Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Golf Course Etiquette

As the summer rains and cultural practices become a distant memory and the Northern golfers descend on the green grass of Copperleaf; it is important to be reminded to follow some basic golf course etiquette routines.

The Practice Tee is one of the first amenities that any golfer at Copperleaf utilizes. The large tee and peninsula of target greens allows all golfers to hone their skills and get accustom to the playability of the Bermuda grass. However, without proper etiquette, the Practice Tee can quickly become an eyesore as it is peppered with divots. With a little education, golfers can utilize the practice tee as desired and help to preserve the turf quality at the same time. Rather than hitting your practice ball in random locations; please utilize a single strip of grass, from front to back. If more shots are required, move over 3 inches and create a new strip. This method of practicing will greatly reduce the amount of top-dressing material needed to repair the divots, increase the recovery time of the turf and provide a superior practice area for all to enjoy.

The image above shows the correct way to take practice divots and damage caused
by 25 divots used in random selection
The scattered divots shown here will take an extended period of time, as well as additional sand, to recover

The use of the 90 degree rule is enforced on a daily basis at Copperleaf. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept; the 90 degree rule simply encourages golfers to drive as far as possible along the cart path before entering onto the turf to play their next shot. This protocol helps to protect the turf quality at the beginning of the rough and fairway. The compaction to the soil created by literally thousands of golf carts traveling over the same area is quite extraordinary and to expect turf grass to thrive under those conditions is unrealistic. Water, nutrients and roots simply cannot penetrate into the soil and unsightly, damaged turf is the result. To help encourage golfers to continue along the cart path, Copperleaf utilizes small green and white stakes to help direct traffic. However, there are still many instances where golfers fail to comply with the 90 degree rule.

In this example, a golfer has driven on the tee slope to enter the fairway rather than utilizing the 90 degree rule

To improve turf quality, it is beneficial for golfers to scatter as they enter and exit the fairways to improve turf health. Try not to follow a golf cart in front of you or the dew patterns of prior golfers. Also, please keep golf carts in the fairway as much as possible in southwest Florida during the winter months. The Bermuda grass rough simply cannot grow and recover in the cool weather from the cart traffic and provide the contrast desired by the different heights of cut.

The damage to the turf is evident in this area after 250 golfers played the course the previous day.

When traveling along the cart paths on your golf cart, it is critical to remember to keep all four wheels on the path at all times. This is particularly important around tee and green complexes. Many golfers deem it necessary to park their carts with two wheels on the turf grass as they walk onto the tees and greens. Once again, this constant compaction of the soil is extremely detrimental to healthy turf grass and ultimately results in an unsightly appearance.

The turf on this tee walk up has been damaged by golf carts constantly putting two wheels onto the turf

 With the amount of play that this course receives, ball marks are always a talking point amongst our golfers. It is critical, for the golfers behind you, that all ball marks be repaired. It is important to remember that on the Bermuda grass greens, found here in southwest Florida, that ball marks be repaired by twisting the turf from the outside in. Once the depression has been filled, use the bottom of your putter to smooth the turf to a level that "you" would be satisfied to putt over.

Ball marks on Bermuda grass greens need to be repaired by twisting the turf from the outside in. Do not lift up!

 Although bunkers are considered a hazard in the rules of golf; it is only fair that all golfers have the chance to play from them in a equal fashion. If you are unfortunate to have to play from a bunker, please rake the sand in a suitable fashion that you do not penalize players behind you. As with ball marks on greens, leave the bunkers in a condition that you would be satisfied to play from. At Copperleaf, the rakes are left in the bunkers with the end of the handle resting on the edge of the turf grass for an easy reach.

Rakes are positioned in the bunker toward the fairway

With help from the golfers of Copperleaf and the hard work of our Maintenance staff, the upcoming golfing season should be an enjoyable one for all. We look forward to seeing you out on the course and practicing good "etiquette".

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Summer of '49……inches

Without question, this summer has been a challenging one for golf course maintenance. Between May 1 and September 30, 49 inches of rain fell on the Copperleaf property with most of it in the afternoon.

The result of all of this rain has both positive and negative impacts. Our turf grass has remained green and healthy and our pump station and irrigation system have remained relatively unused for months. In fact, in August, we used our lowest amount of irrigation water; 2.8 million gallons (90,000 gallons per day) and received our lowest FPL bill, $600 in the Club's history. It's not surprising to see this data considering there were only 5 days of no recorded rain in August.

These rain events have kept our lake levels full; however, they have delayed the construction of the rock wall on hole 15, scheduled to have been completed in July, until June of 2014.

Future location of rock wall on hole 15

Despite the rain; there were many projects completed throughout the property including the elimination of several bunkers, new plantings and some comprehensive cultural practices.

The cultural practices carried out this year have included some aggressive verti-cutting of fairways followed by 4 applications of sand to help promote healthy turf, improved ball roll and improved drainage.

Verti-cutting on hole 1

Organic material and debris from verti-cutting

Using a Vacuum to remove the material

Another, more extreme practice carried out this year on our fairways was the contracting of a machine called "Big Daddy". This machine weighs over 6,000 pounds and has blades over 7 inches long to penetrate deep into the soil and relieve the compaction caused by over 40,000 rounds of golf each year.


There were areas on certain holes where even "Big Daddy" was lifted into the air due to buried rocks just below the surface. Another machine was used to break the rocks, this time called "The Beast". Incredibly, even this machine with its 8 inch solid tines, almost as thick as your forearm, had issues in certain areas. A great thanks to Jim Miller with Aerification Plus with their help this year.


All of this worked helped immensely with the rain events witnessed this year. There were several times where over 3 inches of rain would fall within a 24 hour period causing extremely wet conditions.

I can't thank the staff of the maintenance department enough. They have worked tirelessly throughout the summer and have taken great pride in presenting the golf course to the highest level possible on a daily basis. Please thank them as you see them on the course.

Posted by David Dore-Smith
Director of Golf Course and Grounds Maintenance
Copperleaf Golf Club

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Drainage Basin Leveling

Many of our summer projects have commenced over the past couple of weeks including the leveling of our fairway drainage basins.

Over time, the grass levels surrounding the drainage basins increase due to thatch and organic matter build up. The grass continually grows on top of this new material thus creating a more pronounced "dip" in the fairway contour. Please note that the basins themselves are not "sinking".

This change in elevation has a negative impact on our golfers shot making ability as well as the equipment used to mow the fairways.

The turfgrass surrounding the basin is carefully removed to allow for re-use, the metal grate is removed and then a new 12 inch riser is placed onto the existing PVC pipe. New soil is installed at the appropriate height and compacted. Excess pipe is removed at the new height with a cordless saw and the grate is replaced. To complete the project, the existing sod is placed onto the new soil.

The sod matures over the next two weeks providing a smooth and level surface to play from and maintain.

Thanks to Ricardo and Carlos for undertaking the task of leveling all of the sunken drainage areas on the fairways this summer.

Posted by David Dore-Smith
Director of Golf Course and Grounds Maintenance
Copperleaf Golf Club

Location:Copperleaf Golf Club

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Summer Closures

As the summer heat and humidity return to Copperleaf, many of you will be heading North or planning your summer vacations. As you make those plans, I wanted to remind you of the scheduled course closures for this year.

Hole 1 Green before aerification (morning)
Beginning May 15, the course will be closed each Wednesday through to the end of September. Many smaller projects are completed on these days without the need to prepare the golf course for play or impacting golfers. These projects include spiking, verti-cutting and sanding greens and other cultural practices including aerification of tees and roughs as well as golf course enhancements.

Hole 1 during aerification (midday)

July and August the course will be closed for 9 consecutive days each month. During this time, the greens are aggressively aerified to remove organic material and dilute the soil profile with new sand. All fairways are verti-cut and aerified to remove thatch thus providing a high quality surface to play from.

 This amount of time not only allows for the work to be completed but importantly, allows time for recovery. When the course opens for play, it is in excellent condition for our full-time residents and reciprocal players.

Hole 1 Green after aerification (afternoon)
September also has a 3 day consecutive closure allowing for end of summer fertilizing and top-dressing of fairways. Applying sand to the fairways is a new practice at Copperleaf and provides improved ball roll, improved drainage and superior turf conditions.

Verticutting Fairways

Aerification of Fairways

The end result of these closures is a course that has received the necessary remediation after a busy golfing season. The impact of over 40,000 rounds of golf and golf cart traffic has a dramatic impact on the ability to provide quality playing conditions.

Aerifying Appoaches
  Soil compaction that inhibits water, nutrient and root penetration; organic material build up that prevents fertilizer uptake, promotes turf diseases and provides "spongy" conditions and year round turf growth require aggressive cultural practices.
Fortunately, Copperleaf has an extensive Reciprocal Golf Course list that allows our Members to play at local area golf courses at discounted rates during these course closures and the summer months. For an up-to-date list, please visit the Pro Shop.

If you are planning trips either to or from Copperleaf this summer, please be aware of our course closing schedule and plan accordingly.

In summary, the course will be closed on the following dates:

Each Wednesday beginning May 15 ending September 25
July 10 - 18
August 14 - 22
September 17 - 19

Posted by David Dore-Smith
Director of Golf Course and Grounds Maintenance
Copperleaf Golf Club

Monday, February 11, 2013

Golf Course Maintenance

There is constant maintenance, improvements and enhancements carried out throughout the golf course on a daily basis.

Besides the routine course set up practices such as mowing the greens, raking bunkers and installing the cups, our staff remains busy with various improvements to the course including the addition of pine straw in high visible areas, edging grass from cart path edges, bunkers and sprinkler heads and trimming shrubs and trees.

Through the recent member survey and focus group meetings, there was mention of the abundance of the Native grasses throughout the course, in particularly around some of the landing areas and bunkers. The Green Committee, at their January meeting, discussed ways to maintain the integrity of the course but to also be fair for the varying levels of golfers at Copperleaf. It was decided to improve several areas throughout the course including holes 1, 2, 4,9 and 16.

The area to the right of hole 1 was trimmed and fresh pine straw applied

Our staff have been hard at work over the past week "cleaning" these areas by trimming the various shrubs, grasses and trees to improve playability. These revised areas now look fresh and clean and not only allow a golfer to find their errant golf ball, but to also have a chance to advance it toward the green.

The fairway bunker to the left of hole 2 received a welcome make-over as well

The entire maintenance department greatly appreciate all of the positive feedback received during the survey and focus groups and look forward to continuing to improve the golf course for all to enjoy.

Posted by David Dore-Smith
Director of Golf Course and Grounds Maintenance
Copperleaf Golf Club

Waste Bunkers

Copperleaf's Waste Bunkers have always been a topic of discussion since the course opened in 2000. Originally created with crushed concrete, the material was changed many years ago to Coquina (Co-keen-a) to add a contrast between the green fairway grass and the natural orange color.

The Coquina is mined on the east coast of Florida, near Melbourne, and hauled over on large trucks. Without question, the appearance of the orange sand and shell is quite dramatic, however, from a playability point of view, there is much to be desired.
With constant cart traffic, the sand is quickly compacted creating a hard, and difficult, surface to play from.

In recent efforts to "soften" the material, a machine was borrowed from a neighboring course to break up the sand. This method worked for a brief period of time however caused "wash-boarding" on the surface and made it unpleasant for golf cart passengers and maintenance vehicles alike.

An improved solution was researched and piece of equipment was purchased that tows behind a maintenance vehicle. This new "rake", a DR Power Rake, has been extremely successful in smoothing out the surface and providing improved playability.

Even after the Coquina paths have been raked with the DR Power Rake it does not take long for the material to be compacted due to the cart traffic.

The Green and Grounds Committee has developed a plan for the future to reduce the width of the Coquina areas, in particularly on holes 4, 5 and 18. These areas would then be classified as cart paths, thus providing relief for golfers. These ideas will be reviewed once the Long Range Plan has been provided by our Architect, Kipp Schulties, in March 2013.

Posted by David Dore-Smith
Director of Golf Course and Grounds Maintenance
Copperleaf Golf Club

Location:Copperleaf Golf Club

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Four Birdies on one hole!

Although one birdie is always welcome during one round, this photo, taken by Assistant Superintendent Riaan Potgieter, shows four birdies on one hole. Wouldn't that be nice!!

These Snowy Egrets were enjoying a morning stroll on hole 9

Posted by David Dore-Smith
Director of Golf Course and Grounds Maintenance
Copperleaf Golf Club

Location:Copperleaf Golf Club

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A "new" Post

Many of you returning to enjoy the warm climate of south west Florida will notice that the 150 yard poles were returned to their original place over the past weeks.

The Green Committee decided, with a majority vote, at their December meeting to re-install the posts after reviewing the many comments both for, and against, the stakes. With over 140 golfing members asked of their preference, a majority of respondents asked to have the post, that had been placed in the center of the fairway over 9 years prior, to be re-instated.
However, it was discussed at the meeting to offer a compromise by lowering the height of the stake to 3 feet so as not to be as obtrusive amongst the beautiful setting of the golf course.

Posted by David Dore-Smith
Director of Golf Course and Grounds Maintenance
Copperleaf Golf Club