Golf course maintenance continues throughout the winter

By John Feeney

Fall is always a hectic time of year for golf course maintenance staff in Estes Park. Keeping the courses open and playable during the elk rut is a unique challenge. In addition to routine golf course maintenance, mechanical sweepers and turf vacuums were sent out on a daily basis along with a crew armed with shovels and repair tools in an effort to clean up and repair the damage from our growing elk population. As ground temperatures cool, mowing frequency is reduced, which allows staff to work on projects designed to prepare the courses for winter.

Now that we are in winter, the golf team is hard at working prepping for the April 14 opening of the Estes Park 18-Hole Golf Course and keeping the Lake Estes 9-Hole Golf course as playable as possible throughout the winter.

•    Construction started on the new forward tee box on hole #12
•    Additional irrigation was added to the west side of #1 fairway at the Estes Park 18-Hole Golf Course. Approximately 360’ of pipe, airline and a new controller were trenched and installed to operate four new heads. The perimeter irrigation will improve the playability and aesthetics of our opening hole.  
•    A fall fertilization application occured in late September. Roughly 20,000 pounds of fertilizer were applied to both courses as well as at Stanley Park. This fertilizer application is designed to increase winter stress tolerance. Winters in Estes Park can be very stressful on turf. Dry, cold conditions can cause turf loss. If timed properly, a fall fertilizer application can expand the root system without producing much top growth. This application will also benefit the plant in the spring allowing for a quicker green up.   
•    Aerification of all fairway roughs and tees occurs using our “slicing” tines. This practice will improve drainage and will introduce more oxygen into the root zone.
•    Both courses receive a fall chemical application on all greens. This includes two types of fungicide used to control snow mold. Snow mold is a common turf disease in this climate and most damaging to putting surfaces. Also included in this mixture is a product that is designed to encourage environmental, chemical or biological triggers that would activate plant-defense mechanisms.  
•    The 18-hole course received a relatively heavy topdressing of 90% sand and 10% organic product. This process gives our delicate putting surfaces extra protection throughout the winter.
•    The 18-hole greens are covered with special turf blankets. The blankets allow sunlight and water to penetrate while offering protection during our harsh Estes Park winters.
•    After tarps, fence was installed on select greens in an effort to protect them from elk damage.
•    The irrigation systems at both courses are winterized. This process includes draining and blowing out all lines and heads using a 750 CFS air compressor.
•    All pallets collected are repurposed and placed in select bunkers in an effort to reduce sand loss due to the powerful winter winds.

Once the courses were “put to bed,” staff started planting trees. Seventeen trees of varying species were selected and planted at both courses. The Lake Estes 9-Hole Golf Course received four cottonwood trees to replace the ponderosa pines that have been lost between four and five fairways. The elevated ground water in this area of the course proved to be too much for the conifers that were planted years ago. The cottonwoods should do better as well as provide separation between the two holes. Three spruce trees were added south of the forward tees on hole #7. These will help hide our unsightly stockpile area. The 18-hole course received 10 trees, a mixture of spruce and ponderosa were added to the berm west of hole 16. These trees will provide a screen to hide our maintenance area. 

As winter arrives the staff of five will continue working to prepare the course for spring. Our mechanics, Kevin Rohde and Brian Praiswater, will perform preventative maintenance on all district equipment. This includes sharpening all mower blades, reels and bed knives. Greg Anderson and Tom Leba will be responsible for limited golf course maintenance at our 9-hole course as it remains open for play throughout the winter. District snow removal, refurbishing all golf amenities, calibrating irrigation controllers as well as various projects will also be worked on during the winter at both courses.