Topdressing is almost, almost done…for now…

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“Your greens are very sandy.”

“Well, yes, they are.”

The application of sand, following aeration, for the health of the turf on the greens is standard procedure.  Disruptive?  Of course.  But, they should be all done by the end of today.

Argue-ment uses the native soils for the greens.  Native soils in this area tend toward compaction from traffic.  Traffic includes golfers and mowers.  Left unaddressed, the predominantly silt loam soils will tend to become clay-like and unreceptive to water.  Not a good thing for grass roots.  Formation of “thatch,” the combination of dead leaf tissue and root zone growth, also affects permeability.  So, punch holes in the thatch.  Fill the holes with sand to amend the soil profile. Recovery of the turf is already visibly underway from the aeration.  New growth is emerging from areas that were damaged previously by fungal disease and high traffic compaction.  How much time will it take to get to “perfect” conditions? Think infinity.  Normal playability? A couple of weeks.

The condition of turf on any golf course is always a work in progress toward a best compromise.  I recently read an article in one of the golf maintenance industry publications about a major course in the US that was struggling to figure out how to balance the need to do significant maintenance on their greens with the need to keep paying the bills.  High volume play and the pressures of maintaining “tournament conditions” to justify high greens fees meant that this course’s maintenance superintendent faces the dilemma of lost revenue versus the health of the course itself.  Their numbers are bigger, but the issue is the same for Argue-ment.  So… you try to do the work outside of the “peak” season, even when from a perspective of the health of the grass it probably would be better to do it earlier.

Sorry for the necessary disruption. Your consolation prize is a very big hole to shoot at on the alternate green!

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The Golf Course Confessional: Sustainability 9

To every thing…there is a season…turn, turn, turn, and  time for every purpose under Heaven.

Living in a system requires willingness to acknowledge change and decay as part of sustainability.  A tree fell on the edge of #7.  Now a friend has firewood.  Nights are growing longer.  Squirrels are planting, unwittingly, the next generations.  Seed of all kinds works its way from the tips of stalks to the womb of the humus below.  The insect population has increased as the birds move south with the sun.  (The cloud of bluebirds on the box elder tree a week or so ago signaled their imminent departure.  The barn swallows are not accompanying the mowers anymore.) The dragon flies remain.  This is the time of reflection.

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The contrast between the deep green of the fairways and tee areas and the subtle shifts of color now taking place at the margins of the deep rough and conservation areas is greatest this time of year.  Old field edges show up in the location of lines of native plants that were not permanently displaced by agriculture, or which have reestablished themselves as opportunity presents.  It struck me that it happens only because the fairway grasses and tee grasses are maintained in a state of permanent adolescence by mowing.


Photo finish…

About ten days ago we started aerating the greens at Argue-ment.  We raced to a photo finish today.  The semi official deadline for finishing was Sept 15, a date widely understood to be optimum for grass growth and new seedings.  Hopefully, we will see healthy growth until winter sets in.  Thanks to the crew of Wayne Hach and David Haugh.  Couple of real troopers!  Next step in the process will be top dressing with sand.  As with the aerating, this can be disruptive of play, but we hope to make the schedule as painless as possible for our golfers.  Some of you folks really seemed to enjoy playing to the 21 inch cups on the “alternate” foot golf greens!  We may have to plan for a tournament using those holes sometime.

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The Golf Course Confessional: Sustainability 8


Grandpa’s rule about stuff taught me much of what I know about sustainability.  If it breaks, repair it so it will be better than new.  If it wears out, rebuild it and use it some more.  Never throw anything away that might have an alternative use. (That one drives my wife Judy crazy.) If you do have to discard something, save the screws and bolts…you never know.  Buy a good used tool and cherish it.  The old stuff has some metal to it.  If you have to have a power tool, make sure it is enough to add to your productivity.  The best tool in the shop is a creative mind.

The picture is of the best purchase I have ever made for Argue-ment.  It is a good used tool with some metal to it.  The Jacobsen F10 mower was the height of technology when introduced decades ago.  At 15 feet in working width, it makes short work of fairway mowing.  Without it labor costs would skyrocket.  Thus the panic earlier this year when the clutch died.

The next best thing to a creative mind in your own shop is a genius mechanic in town.  Enter “Merlin the Magician.”  Merlin Busch operates a one man shop in New Glarus that routinely turns out miracles of repair at an astonishingly good price.  Grandpa would have loved him.  When we contacted Jacobsen, the “tech” said, “Oh wow! That’s a real dinosaur… I don’t know how to help. Sorry…”  The conglomerate had moved on to more modern, complex, expensive toys.  We were supposed to follow.  “The Magician” did not agree.  Difficult we can do as routine, the impossible will take a couple of days.  Merlin refuses to let broke stay broke, and he makes “house-calls.”  He found parts from all over the place that would work  perfectly, fixed what had been jury rigged by previous owners or mechanics, helicoiled what had been stripped, and reassembled with nary a bolt or washer left over.  “It’s ALIVE!”

A couple of years back, I experienced a similar phenomenon with Pomp’s tire in Monroe.  The original tires on the dinosaur had rotted into weekly patching territory. Compounding the misery were the split rim mountings.  Certainly not the SOTA tubeless units on more current stuff.  “Nobody makes them anymore.”  That is not what you want to hear, when this is your go to machine. “Can you find me a workable alternative?”  The result, a full set of  replica tires for a WWII style ton and a half truck, made in China.  8 ply, they will likely outlive me. Pure, unadulterated, genius! The Grandpa genes are smiling.

The Golf Course Confessional: Sustainability 7

The Apostle Paul’s  introduction to his teaching on the Eucharist begins something like this, “I am going to tell you what was originally told to me.”  This indicates something basic about tradition, the passing on of the formative stories.  Sustainability in its broadest expression is narrative heard and narrative spoken to be heard.  The ability to speak to be heard depends on the ability first to listen comprehensively.  At Argue-ment we are attempting to pass something on in both narrative and art form.  There are three generations involved.  This is in keeping with the history of this place.  What we know of this particular piece of land is limited to the history of its European settlement.  The Argue family, multiple brothers and cousins who settled this valley that now bears their name, passed their farms on for multiple generations before passing from the scene. We have heard stories about them from their descendants.  Tradition seems to imply transience as well as sustainability.  Fossils and ruins tell similar stories.

When Argue-ment Golf Course no longer exists as a course, there will be narrative hints to its existence that remain written in the earth.  Fragments of buried pipe, strange mounds of earth that clearly did not assemble themselves, pollens of grasses not “native” to the area, foundations, and wells will to a discerning eye tell the tale.  Ozymandias!

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Hopefully, that will not be all that has been passed on.  Sustainability requires passing on the knowledge, attitude, and skill that made the Argue-ment possible at all.  The principals’ duty in this is first to the next generations of family and then to the current and next generations of golfers.

The Golf Course Confessional: Sustainability 6

“Prosper the work of our hands.”  Prosperity is as integral to sustainability as it is to peace and to justice.  The Biblical notion of such homeostasis is each person living under his own vine and fig tree.  But of course the grapes do not press themselves into wine and the figs do not pick themselves either.  There is labor involved.  Hard labor.  Labor is the intentionality applied to the available resource and the reflection of and on the end product.  It is the means by which the petition, “Give us today the bread for today,” is answered.  Labor is not the source of value itself, as if somehow the raw material, the situation, the capital, had no meaning prior.  Instead, labor is “value added for me.”  Martin Luther commented that, “God gives daily bread, even when we do not pray for it, and also to the wicked.  What we are asking for in this petition is to be able to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.”  May your Labor Day be one of celebration and thanksgiving that the Almighty has given you the ability to add value by your work, so you may be sustained as well as those you care about

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