not support a population large enough to give us the kind of volume of play to stay open.  Perhaps more importantly, the three week window after we close (forecast is for 3-5” snow October 27 with temperatures dipping to 20 degrees F in next few days) gives us the opportunity to perform disruptive work on putting greens (and other areas) at a time of the year that does not affect playability-and allows us to forgo the traditional spring/fall aerification that bothers players so much.  After the application of winter plant protectants for winter diseases and desiccation on greens (done on October 16, 17, and 18), we perform the following:



October 18, 2017

Topdressing 5 green-Olaf Walkky

A diligent topdressing program on turf is beneficial in many ways.  Topdressing on a regular basis combined with a conservative fertility program results in turf that requires less, if any, core aerification-the messy process we all love.  Topdressing in season also has the effect of smoothing the putting surface.  Going into our harsh winter months, a heavier layer of topdressing sand also has the added benefit of offering an extra layer of protection from the ravages of winter.



October 18, 2017

Solid Deep Tine Aerification 5 Green-Trevor Rintala


Pictured is a deep tine aerifier that makes holes to a depth of 8-10” without pulling out a core.  This machine does an outstanding job of relieving soil compaction caused by mowing and foot traffic.  The reason for doing this job after topdressing is to minimize the tracking from the before-pictured topdresser on the softer putting surface that this machine creates.  



October 18, 2017

Rolling 1 Green-Lyn Ellingson


No doubt about it, this process is disruptive to the putting surface.  After the aerification, greens are then rolled three times in differing directions to both smooth and firm the putting surface before covering.  The roller can also help in working topdressing sand into the turf canopy.



October 18, 2017

Surface Ready for Covering


Most of the sand has been worked in pretty well with the rollers-we will also use a backpack blower to disperse heavier concentrations of sand as needed.  There is no need to fill these holes with sand since modifying the soil is not our goal with this process-the greens are already growing on a 100% sand medium.  Open holes can be a concern-particularly on sand-based greens.  Greens in this condition can be vulnerable to winter desiccation i.e. “drying out” in years with minimal snow cover.  In most years, we have adequate snow cover where this is not a concern.  To protect for years when there is a lack of snow cover, we apply an anti-desiccant (similar to what Christmas tree producers may use after harvest) to help mitigate this risk.  We also apply turf covers.



October 18, 2017

Covering Putting Green-Crew of 2017


Pictured is the crew covering one of the nineteen greens and one practice tee that we typically cover.  This year we were fortunate to have conditions that were not rotten for the process.  These are the same covers that we have been using since golf course grow-in in 2003.  This is a labor intensive process but this veteran crew is able to cover all greens in 16 hours. 

There has been much discussion in the industry of late about the need for covers at all.  In many instances, I would agree that a cover is not necessary and, in fact, can be a detriment.  With our aerification process and greens construction, however, I think that the use of covers as an extra level of protection is a good idea.

This all may seem like a lot of work and indeed it is, but this extra labor allows us to present a better, less disrupted putting surface during the golf season.  For our short golf season, we have found that this process has been a winner. 


Thank you all for your patronage and I look forward to seeing you all in the spring.


Vincent Dodge

Friday, September 22, 2017

September 2017

On August 16, the golf course was in its best playable condition of the year with firm conditions all around and greens rolling about 10 feet on the stimpmeter.  Fun stuff and really not very difficult to do when conditions cooperate.    Then August 17 and its 2” of rain happened, closing the course for one of the busiest days of the year.  Ever since then, it seems that just when we have the course firming up and emulating conditions on August 16, we get hit with more rain.  Just the way it goes sometimes.


I always get aerification questions this time of the year since many golf courses in the area (or the country for that matter) core aerify in the fall.  I have been trying to actually minimize the need to core aerify (pulling plugs) at the Wilderness.  What we do instead is aerify with a solid deep tine aerifier which does, in my opinion, a thoroughly superior job than core aerifying without the mess, disruption to play, and consumption of labor hours.  We plan on removing thatch (wherever necessary on tees and fairways) later on this fall utilizing a Graden dethatcher which removes close to three times the material that core aerifying does without the mess.  Both processes are winners and while we will “pull plugs” in some select areas where there is an application-like on smaller tees that we cannot access with the larger equipment required, I will say that I am relieved to be doing much less of this disruptive and messy process.  I am sure that customers will be as well.  In short, I am becoming more and more a believer of the phrase, “Core aerifying is for chumps." :)


Moving on to the technical portion of this work, I have taken a few pictures of the 2nd green for discussion.  We have been working with the University of Minnesota to evaluate an experimental use product from Korea (the good side) that helps with the control of annual bluegrass i.e. Poa on bentgrass turf areas.  As I have explained in earlier articles over the years, annual bluegrass is not a desirable species on putting greens on this property as it has a tendency to die over the harsh winter months.  The seedheads that it produces can also aversely affect putting quality.  The first picture shows a patch of Poa underneath the keys that is pretty much smoked by the treatment but note how the bentgrass around it continues to thrive.  The hope here is that the bentgrass will fill in the void left behind-indeed it is beginning to do so already.  The second picture shows a larger part of the same green showing the different patches of annual bluegrass in varying stages of decline.  


2 Green 8-16-2017

2 Green 8-16-2017


As we continue to experiment with this newest technology, we are developing a very real comfort level and familiarity with its most effective usage.  Our hope is that this product can become a useful tool in the future to help keep our putting surfaces free of annual bluegrass and thus ensure their health long into the future.  While we will never eliminate this weed from our greens, we strive to keep its population in check. 


See you on the golf course.


Vincent Dodge


Wednesday, August 09, 2017

August 2017

Well, looks like the five days of actual summer we had this year are finally over.  Boy was it ever rough.  The overall feel at this point is that we are now getting into the fall season and the forecast seems to bear this out.  Having worked at other golf courses in a different climate, normally this time of the year is the toughest of the year.  Summer had been dragging on for a few months and the hot temperatures would start to get old.  Here, what gets old is waiting for a summer that never really arrives and when it does it is over in a few days.  Pretty lame but on a positive note the weather at the moment is San Diego-like beautiful.  Guess I should stop whining.


But it seems that I cannot help myself-as the picture below helps to illustrate:


Bug spray damage on 2 fairway 2017

The picture above shows the outline of the footprints of a golfer who sprayed their legs with bug spray while standing on a fairway.  When temperatures rose to above 80, the sprayed turf was singed and took a solid two weeks to grow through the damage.  I have seen this kind of damage quite often on fairways not just here but pretty much anywhere there are mosquitos.  The request here is to make sure that you are on a cart path before spraying your legs or any parts of your body-or simply be careful to make sure the overspray stays off of turfgrass.  Another turfgrass subject that I would like to discuss is the repair of divots.

Different golf courses have different recommendations when it comes to player etiquette.  Things like whether to put bunker rakes in or out of bunkers (at the Wilderness we put the rakes inside the bunkers) or replacing divots.  One thing that I wish people would do more of is actually replacing their divots.  This used to be standard operating procedure but somewhere along the line somebody started this thing where you do not have to replace divots-to just use the divot mix and leave the mess you made untouched.  This is bogus.  If you take a divot that remains intact, please retrieve and replace it. 

The divot may or may not survive (though any divot taken this year before July 10th would have knit in nicely).  More importantly, replacing the divot improves the playing surface for the person coming after you by both reducing the divot debris left on the fairway and filling in the divot left by your swing.  Would you rather play out of someone else’s divot filled with divot mix or a well-replaced intact divot?  Playability for all should take first priority on the golf course-even if it means a little more work.    


The simplest way to put it is if you make an intact divot, replace it.  Ideally, you will fill in any gaps on your replaced divot with a little divot mix.  This would be optimal.  If the divot disintegrates upon impact and really leaves you with nothing to replace, then using just divot mix is the proper route to take.


Thank you in advance for your cooperation in doing your part to help us make the course the best that it can be-not just for your group but for everyone.                   


See you on the golf course,


Vincent Dodge CGCS

More Blog Posts

7/12/2017July 2017
6/14/2017June 2017
5/11/2017May 2017
4/10/2017April 2017
3/1/2017March 2017
2/2/2017February 2017
1/8/2017January 2017
12/14/2016December 2016
11/17/2016November 2016
8/1/2016August 2016
7/1/2016July 2016
6/1/2016June 2016
5/1/2016May 2016
4/1/2016April 2016
3/1/2016March 2016

1  /  2  /  3  /  4  /  5