About Me

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Los Gatos, California, United States
Kevin is currently the certified superintendent at La Rinconada Country Club. Kevin was the Director of Maintenance at Lahontan Golf Club for over 14 years. Some of the responsibilities over the expanse of his career include the daily upkeep of multiple golf courses, natural resources, environmental compliance, and roads and streets. The wide ranging expertise has come from a combination of education and experiences. Degrees in Meteorology (1987 University of Nebraska/Lincoln), and Horticulture (1992 Colorado State), complete the formal side of this important combination of qualifications. A lifetime of experience around golf courses, and the game of golf was provided by Kevin's father.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Rain - Rain Come Back In August!!

The rains have been heavy in the last couple of weeks, and although it is seldom that a golf course superintendent would complain about rain, I could do with a week or so without it. But you take what mother nature gives you, and deal with it knowing that things always change. 

Water flowing in front of the 1st green December 23rd, 2012

Wash out of our new drain on #1

The storm washed out a 20 foot section of our new drainage installed in the first fairway. The trench will be cleaned out, the pipe re-installed, rock and sand put back in place and sod installed on top of this section.

A plug taken from the 18th green

The 18th green does not surface drain and standing water on it is suffocating the soil below. The water logged soil has no room for oxygen and the soil develops a black layer that eventually kills off the roots in that area. To combat this a drain has been installed in the green, and wetting agents applied to aid water penetration. An aerification in these areas would be the most beneficial thing for moving water out and getting oxygen in.

Diseased new grass plant

Prolonged wet conditions result in fungal growth, many of which attach grass plants. Most of the damage is superficial, and the plant can grow out of the disease when sunny dry weather resumes. However when conditions are continuously wet cool and cloudy, the diseases will continue, and can do a lot of damage.  The greens receive preventative treatments and they are showing no signs of disease, however fairways, approaches and rough do have disease and will be spraying fungicides to combat this as long as conditions warrant.

Standing water in the front of the #2 green in early December

New drainage at #2 worked December 23rd

The drainage here was not working a few weeks ago, so 50 feet of old drainage was removed and new installed this past week. There are a lot of areas on the course where the old drainage is in need of replacement. Mostly in the bunkers. Numerous bunkers have been worked on in the last year, with many more to go.

Down tree on the right of #2

Trees did pretty well during this storm, with the one pictured above being the biggest casualty.

Washed out bunker
Bunkers took a hard hit from the runoff. The result is silt at the bottom of the bunker that needs to be removed, and then sand moved back onto the face and compacted. There are at least 30 bunkers that are in need of repair.

Overall the course did well and with every storm there is work to be done. The successive storms we have had this month (and another forecast for Wednesday) have put us in a cycle of as soon as things get back into shape we get hit again and fix the same areas again. I believe that is what you call "maintenance".


Friday, December 14, 2012

Aeration Techniques

Over the course of the last few months I have been asked about the techniques that we will be employing on the greens. To produce greens that are healthy and fast, the methods and timing become critical so I am providing an outline of the machinery we will utilize, the timing, and the benefits that each process provides.

Maintaining water infiltration rates is critical to both health and play-ability throughout the year, and the machine that will provide this is the planet air. Click here for video and further explanation on what this machine does and the benefits it provides. What I like best about this machine is the speed at which it operates and that green speed is increased after its use. It is a lot less disruptive than using a traditional aerator to vent the greens and produces the same  agronomic benefits. Ideally this machine would be used every other week throughout the year.

Planet air on the 15th green

The Graden verticutter is the most agressive machine due to its ability to go deep into the turf. We have 2 Graden verticutters for greens, tees and fairways. I have provided a video link here so you can see them in action and get a sense of the blades and how verticutting works in general. This machine is not for the faint of heart. It is a lot of work and takes skill to not do damage to greens and other fine turf areas. This machine is used on the majority of top courses in the world. It would only be used during aeration and with green and ground committee approval, as it does take some time for the grooves to grow over and not be visually intimidating while putting.

Light verticutting  with triplex mowers will be done to remove thatch and regular light topdressings behind the verticutting will increase the sand percentage in the top layer of the root zone. The combination of these 2 practices keeps the greens true, and the increased firmness enhances the greens' ability to withstand damage from ball marks and foot traffic. And although grain is not presently an issue on our poa and bent greens, verticutting is the management method to make sure that it does not become a problem in the future. This process is done about once a month in the winter and about every other week in the summer.

Verticutting greens using triplex mowers

On a daily basis surfaces can be lightly groomed using grooming blades set at a higher less aggressive height. Our new walking greens mowers have the ability to groom the grass as they are cutting, and they are set on about half of the mowing days when the grass is aggressively growing.

New greens mowers with thatching blades

As you can tell there is a large menu of techniques that are available to keep greens healthy, smooth, and fast. They all entail hard physical work, and the motivation to using them is to provide great playing surfaces.


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Heavy Winter Rains

Heavy rains impact the area and the course. Over 4 inches of rain fell over the last 4 days which has caused a number of problems that will need to be addressed this next week. 
Right approach at #2

This area of the 2nd hole has drainage installed, but obviously it is not working properly. This drainage will need to be re-done to eliminate standing water during future rain events.

The pond at the 11th 3 feet above average
These ponds at the 11th overflow and ultimately go down to the 1st hole. There are no obvious solutions to keep this water from going down to #1.

A large flow into down the 12th fairway

The water leaving the property at Wedgewood correlates to the water coming down the 12th fairway and entering the ponds at #11.

Water leaving the property at #1

The new drainage at #1 is working very well, however it was not designed to handle the amount of water that this latest storm has produced.

Standing water on the 18th green
This area of the 18th green puddles during most rains.  This is a  high priority to remedy, although it will be difficult to do. It is an indicator on how well the greens drain and the amount of aerification that is necessary.

There are a number of bunkers that have washed out. To put them back into shape the silt needs to be removed, then the clean sand is then shoveled back onto the face and compacted. In the bottom where the water accumulated the sand needs to be loosened up by turning it over with a shovel.

There is also a number of limbs, and a lot of leaves to clean up. This work will take the better part of this week to complete.


Friday, November 23, 2012

Rain Returns

It was good to have the rains return this last week.

The wet weather changes our strategies for how we proceed with the turf conversion. The first rains of the season have boosted the growth of our new turf, however it is weather that annual bluegrass thrives in so the control strategy changes correspondingly.

This strip was low on seed 
Any area where the seeding was thin  is an area where weeds and annual bluegrass will try to establish and herbicide is applied.

Poa annua after herbicide was applied

These herbicides are doing a good job of getting rid of the weed grasses. In the picture above a thin area has resulted from where the annual bluegrass has died. Some of these areas are being re-sodded but the majority  is being re-established from seed.

I was really pleased to see how the first fairway drained during the rains this past week. The area remained very playable and there was no standing water in places that I saw water accumulate last year. This was true for the rest of the course fairways where the heavy topdressing was added.  This was reward for the work done during the turf conversion.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Bunker Sand Refurbishing

We are in the process of refurbishing the sand in the bunkers.
You may notice some color inconsistencies in the next couple of weeks as we blend the new and old sand together. We are blending a new sand that is a shade darker than the existing sand for performance reasons. The existing sand when wet becomes heavy and does not drain properly producing poor playing conditions. By blending in a better draining sand we will improve the condition of the bunkers.

Bunker at #11 Green Complex

This past week we lost a Ben Tapia to stroke / heart attack. Ben was a 29 year employee of La Rinconada golf course maintenance and was very well liked by his co-workers. We appreciate the person Ben was to us, and he will be greatly missed by all.


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Course Re-Opening Tomorrow

It is exciting to get the course back open. The time closed has allowed maintenance to make a lot of positive changes in the look and playability of the course.

The establishment of the new rye fescue blend has been a large part of this project but it would be short sighted to not mention some of the other items that impact the course.

6,000 tons of sand added to all the fairways
Mulching the bases of trees throughout the course
Re-draining of the first fairway
Re-building the 15th green
The fall season of tree maintenance completed
Cart path re-pair
Curbing added on the service road to the clubhouse
Numerous greens enlarged back to their original size
Bunker re-furbishing with sand added
All the course aerated
The kirby marking system abandoned and sprinkler heads will be marked with yardage

It has been very enjoyable and satisfying to do this work, and I am anxious for you to enjoy what we have accomplished so far. In the coming months more trees will be mulched, the rye and fescue will thicken, the greens expansion will assimilate into the existing surfaces, and the changes will be established so that they will feel like they have always been that way. In the mean time I hope you enjoy playing the course and watching the progress continue into spring.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Long View of the Turf Conversion

The strategy of a turf conversion is to get the population of desirable grass plants much higher than the undesirable plants so that the undesirable plants can be eliminated without affecting playability.

We have successfully changed those population percentages in our favor, but now we will be very busy working to eliminate those undesirable plants that are regenerating from seed that is in the soil. We are a long way from being finished with the turf conversion project.

Broad leaf weeds coming back around tree wells are being sprayed with herbicides.

This thin area in an approach has been reseeded and will be thin for opening and will not be fully grown in until next spring.

Poa annua growing back into areas that were slow to grow. These areas will be treated chemically to manage this grass.

The turf conversion is more difficult for me right now because it is not as straight forward as it was at the beginning. There are many variables involved in successfully killing the undesirable plants and keeping the tender new grass from being harmed than adding sand, and seed at the beginning.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

We are beginning to put the course back into shape for opening in a few weeks.

The sand in the bunkers has compacted and algae has accumulated on top. We are removing that top 1/2 inch layer as you can see from the picture below.  The contaminated sand is then broadcast into the rough and fairway, and new sand will be added as needed. It takes 4 workers about 2 weeks to do all the bunkers.

Workers scraping off contaminated sand for disposal

As we get more equipment out onto the course we inadvertently have damage occurring that needs to be repaired and seeded as soon as possible so that it is recovered prior to the course opening.  This is an ongoing process for the next few months.
Seedlings emerging in damaged area

Although time has passed quickly, it seems like a long time ago we were prepping the course for play.  Maybe it was because the turf conversion has been the focus of what we have been doing for the last 6 months? I truly do feel that the course will be ready the first week of November, and staying closed any longer does not do a lot of good. What the grass needs is time to mature and grow more dense, and not playing does not change that maturing time. We will be very cautious of traffic patterns, and it will be a matter of months before carts are allowed off the paths. And like the picture above shows, there will be damage and when it does occur we must be good about getting out the seed and getting it back.

#14 September 4th
#14 October 17th

Monday, October 8, 2012

Grooming the Course

This last week has been about working on getting our mowing equipment out while not setting back the tender new grass.

#16  21 days after first watering of seed

There has also been a fertilizer application made to all turf surfaces, and an additional 200lbs / acre of rye seed broadcast on fairways and week areas. Compost and seed have been applied to areas that are slow to grow-in throughout the course. It is important to stay on top of these stubborn areas and assure that the course is fully recovered while we still have good growing conditions.

It is necessary to keep the grass cut for a couple of reasons.  1) it opens up the canopy for sunlight penetration to new seedlings that are coming up under the existing grass.  2) the existing grass is then encouraged to grow laterally instead of just vertically.  When these things happen there is an increase in the density of the grass and that is what we need right now. Density!!

Density improving with fescue under the rye

The daytime watering has been cut back to encourage the exiting grass to root deeply, and so that mowing equipment damage is limited. There has been a great improvement in the rooting and the stability of the surfaces in the last few days in response to less watering.

Defining the new mulched area on the 1st hole

Our opening date is yet to be determined, however the first week of November is looking very good right now. Playing conditions at that time will be good with small areas still growing in and densities in fairways not being 100%.  Carts will be restricted to paths for some time and will be let on the turf when the grass has reached appropriate maturity and can handle it.

In this next week we will continue to cut the grass 3 to 4 times, and work on returning the greens to great shape by repairing damaged spots.


Monday, October 1, 2012

Stripes on the 2nd hole October 1. 17 days after starting to water.
Cutting the new grass has begun, just 17 days after turning the water on the seed.  Everything is cut at a low height to facilitate lateral growth of the new plant.  This will increase the density, which is especially critical on the sanded fairways.

The mulched areas are providing a nice contrast to the new grass. These areas will also reduce the time to mow around trees and clean up small debris from the trees. 


Friday, September 21, 2012

Cleaning Up and Growing Grass

Time always seems to go quickly growing grass from seed, maybe because it never happens quickly enough.  In the case of the last few days there has been a significant change in the amount of grass and the appearance of the course that has been very satisfying. 

After one week of heavy irrigation it is time start to cut back the watering.  To germinate seed it needs to be moist for prolonged periods of time. To grow healthy grass the roots need a balance of oxygen and water in the soil. We have enough seed germinated that we are now in the period of growing grass and we can cut back the from 11 waterings a day to 4.

Friday Sept 21, 9 days after first watering

Rolling greens with a 1,000 lb  compaction roller is not for the faint of heart. But in the right hands it takes care of imperfections very well. The sod that was put back onto the 15th green improved dramatically with the use of this technique.

Rolling the new 15th greens surface

Although grubs do not feed on seed they did cause some areas of existing turf to come up when our seeder went through them. These were then treated with an insecticide. Another example of adjustments made during our conversion work.

Dead grubs

The projected re - opening the first week of November looks very achievable at this point.


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Finishing Week 2

Two weeks ago La Rinconada was open and there was play on the course.  Today it is in terrible shape and definitely unplayable.  For the remainder of the time until re-opening every day will be spent on getting things back into shape and growing grass.

The seed is beginning to germinate, which is reassuring.  I have grown enough seed to know that it will happen, but there is something special when that green hue comes over the surface.  The first areas seeded where holes 14 and 18, and there is grass just starting on those holes not more than a week after planting.

The remaining work that needs to be done is on the 1st hole, where the drainage is being improved.  The old 4 inch drain pipe was removed and  600 feet of new 6 inch pipe and rock put in.  Five 12 inch drop inlets where installed, a detention basin was created, and the entire area regraded.  I am anxious for the first rains so we can see it perform.

Laser level of the drainage installed in #1
Drain line location on the first hole

The 15th green was enlarged by over 2,000 feet creating a shortage of existing grass to put back onto the green.  A combination of aeration cores, bentgrass seed and sand will be used to re-establish about 25% of the surface area and it should be in good shape by November.  This new green is much more interesting than the old version, however, you will still recognize its signature right to left hard break.

The old sod being replaced onto the 15th green
Check list of completed items
All surfaces prepped for seed and sand
Existing green edges located
Irrigation grow in programs created
Sprinkler heads raised
All surfaces sprayed with herbicides at least once
6,000 tons of sand delivered and spread
30 acres of hydroseed applied
60 acres of dry seeding
20 tons of fertilizer applied
All greens, tees and roughs aerated
15th green rebuilt
13th left bunker re-shaped and size reduced
Tree work done
Check list of to do items
Grow seed
Repair damaged areas from truck traffic
Grow  in areas as new green space that were not before
Establish mulch areas around trees
Contract netting for the 5th hole
Re-establish cut lines around the course
 Open ASAP


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Daily Challenges of the Turf Conversion Project

Things are continuing to go well, but I wanted to illustrate a few of the difficulties in case we were making this process look too easy.  Possibly, I look like I am enjoying myself more than I should?
Making sence of cut irrigation wires
 Cut irrigation wires while installing the new drain pipe in the #1 fairway.
3 Sand delivery and 3 sand spreading trucks in the parking lot
 Equipment congestion in the parking lots and on the surrounding residential streets have lead to contracts staking out there space.
Exposing old drain lines at the 15th green
Uncovering multiple drain lines leading out of the 15th green makes for archaeological interpretation of how to tie in the new to the old.

And despite these challenges (some call them opportunities) we continue to move forward as shown in this last photo showing the 9th green aerated, hydro seeded, surface area enlarged, approach re-graded, and sod going down in the collar.  All this in our first week of closure.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The First 3 Days of Conversion

Here at mid week we are hitting on all cylinders and moving through the course on schedule.

Sod has been removed around the new green edges on holes 2,3,12,13,14,16,17.
Tree work is being done throughout the course.
Trees being thinned south of the 10th green.

All fairways except on #1 are prepped for sand.
Tree roots in #9 fairway while prepping for sand

Fairways on holes 2,3,14,16,17,18 are todressed.

Spreader trucks putting down sand on #14 fairway

Fairways 14,18 are hydro-seeded.
Hydro seed on #14 fairway sand.

The 15th green complex has been stripped of sod.
Sod removal on #15 green


By Saturday we should double the amount of work done and we will be close to turning on the water in order to germinate seed.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Last Week Open for Play and Final Preparations for Sand

The cutting blades on the flail that removes the turf and sweeps the area clean
This past week has been very busy and productive and we meet our goal of scalping down the fairways, and preparing for sand topdressing that starts Labor Day Monday.  It has been inconvenient for golf and I apologize for that, however when the course is back into shape we will all have some stories to tell about the dust bowl of 2012 that hit La Rinconada.

After the first pass with the flail unit

In the past week we have removed hundreds of yards of grass off the fairways.  Instead of paying to have the material taken off site, it will be re-cycled on the golf course.  This is a financial savings and is better for the environment. 

This week is all about getting off to a good start laying down the sand.  The processes that follows the sand is applying granular organic fertilizer, dragging the sand to smooth the surface, and then the hydro-seed.  The hydro-seed starts Wednesday, which gives the sand spreading operation a 2 day head start.

Also planned this week is the removal of sod around greens. When the round up was sprayed a 36 inch buffer was left around the edges to lessen the chance that the herbicide would be tracked onto the greens.  These areas will be leveled when the sod is removed to improve the playability and surface drainage.  You may have noticed the different colored paint around the greens in preparation for this work.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Roundup Spray Effective

The areas that were sprayed with herbicide last Monday and Tuesday are dieing off nicely.  That does not sound right, but it is what we want.  Spot spraying will be occurring next week in select locations.

Compare the photo below to the photo from one week ago . What a difference in just 5 days!!

August 24th 2012
August 20th 2012

The next phase is the reduction of grass so that we have a good surface for the sand topdressing going on the fairways and to seed into in the roughs.  This process will be occurring in the next week, and it will produce very thin lies and extremely long drives.  Imagine the fairways stemping around 8.

New Amazone flail mower for removing turf