The courses at Las Campanas benefited from good moisture and normal temperatures during the fall, and year-to-date we have received .80” of an inch of moisture. More importantly, we have not experienced the sub-zero temperatures of last winter. The warm winter has resulted in warmer soil temperatures, and turf grass emerging from dormancy much earlier than last year.
As much as the weather affects turf grass growth in high-desert climate, we still need to implement best management practices to offset our particular challenges. To this purpose, a dormant application of fertilizer was applied to the fairways last fall after soil temperatures cooled. The fertilizer remains in the soil until spring when it is released with warmer temperatures. The goal of the dormant feed is for a more rapid spring green up. To my knowledge, this is the first time this practice has been attempted at The Club.
Another best management practice we performed earlier this year was extensive topdressing of greens, tees, and fairways—involving nearly 1000 tons of sand on the turf grass. Without snow cover the grass is vulnerable to desiccation. The sand cover insulates and protects the crowns of the grass plants and helps warm the surface in the spring. Extra sand was used in areas that experienced acute desiccation last winter. The outlook for all turf grass to emerge from dormancy is especially strong due to the implementation of these two new practices, in conjunction with some snow coverage and favorable temperatures.
We are on schedule to open the greens on the Sunrise Course on Friday, March 23. Because of standardization work taking place on Sunset Course, we intend to open the front loop by the first week in April. Extensive work will continue on the back loop of Sunset throughout the month and we aim to open that section in early May. Beginning in May, standardization work on the Sunrise Course will occur on a hole-by-hole basis.
We also will focus on improving the conditions and uniformity of our bunkers this year. A prioritized list of bunkers is being created in order to guide this effort. I believe once the membership is out playing on Sunset’s front loop, the value of this project and the greatly improved uniformity of the courses will be apparent. In addition, this project will also have a dramatic impact on cleaning up the look of the courses and improving staff time management. Man power spent weeding and raking these vast out-of-play areas can be refocused onto the turf grass and overall attention to detail.
This winter the Agronomy staff reworked the lease for golf course maintenance equipment. Our Equipment Manager, Assistant Superintendents, and I solicited major golf course equipment vendors for a new equipment lease—and we received bids from Jacobsen, Toro, and John Deere. We chose Jacobsen based on cost, warranty, parts availability, and customer service. The majority of the equipment is in place and the remainder will be here for the start of the golf season. I believe strongly that The Club has in place the proper equipment to address its needs from an agronomy standpoint. The cost to lease this equipment is within our approved budget and essentially equal to what we have spent in the past. Please do not be surprised when you see all of the bright orange equipment on the courses.
Lastly, I would like to touch a little on staffing levels. The Agronomy staff at Las Campanas maintained 14 personnel through the winter—two in equipment maintenance, two in landscape maintenance, and 10 in golf course maintenance. Although the labor budget did not change significantly this year, I was able to make a few staffing adjustments that I believe will enhance the member experience. One of which is that we have more workers coming on board earlier this year than in years past. The eight employees scheduled to return the first week of April ensures an ample staff to prep the courses for the approaching golf season. We also are launching a turf internship program this year. Two interns have been hired and will be here from the end of May through the end of August.
Spring is always a time for new beginnings. The Agronomy staff and I are excited about all the changes that have taken place over the winter and look forward to a great 2012 golf season at Las Campanas.
Wendell (Tom) Egelhoff
Golf Course Superintendent at Las Campanas