The Golf Course Confessional: Frosted flakes…

DSC00394 DSC00395 DSC00396 DSC00397 DSC00398 DSC00399 DSC00400  Overnight, winter gifted us with the first measurable snow of the season.  When we lived in the Buffalo, NY area, one of our friends, the Rev. Charles Biegner, claimed that he would give winter 100 days to be done with its foolishness, measured from the day of the first measurable snow.  I can live with that.  Except… this first snow was delivered with such grace and precision…each tiny gift landing just so on the branches and railings…that it is impossible to call it foolishness.  There is something majestic yet intimate about a process that redresses the woods for the insult of the cold with foliage appropriate to the time and season.

On a practical note, the sharp drop in temperature may have done us a favor of a different nature the last several days by supplementing the effect of the snow mold fungicide prior to the first snow fall. The bent grasses will now have not only a blanket to shield them from the desiccating effect of winter wind but also an ally against the disease that could erupt if it were warmer when the snow cover came.  God our maker will provide…



The Golf Course Confessional: Iced Tee

DSC00391When I arrived at the course this morning to feed and water the cats, this is the view that greeted me.  All three ponds are completely iced over from night time temperatures in the 10 degree range.  Only yesterday they were still open. Winter’s suddenness should not come as a surprise, but it always does.  I suspect that is because there is a deep need for denial, even in the face of prudent preparation.  One always hopes that what is forecast will not occur.

DSC00393    The birds and animals with whom we share this space know better.  This flock of turkeys was picking grit on the driveway when I pulled in.  They had gleaned the soybean field adjacent to the course.  The modern harvesting equipment leaves more to imagination and hope than to beak and crop, but the birds check it over anyway.  They do not seem to be bothered by the cold.  I surely am.

The gun deer season begins a week from today.  Monday, I and my hunting companions will stake our claims to various locations for our stands.  We set our lines of sight and fields of fire so as not to endanger each other or the neighbors, backing each lane with the hillsides.  We have harvested more stories than venison the last several years.   Maybe this year…

The Golf Course Confessional: bare ruined choirs…

DSC00389The combination of the closed sign on the post next to the entry and the leafless trees says it all, “We’re done for 2014.”  This is a good thing.

DSC00387Bill Krebs came by today from Wisconsin Turf to pick up the cutter heads for servicing.  After a full season, even with great care to make sure all is in alignment, they are dulled and screechy.  They need a sharpening and adjustment for the next season.  So do we.  Thanks for your business this year.


The Golf Course Confessional: Bittersweet day



There were geysers of water all over the course today.  On any other day this would be a cause for panic, because it would indicate a massive failure of the pipes in the irrigation system, vandalism, or damage from deep tine aeration.  Today it simply means that the season is inexorably drawing to a close.  Less than a week of play left.  Bittersweet.

Each year we rent an industrial sized air compressor to hook into the irrigation system.  100 CFM at 80 PSI makes short work of evacuating the pipes in the system.  This is necessary to preserve the pipes over winter.  None of them is installed below the frost line.  It is also necessary to remove each of the sprinkler heads, replacing them with heads that have failed over the years, but saved for just this purpose. (That job was finished Monday) This eliminates the risk that damage will be done to working heads by the combination of air pressure and lack of lubricating water.  We make the rounds of the course from high to low portions, having earlier trusted gravity to remove most of the water in the system.  There are quick connect hose couplings associated with most of the greens.  These are serviced first.  When the flow from the quick connect is reduced to a fine, howling mist, we are able to move to the associated green.  Removing one of the irrigation heads altogether allows rapid removal of most of the water.  The geyser can be spectacular for a minute or so.  This one is from #9.  The noise is also impressive.  Depending on the size of the nozzle on the head, the sound can range from clarinet to bassoon.

The final step is the removal of the suction pipe from the transfer culvert that allows water from the pond to be pumped through the system to the greens, and servicing the pump itself.  Good till spring.  That’s the hope that counters the bittersweet.

The Golf Course Confessional: Burrow holes and meadow voles


Each year of operation the course is set up in a slightly different configuration, both to keep it interesting and to keep it affordable to maintain and to play.  In the challenging economy of the “Great Recession” of the Obama administration, we have made a number of choices that have allowed us to stay in business as a course, even as other courses around the country have ceased operation.  The most recently visible of these choices are the new Orange flags and the large “foot golf” holes that have been added to the course for 2014 and beyond.  This has provided a modest secondary revenue stream and a new opportunity for non golfers to experience the course.

The second most visible choice is the way areas of the course that should not routinely come into play are managed and maintained.  The multiple teeing areas are structured to reflect levels of achievement in skill and to challenge the willingness of golfers to test their perception of skill against the course reality.  The “waste” areas serve as hazards.  In the Scottish tradition, golfers would find “gorse” in the waste areas, not just tall grasses but prickly shrubbery as well. We have not gone quite that far at Argue-ment.  That said, our tall grass areas are intentionally punitive.  We believe strongly that an inexpensive to play course should not ignore the integrity of the game, or treat golfers as commodities to be pushed through as rapidly as possible.

This way of managing the space of the course also provides the side benefit of limiting the amount of chemical input to the total acreage of the facility, and of limiting the time it takes to keep the course playable.  Our attempt is to get to a level of one FTE (full time equivalent) for maintenance staff.  That is, we try to maintain the course within a 2080 hour baseline for the season.  That does mean that during any given week of the season, we might have more than forty hours of maintenance time spread among several people, but our target for total hours remains.  Some of these tasks are once per year.

It is in light of the above that I have found myself for the last several days traversing the wasteland astride the little blue Ford tractor.  The rough mower is mounted.  I peel one lateral four foot layer of the field’s browned summer abundance at a time.  The dust is pervasive.  Mulched grass settles between the severed stems to provide fertilizer and free seed for next year.  It is easy to be lulled into complacency at less than five miles per hour, that is until one encounters the hidden burrow, with its mounded edge, on an already steep side slope.  The perfect round ones with access and egress holes set apart by several feet belong to the Ground Hogs.  The ones that terminate without reemerging are likely Badger holes, evidence of predation on Gopher nests.  One momentary lift of the rear wheel to the point of the sensation of floating briefly at the verge of equilibrium will get your attention rather rapidly.

The other thing one notices while mowing at this speed is the number of Meadow Voles.  They rocket from the edge of the last cut just before the front wheels of the tractor arrive seeking any available shelter in the new cut grass.  They range in coloration from nearly black to henna.  I am struck by the similarity of their response to the mower to mine in the presence of Kesey’s combine, all too evident in the daily news.

The Golf Course Confessional: Another day at the office

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The fall colors at Argue-ment are almost at peak today.  I was worried that the heavy rains of the past couple of days would have knocked most of them down already.  As you can see, that did not happen. The Walnut and Box Elder are pretty bare, but the Maples and Oaks are just hitting their stride.  The Sumac is particularly brilliant this year.  The harvest ready corn adds the soft tan background, while the number seven green, newly mowed, provides the foreground.

The Golf Course Confessional: Pure Americana

Argue-ment Golf Course is blessed with a very agricult2014-10-11 12.41.23ural neighborhood.  A portion of the course property is in corn this year, while the neighbor’s property by the course entrance is in soybeans.  The beans are dry enough for harvest right now.  With the good dry sunny weather, the area growers are making real progress. The size of the machines is a sight to behold.  The cost of these units can run into the hundreds of thousands.  One solid day of good harvest weather remains in the current forecast.  It is no longer unusual for one farmer to be planting and harvesting several hundred acres.  Tine to hurry, but stay safe!  (One of the neighbors was turning into a field with his combine and was hit by a car trying to pass him in a no passing zone! One of the passengers in the car was seriously injured.)

The farmstead pictured is one of the Argue family farms from the late 1800’s.  The stone house, beautifully restored by Don and Rosemary Zellmer, and the old barn come into view for our golfers on holes 7, 8, and 9.  It’s2014-10-11 12.44.03 Harvest Festival in New Glarus, so we have numerous visitors from the Chicago area with whom to share the views this weekend.

“All be safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin. God our maker doth provide for our wants to be supplied.

Lord of harvest, grant that we whole-some grain and pure may be.”

The Golf Course Confessional: Impossible to tire of it…

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Moonrise at closing time.  The varied grandeur of the creation as the days and seasons move along never grows stale.  The wonderful liturgical recitation of the creation in the Biblical book of Genesis describes the formation of the “greater light to rule the day” and the “lessor light to rule the night.” A few hours later, this bright moon would have its reflected light eclipsed fully by the earth itself.  Viewed at 5:15 AM, from the sidewalk at the condo, it glowed red, a fall color to be sure.

My wife and best friend Judy attended Valparaiso University in Indiana.  Their school motto is In luce tua videmus lucem (In your light we see light.)