Thursday, January 21, 2010

Wissahickon Tree Work

In December the grounds committee unanimously voted to proceed with continued recommendations from the USGA and golf architect, Keith Foster regarding further WH tree work.  It was stated that the agronomic and architectural benefits of the work will benefit the course independent of any potential future work.  We are performing the work with our own off-season labor. As many of the logs and wood chips that are being removed have value we are getting these picked up and removed with industrial equipment for free. Our costs have been extremely low as we only have two contractor bills totaling under $5K.

As with any plant material, the agronomic benefits of getting more sunlight to our greens have been well documented throughout last year. With leaves on these trees this green received little to no vital morning sunlight.

As the sun sits low on the horizon during winter months, shade problems exist even from trees which are not necessarily close to green sites.

Imagine leaves on all of these trees. Virtually no sunlight reaches the grass in these areas.

Turf cannot compete with tree roots and shade. This results in sparsely thin ground conditions. This area will be drastically improved this season.

Preserving Specimen Trees: A major benefit to the tree work is that we can begin to better utilize our resources and tree budget to properly care for the specimen trees that are chosen to remain. The true shape and beauty of specimen trees is revealed by removing non-native trees and trees which were planted too close together. When properly cared for these trees will be highlighted specimen’s members can take pride in.

A great example of a tree which is now able to show itself off and be properly maintained.

Labor Tracking: Our grounds department tracks where every hour of every day is spent. The cost associated with tree maintenance with overcrowded and imprudently placed trees is high.

Seasonal Costs: We have a seasonal line in our labor tracking which tracks leaf removal, snow plowing, etc. The man hours logged last fall for leaf removal (Oct & Nov.) are as follows: Aug-13 hrs, Sept-22hrs, Oct-456.25hrs, Nov-581.5hrs. The hours of leaf removal dominate the fall maintenance and preclude staff from performing other important tasks for which there is much greater member benefit. For example, the two months of leaf removal exceed the annual totals for rolling greens or filling divots. During Oct & Nov we spend twice as much time on leafs as we do raking bunkers.

Rotary and Weedeat: During the summer trimming around every single tree throughout the golf course is necessary. Hand trimming / rotary accounted for 1600 man hours from the time we began labor tracking in June through December. Although we will never eliminate these hours reducing them from excessive levels to manageable levels becomes important. Being able to re-allocate these hours to important tasks which have been reduced will provide PCC members greater course quality.

Course Rating
The three sets of WH course rating certificates.
1) Current 73.9 71.6 69.8
2) Trees as one 73.8 71.5 69.7
3) Trees at zero 73.6 71.4 69.5
(*The above numbers were calculated off of a table adjustment from the Course Rating Manual. Golf assocation field work may vary slightly.)

In general if trees exist on a golf hole, they get rated an obstacle value 1. Trees are measured from the center of the fairway using the following chart. You don’t see many holes with more than a two value and almost never greater than a three. Overall yardage influences the course rating by approximately 92%. Without doing a change in yardage, the Wissahickon rating will be almost exactly the same, or rating # 2 above.

Summary: Improving conditions while lowering costs. The goals of improving turfgrass health and the condition of the desired specimen trees all while reducing costs and allocating resources to tasks which provide members greater value will greatly benefit the club and its members.

We appreciate your patience as it will take some time for the desired results to become evident. Once the grass greens up and leafs are on the trees the Wissahickon will be as beautiful as it is every spring.

The success of our winter work is due to the efforts of our staff working in the field.  This winter they have placed improving the course far ahead of their own comfort level for the benefit of our members.  This was best exhibited when they continued working outside, and were able to stay ahead of schedule during the 2nd largest December snowfall event in Philadelphia's history.

One aspect that makes our staff unique is we take advantage of the weather 7 days a week, even during the winter. By rotating schedules and watching weather closely we are optimally efficient at all times. The sacrifices of working weekends, and constantly fluctuating personal schedules around weather conditions which are most beneficial to the club is dedication that is rarely found in any industry.
We are scheduled to be finished with the tree work in the next few weeks, one full month ahead of schedule. We are aware that tree work brings instant visual change and is a delicate subject for many. We look forward to getting this important work behind us this year and transitioning into projects which everyone appreciates. Have a great 2010!!!