End of 2012 season

Tuesday, 16 July 2013


This will likely be my last post on the KCountry turcare blog. Looking back to the date of the previous post, it’s clear that we weren't frequently up to date. The easy excuse is to say that we were very busy preparing and maintaining both golf courses to the high standards that many of our guests and our Kananaskis team have come to expect. This was actually the truth.

Since the spring of 2012, our turfcare team stripped, prepped, installed and maintained 30 new bentgrass greens, and a handful of tee decks. This was necessary due to the consistent winter injury we received. It was also necessary to improve the surface drainage by restoring the perimeter edges to original grade. I’ve always believed that these major projects were an investment in the golf course. Similar to getting a new roof or windows for your house, these investments increases the longevity and improves the performance for many, many more years to come. Nobody ever anticipated the shortened time frame for Kananaskis Country Golf Course. Thursday June 20th, 2013. The fate of both courses were sealed. Approximately 300mm of rain fell in two days.

Thursday started like any other typical morning for us. James and I opened shop, put on a fresh pot of coffee and talked about the amount of rain that fell throughout the night and into the morning. We discussed changes to our morning schedule, ‘...move pins to high locations, rake bunker washouts, flymow & linetrim attention areas, definitely no mowers and we should be cartpath only for the day...‘ That was basically the agreed upon conversation before we headed out for our morning tour.

The first time I knew we were in some trouble was when one of our walk bridges floated past me along the cartpath. It was about 100 yards from its original location. I only wish that was our only problem. As soon as I crested the top of our double green cartpath towards the Mt. Kidd course, I saw water flowing over and through the tee sites of both #10 and #1. Mother nature had found her original path.

It was really too soon to tell what the outcome of this flood was going to be. I personally thought, when the rain stops, we will have everything cleaned and operational for the weekend. The rain didn’t stop, and the flow of the new/original Evan Thomas river picked up speed and destructive force. The reality was slowly setting in.

During the next few weeks, I had a hard time grasping the outcome and harsh reality of what had happened. I didn’t want to believe this was the loss and end to all the hard work put into both courses. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to the many new friends and colleagues that I had grown to love. As a turfcare team, we overcame many challenges, accepted much criticism and worked harder to improve our product for our guests. We took great pride in our work and what we accomplished. There's always something to improve upon at any golf course, no turfcare team can really step back and say, ‘..we are totally done and entirely perfect..‘  Seeing all the pride and hard work washed away in a matter of hours is a completely helpless and gutting feeling.

Now what? What’s my plan? These were the questions some 140 employees at Kananaskis asked. I was in the same boat. I didn’t want to move, I didn’t want to start a new job, most importantly I didn’t know where we were going.  We had to decide where we wanted to work, and that decision was based on potential opportunities.

For many of the employees that have transitioned into something quickly, I congratulate you. For those still sourcing options, I don’t anticipate running into any problems because for the most part, Kananaskis Country Golf Course employed strong teams and strong individuals. I am fortunate to find a new opportunity, and I'm excited to begin my new adventure. The transition will probably be difficult, but I'm up to the challenge, we’ve been through worse.

So I write this final post on the KCountry turfcare’s blog as my closure. I can now move on and accept everything that has happened. I hope in the near future someone can continue this blog with a fresh start and a new opening to what architect Robert Trent Jones stated as ‘..the best natural setting I’ve been ever given to work with..’

I would like to finish by thanking all my friends, co-workers, colleagues that I have met and learned from through my short tenure at Kananaskis. Please keep in touch. I would also like to thank all my industry friends and colleagues that helped me find new opportunities. Good luck to all the our fellow golf courses that suffered damage and loss in this Alberta flood, I wish you all the best and hope for a strong recovery. It’s the help from a strong and united turf industry that keeps us going, and that’s just one of the many reasons why I’m glad to be a part of it.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Opening day push.

The turfcare team started in early April and we were able to take advantage of some decent weather to accomplish many tasks.  Most of our wildlife fence have been taken down, rolled up and put away.  Fence posts have been pulled except for the few stubborn ones that need softer ground.  Our snow clearing crews have worked hard clearing greens, tees and surrounds.  Our bobcat and polar track blowers have been opening up shaded areas in the fairways and surface drain lines to allow for the flowing melt.

Early last weekend we were welcomed with four days of fresh snow.  Both properties were again completely covered in about 30cm.  Most of the fresh didn't melt off until mid week and our crews were out again clearing greens so that we could peel back tarps.  At times, weather can be frustrating, however it's a part of our seasons and our location.  We continue to stay focused and motivated in our accomplishments.

More staff will be joining us in the upcoming weeks.  Their help will be gladly welcomed as we will focus on some project work.  With cooperating weather, our push to "get er done" will begin.  Long days and hard work will be necessary and we have the team to do it.

Our turfcare team at Kananaskis Country is excited for opening weekend.  We are motivated in completing our projects, cleaning the course, putting on the first cut and placing out all the accessories.  We have built a great team and everyone continues to work hard for the benefit of the golf courses.  Great job team!

If you haven't already opened for 2013, all the best with your opening week!  Let's have a great season.

Clearing off some fresh powder

Promoting activity 14Kidd green
Clearing the fresh and peeling back the edges

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

What do you do in the Winter?

For the majority of my short illustrious turf career, I’ve worked as a seasonal employee.  The first four years worked nicely because I was a student, finishing high school then completing post secondary.  The next four were also great, as I collected earnings from the great resource we all know as Employment Insurance.

I quickly realized that as my expensive taste in life evolved, my actual income didn’t.  I soon understood the importance of year round employment.  Typically, a position within the management team offered me year round employment, or at least the year round earnings of being on an annual salary.

From general conversation it was my understanding that winter work involved as little work as possible... what??  It was a superintendent that told me this, and I can understand and appreciate what he meant.  Throughout the golfing season and throughout our busy shoulder seasons, we as a turfcare department bust our humps on a daily basis providing a product that generates hundreds of millions of dollars in recreation/tourism revenue each year.  (Sorry about the political plug, but that’s a topic for another discussion)

I assume that most of you with seasonal start ups and shutdowns look forward to that last day when the course is finally put to a well deserved rest for the winter.  But what goes on after that?  I’ve had the opportunity to work year round at three golf courses.  From my experiences, all winter work is similar, in a time varying and weather differentiated kind of way.

At Kananaskis, our off season is approximately 5 months.  Since our last goodbyes to our seasonal employees in October, we’ve continuously monitored both golf courses, checking for melt, ice build up, wildlife damage, river flow, etc..  There were many days when we cleared snow off greens in anticipation of rain and freeze periods.  Once our snow and weather forecast stabilized, we were able to prep, rebuild, customize and place orders on ground supplies and equipment.

PAINTING!!  I am not aware of too many people that enjoy this task?  I am not one of them.  However this luxury isn’t as frustrating and meticulously time consuming than painting your house.  To save a few dollars, we were able to clean, repair and touch up many of our ground supplies like flag poles, cooler containers, ball washers, bunker rakes and other hand tools.  We’ve rebuilt, greased and prepared our rotary fertilizer spreaders to be calibrated closer to the start of our season.  We also offer two left hands when our mechanic needs some help, but for the most part, he is schooling us.

A big part of our off season is staff recruitment.  We typically employ up to 40 individuals throughout the season.  On average we can get about 30% returning staff from the previous year.  For the remainder 70%, we post positions online, through post secondary sites and through word of mouth.  When the floodgates of initial applicants open up, we will sift and decide on potentials that move to the next round, typically an interview.  This process from ad posting to interviews will continue several times until we finally fill our dream team for the season.

The offseason is the much anticipated and welcomed time for continuing education and network opportunities that occur through conferences, seminars, trade shows or combinations of the three.  This year, I attended the Alberta Golf Superintendents Associations (AGSA) Property Managers Conference, and the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) Conference and Trade show.

My first at either show.  Being a new turfgrass Albertan, I attended the AGSA in Canmore to take in the talks and meet new colleagues.  Most recently, I returned from San Diego, which was this years host for the GCSAA conference and golf industry show.  I asked on twitter what to prepare for when attending the GCSAA, and I was told to wear comfortable shoes!  I now understand and appreciate the individuals who complete their suit attire with a pair of comfy trainer kicks.  I’m not certain what the area of the trade show floor was, but it’s probably equivalent to walking greens every morning.

We still have another month in our off season and we are still recruiting to fill the rest of our 2013 team.  A few more ground supplies need attention and soon our focus will concentrate on upcoming weather patterns.  We are nearing day 100 for ice cover in some areas, however our most recent plugs give us great news as we’ve seen good activity.  Fingers crossed and cooperation from mother nature encouraged.

For all of you fellow turfies that also believe in doing as little as possible in your winter break, good for you!  We all deserve it, because when the time comes to get er done’, we always find a way.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Welcome to 2013!!

Winter Wonderland

Welcome to the new year!  A time when some of us turf managers anticipate great numbers, wonderful compliments and a perfect wintering of our golf courses??  Okay, well at least that's something I always try and look forward to every new year.  We hope everyone has had a wonderful holiday season filled with great food, lots of drink and close company.  That time for us has quickly passed and it was back to work as usual.

We were welcomed by a 60cm snowfall our first week back.  The plow truck and the snow blowers were in full force as we cleared entrance roads, maintenance paths and parking areas.  I was always warned that it was inevitable to get our plow truck stuck and I never thought it would happen to me, until it did.  I will admit that fresh plow lines are pretty tough after a big dump of snow, almost like cutting a straight line on a green with no dew... "you gotta use the force!"  as one super always told me.

We are into day 60 with a 2-5mm ice cover on some greens.  Some ice more porous than others, but most have a reassuring dormant colour underneath.  Early in December we did some trial melts with a GreenThaw machine.  For those unfamiliar, glycol is circulated through lengths of hose at a warm to warmer temperature.  The hose is extended and laid across the green to promote ice melt.  In our trial, we completely cleared one green and three quarters of another with different patterns in laying out the hose.

Glycol hydraulic attachments
Working from the centre out

For our own purposes, we recently pulled plugs on several green sights, each selected by amount of Poa infestation and exposure to elements.  We will monitor the plugs over some time to see what activity happens and then we can make decisions later.  As a control sample, we will pull a few plugs from one of our newer bentgrass greens, that was installed this past spring.

Mostly Poa, pulled from different greens
James removing a plug

Some of the other tasks keeping us busy are:  ordering new tools and supplies, repair and paint older supplies, team recruiting, and of course blogger.  As you can see from the lack of our updates, I was only joking about our blog keeping us busy.  Our goal is to recruit a team of 40 individuals for the season.  This ensures that we can complete many of our planned projects and produce a product that our guests can all enjoy and appreciate.  If you are reading this and you have an interest in working for a turfcare department at a great facility please visit the website or inquire by email to assistantsuper@kananaskisgolf.com  (a little recruiting plug never hurts...)

We are really looking forward to this new season and we hope that you are to.  Take care and happy wintering!!