I finally got the chance to meet our course superintendent Aaron today (not his fault, my own fault it took so long). We talked for at least 20 minutes and he was extremely receptive to what I had to say as well as to the concerns that some of you have expressed.
Here's a briefing on what was discussed and his reactions:
-#11 Blue Tee box-
Nick: Is there a plan for fixing it?
Aaron: It's been thought about and discussed. There are two options--tear it all out, retaining wall and everything, and start over completely or till it up (I forgot what the machine is called), level it out, and reseed.
His concern here was the retaining wall, how difficult it is to get equipment up there, and just leveling out what will continually be a maintenance problem. I got the impression that when he does do something about it he'd like to just start from scratch with it so it's not a problem for both golfers and maintenance personnel.
-#11 White Tee Box-
Nick: Are there any plans for leveling out and reseeding? Would you move the blues down to the white tee box when repairing the blue tee box?
Aaron: This also has been though about and discussed. The problem with this tee box is the size. Yes, we could tape off half the white tee box, level it and reseed, but once one half of the tee box is leveled, seeded, and good to go all the traffic would move to the new, good half (small area) and be destroyed again before the other half is ready to go. There is not enough area or manpower to constantly maintain a tiny half of a tee box awaiting the full tee box to be ready. With regards to moving the blues down to the whites while the blue tee box is being worked on it would only increase the problem with the whites and be a bad idea to work on fixing both tee boxes at the same time--half of the whites would get completely destroyed. I welcome the Men's Club's thoughts and ideas about what they think should be done.
One thought/idea I have is cutting in a temporary, closer to the green tee box so both blues and whites can be revamped at the same time. 4-6 weeks on this temporary tee box and we'd have a completely new or level blue tee box and a fixed-up white tee box--both could potentially be made larger to limit wear and tear. This, again, comes down to manpower and funds though.
-Practice Area Sand-
Nick: Any plans with this? There is almost no sand and its not even worth trying to practice in.
Aaron: It is pretty bad and I don't even consider it a real bunker at this point. This fall after the course closes I plan to do one of two things: Completely fill it in and plant grass or put a real, deeper bunker in. Manpower is the main problem and at this point it's not really worth maintaining/adding sand to.
-Rest of the Course Sand-
Nick: Any plans to add sand to the bunkers that are getting shallow on the rest of the course?
Aaron: Manpower. We added sand to the bunkers on #7 at the beginning of the season and I have a whole pile of it sitting out back, but I just don't have the guys to do it right now. If I can't find anymore guys I plan to get it done when the season is over. I have allowance for 3 more guys this season and have only had a couple applications...both of which haven't returned my phone calls.
Nick: I know it's early and would be a big project, but have you given much thought to how to fix the slope issue?
Aaron: I have given it some thought and received a rough estimate of $40-50k to completely redo this green. A lot of this cost is mobing in a golf course contractor to do it right. Currently there is almost no spot on that green that I can cut in a cup and have it hold a put when it dries out this summer. It is a problem that needs attention, but ultimately is up to whether the city wants to fork out the cash.
Nick: Could a local contractor handle something like this to limit the mobing cost?
Aaron: Maybe, but there is a lot more to building a green than simply leveling out some dirt or putting in a retaining wall. Drainage and slope is a big deal and I wouldn't really trust someone without the expertise and experience attempting something like this. A local contractor could end up costing the same amount and be more time consuming without the knowledge that a contractor experienced in installing greens would be.
-Snow Mold/Damage to Fairways on #1-
Nick: Any plans with this?
Aaron: Yes, and it is actually ice damage--it's a low spot that the early snow we received melted to and froze over--then it happened a couple more times with each time adding the weight of more and more ice. Freezing over the grass stops all airflow and doesn't allow the grass and soil to breath. We've been slicing and reseeding it weekly starting a couple weeks ago and it should fill in fairly soon. Same situation, although not to the same extent on a couple other areas of the course. With winters like last winter when it's continuously snowing, melting, and freezing over and over again this will happen in low spots that have a large area draining to them.
My opinion from this topic was there is really not a solution unless proper drainage and/or sloping away from the fairways in low spots is added. It was a bad winter with constant freezing/melting so it shouldn't be a common or annual occurrence.
-Range Hitting Area-
Aaron brought this one up and said his plan late this season is to level out the entire hitting area and plant new grass.
My thoughts on the meeting and the state of the course:
-Aaron was extremely receptive to both myself coming to see him and your concerns. He stated numerous times that he WANTS and welcomes our CONSTRUCTIVE criticism and input. He also stated he's seen numerous situations where people will whisper behind the superintendents back negatively about the state of the course or what they think should be done. He wants us to be open with him and communicate our concerns before it becomes a pissing match or rumors start spreading.
-Yes he's in charge of maintaining and repairing the course, but he's only one guy on a limited budget in an extremely tight labor market in an area with not many potential quality employees to choose from this time of the year. He's currently got three maintenance positions open and having an extremely difficult time filling them. If any of you know of anyone who is hard working and possibly has a little bit of experience in a similar field please send them his way.
-The course was in disarray most of the season last year. In my opinion the greens are now rolling better than at any point last season. With his limited manpower I think he's doing an exceptional job getting the course up to a decently playable level. He is prioritizing getting the course playable and maintaining the most crucial areas of the course--which is the best course of action right now.
-Rumor has it our last long-term superintendent left because of the same frustrations Aaron seems to have right now--not enough guys and not enough funds from the city to make his vision a reality. He didn't come out and say he was frustrated but I could sense his feeling of being somewhat overwhelmed about how he's supposed to fix the course when it's difficult enough to maintain with the lack of people he's got. He even mentioned and asked if the men's club would be willing to come in and help do some grunt work (ie lay sod) to save money if #12 green were to be revamped. If anyone has any ideas with regards to manpower and convincing the city it would be profitable to invest in revamping necessary items on the course and in the clubhouse please give some ideas. Do we write a letter and have everybody willing to sign it sign it? Do we raise havoc at a city council meeting? Give me/us your thoughts please.
-In my opinion quality manpower is always going to be a problem with a seasonal warm-season position in Chelan. Maintaining the course, let alone getting the course up to the quality it was years ago, is more than enough work even if Aaron were to find a couple more guys. The city needs to understand this and understand that hiring outside contractors to come in for both the medium and large projects should pay for itself over time. The superintendent and maintenance crews shouldn't have the extra weight on their shoulders of having to continuously band-aid consistent problems that have been known about for years.
-We need to work together with Aaron in my opinion, not push him. If we can help find him more labor and successfully fight to get the course more funding on capital expenditures (revamping tee boxes, THE green, even the clubhouse) it will be a win-win for both us and him. If we can't, I worry that it will end up being the same burnt-out situation we were in the last couple years.
-Please give me your thoughts! Everyone who was a men's club member as of a week ago should now be able to log in and comment on this post and previous posts. You can also give me a call or email me if you want it to be more private.